Methodology and Theory
22nd Archaeology & Theory Symposium
As part of the conference:
Merovingian mortuary studies in an interdisciplinary perspective
Date: April 22nd, 2015
Deadline abstract submission: January 15th, 2015
Over the years, the methodology of cemetery research has become more firmly grounded in theory. From the antiquarian appreciation of shiny grave goods and the Romantic interest in the skulls and tombs of our forefathers, cemetery archaeology has evolved to a full-fledged study of past mortuary practices.
For this A&T symposium, Stichting Archaeological Dialogues invites contributions that reflect this interaction between theory and methodology in archaeological mortuary studies. Papers can be submitted under the following themes: techniques and standards for excavation and publication; the use of scientific analyses on grave remains; and the potential added value of ethnographic examples and anthropological theory for archaeological mortuary studies. The themes are explained in detail below.
The A&T symposium will take place on the first day of a three-day conference titled ‘Merovingian Mortuary Studies in an Interdisciplinary Perspective’. The symposium will provide an interdisciplinary context for the lectures about early medieval mortuary archaeology that take place on the following two days.
Excavation, publication and theory
Data is theory. The data we gather in the field and publish in papers and books are influenced by our ideas and assumptions about past mortuary practices. There is a discrepancy between the questions posed by theoreticians and the data produced by fieldwork. Is this due to a lack of communication between excavator and theoretician, or are the ambitions for sophisticated social analysis of the writing desk too grand for the realities of archaeological data to bear.
In this session we will discuss examples of theoretically-informed excavation and publication methods. How can we operationalize the questions generated by archaeological theory in the excavation and publication practice of graves and cemeteries?
Integrating scientific methods
Reports of scientific analyses are usually rather matter of fact. ‘Individual A was female with a non-local isotope profile, she was buried in an oak-wooden container and samples of grave pit’s fill contained flower pollen.’ Such findings need to be interpreted within a theoretical framework.
Scientific disciplines like osteology, field anthropology, isotope and DNA analysis, zooarchaeology, palynology and microscopic pottery analysis have all made significant contributions to archaeological mortuary studies. This session offers a stage for papers concerning the use of scientific methods in mortuary research. What can we do to integrate data supplied by scientific techniques into social narratives in mortuary studies? And in what way can scientific studies advance interpretations and theoretical discussions about past mortuary practices?
Anthropology: guidepost or decoy?
Theoretical discussions about past mortuary practices are often influenced by the writings of ethnographers and anthropologists. This is can be problematic. If archaeologists rely too much on theories borrowed from cultural anthropology, the European Bronze Age may suddenly seem unnervingly similar to Melanesia as it was described by Malinowski at the start of the 20th century.
This session allows room for examples of best practices in the use of ethnographic analogies and anthropological theories, but also for critical discussion about the dependant relationship of archaeology with anthropology and possible alternative sources of mortuary theory.
Date: April 22nd, 2015
Venue: Leiden University, Van Steenis building, Einsteinweg 2 in Leiden, room F1.04
Deadline for abstract submission: January 15th, 2015
Mail abstracts to: archaeologicaldialogues(at)gmail(dot)com