Institute of Archaeology



Demography, Migration, Interaction: New Archaeological Narratives for the Past and the Present | Wed Dec 18 14:00:00 | Room 822

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’. 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 the value of archaeology as a tool for challenging current attitudes towards migrants. To this end, we invite 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.

Session timetable
14:00 | Ana Catarina Vital, UCL Institute of Archaeology; Gwendoline Maurer, UCL Institute of Archaeology


14:10 | Gwendoline Maurer, UCL Institute of Archaeology

Diaspora Subsistence Strategies: The Kura Araxes in the 3rd Millennium BC Southern Levant

The Kura Araxes cultural complex is an archaeological phenomenon, in which Early Bronze Age migrants from the Caucasus, northern western Iran and Eastern Anatolia expanded through Russia, parts of southeastern Anatolia, the Iranian plateau and as far as the Southern Levant, during the 3rd millennium BC. Tel Bet Yerah (Sea of Galilea) presents the most southerly point of expansion. Tel Bet Yerah is unique among all known Kura-Araxes sites in that it shows the clear side-by-side habitation of migrants and the local population, at this Early Bronze Age urban centre (2770 B.C.E – 2400 B.C.E).

The reason for the expansions and movements of the Kura Araxes are poorly understood. Further, little to no understanding exists concerning the social and cultural world the Kura Araxes lived in and what it meant to interact with local populations within their expansion and homeland areas. This paper will explore the feasibility of defining the different social-economic structures and interactions between the Kura Araxes and local populations at Tel Bet Yerah. These questions will be explored by drawing on zooarchaeological evidence from the migrant occupation area; SA-M as well as the local compound SA-S. Differences in animal husbandry, land use, food preparation and consumption will be demonstrated. Subsistence strategies, the use of animals and food ways are regarded as the basis of each group through which their economic social and political structures are reproduced and negotiated. The zooarchaeological study of Tel Bet Yerah presents, therefore, an ideal case study for exploring the concept of diaspora in prehistory.

14:25 | Alicia Núñez-García, University of Edinburgh

Ubuntu! Phoenicians in Iberia, Syrians in Europe

Over the past few years, waves of Syrian immigrants have sought refuge from their country’s civil war in Europe, reaching mostly the coasts of Greece, Italy and Spain. Having made headlines as the ‘refugee crisis’, the situation has prompted not only positive humanitarian responses but also many nativist ones. How legitimate are these claims to the land?

During the first half of the first millennia BC, ‘Phoenicians’ from the Levantine coast encountered local communities on the Atlantic coastline. An initial period of temporary interactions led to the eventual development of both, ‘mixed’ settlements (i.e., Almaraz) and permanent Phoenician ones (i.e., Abul). Materially, ‘Phoenicians’ probably introduced wheel-thrown pottery, architectural techniques and iron technology, and Atlantic communities contributed their raw materials and natural resources, among others. How did local adaptations of foreign technology translate to the social sphere? What new relationships and identities did the artefacts from these trading migrations create?

This paper seeks to answer these questions through an exploration of spatial dynamics and connectivity using GIS and quantitative comparative analyses, that will focus on ‘Phoenician’ artefacts and structures in the Atlantic coastline. It presents a case study in Portugal, highlighting the intercultural growth resulting from the exchanges, cooperation and coexistence of the Iberian and Levantine communities through the idea of meshworks. Same geographies, 1500 years later, and a parallel coexistence could be possible. Who are we, then, to keep refugees and immigrants from ‘our countries’? Intercultural contact has been happening for millennia. Ubuntu! I am because we are.

14:40 | Yuyang Wang, Stanford University

Looking into the Shattered Mirrors: A Study of Destroyed Bronze Mirrors in Qin, Han, and Xiongnu Tombs

Archaeological discoveries show that people from various civilizations had interests of burying destroyed objects for ambiguous reasons. Ancient Egyptians would “kill” their ceramic objects by poking holes in the bottom; Northern Europeans of the Iron Age would bend their swords to “kill the spirits;” the Shang Chinese would shatter their bronze objects into pieces to “send away the dead.” Why is it cross-culturally common to favour destroyed objects in burial?

To better visualize this question with detailed archaeological data, this paper compares finds of destroyed bronze mirrors excavated from Qin (about 250-206 BCE) and Han (about 206 BCE-220 AD) Chinese tombs with those excavated from their Central Asian neighbour, Xiongnu (about 200 BCE-100 AD) tombs. Qin, Han China had always maintained their intense relationship with Xiongnu through various interactions: arranged marriages, wars, and trades. Their political boundaries and physical borders had constantly been pushed. Nevertheless, archaeologists discovered that both Qin, Han Chinese and Xiongnu people burial destroyed bronze mirrors as a ritual practice, and most of the Xiongnu mirrors were Chinese made. Was this shared custom a product of migration? Or simply because Xiongnu and Qin, Han China had a similar belief in life and death? Why did bronze mirror play a significant role in this? This paper addresses this coexisted phenomenon and tries to investigate the possible reasons behind the parallel custom.

