A. Archaeological Practices
Sam Challis and Catherine Namono (Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Once the province of those specialising in other fields such as art history, the investigation of rock art is increasingly relevant to archaeologists and heritage managers across the globe. It is now firmly established as a sub-discipline with specialists of its own. Recent rewards on the rock art dating scene have helped contextualise our understanding of rock art. In tandem with this is the increase of rock art sites as tourism destinations and tools for the economic empowerment of local communities. That said, we invite all archaeologists and researchers in related disciplines with rock art interests to submit ideas for sessions. The global perspective that we encourage invites comparative treatments, with an awareness that rock art is highly contextualized and contentious.
Thus, session and paper submission should closely consider the local environments in which rock art is situated in terms of ancestral lands and local communities who are (or should be) custodians of rock art. This concern suggests that sessions dealing with community management of rock art sites, along with ethical issues that impinge on some communities when researchers impose interpretations or do not follow ethical data collection protocols are particularly compelling. Issues of culture contact as expressed in rock art are also of interest, possibly addressing how rock art (often made by groups ancestral to these local communities) reflects contact between indigenous people and others. Further, we encourage sessions and papers that focus attention on the ontological turn in the discipline that has seen many useful applications of ethnographically-attested beliefs applied to the interpretation of rock art, whether recent or, by analogy, to images made in deeper antiquity. New approaches to recording, dating rock art, and sustainable conservation and management of sites are welcome as are any new approaches that enhance our interpretative strength.
John W. Arthur (University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, FL, USA)
Over the last two decades some researchers have challenged the field of ethnoarchaeology by suggesting that ethnoarchaeology has contributed little to the interpretation of the archaeological record and moreover is ahistorical. This theme seeks to bring ethnoarchaologists from around the world at WAC-9 to address these viewpoints by accentuating why archaeology needs ethnoarchaeology.
This Theme seeks a broad range of sessions, spatially and topically, exploring how ethnoarchaeology offers archaeology alternate worldviews promoting the archaeological interpretation of the past. We welcome ethnoarchaeological sessions that explore new and critical perspectives focused on ethical issues, community involvement, methodologies, fieldwork challenges, access to information, and the overall benefit and challenges that ethnoarchaeology can contribute to understanding the recent or deep past.
Session topics may focus on a range of pertinent topics, such as ceramics, metals, stone, glass, architecture, hunting, collecting, settlement, subsistence and many other substantive studies that span the worlds’ cultures, adding new perspectives regarding how people live and interact with their material world. What is the future of ethnoarchaeology and how does ethnoarchaeology contribute to archaeology? Can ethnoarchaeology contribute to or learn from other sub-disciplines, such as Indigenous archaeology or community archaeology? We encourage contributions that will foster the growth of ethnoarchaeology, countering critics sitting on the sidelines.
Dante Angelo (Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile)
This Theme focuses on a recent trend in the practice of archaeology that has attained relevance in the last three decades—the idea of contemporary archaeology that is gaining wide and global acceptance. This concept has challenged and expanded the chronological limits of the discipline and reinforced the importance of archaeology as a discipline of things as well as broadened theoretical and methodological practices and incorporated cross-disciplinary conversations. One of the most relevant aspects of contemporary archaeologies addresses concerns with current or historical issues that directly inform and affect our present contexts (memory, displacement, exile, heritage, political violence, etc.).
These and other subjects of interest have so far contributed to the acceptance of contemporary archaeology as a sub-discipline, but it is arguably the case that it is far from being a unified practice. One reason may be that many contributions are framed with an implicit agreement that contemporary issues need to be confronted by paying attention to the specificity of cultural, historical, economic, and political contexts and, therefore, by politically situated research. Thus, one of the main goals of this Theme is to assess the variation in archaeologies of the contemporary and to reflect upon the maturity that they may have attained so far. Instead of aiming for a unified set of theoretical or methodological aspects, we want to scrutinize how diverse contemporary archaeologies emerge from particular (local or global) contexts and discern intertwined historicities.
Session proposals for this Theme are encouraged to examine different contexts and to propose connecting lines of inquiry between, regional or global case studies and past realities, as part of nuanced and ethico-politically informed perspectives. We are interested in discussions that foster unorthodox approaches to these realities, through the presentations of creative and innovative archaeological forays. Some of the questions guiding these debates may be related, though not exclusively, to the following topics and questions: How has contemporary archaeology changed after some years of practice? Is there a contemporary past or many? How may contemporary archaeologies help us to make sense of our social world and global settings? Does the archaeology of the contemporary provide any tools to cope with current socio-political issues (trauma, exile, violence, discrimination)? If so, how? What are the main differences or similarities of the practice of an archaeology of the contemporary in settings of the global south, north, or within them? How does archaeology, as a discipline observed from rather contemporary contexts, inform and contribute to wider debates? Are there aspects (cultural, political, ethical, philosophical, social, economic) to which a contemporary archaeology could particularly contribute?
