Institute of Archaeology


Sessions 1-30

Following the Call for Session proposals, the following sessions have now been agreed.

TAG 2019 logo
1: Violence and conflict in the British Empire: material traces, structural legacies and research ethics
This session has now been withdrawn.
2: The materiality of folklore and traditional practices

Traditional ritual practices, happening outside or beyond more canonical or formal belief systems can take oral and material forms. Indeed, often such practices are characterised by a blending of the tangible and intangible, drawing on multisensory engagement with cultural and natural objects, place, songs, poems, dance and prayer. This session aims to explore how such traditions are expressed materially. Drawing on conceptual and theoretical developments within folklore, archaeology, ethnography and anthropology, such as the notion of structured deposition, bricolage, relational/assemblage approaches, feminist and queer perspectives, this session will explore the materiality and physicality of folklore, traditional and customary practices in Europe and beyond.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Wed 18 Dec 14:00 | Room 728

3: Archaeology, ancestry, and human genomics – a panel debate

The incorporation of ancient DNA into the archaeological toolkit has been widely hailed as a “scientific revolution” in the understanding of the human past. It is also widely recognised that applying genomics to prehistory involves complexities at every level of interpretation, and has on many occasions become the basis for questionable (and often widely publicised) claims about past cultural identities.

This panel creates a space where issues of method and theory can be openly debated by archaeologists, geneticists, and others interested in questions of population history and ancestry, including how scientific findings are presented and narrated to the wider public. A particular focus will be on the relationship between population histories inferred from genetic data and groupings based on material culture, especially the prehistoric entities once referred to as ‘culture areas,’ ‘archaeological horizons’ or ‘interaction spheres’.

Should the archaeological discourse of biological relatedness, through genomics, present its findings in relation to these much older cultural classifications (also potentially breathing new life into their established narratives of population groupings and dispersals)? Or does the intersection between archaeology and human genomics require entirely new ways of conceptualising the relationship between demographic and cultural histories?

We invite offers to participate in a roundtable panel discussion, involving 10-minute position statements and debate. Submissions should be in the form of a 100-word summary. There are limited panel positions. Once the panel is full, remaining submissions will be given the option of a scheduled (5-minute) slot within the wider discussion.

Organiser details:

Format: Panel discussion | Mon 16 Dec 13:30 | Room 802/4

4: New feminisms? Radical post-humanist archaeologies

We live in volatile political times: white supremacy is rising, xenophobic attitudes shape politics, homophobic and transphobic discrimination continues and the pervasive and powerful nature of the patriarchy runs through all of these. Intersectional feminist, queer, and post-colonial discourses in broader society have resurged in this context.

In archaeology essential work on sexual harassment has stimulated a powerful new wave of intersectional feminist discourse demanding changes in our practice. Yet our theory has seen less radical change. This is ironic because non-anthropocentric approaches have been gaining traction in archaeology, and many arise from feminist thinking. Feminist theorists such as Barad, Bennett, Braidotti, Grosz, and Harraway have drawn attention to how the majority of the population have been excluded from the category ‘human’ by humanism and argue for a radical re-understanding of the human and the vibrant worlds they are a part of. The humans that emerge are deeply relational, entangled with diverse other-than-humans, and always historical. These approaches are intersectional and feminist, yet our engagement with them often overlooks their potential to radically reframe marginalized voices both past and present.

We call for papers which challenge this by engaging explicitly with the potential of post-anthropocentric, new materialist and post-humanist approaches to make bold and radical changes to our ontologies and thus our conceptualisation of marginalised (human and non-human) identities. Feminism was a crucial driver of post-processualism and engaging explicitly with developments in new materialist and post-humanist feminisms is of equal importance in realising the promise of the ontological turn.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Mon 16 Dec 13:30 | Room 826

5: Demography, migration, interaction: new archaeological narratives for the past and the present

Recent years have seen an increase in political narratives and propaganda focused on boundaries, borders and walls, primarily based on a mentality of ‘us’ versus ‘them’. This rhetoric often makes use of archaeological data to support essentialist claims about populations and identity in the past and the present. At the same time, contemporary archaeological research has seen a resurgence of studies into prehistoric demography, driven by cross-disciplinary methods and techniques. Looking closely at issues of human migration and cross-cultural interaction across time and space, this session aims to highlight both the value of archaeology as a tool for challenging current attitudes towards migrants, and the ethics of undertaking research that may be used to support nativist claims. To this end, the session invites papers that develop new archaeological narratives on co-existence, co-operation, conflict and/or exchange between different communities, thus demonstrating the significance of cross-cultural interaction to the human condition, as well as the long term benefits of hybrid or ‘mixed’ communities. These narratives should however be placed firmly in the current socio-political context. What are the contemporary implications and entanglements of archaeological research focused on questions of demography, migration, and interaction? To enable this dialogue, we particularly welcome papers that approach these issues through a broad array of archaeological methods, including archaeological sciences (zooarchaeology, geoarchaeology, archaeobotany, osteoarchaeology), material culture studies (ceramics, lithics and metallurgy), and anthropological studies. We seek to discuss these topics from a broad temporal and geographical perspective, covering examples from the Palaeolithic to the Modern era, and from a diverse array of regions around the Globe. We particularly seek case studies from the Americas, Africa, Middle East, Asia, and Oceania.

