Institute of Archaeology

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Forming Material Egypt

18 January 2013

Forming Material Egypt

The Institute of Archaeology Annual Conference will take place this year on 20-21 May on the topic of 'Forming Material Egypt' and a call for papers has now been announced.

Archaeological finds from Egypt have been dispersed worldwide on a massive scale both through documented excavation and through gifts and purchases, by museums, archaeologists and others. From 1882, London-based excavations alone were sponsored from 100 museums across England and another 100 worldwide, as documented in UCL and EES archives.

In the current global dispersal, connections between these finds are easily lost, though, on the positive side, the distribution of finds may multiply opportunities for new research in different local conditions. Positive or negative, this material distribution has played a major role in forming contemporary attitudes to the Egyptian past. A range of possibilities for the future can be explored from specific examples of dispersal, and from broader analyses of patterns of historical practice.

In this conference, organised by the Material Cultures of Prehistoric and Dynastic Egypt Research Network, in association with the Egypt Exploration Society and the Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies, SOAS, we seek to change the terms of debate, already transformed following the January 25th 2011 revolution, by inviting Egyptian colleagues to open and steer the discussions, by aiming for practical policy outcomes, and by prioritising the use and survival of material.

Forming Material Egypt

Day 1 of the conference addresses the history of archaeology and collecting, in both the negative and positive consequences for current research practice. Researchers themselves may be divided by their chosen focus - technology, typology, social history, or a particular site. We are particularly interested in papers which consider the impact of options such as the following on all, rather than just one, of these different research agendas:

  • objects of one material in one place (technological approach)
  • objects of one type in one place (typological approach)
  • objects of one type in one place (historical approach)
  • objects from one place to be in (that) one place (site-based/geographical approach)

We also welcome papers that address the tension between central and local capacities for maintaining collections in the public sphere, taking the following contrast as an example:

  • centralising to avoid losing collections: the most negative consequence of dispersal occurs when an object or collection falls out of public view and research view, and is destroyed by neglect or active disposal
  • dispersing in order to diversify access:, a 'United Nations' network of museums, with its hub in Egypt, could provide new access to, and so new light on Egyptian antiquities from people of all backgrounds around the world - if the present global distribution could be revised towards a more ethical base.
Forming Material Egypt

On Day 2 the conference will then turn to the practical consequences of those decisions on where to locate objects physically, and how to connect them, in particular in these areas:

  • cross-collection approaches and solutions to urgent conservation needs
  • new and sustainable approaches to the material that has been categorised as ‘heritage’ or ‘cultural property’ in conservation practice and museology
  • questions of social relevance of this material at local, regional and global levels

The conference will end with a panel discussion of forward action including the potential for a Committee for global assessment of distribution.

Please note that to allow full time for discussion, conference speakers are asked to summarise their pre-circulated papers, rather than deliver them in full.

Call for Papers

Papers related to the above themes are now invited: a paper may identify significant case-studies, outline models for research reuniting dispersed site archives or single find-groups, or present practical proposals for activating the distribution networks for national and international research collaborations.

In the first instance abstracts are invited of no more than 300 words. The deadline for receiving abstracts is Friday 8 March 2013; the decision on which papers to include will be made by the conference organizers on 31 March 2013.

For all titles accepted, authors will be requested to submit a paper of no more than 3000 words by 10 May 2013 for pre-circulation. At the conference, authors will be requested to deliver a 5-minute summary of their paper. It is hoped that the papers will be published.

Please submit paper proposals of 300 words to materialegypt@gmail.com by 8 March 2013. Abstracts should be submitted as Word files and include your name, title, institutional affiliation (if appropriate) and full contact details.