Katherine Weedman Arthur (University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, FL, USA)
High-Spirited Gatherings encourage lively international dialogue between session presenters and community participants as well as create connections and inspire discussion. Major meetings of archaeologists have included “Lightening” or Flash” sessions that allow participants to present their findings and contributions in a concise and spirited manner. We will introduce this approach at WAC-9 in what we call “High Spirited Gatherings”. We see these sessions as places to present new ideas and grab the attention of participants by being provocative, creative, and experimental. Give yourself the opportunity to move beyond the details and jargon of your research and develop the skills to distill it into an important point that you can communicate to others clearly. and concisely. Convey what is most important about your research, what you hope to learn, and why it matters or what its impacts are. Relish the occasion to engage the craft of story-telling—do not read to us. Speak to us! Connect to us!
We invite High-Spirited Gathering sessions for each Theme of the conference, e.g., A New Bioarchaeology, Historical Archaeology, aDNA, etc. If you have a special case to make for a session outside the Themes, we will consider proposals on a case-by-case basis. Each proposed session will be 90 minutes, consisting of ten 3-minute presentations (3 slides only) followed by 5-minutes of open discussion. After all presentations, there will be another 10 minutes of discussion to bring the main points of the session Theme together. Those who present in a High-Spirited Gathering session may also be first author of a presentation in another session.
B. Archaeological Praxis
George Nicholas (Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada)
Technological advances and new research agendas continue to broaden the scope of archaeology, yielding remarkable insights into our understanding of past human lifeways—from insights drawn from ancient DNA through to discerning the impacts of ancient land-use practices at the global scale. Are these developments matched by corresponding rigor in the interpretation of the archaeological record? This question becomes even more important when interpretations have social or political implications for living peoples, including threats to how their heritage is treated. Whether our endeavors are framed in terms of “analytical” archaeological, evidence-based reasoning, or corroborating data sets, we have a responsibility to ensure that the archaeology we do acknowledges the great responsibility we have, individually and collectively, in interpreting the archaeological record, whether our own or someone else’s.
This Theme asks us to consider what constitutes archaeological knowledge, how it is constructed and evaluated, and what happens when particular interpretations of the archaeological record are taken for granted. Key questions to explore in sessions include: What constitutes “evidence”? How can competing or conflicting interpretations be resolved? How might traditional knowledge and other sources of information be employed as multiple working hypotheses? What are the implications when “archaeological” interpretations conflict or don’t correspond with other accounts of the past (e.g., oral histories)? How objective is archaeology? What is the practical value of seeking greater rigor in archaeological interpretations as well as our ethical obligations to do so? This Theme offers multiple opportunities to explore these questions in terms of both theory and practice.
Koji Mizoguchi (Kyushu University, Japan)
As long as uneven distribution of resources and differential accessibility to them exist, there also exists inequality in social relations. Such inequality is generated between different categories of individuals and groups, differentiated with their attributes: physical, material or symbolic, and congenital, acquired, or imposed. Throughout human history and across the globe, every single human society had sources of inequality, and different societies developed different ways of dealing and coming to terms with them. Since the inception of Modernity and the emergence of the notion of basic human rights, human societies have been striving to minimize and ultimately eliminate inequality, with an increasing range of mechanisms being invented, adopted and institutionalized to achieve this. Efforts have been made to reveal the mechanisms and processes of the generation, naturalization, and concealment of inequality, whereby we can learn how to tackle and overcome problems generated by inequalities that damage basic human rights. All the humanistic and social scientific disciplines, including archaeology, have been involved in this collective endeavor. Along the way, we have differentiated and developed the notion of discrimination and social injustices, and we have invented various mechanisms and institutionalized rules to prevent them from taking place, and/or tolerated, or justified. However, it is blatantly obvious that we have some way to go. For instance, we have painfully learnt how discrimination and injustices are rife in our workplaces and life--worlds in the form of the rise of the #MeToo movement.
Under the Theme, ‘Discrimination and Injustices’, we invite sessions that consider: the sources of inequality, discrimination and injustices in the past and in the present; how these inequalities were and are generated, presented, concealed, naturalized, legitimized, and reproduced in the past and in the present; how disparities developed and were challenged and are still being challenged; and, how such struggles have either prevailed or failed in the recent past into the present.