We encourage early career researchers, women and minorities to apply.

Keywords: Cross-cultural interaction, Human migration, Diaspora, Populism

Organiser details:

Ana Catarina Vital (UCL Institute of Archaeology, ana.vital.16@ucl.ac.uk)

Gwendoline Maurer (UCL Institute of Archaeology, gwendoline.maurer.13@ucl.ac.uk)

Colin Sterling (UCL Institute of Archaeology, c.sterling@ucl.ac.uk)

Format: Combination of standard paper session and panel debate | Wed 18 Dec 14:00 | Room 822

6: The lives and deaths of historic buildings: biographical approaches to recording and interpretation

Historic buildings have long been studied and recorded to further our understanding of past societies and social practices. Established methods of recording standing buildings seek to create archives of ‘objective’ architectural records of the type laid out by Historic England. These records belie a more personal and human storytelling of a place and its histories. This session will contend such records to be an impossible chimera, and will open up discussion of a range of alternative ways of articulating the ‘spirit’ of a building from embodied perspectives. Papers will draw on disciplinary methods ranging within and beyond archaeology and architecture, including forms of storytelling, image-making, artistic practices and creative writing.

Inspired by Igor Kopytoff’s (1986) biographical approach to material culture, the session advances a ‘life-cycle’ model for thinking about historic buildings, considering their entire lifespans from conception, cycles of use, to eventual decrepitude, abandonment and death. Buildings are understood to accumulate person-like histories through interactions with human and non-human agencies over time. Interactions and modifications are aggregated from momentary engagements across human lifespans and passing centuries. Many buildings will have lived far longer lives than we have, and deserve the respect that we give them when we seek the gently whispered stories that they have to tell.

Kopytoff, I. 1986. ‘The cultural biography of things: commoditization as a process’, in A. Appadurai (ed.), The Social Life of Things, 64–91. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Wed 18 Dec 09:30 | Room 828

7: Powerful artefacts in time and space

Powerful artefacts, a category that often includes grave goods and monumental structures, take prime positions in archaeological research and literature. From popular films to museum displays, whether the Ark of the Covenant or the Sutton Hoo helmet, our views of artefacts influence both the primacy and direction of research, and interpretations for the public. Power in artefacts can be interpreted as having been economic, ritual or social in various ways. Through their component materials, their form, their places of origin and of deposition, and sometimes their curation in the case of demonstrably old objects, archaeologists build hierarchies of power relationships. Certain objects evoke a greater sense of importance than others.

This session aims to be wide-ranging and to tease out these manifestations of power, and to challenge our interpretive frameworks. We invite papers from all periods that focus on artefacts and interpretations of power in the past. Power may relate to the individual artefact, to the person with whom it is associated, or to society as a whole; or more broadly as in social-religious and/or supernatural power. Papers may also focus on the extent of power in an artefact, and to what extent it is contagious or transferable.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Wed 18 Dec 09:30 | Room 822

8: The politics of things, agencies, and ontologies: finding common ground

Theoretical debate in archaeology might not be as polarised today as in the 1980s, but it still grapples with absolutely fundamental questions. Among the foremost trends in the current century so far are the emergence of new materialisms and approaches that ask ontological questions. These seek to challenge much of the conceptual and terminological framework employed in archaeology hitherto. As we approach 2020, though, there are signs of a push-back against these developments, and a number of critiques of different strands of these theories (e.g. symmetrical archaeology, entanglement theory) are beginning to emerge. One critical issue has to do with the ethical and political implications of different positions on objects, agents and ontologies. For, while there is considerable variety in the moral and ethical interpretations attached to different perspectives on the being of humans, animals and things, archaeologists on both sides in these exchanges actually tend to have much in common as progressive scholars with similar values and goals. In this round-table discussion, we seek to cut through some of the theoretical debate to understand better the basis for this common ground, and to find a positive unity of purpose for practical action that might make a difference in the world we inhabit. We intend to structure the discussion around four key questions:

1. How do politics and ethics intersect with ontology?

2. What have different archaeological approaches to objects achieved?

3. Is anthropocentrism inevitable, and what are its limitations?

4. How can we work more collaboratively to make future debate more constructive?

This session is intended to be an open, inclusive, structured conversation, and as such does not require formal abstract submissions – but expressions of interest in taking part in the session organisers are welcome.

Organiser details:

Format: Panel debate/round-table session | Wed 18 Dec 14:00 | Room 826

9: Archaeological activists and the untold histories of archaeology

Our text books tell the orthodox story of how archaeology, as a discipline and a profession, has unfolded. Mostly constructed from the perspectives of straight white men, we hear how they moved through the theoretical paradigms, developing theories and methods which have become standardised and enshrined in our contemporary practices and heritage organisations. In between those grand themes however, unrecorded movements, initiatives and individuals did their own things in an effort to make a difference. How representative, therefore, are the ‘official’ accounts of what has happened? For some time, the feminist critique has been particularly strong in illustrating women who have “trowelblazed” (Cf. https://trowelblazers.com/) their way through the profession, and feminism has made real impacts in challenging persisting standard narratives. In the 1980s Archaeologists for Peace, together with Archaeologists Communicate Transform, briefly emphasised the wider concerns of archaeologists, attempting to promote the social investment archaeology makes. Before them, RESCUE was formed as a pressure group which retains that focus today. What other such stories might there be, of people getting together, or acting on their own, to protest, pressurise, influence and change the progress of archaeology on its otherwise established, and establishment-led, course? How, through their actions, have relatively unknown figures tilted at the relationships of power and knowledge between the establishment and the rest of us? How many more untold stories can be rescued from the margins? In this session we invite papers that build upon this examination of the intertwining of theory and practice, to tell the radical untold histories of archaeology.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Tues 17 Dec 09:30 | Room 739

10: Archaeologia Hookland: the archaeology of lost and fictional places

Have you ever been to Hookland? This lost county, located somewhere in England, has a fine collection of megaliths, standing stones and barrows, but their cataloguing has never been satisfactorily completed, and deeper physical investigations have generally ended badly. In other words, Hookland provides a rare opportunity and starting point to explore notions of archaeology in relation to places of the imagination

The county even has its own museum, The Hookland Museum of Curiosities, which contains (reputedly) only objects found in the County under all manner of circumstances; no comprehensive inventory exists. Yet archaeological interest in this County has increased in recent years, prompted by curious entries in the The Phoenix Guide to England, and the discovery of a complete run of the journal Archaeologia Hookland found in the Ashmolean by author and folklorist C.L. Nolan

For those intimate with Hookland, we offer the opportunity to explore and celebrate its archaeology, both in terms of its ancient and more recent past (from the Toad Stone to the pylon’s hum), but also the dark history of surveys, excavations, curses and wyrd discoveries that litter the pages of Archaeologia Hookland. For others, we encourage proposals for papers, talks and creative contributions on the themes of folk horror archaeology, the archaeology of lost and fictional places, and all things landscape punk.

Organiser details:

Kenny Brophy, University of Glasgow (Kenny.brophy@glasgow.ac.uk)

Katy Soar, University of Winchester (katy.soar@winchester.ac.uk)

Format: Standard paper session | Tues 17 Dec 14:00 | Room 826

11: Mythical past, dangerous present: challenging nationalism’s relationships with archaeology and history

With the reawakening of mainstream nationalism and reestablishment of right-wing political hegemony throughout Europe and the Americas, the past is once again weaponized. Archaeological and historical narratives are being adapted to support and coalesce national identities, ethno-religious-geographic boundaries, and anti-immigration policies. These mythical pasts are also being used to justify ethnic violence, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism – including, most recently, on 15th March 2019, the murder of 50 worshippers at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

This session will examine how, where and why these mythical pasts are (re)created. It will discuss the leaky pipelines of our disciplinary public engagement. It will ask how historians and archaeologists, and other humanities scholars, can work together to challenge the misuse of archaeological and historical evidence, ancient DNA, archives, texts and images, by those involved in populist politics, the digital right and mainstream media. Through this session discussion, it is hoped that we can establish ways forward with which to engage with, and challenge, these populist narratives.

Organiser details:

  • Kenny Brophy (University of Glasgow), Mark Hobbs (UEA), Lorna-Jane Richardson (UEA)
  • Corresponding organiser: Lorna-Jane Richardson lorna.richardson@uea.ac.uk

Format: Standard paper session | Tues 17 Dec 09:30 | Room 802/4

12: Non-binary knowing: things, selves others
This session has now been withdrawn.
13: Micro-worlds, materiality and human behaviour: magnifying material science in explanations of technology

Studies of innovation and cultural transmission in material culture are scholarly obsessions as well as fundamental building blocks for regional and global archaeological narratives. The traditional emphasis on macroscopic artefact traits to explore shifting patterns of cultural variation remains dominant whilst the use of material science data to examine these questions, particularly in the context of production technology, has been slow to develop.  Traits that define style and form take precedent over composition and texture.

This session explores how we can better utilise material science data in building explanatory models for the evolution of technologies worldwide. It brings together a range of cross-disciplinary research projects that span different materials and continents, yet all using elemental and microscopic analyses to investigate variability in artefact production processes.  Participants will demonstrate the utility of micro-scale characterizations for exploring themes ranging from purely aesthetical and sensorial to environmental and mechanical stimulants of change. Seeing no fundamental difference in the abilities of micro- and macro-scale artefact traits to address archaeological problems, we wish to probe the extent to which materials science data can generate new insights on patterns of technological behaviour.   