This Theme aims to create an open forum in which we can we support each other and organize ourselves to stand up against and defeat discrimination and injustices that may occur during our practice in the field, lab, and in other settings. Seeking to build a community of mutual respect and collaboration, archaeologists are asking what contributions we archaeologists can make to eliminate discrimination and injustices and to minimize and ultimately eliminate inequalities in our communities.
Peter R. Schmidt (University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA)
Over the last decade, archaeologists and heritage practitioners have shown elevated interest in community engagements. These engagements often lead to better awareness by communities about the power of archaeology to enhance understandings of their pasts while also creating contradictions to public and scholarly characterizations and stereotypes. On the flip side, community engagement carries with it the potential to undermine the identities of communities that embrace it. Issues of power, control over research goals and objectives, mutual respect, and community well-being inform virtually any project that employs a community approach. This Theme seeks to unveil both the positive contributions that community approaches afford as well as the problems and failures that occur under the community aegis.
Archaeologists often trumpet their successes with community engagements, submerging the problems that inevitably inform such work. Also problematic is the misidentifying of public archaeology—outreach, school and community short-term participation, and site visits—as community archaeology. Public archaeology may fail to incorporate or capture the issues that inform genuine engagement—power sharing, mutuality, control over research, and local oversight of dissemination of research results. Nonetheless, public archaeology has much to offer towards the development of deeper engagements. Sessions that explore community projects originating from local initiative are welcome, along with those that may be top-down yet still hold important lessons. Sessions that explore the potential of public archaeology projects to incorporate participatory approaches are appropriate, as are those that focus on ethical and power-sharing issues as well as those that examine the pitfalls and potentials of all genres of community research and advocacy. We welcome sessions that examine innovative ways to bring professionals and community members together, following common goals and seeking research result that benefit both, for example, documentation of oral traditions and issues of social memory, development for local education, development for tourism, research to enhance local documentation of sites, or research to assess the value of heritage sites.
Uzma Z. Rizvi (Pratt Institute, New York, USA)
Critical heritage work emerges from many different perspectives, disciplines, and ways of knowing. At its core is a clarity acknowledging the contemporary nature of such a practice, the power vested in negotiations of heritage, and the inherent transdisciplinarity of such work. Contemporary critical heritage studies span from discussions related to climate change to protests in global cities; from spiritual practices that agitate the state to museum displays and curatorial decisions; from the opaque to the hypervisible. The capaciousness of the practice provides an ideal framework for critical analysis of unbounded practices that push the limits of what is possible to conceive. In addition to cohesive sessions, this call for sessions will also aim to house more experimental, innovative, and idiosyncratic sessions, keeping in mind the aim to trace the new limits of critical heritage studies.
Sessions considered under this theme should address issues related to critical heritage studies in any of its transdisciplinary modes, including but not limited to: contemporary art and design, education and pedagogy, museums/museum curation, technology and social media, decolonization, coloniality, the postcolonial critique, indigenous heritages, repatriation, politics of collaboration, gendering experience and practice, queering archaeology, social memory, post-western heritage discourse, among other possible topics. Also of interest are discussions related to epistemic critiques of heritage policy, local initiatives to rewrite policy, and ways by which policy has been transformed by heritage activist work. We welcome all proposals for sessions and papers contending with these issues, including those proposed by transdisciplinary viewpoints/authors, non-archaeologists, and in non-traditional formats.
Chapurukha M. Kusimba (American University and Field Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, USA)
Due to declining fortunes in agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors, many countries see tourism as a remedy to numerous economic problems they face. Assets such as museums, heritage sites, historic theme parks, arts festivals, art galleries, and curio shops form key components of heritage tourism. Despite rapid growth and investment in heritage tourism over the last three decades, we still know very little about the positive and negative impacts of tourism on communities and other stakeholders. Studies reveal that in cases where members of the local community have been actively involved in tourism development and derive benefits from the industry, then the relation between local communities and tourists tends to be harmonious. We invite papers that will provide case studies of successful visitor management through planning to minimize negative cultural impacts on local communities. There are a myriad of issues surrounding heritage management and tourism, but we encourage participants to submit sessions and paper proposals on one or more of the following issues.
What does international tourism contribute to the conservation of cultural heritage? What cultural impacts does international tourism have on local culture, the local art infrastructure, and the well-being of local communities?
The travel industry long recognized the significance of cultural and heritage resources and their marketability and has sought to maximize long term benefits of cultural and heritage tourism. What management strategies already exist or are appropriate from other local settings to ensure that irreplaceable cultural and heritage resources are appropriately protected and conserved?
What is the relationship between heritage tourism and sustainable development, with special reference to World Heritage Sites (WHSs)? Have comprehensive and holistic management plans to mitigate tourism impacts and sustain site significance been successful? How have these strategies engaged with local community stakeholders? What is there to learn about the histories of communities vis-à-vis WHSs? What could be changed to ensure sites’ full implementation, solvency and sustainability? We also invite session, paper, and poster submissions that explore the benefits of cultural tourism to museums, heritage sites, and communities. In cases where cultural and heritage sites are community managed, what operating policies and practices have been implemented to ensure that they meet their heritage preservation and education mandates while also remaining sustainable?
Aulii Mitchell (Cultural Surveys, Hawai’i) and Tiatoshi Jamir (Nagaland University, India)
I ulu no ka lālāikekumu (Hawai’i)
(We are products of our genealogical connections)
Longterok nung poker
Menang ali tetenzükdang (Nagaland, India)
(With the origin at Longterok [six stones] The beginning of a new world)
This Theme focuses on the richness and diversity of Indigenous views of the spiritual world. Our concerns highlight relationships with ancestors, their sacred lands, sites and stories, and how excavations and disturbance occur in contemporary times. We invite exploration of memories of origin myths and centers of dispersals of Indigenous communities drawn from ancestral sites. We seek to better understand: how descendant communities derive memories of ancestors and their lives from ancestral sites to enhance their sense of connection with the past; how myths of origin and migration in the distant past are validated within Indigenous settings and how these interfaces with archaeological inquiry; and, how this impinges upon both archaeological investigations and disturbance for development. Sessions will examine these and other constructs about these phenomena from both archaeological and cultural perspectives. We invite sessions and papers that explore a continuum of ideas, seeking to understand that Indigenous views of the ancestors are not homogenous and that they provide rich alterities across the globe. Sessions that explore shared affinities in beliefs about ancestors promise to provide important lessons about how Indigenous ancestral beliefs and places may gain a more prominent role in how archaeology and development may be managed by Indigenous communities into the future. Sessions will also hopefully draw on the participation of Indigenous voices about their pasts within an archaeological discourse and how such approaches contribute to archaeological theory and method by presenting alternatives to the dominant paradigms in mainstream archaeology.
Juliana Salles Machado (Universidade Federal de Sergipe, Brazil) in collaboration with: Michael Heckenberger (University of Florida, USA)
Scientific discourses about the deep past produced by archaeologists acknowledge little or no relationship with traditional and/or indigenous people who currently occupy different parts of the world. This invisibility is expressed through the maintenance of archaeological categories, such as the academic use of the term prehistory as opposed to [occidental] history as well as ceramic or lithic typological categories that, generally, capture little of their relationship with living people. For several decades, the growth of indigenous archaeology and the diversification of collaborative approaches dealing with the relationship of archaeology and Indigenous and traditional societies has shown that the detachment assigned to that distant past is increasingly questioned. In various global settings and practices, Indigenous and traditional people are questioning such abstract and arbitrary constructions as well as their academic uses and legal and social consequences. Rather, they are grasping and appropriating archaeological speech and producing and building complex narratives that put into play the multiple and complex relationships between past and present.
These plural constructions compel new theoretical and methodological agendas for archaeology, particularly in global southern regions. Increasingly observable is the demonstrated effectiveness of Indigenous archaeologies as instruments of advocacy to indigenous current demands, promoting and ensuring the guarantee of indigenous rights, especially in indigenous cultural and territorial survival. Archaeology has been acting through distinct ways to maintain a cultural defense of people in Global Southern contexts and the rising efficacy of alternative Indigenous knowledge and ontologies. This is occurring through recognition of significant places and management of anthropogenic landscapes and understanding traditional techniques, cultural choices, and strategies within the production of materiality. Although Indigenous archaeology has gained more visibility in northern countries, Indigenous archaeology in southern contexts remains little known, with a few examples masking huge cultural and historical variability.
This Theme encourages sharing deeper knowledge about the diversity and commonalities of Indigenous archaeologies across the Global South and elsewhere. Of significant interest is the impact on legal processes and rights claims made by Indigenous archaeological researchers and their renderings of past histories of landscapes. This Theme expects archaeologists from diverse southern regions as well as indigenous and local community researchers to share their research experiences and thus contribute to a better and more plural understanding of the southern contexts. Within the current scenario of struggle for native peoples’ rights under increasing pressure for world development, indigenous people are, in distinct ways, increasingly appropriating archaeological discourses as a form of advocacy for their territorial and cultural rights, making the social impact of our production even more immediate. This engagement in advocacy imprints us with an irrefutable responsibility for highest concern for ethical conduct in scientific practice as well as addressing the wide range of implications our productions create.