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Wed 18 Dec 14:00 | Room 828

14: Capacious archaeologies

The subject of affect has gained academic traction in the last decade or so (Massumi 2002, Stewart 2007, Thrift 2008, Manning 2016), with several collections now being devoted to the topic (Gregg and Seigworth 2010; Clough 2007) and an on-line journal (http://capaciousjournal.com/past-issues/vol-1-no-1-2017/). The study of affect is multitudinous, however archaeological responses to the topic have tended to narrowly conceive affect in terms of the emotions or senses (e.g. Brady and Bradley 2016, Hamilakis 2013, Harris and Sørenson 2010). While these discussions are important, we argue that the study of affect has much more to offer archaeology.

The session aims to explore the potentials of discussing affect in the study of the past. Affect has been discussed in relation to encounters with archaeological art (Back Danielsson et. al. 2012, Jones and Cochrane 2018), and has also been discussed as a component of relational assemblages (Jervis 2019). Each of these approaches open up the possibility for a much wider analysis of affect. But can we explore the topic of affect beyond the study of archaeological art; how are other things affective? If we consider affects to be components of complex assemblages of people, things and other entities then affect also offers a powerful tool for exploring power in a post-human or multi-species scenario. To consider the capacities of assemblages of things is to simultaneously consider the power of things to affect.

In the exploratory spirit of affect studies, we are interested not only in applying affect theory to the study of archaeology, but also in exploring the capacity of archaeology to expand the dimensions and capabilities of affect theory.

Back Danielsson, I.-M., Fahlander, F. and Sjöstrand, Y. 2012. Encountering Imagery. Materialities, perceptions, relations. Stockholm: Stockholm University.

Brady, L. and Bradley, J.J. 2016. Who do you want to kill? Affectual and relational understandings at a sorcery rock art site in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria, northern Australia. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 22 (4), 884-901.

Hamilakis, Y. 2013. Archaeology and the senses: human experience, memory and affect. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harris, O. and Sørenson, T. F. 2010. Rethinking emotion and material culture. Archaeological Dialogues 17(2), 145-63.

Jervis, B. 2019. Assemblage Thought and Archaeology. London: Routledge.

Jones, A.M. and Cochrane, A. 2018. The Archaeology of Art. Materials, Practices, Affects. London: Routledge.

Manning, E. 2016. The Minor Gesture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Massumi, B. 2002. Parables of the Virtual. Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Stewart, K. 2007. Ordinary Affects. Durham, NV: Duke University Press.

Thrift, N. 2008. Non-representational theory. Space, politics, affect. London: Routledge.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Tues 17 Dec 09:30 | Room 784

15: Archaeological architectures - architectural archaeologies

For three decades archaeologists have been thinking and writing about architecture in diverse and challenging ways: as action, through risk-taking activity, as dependent, in time, as atmosphere, through material culture, as landscape, on sensory terms. Slow architecture, animal architecture, quick architecture, messy architecture, living architecture - all of these are critiques of the discipline of Architecture’s knowledge of form. Architecture is now thinking and writing about archaeology on creative terms, but are archaeologists listening?

This session is a celebration of the creative force of archaeological architectures and architectural archaeologies. Its focus is other ways of telling, writing, and drawing the built environment from the outside and through undisciplinary practices.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Tues 17 Dec 09:30 | Clarke Hall (Level 3)

16: What counts as knowledge in the museum and heritage sector, and how can this influence the quality of decision-making using diverse sources of knowledge and evidence?

This session will examine different types of knowledge, how they are produced, exchanged, used, interact with each other, but also how they are used to inform policy and decision-making in the heritage and museum sector. Proposed papers could examine everyday or vernacular knowledge as well as epistemic knowledge; how different types of knowledge are represented and given a voice in heritage and museum organisations; and the mechanisms through which we do that (e.g. Responsible Research and Innovation, co-creation and other participatory approaches to developing knowledge).

We would like to invited papers that examine a wide range of topics or questions such as:

  • Philosophical and cultural issues related to the value of different types of knowledge in a democracy.
  • How do different types of heritage and museum settings construct what counts as knowledge and learning? What knowledge travels between different social settings (such as home, school, work, informal learning settings)?
  • What are the points of interface where different stakeholders and the type of knowledge they produce meet and interact with each other?
  • What factors impede the identification and exchange of different types of knowledge within museum or heritage organisations and beyond their boundaries?
  • How can we influence the quality of decision making using diverse sources of knowledge and evidence?
  • How different points of view that draw on different types of knowledge (including everyday knowledge that citizens have) are represented when it comes to heritage and museum policy?
  • What role social and historic sciences, art and humanities play in policy and decision-making?

Organiser details:

All UCL Institute of Archaeology

Format: Standard paper session | Tues 17 Dec 14:00 | Room 828

17: Investigating industrial pasts and legacies from multi- and interdisciplinary perspectives

The topic of multi- and interdisciplinary research has been gaining traction in recent years. Studies of industrial archaeology and heritage have long utilised interdisciplinary methods and perspectives, being concerned with various kinds of evidence of industrial processes and legacies, both material and immaterial. In this session we explore the place and value of multi- and inter disciplinary practices within studies of industrial pasts and legacies. In this, we acknowledge the growing interest in these topics within other disciplines, such as economic and oral history, sociology, geography, environmental humanities, photography and art, amongst others.