Paora Tapsell (University of Melbourne, Australia & New Zealand Maori Centre of Research Excellence, University of Otago, New Zealand), in collaboration with: Marcia Langton & Lyndon Ormond-Parker (University of Melbourne, Australia), and Merata Kawharu & Hirini Tane (University of Otago, New Zealand)
This inclusive Theme is open to all WAC members. It has been developed to assist our sectors of Archaeology, Anthropology, Museums and Cultural Heritage unpack the past two decades of accelerating engagement on all matters Indigenous, from repatriation to memorialisation, from genetics to engineering, exhibitions to site excavations; from co-production through to education initiatives; and not least the increasing use of our sector’s science to improve source communities’ own economic, social and political wellbeing. This Theme seeks sessions, papers and/or posters from academics, professionals, researchers, scholars, and source community representatives across the planet who have hands-on experience of working with Indigenous/First Peoples on their ancestral landscapes and waterways, both remotely and in urban settings. What are the opportunities and barriers we can share with each other to mutually empower reciprocal transfers of knowledge, wisdom, and enlightenment? How might we give equitable voice to those source communities who find themselves at ground zero of intensive primary production for first world consumption? This Theme provides a platform for critical debates and innovative responses, evolving out of Indigenous spaces of engagement. The sessions will provide opportunity for experiences and learnings to be safely aired, tested, and shaped into potential interventions and/or solutions drawn from the past. Can WAC be a lighthouse – from a whenua* perspective – that guides humanity, contributing to a new order of environmentally accountable resilience, adaptation, sustainability, and enterprise?
*Whenua (n. Māori/Pacific) – the fertile placenta (soils + waterways + air) found between Earth Mother (Papa-tū-a-Nuku: Energy) and Sky Father (Ranginui: Space) from which all life emerges, is sustained and eventually returns.
E. Interactions and transformations
Natalie Swanepoel (University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa)
From its initial focus on the global processes resulting from the expansion of Europe and the rise of colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, and chattel slavery during the last half millennia, historical archaeology has diversified into a sub-discipline with local research foci, sources and methodologies arising from unique regional historical trajectories. The result is an ongoing debate about how to define the scope and practice of historical archaeology. Is it the study of the last 500 years; the comparative use of documentary, oral and pictorial sources in conjunction with archaeology; or the study of the expansion of Europe, colonialism, capitalism and culture contact? These discussions are starkest in contexts where there are debates about the relevance and value of historical archaeology to Indigenous and local communities in previously colonized areas. Historical Archaeology has long held the motto “dig local, think global”, but increasingly the call from these postcolonial contexts is for scholars to also “think local”, that is, to incorporate postcolonial and decolonized perspectives into their research, including non-Western epistemologies and ontologies to better understand past societies. Such challenges call for us to re-examine our theoretical approaches, sources, and methodologies.
Sessions and individual contributions within this Theme have the potential to address a number of questions. These include questions of definition, such as how do we move beyond a “global” definition of historical archaeology? How is the sub-discipline practiced in different parts of the world and what are the relationships among these forms of practice? Questions of theoretical frameworks, paradigms and methods, such as how may postcolonial and decolonial perspectives, including non-Western epistemologies and ontologies, be mobilized in our theoretical and interpretive frameworks? What are the methodological implications? What new or existing sources need to be incorporated or evaluated anew? What implications does this hold for relationships and/or partnerships with descendant/ stakeholder communities? How may these relationships be deepened and elaborated?
Also welcome are sessions and papers that examine our relevance. As we approach the end of the first quarter of the twenty-first century, the global community faces virulent problems arising from inter alia: environmental degradation, climate change, conflict, economic inequality, cultural and social intolerance, and systemic racism, sexism and homophobia, and political extremism. Many of these result from the afore-mentioned historical processes that have long fallen under our purview. How does historical archaeology, as a global comparative discipline with local foundations, speak to these global challenges in a way that is meaningful to communities and societies at the local level? Finally, how do we ensure that we are able to attract a new generation of historical archaeologists who are demographically, culturally, and theoretically reflective of the multiple contexts that we study? Are we meeting the training needs for a new generation of historical archaeologists? What ideas have been implemented to attract and retain a diverse student body (and eventual practitioner base) in historical archaeology?
Alice B. Kehoe (Milwaukee, WI, USA) in collaboration with: Bettina Schulz Paulsson (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)
Two-thirds of planet earth is covered by seas. Humans dispersed by water as well as overland. Humans reached the Sahul––easternmost SE Asian islands, New Guinea, Australia––in the Middle Paleolithic, presumably using rafts. Later in the Pleistocene, humans likely paddled around the Pacific Rim to the coasts of the Americas. Sea routes thus established carried trade and migrants for millennia.
The archaeology of human use of the seas is extremely challenging. Outside of a few harbors and shoals, anything sunk in the deep seas is irretrievably lost and likely disappeared. Inferences must be developed from land data, ranging from the basic fact that humans reached Australia at least 50,000 years ago, to historic port documents of ship ladings and contracts. Scholars familiar with seafaring dub this latter approach a “landlubber bias”. Sessions under the Maritime Theme should adduce whatever data seem relevant to elucidating marine voyages, as early as the Middle Paleolithic and up to the near present. Sessions may focus on migrations of populations and of individuals and groups such as pilgrims to Jerusalem; on resource procurements and trade, such as Lapita in the Pacific; on spread of retrievable artifacts such as Neolithic European megaliths; or on experiments with constructing and voyaging boats––rafts, log boats, shell boats, plank boats, sails, rudders, navigation. Geographical concepts such as the Indian Ocean World, Gulf of Mexico World, Pacific Rim are relevant. Symbols and rituals relating to the sea, seafaring, and boats fit under Maritime, as do issues in history such as identifying the Classical “Sea Peoples” or Norse in the North Atlantic. We plan at least one session on controversies using the term “diffusion”, notoriously linked to the seas.
F. Identities and Ontologies
Jan Turek (Center for Theoretical Studies, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic)
Identities decisively shape the human world and condition the role of individuals in society. The study of identities connects to most aspects of archaeological research. Starting on the level of personhood, personal identity represents the differences in character that marks off an individual from others, but it is also based on one’s position within society and reflects social relationships. Personal identity shapes not only the way an individual is accepted by their society but also the personal perception of cultural and social norms at different levels of social interaction. The range of personal identity topics includes gender, social, and historical and biological relationships. Personal conceptions and group affiliations are important across a wide range of archaeological research on communities, including the analysis and interpretation of collective identities, social differentiation, genetic and ethnic processes, and religious and ideological issues.
In this Theme we welcome sessions discussing material traces of past identities in a broad sense, focused on questions of ethnic or group identities marked by material culture. We seek to better understand how or if archaeological evidence can be inserted into a general picture of the population history and changes in group affiliations. Questions, such as how may we persuasively illustrate the record of shared identity of archaeological ‘cultures’, and to what extent do these categories correspond to the past ethnic, social group (e.g., guild, kin groups, secret society, etc.), religious, settlement, or subsistence identities? How may we discern the traces of past personhood, gender, and self-identification in material remains; and, what issues arise from our attempts to make these connections? Finally, how have modern national/ethnic and religious identifications shaped our interpretations of identity in archaeological research and how have ideological engagements influenced archaeological research and interpretation of identity?
The study of past identities is currently influenced as never before by the development of contemporary social agendas. Our interest in past social and personal relationships is increasingly formed by present-day issues in a globalized world. The free and open discussion of differences in both the perception and understanding of identities is necessary to prevent misunderstanding, animosity, and social injustice on both regional and global levels; archaeologists must be concerned with how our interpretations of our data may enter larger arenas.
16. Landscapes, Forests, Groves, Rocks, Rivers, and Trees: Ontological Groundings and Seeking Alternative Theories
E. Ichumbaki (University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) and Kellie Pollard (Flinders University, Australia)
The practice of archaeology across the world continues to be guided by theories and methodologies that pay attention to material culture to conceptualize human history. Non-artefactual and ecofactual evidence such as forests, groves, and trees, to mention a few, are rarely considered as ‘things’ that tell historical stories about human journeys. Often these historical stories are told through very different ontological viewpoints than used in archaeology, compelling critical examination of our own assumptions and practices. This Theme welcomes sessions that aim to engage with indigenous ideas about landscapes and particularly landscapes, forests, groves, trees, rocks, and rivers as knowledge that has the potential to reconfigure archaeological concepts and practice. Sessions are invited to explore the power of intangible heritage and materialized ritual practices attached to such places to broaden and transform archaeological theory. What are the problems and potentials of such inquiries? Do archaeologists have the training and background to accommodate ontologies that see landscapes, trees, groves, forests, etc., as living substances? We invite sessions and papers that focus on the archaeology of landscapes, forests, groves, and trees—sacred and non-sacred--and that struggle to understand and incorporate ontologies that are non-Western and that structure the deposition of material residues such as artifacts and structures.