We seek to examine the current conditions of knowledge production, how new bodies of knowledge and practice are being formed, the shifts of power, and how they change us. Some questions that we seek to address are: What relationships are currently being forged and why, and in what ways do different perspectives coalesce or clash, and why? Does it matter what we call ourselves? How are multi- and inter disciplinary approaches being incorporated, while maintaining communication with a ‘home’ discipline? Are there any anxieties over politics, disciplinary histories, identity, funding, career paths, acceptance, and recognition? What are perceived as typical and unconventional forms of practice?

We welcome abstracts from students and established scholars. Creative forms of presentation are also welcome.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Wed 18 Dec 14:00 | Room 777/80

18: Minds in situ: material approaches to cognition in the past

Cognitive archaeology’s aim - to study the minds of people in past societies through material culture - has prompted scepticism since its beginnings. Nevertheless, the last decades have seen a surge of interest in the archaeology of the mind. As a broad, interdisciplinary research area, a plethora of approaches are used; while this has led to creative and varied research, cognitive archaeology as a whole lacks cohesion.

Focusing on the fundamental role of material culture may offer a particularly useful approach for archaeologists wishing to tackle this area. Theoretical approaches like the ‘extended mind’ and Material Engagement Theory have advocated a certain materialist approach, where the mind does not consist solely of the brain. As a result, there is increasing recognition of the significant roles of the environment and the body in our cognitive development.

Papers submitted to this session may consider, but are not limited to, one or more of the following topics:

  • The materiality of, and material proxies for, cognition
  • Learning and cultural transmission in the past
  • Interdisciplinary approaches to cognitive archaeology
  • Challenges and solutions in cognitive archaeology

While cognitive archaeology is traditionally seen as a prehistoric endeavour, it has great potential for use in any period. It has been successful in helping consider not only pathways of thought and learning in the past, but also understanding the mind in the context of behaviour, social relationships and material culture. We therefore aim for a broad session encompassing the many varied pursuits of cognitive archaeology and materialism.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Wed 18 Dec 09:30 | Room 739

19: Pathways to post-conflict remembrance

We are currently living in a time where past conflicts are lavishly commemorated, contemporary ones being followed on the world stage, while future ones dreaded with fear. Across the world, past and present conflicts and their heritages are being instrumentalized for the formation of national identities, as well as patriotic and nationalistic sentiments, and therefore holding a crucial role in ongoing shifts and changes of contemporary politics.

During this session we seek papers from different social and historical contexts, which offer theoretical frameworks and/or case study approaches to various pathways of remembering and commemorating conflicts between 19th and 21st century, both in private and public domains.

Understanding memory as a contested process, we aim to examine the political, moral and ethical dynamics of post-conflict remembrance through institutional and individual efforts. The physicality/tangibility of remembrance through (for example) memorabilia, art, fashion, literature, memorials and monuments, private and public museum displays, often appears to have been the focus of various commemorative efforts and academic works. However, during this session we also invite papers exploring intangible aspects of remembrance through sound, music, oral histories and ethnographies. This will give us the opportunity to discuss and compare different disciplinary approaches and boundaries within the field of conflict memory.

We are particularly interested in papers that explore one or more of the following topics:

  • Commemorations and politics
  • Ownership of the past
  • Commemoration and identity
  • Morality of remembrance
  • Physicality of commemoration

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Wed 18 Dec 09:30 | Room 784

20: Gender and power in developer-funded archaeology

This session will be a panel debate exploring gendered experiences in developer-funded archaeology in and outside the UK; a much relied upon sector for paid archaeology work that plays an important role in keeping archaeologists employed and furthering research in our field. Previous TAG sessions and research on feminist archaeology, including H. L. Cobb’s recent studies on gender and diversity in developer-funded archaeology (2012; 2015), have helped to shine a light on the issues surrounding gender in this industry. Gender is empowering but our experiences can still leave us feeling powerless. Women have enhanced and still enhance our understanding of the past, actively contributing as archaeologists in the field and in research for hundreds of years. Acknowledgment of women’s role in excavating the past has thankfully been a popular topic in recent years and is receiving the attention it deserves, but more work can still be done. There are numerous gender related issues, within our current industry, that deserve even more attention. These range from, but are not limited to: sexual misconduct; maternity; gender stereotyping; gender roles; promotion opportunities; gender pay-gap; gendered physical and mental health issues; child-care and many more. These issues can result in many women leaving the field altogether (Clancy et al, 2014). This session seeks to provide a platform to share experiences of gender and power in developer-funded archaeology from around the world in a safe space. In doing so, we hope to raise awareness, provide a support network and demonstrate the need for change.


Cobb, H. L. 2012. ‘Digging diversity? A preliminary examination of disciplinary diversity in UK archaeology’, Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.

Cobb, H. L. 2015. ‘A diverse profession? Challenging inequalities and diversifying involvement in British archaeology’, in P. Everill and P. Irving (eds.) Rescue Archaeology: Foundations for the Future, 226-245. Hereford: RESCUE.

Clancy, K. B. H; Nelson R. G; Rutherford J. N; Hinde, K. 2014. ‘Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault’, PLoS ONE 9 (7).

Organiser details:

Format: Panel debate | Tues 17 Dec 09:30 | Room 828

21: Challenging narratives and legacies in the archaeology and heritage of the Middle East and North Africa

The focus of the proposed session is on the legacy and practice of archaeology and heritage in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Archaeology and heritage in the region are often seen as heavily influenced by old practices and theories of early excavators. The session invites papers which seek to consider and challenge old or traditional narratives of archaeological research in the region. This includes how past research is used in current interpretations, as well as the influence of past practices on knowledge production. Papers could also consider the role of archaeology and heritage on past or current political situations like colonialism and current uprisings.

Papers may wish to focus on or consider some of the following:

  • The influence of past practices or narratives on archaeology and heritage today.
  • The use of archives and archival research in modern archaeological or heritage practices.
  • New or ‘non-traditional’ methods in heritage and archaeology for a better understanding of archaeological context or engagement with local people and the public.
  • The influence of colonialism and decolonisation in the interpretation of archaeology in the region. This could include from a cultural perspective but also the influence of professional privilege and control of archaeological information.
  • The portrayal of the past in museums and in the media (e.g. documentaries, social media, field-work websites...) to the public/non-subject specialists and how this affects both public perception and professional practices in archaeology and heritage.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Mon 16 Dec 13:30 | Room W3.06 (Level 3)

22: Archaeology of inequality ― themes, debates, methodologies

Inequality is a contemporary hot topic. Globalization and political populism have, on the one hand, drawn more attention to the analysis of inequality in economics. On the other hand, established concepts and methods have come under attack for perhaps not exposing important dimensions of inequality (e.g Stiglitz, 2012; Michalovic, 2016).

Where does archaeology and with it anthropological social theory more broadly stand with regard to the concept of inequality? In archaeology, we find both established theories and approaches as well as attempts at rethinking inequality and its conceptual neighborhood (Kohler & Smith, 2018; Price & Feinman, 2010). Inequality is intimately linked to concepts of social complexity, power, competition and co-operation, and with that broader questions concerning archaeological interpretation.

In this session we wish to provide a venue for discussing archaeology of inequality, both, in terms of theoretical questions pertaining to our understanding of inequality as well as questions of in terms of identifying inequalities in archaeological practice.

Topics covered in the session may include:

  • Inequality of what?
  • Does social complexity equal inequality?
  • Hierarchy or heterarchy
  • What is value?
  • Inequality as a driver of social change
  • Quantifying inequality
  • Household, settlement, and regional scales of inequality


Kohler, Tim & Smith, Michael E. (eds.) 2018. Ten Thousand Years of inequality: The Archaeology of Wealth Differences. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

Michalovic, Branko, 2016. Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization. London: Harvard University Press.

Price, T. Douglas & Feinman, Gary (eds.) 2010. Pathways to Power: New Perspectives on the Emergence of Social Inequality. London: Springer.

Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2012. The Price of Inequality. London: W.W. Norton & Company.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Wed 18 Dec 09:30 | Room 802/4

23: Museum archaeology: thinking through collections

There are several common misconceptions around museum archaeology. These include the assumption that it is simply a set of procedures for managing and exhibiting assemblages at the end of the archaeological process, and that it has had little impact on the development of, or relevance to, archaeological theory or museum going publics. This session seeks to challenge such characterisations and extend theorisation beyond gallery display to develop museum archaeology as a distinct area of reflexive individual and institutional research and practices integral to the broader discipline. In so doing, this session recognises museum archaeology as a political arena with an obligation to address recent discourses around class, gender, race, the public presentation of past peoples, and decolonisation. What is prioritised by and researched in museums, by whom, how and why? How do museum practices of assembly and reassembly of objects shape archaeological knowledge? How is archaeological praxis transformed or reinforced by the museum? What role does the museum visitor have?

Papers are invited that problematise and suggest new ways of thinking about historic, contemporary and future relationships between archaeological theory, museum collections, and the public, as well as the array of institutional and cultural paradigms through which archaeological enquiries are mediated and represented. Case studies and theoretical considerations that engage with the nature and status in the museum of archival field notes, photographic media, archaeological samples and replicas, alongside artefact assemblages, are encouraged. Similarly, papers that consider core museum practices (like documentation, cataloguing, storage, conservation and visitor engagement) as socially embedded and historically produced activities, rather than straightforward logistical issues, are welcome.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Mon 18 Dec 14:00 | Room 731/6

24: FFS!!! - Keep calm and carry on??? Regaining emotion in archaeological discourse

This session's genesis was a RESPECT forum conversation on the silencing of “emotional” women during debates, as often emotional reactions are perceived as irrational rather than calm and rational. Where there is power imbalance, the voices of marginalised groups can be dismissed for displaying emotional responses, but these responses are incredibly powerful, challenging to witness and can prompt real change.