In keeping with these principles, we also seeks to examine the ways archaeologists theorize, practice, and design methodologies to disrupt mythologies of the past, particularly those originating from anywhere in the world where colonialism was the foundational basis of contemporary society’s identity. We seek sessions that explore how native epistemologies—how we know what we know and the interaction between different knowledges in time and across space--contribute to better theory-making. We also seek to understand better how others’ ontologies--the nature of being, how people are what they identify as their realities—influence how archaeological inquiries are conducted as well as how they structure the archaeological record. The world over, epistemologies and ontologies are diverse for myriad reasons that encompass worldviews, beliefs, values, and gender, and are innumerable in their representations of knowledge about the past. We welcome those who are working to advance ontological alternatives, with initiatives coming from non-Western as well as Western communities involved in new forms of archaeological representation and their implications for the discipline.
G. Archaeologies and Sciences
Chuan-Chao Wang (Xiamen University, Xiamen, China)
Beginning in 2010, it became possible to examine whole genome DNA sequences from ancient remains with the advent of next generation sequencing technologies and recent methodological advances. Ancient DNA (aDNA) has already fundamentally changed our understanding of evolution and demographic history for humans, plants, animals and pathogens. Although undeniably powerful, many questions remain about how to interpret aDNA results within appropriate archaeological and anthropological frameworks and how to balance ethical obligations. Despite a tremendous amount of ancient genetic information that has become available from Neanderthals, Denisovans, and West Eurasian populations, far less is known about the genetic structure of extinct humans and ancient populations in East Asia and Africa, largely because of the lack of aDNA data.
We invite sessions and papers for WAC-9 on a wide variety of aDNA topics that integrate evidence from genetics and archaeology. Diverse foci are encouraged to obtain a better understanding about the origin and dispersal of human populations, host-pathogen interactions throughout history, domestication of plants and animals, and development of bioinformatic techniques. The WAC-9 sessions will bring together population geneticists, archaeologists, paleontologists, and other researchers interested in ancient DNA, providing opportunities for discussion of the technological, interpretative, and ethical challenges and opportunities that prevail today. We warmly welcome scholars, researchers, students, members of Indigenous communities as well as journalists and others interested in aDNA to discuss the current state of the art and future directions of this burgeoning research field.
Charlotte King (University of Otago, New Zealand) in collaboration with: John Krigbaum (University of Florida, USA)
Bioarchaeology, the study of human remains in archaeological context, is becoming an increasingly relevant field in archaeology. Bioarchaeologists are stepping out of the shadow of archaeology and its appendices, and showing that osteological evidence does not just support archaeological paradigms, but can be used to build them.
Human remains are unique, acting as archives allowing us to reconstruct the micro-histories of individuals, while also giving insight into population-level social, environmental and biological transitions. Bioarchaeology allows reconstruction of the lives of those left out of the historical record, and reveals the sometimes harsh realities of structural violence, discrimination, personhood and identity in the past. We approach the subject with a keen awareness that for many Indigenous groups potent ethical issues surround the study of ancestors; yet, there is also a growing awareness that important ancestral stories may be told with the application of bioarchaeological methods. To tell these stories, bioarchaeology pulls together an increasing wealth of scientific techniques and social theory to provide insights into the past.
This Theme welcomes sessions that focus on multi- and inter-disciplinary use of bioarchaeological evidence to build both large-scale paradigms of biosocial change and individual-level insights into the past. We welcome sessions focussed around the cutting-edge techniques being employed in the discipline (e.g., chemical and isotopic analysis, micro-histology) and the importance of weaving social theory into bioarchaeological interpretation. We are particularly interested in sessions that aim to tell the difficult stories of our past and shed light on those who history has silenced (e.g., women, children, marginalised communities). This Theme also aims to promote discussion surrounding the ethics of working with human remains, with sessions focused on working with descendant communities, and the perception of human remains in different cultural groups.
Richard ‘Bert’ Roberts (University of Wollongong, Australia)
Our planet is currently experiencing rapidly changing climatic conditions that are transforming our environments. Global temperatures are rising at an alarming rate, fueling an increase in the intensity and frequency of natural disasters such as floods, droughts and wildfires. These manifestations of climate change and the way in which people adapt to them will shape the future of humanity and the fate of other species – perhaps a million of which are currently at risk of extinction, according to a recent UN report.
Changes in climate have also happened in the past, but nothing like at the scale or speed as those occurring presently. The world has been through many glacial/interglacial cycles (Ice Ages) over the past few million years. Some researchers have argued that periods of heightened climatic variability have been major evolutionary drivers, particularly in the early stages of human evolution. During glacial periods, lower sea levels and shifts in temperature and rainfall regimes led to the desiccation of continental interiors, expansion of coastal plains and the joining together of some islands and continents.