The Equality Act (2010) defines a series of Protected Characteristics - age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy & maternity, race, religion/belief, sex and sexual orientation, which it is illegal to discriminate against yet all of these characteristics to a greater or lesser extent remain marginalised within academic debate and within the archaeological/heritage professions. This matters when examining power, knowledge and the past.

Individual emotive responses are all different in the same scenario - a product of upbringing, societal pressures, gender etc. How can we reframe emotion within our own experience in order to reach a level of understanding if not empathy?

How can we empower more open, frank and emotional discussions which allow more voices to be heard? How are we constrained by current accepted practice of debate? We invite papers on complex and emotive issues and emphasise that this is a space where emotive responses are welcome and part of the discussion. This session is an open forum for examining responses to issues that need emotion, human behaviour and human instinct to examine them critically and effectively.

Organiser details:

The session will begin with a short interactive paper by the organisers followed by a series of shorter papers. There will be a time attribution of 50/50 talk/Q&A with each paper. The session will conclude with an open debate based upon the issues raised within the session and those written upon comment slips.

Due to the nature of the topics to be discussed ideally the room would be arranged on one level (i.e. not a tiered lecture theatre) in circular or semi-circular rows with the option for speakers to present whilst seated. The aim would be to create as equal a space as possible rather than to have the hierarchy of speaker and attendee. This is intended to make this a less intimidating space to present within and it is hoped that this will encourage papers from less experienced participants.

It is also proposed to have facility whereby people could drop in comments, questions, experiences or concerns during/after the session. These comments will be anonymous, but it is hoped this will provide additional material for follow up work and it is intended that the outcomes of this session will feed into a co-authored article from the Respect group with guidance on discussing, reporting, presenting issues in archaeology that take into account emotive responses, diverse triggers and reactions, and framing conversations inclusively and accessibly.

Format: Modified seminar/workshop format | Wed 18 Dec 09:30 | Room 731/6

25: Radical archaeology: what is it? How do we do it? Why do we need it?

The delivery of the archaeological experience to society, while well-intentioned, remains largely and fundamentally undemocratic: community projects organised on a top-down basis; professional and academic archaeologists as self-imposed historical gatekeepers; and dominant historical narratives preserved by professionals and delivered to the public, with limited opportunity for personal engagement or interpretation (including ongoing inaccessibility of conferences to laypeople)! In the current climate of religious and political extremism, refugee crises, media manipulation, and climate collapse, living our lives on a historically informed basis is more important than ever. We propose that in order for archaeology to truly serve the interests and expectations of communities, its practice should embrace a more politically-aware approach, as offered by a more radical archaeology. The definition of radical is “…of change or action: going to the root or origin; touching upon or affecting what is fundamental; thorough, far-reaching; revolutionary” (OED). This house proposes revisiting and revitalising the concept of radical archaeology, as previously outlined by the Radical Archaeology Forum, Archaeologists Against War and Archaeologists for Global Justice. Can we construct a truly democratic and participatory practice, while excluding discriminatory views? Does the layperson have every right to interpret the past subjectively, or should we impose limits? We propose a panel discussion with speakers providing different viewpoints, and discussion from the floor. This panel intends to spark debate about the political state of archaeology today and its implications, and how we might revolutionise archaeological practice to prevent stagnation and promote socio-intellectual equality.

Organiser details:

Format: Panel discussion | Mon 16 Dec 13:30 | Room 777/80

26: Debating power and knowledge in archaeological curricula: a student-staff joint forum

Although demands to decolonise archaeological education are longstanding, recent years have seen a groundswell of student-led activist movements critiquing the nature of academic power and the power of the university curriculum. Calls of ‘why is my curriculum white?’ and ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ have spurred debate over legacies of institutional racism, equality of access to educational and career opportunities, and representation and acknowledgement of diverse student experiences, among other themes. These calls resonate with wider conversations within archaeology around sexual harassment in the field, the office, conference venue or classroom, gender and racial gaps in salary and educational attainment, and the expectations of collaborative knowledge production across geographical and cultural contexts.

Building on dialogues that have emerged out of this year’s SAAs and TRAC, in this session, students and staff will jointly explore the nature of power and knowledge at this nexus of pedagogy and archaeological practice. Taking the form of a round table moderated by one student and one faculty member, the session encourages discussion of topics including (but not limited to) curriculum content; access to and inclusion within field-based teaching; incorporating student perspectives in teaching strategies; educational media and teaching delivery; and practices of establishing and critiquing expertise in the classroom.

Submissions for participation in this session should come from faculty and students, and should take the form of 1) a statement of interest (max 250 words) in participating in the session; and 2) a set of 2-5 questions to pose to the group, which will form the basis of group discussion with a view to developing a set of action points. Session participants will be expected to adhere to TAG@UCL-IoA’s code of conduct, and should treat this foremost as a collaborative forum.