The history of our species (and of earlier lineages) has unfolded against this environmental backdrop. People have had to adapt to the ecological and social consequences of shifts in climate and sea level, the net effect reflecting a combination of environmental influences and cultural processes. The relative importance of external (climatic) and internal (cultural) factors differ from place to place, depending on the specific context and the timing and impact of contingent events.
The goal of this Theme is to bring together archaeologists and researchers from cognate disciplines to explore the interdisciplinary intersection between changes in climate and human–environment interactions in the broadest sense. Scientific concepts and techniques play a key role in addressing questions about past cultural development, so we welcome sessions that apply scientific approaches and methods to cast new light on the many ways in which environmental transformations have affected the course of human history and cultural constructions of our place in nature.
Possible topics for sessions include but are not limited to the following: the effect of climate extremes and ‘tipping points’ on the human past in different regions of the world over different time periods; the impact of swings in climate on the relationship of people to past upheavals in animal and plant communities and on the evolution of human diet; the role of environmental changes in creating new opportunities and challenges for access to and use of resources and influencing demography and behaviour; the shaping of cultural landscapes through the use of fire and other ecological interventions; and, the effect of environmental bridges and barriers on the pace and pattern of human migration and population interactions.
Innocent Pikirayi (University of Pretoria, South Africa) in collaboration with: Federica Sulas (Aarhus University, Denmark)
From c. 6000 BCE highly centralized, strong, socio-political entities emerged from agrarian-based societies. Very often cited are classical examples from the Nile Valley in Egypt and the Sudan, the Tigris-Euphrates in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley in India and Pakistan, and the Yangtse and Yellow river basins in eastern and northern China. Explanations often proffered for the rise and development of ancient complex societies include economic specialization which would generate an agricultural surplus impelled by the fertile soils deposited in the adjacent vast flood plains. This in turn lead to division of labor, the need for centralized state government, increased population, and ultimately a hierarchical authority that appropriated military, economic, and religious powers. This “Hydraulic Hypothesis” – a theory first described by German historian Karl Wittfogel and a model used to explain the origin of ancient civilizations – has generated papers and essays on agriculture and the deployment of ancient complex societies, largely focusing on these parts of the world. Clearly, the model has limited global application. We know, for example, that irrigation-based systems have emerged without centralized leadership, even in Mesopotamia, and in other parts of the world where complex society has emerged without hydraulic beginnings. However, water played a part in one way or the other in the development and demise of ancient complex societies.
We invite sessions that seek to understand the development of stratified, hierarchical, complexly organized societies from diverse parts of the world, specifically with a focus on the role played by water in the process. How did ancient societies manage water and moisture to grow food, and, create structures and organizations associated with socio-political complexity? How did climate change impact water and moisture management strategies by ancient societies, and what lessons do we learn from their interventions? We also welcome sessions covering the worsening environmental conditions that are triggering and continue to generate conflict in different parts of the world, due to water shortages, unsustainable watershed management practices, and negative impacts of climate variability and change on regional hydrology. Severe multiyear and decadal droughts, coupled with poorly regulated water diversions and abstractions, e.g., in the Sahel region of Africa, and specifically the Lake Chad Basin, have led to the depletion of Lake Chad and water scarcity. These processes have contributed to acute humanitarian crises, displacement of populations, and political instability, all of which have been recorded in extant historical accounts and continue to this day. Beyond these are what appear to be very stable ecosystems such as Mt Kilimanjaro, home to Chagga chiefdoms since the 16th century, but whose glaciers are noticeably retreating. From Europe, we welcome sessions and papers speaking beyond water usage in ancient Graeco-Roman civilizations, e.g., how Medieval villages and towns developed around sources of fresh water. We invite sessions that explore past water management systems that may hold important lessons for solving water scarcity in the future, across the globe.
Z. World Archaeologies: the past, the present and the future
WAC-9 Prague 2020 Local Organizing Committee
The Local Organizing Committee and Scientific Committee of WAC-9 recognize that the Themes presented for WAC-9 do not cover the full spectrum of archaeology and heritage issues around the world today. The WAC-9 Themes are intended to provide germane and challenging foci for the meetings, with the recognition of Article 2.1 of WAC Statutes that states:
“WAC is an international non-profit making organisation concerned with all aspects of archaeological theory and practice. Its main emphasis is on academic issues and questions which benefit from a widely oriented and comparative approach. It attempts to bridge the disciplinary divisions of the past into chronological periods (such as prehistoric or protohistoric or historic archaeology), and to avoid exclusive, particularistic regional concerns.”
This theme is designed to accommodate sessions and papers that do not fit into the published theme but complement the WAC statutes by presenting innovative and challenging ideas that overcome the divisions artificially imposed upon our discipline.