Format: Panel discussion/round-table | Mon 16 Dec 13:30 | Room 828

27: The treatment of the dead in current archaeological practice: exploring knowledge gain, value and the ethical treatment of remains from current major burial ground excavations for HS2 in London and Birmingham

The current archaeological excavations at two large urban cemeteries at St James Gardens, Euston, and Park Street Gardens, Birmingham, as part of the HS2 Historic Environment Research and Delivery Strategy, are providing significant insights into the treatment of the dead in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The identification of named individuals, including the recent discovery of Captain Matthew Flinders, has also raised the profile of historical human remains in the present and the potential political significance of such discoveries.

The scale of the burial ground excavations at Park St and St James, with the latter containing tens of thousands of buried individuals, raises questions about contemporary attitudes to the mass excavation of human remains. Excavations of human remains at this scale place a focus upon ethical considerations regarding their treatment through the processes of excavation, study and reburial. Archaeological excavation may be considered an acceptable treatment of the remains of past individuals, in return for scientific knowledge. It is, however, necessary to consider how archaeological excavation and scientific study of human remains contribute to our understanding of past historical societies, how research aims are determined and what the potential impact of that knowledge is to those in the present. How can we maximise the value of scientific study of human remains to those in the present and can archaeology complement other fields such as epidemiology through, for example, DNA study?

Papers are welcome to both discuss the research aims, ethical and political considerations from these sites and consider these themes more broadly from excavated cemeteries elsewhere.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Tues 17 Dec 14:00 | Room 784

28: Beyond biographies: composite things in time and space

The Grimthorpe shield was excavated from a Middle Iron Age grave in East Yorkshire in 1868. It is generally discussed as a singular shield, but a recent re-examination of this object concluded that it was formed from a mixture of new and old fittings, some of which probably once belonged to older shields.

How should we think of this object? Although it has been crystallised through deposition in its current configuration as a single shield, it is simultaneously several other objects at once, presenting an interesting paradox.

This session emerges from the observation that complex, composite objects, such as the Grimthorpe Shield, do not always fit comfortably within existing models used by archaeologists to explain the processes of things in time and space. Object biographies have long been a popular way of describing the ‘lives’ of objects and recent discussions have suggested ways of building upon or going beyond this concept. However, we argue that composite things can present problems in these approaches, creating tensions between the whole and its parts.

We aim to explore new modes of envisaging the ontological complexities of composite objects and other types of assemblage, with emphases on scale and the paradox between singular and multiple. We welcome papers that seek novel approaches to composite things and assemblages in time and space, using examples from any archaeological period(s) and covering topics such as:

• Modification

• Repair

• Curation (ancient and modern)

• Fragmentation

• Refashioning

• Recycling

• Re-appropriation

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Wed 18 Dec 14:00 | Room 790

29: Power over practice in the contracting sector

This session will examine how modern practice has been shaped by the environments within which archaeological work is undertaken. Since the professionalisation of archaeology much has changed in terms of planning guidance, construction sector legislation and on-site management. How have these been reflected in our fieldwork methodologies? Are we adapting to suit these new conditions, or are we merely working harder to fit with increased pressures? Do the new systems in use on infrastructure projects add to the value of our practice, or reduce it? Do we have examples of successful modifications of project designs to suit these new conditions or are we still trying to maintain existing methodologies? Can we improve or adapt our input into development projects to enhance the experience for the practitioners themselves? What can archaeology offer developments and do we have the power to embed it into projects? This is a wide-ranging theme that should be considered from both theoretical and practical viewpoints so papers are sought from across the contracting sector and are particularly encouraged from those who wouldn’t usually participate at TAG. International viewpoints are also very welcome.

Organiser details:

Sadie​ Watson, swatson@mola.org.uk

Format: Standard paper session | Tues 17 Dec 14:00 | Room 790

30: Tropicalís(i)mo: exploring comparative archaeologies between Amazonia and the Maya lowlands

Archaeological studies focused on different lowland regions of the Neotropics are fragmented along either national or cultural lines. They reflect different research traditions (e.g. Mayanists, Amazonianists) and are - generally speaking - strongly imprinted by a consideration of the reciprocal effects of human communities and environmental change. Despite the growing importance of a comparative perspective in archaeology, it remains to be seen whether these regions can be meaningfully compared. The broad lowland Neotropical macro region, on the other hand, potentially has much to offer to current thinking about the emergence of social power; demographic growth, resilience and adaptation in the face of different and/or changing environmental conditions; and links between different socio-historical trajectories, landscape transformation/degradation, and  climate change. In this session we attempt to provide a forum to develop this comparative perspective. We invite contributions from researchers working in multiple regions of the lowland Neotropics to consider such general questions as: Do the ‘tropics’ constitute a valid framework for archaeological comparison? Are there similarities of approaches, methods and techniques that deserve scrutiny? Are the main research questions tackled in different regions comparable? What is the impact of different national and international archaeological traditions? How are archaeological reconstructions reflective of ethnographic or ethnohistorical assumptions? What is the relevance of current research for local communities across these regions? We welcome and encourage contributions with a comparative and interdisciplinary angle within the lowland Neotropics.

Organiser details:

Format: Standard paper session | Wed 18 Dec 14:00 | Clarke Hall (Level 3)