14:55 | Christian Langer M.A., Freie Universität Berlin

Researching ancient Egyptian deportations: political economy and scholarly discourse

In this contribution, I will outline the role of deportation policies in domestic and international affairs in Egypt’s Late Bronze Age empire (c. 1550–1069 BCE). Egyptian deportation policies have been an understudied topic. Neither Egyptology nor other academic disciplines have recognized it as a fruitful field of enquiry that may also hold value in global comparative studies. The understudied nature of the topic necessitates multidisciplinary angles that incorporate insights and approaches from fields as varied as modern history or the social sciences more broadly. The explanatory potential of archaeology is discussed in this context.

The relative coherence of the Egyptian dataset allows to track the development and possible (demographic and economic) impacts on Egypt and adjacent societies over an extended period that may have resulted in major political changes in the long run. In focus is thus the character and benefit of this particular kind of cross-cultural interaction for Egyptian society, born out of conflict and resulting in co-existence in Egypt. Also discussed is how deportations fit in the (ultimately nativist) ideology of the Egyptian state.

These findings are embedded in ongoing debates on the impact of (forced) migration. Special attention is devoted to the role of the researcher in developing deportation narratives and the framing of deportation policies. Deportations are considered as a globally prevalent tool at the disposal of communities through time and space for this purpose.

15:10 | Sara Simões, Cambridge Archaeological Unit / STARQ- Sindicato dos Trabalhadores de Arqueologia (Portuguese Union for Archaeologists); Tânia Casimiro, IHC-NOVA University of Lisbon; José Pedro Henriques, IAP – Universidade NOVA de Lisboa; Vanessa Filipe, Independent Researcher

An archaeological perspective of African mobilities in Portugal between the 15th and the 19th centuries

African diaspora archaeology was until recently completely ignored by Portuguese archaeologists, relegating these populations to the role of the others, the ones with no voice in historical narratives. Although Portugal was the first and one of the main responsible nations for the forced mobility of thousands of African slaves for more than 400 years during the early modern age, this has just recently turned into a debate within the country. Archaeologists have a privileged part in the discussions around early modern human mobility and its cultural implications, however the social impact of these studies in nowadays Portugal is yet to be seen. Possible evidence of these African migrants, either slaved or free, are constantly found in the archaeological record and it is possible to cross such information with documental and iconographic documents, revealing their daily lives, beliefs and identities. Who were these people? Where did they come from? How did their coexistence shape new African and Portuguese identities? And how do Portuguese archaeologists understand their role in a country responsible for such massive migrations? Archaeological studies are essential to trace these human and territorial heritage legacies, developing new approaches and new narratives. Having as a starting point evidence retrieved from excavations in Portugal dated from the 15th to the 19th centuries, these are just some of the questions this paper will debate.

15:25 | BREAK
15:55 | Lucy Timbrell, Professor Marta Mirazón Lahr, Leverhulme Centre of Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge

Characterising and exploring patterns of cranial shape variation in recent Aboriginal Australians

Aboriginal Australians have a distinctive cranial shape compared to other global populations which, coupled with the early appearance of modern humans in the Australian archaeological record, has led to many questions about their population history. For example, the anthropological scholarship disagrees on the degree of isolation of Aboriginals since the initial colonisation of the continent and whether recent communities are the direct ancestors of the first settlers. Genomic evidence suggests recent groups have had a deep-time continuous occupation of the landmass; however, some morphological analyses have attributed variation to the differential admixture between multiple, largely successive, waves of prehistoric migration into Australia. This work uses previously collected 2D cranial measurements and 3D models to analyse patterns of Aboriginal cranial shape variation. Both craniometric methods and 3D geometric morphometric analysis were employed. Results suggest that there is interesting variation in the Aboriginal sample, structured spatially in a statistically significant way. This structuring maps onto deep-time genetic divergence, supporting genomic evidence for a single colonisation model. Both 2D and 3D shape analysis methods found that facial prognathism and cranial vault shape are variable aspects of Aboriginal morphology. This mirrors the dichotomous variation observed throughout the Australian fossil record, supporting the genomic evidence that suggests that most modern groups are descended from a single colonisation event.

16:10 | Konstantinos P. Trimmis, University of Bristol; Christianne L. Fernée, University of Southampton

Εuromobile: Exploring migration narratives and mobility routes in the South East Europe from prehistory to the present

Questions about migration and mobility in Europe are a current focal point in both the news and in discussions between archaeologists, anthropologists and social scientists. Many of these discussions have focused upon the crossing of the Mediterranean and the routes to Central Europe through the Balkans. South East Europe has formed a natural bridge for the mobility of people from the Levant to Europe since the Palaeolithic. In contrast, modern states in existence today were formed through the gradual movement of populations. With this in mind, this newly established project aims to map the patterns of mobility in South East Europe from the past to the present. These patterns will be mapped both temporally and geographically using a combination of landscape archaeology, osteoarchaeological and anthropological methods. Sensorial landscape mapping, population and isotopic studies, creative writing and interaction patterns are explored. The movement of contemporary transhumance groups is followed and their material culture is studied to investigate how and why the different routes have been selected. As an output we aim to assess how and if these routes have changed from prehistory to modern times. The data are correlated using GIS to highlight the biography of the migration routes and to create a diachronic narrative of population movement and co-existence in the area. This paper presents the theoretical framework of the project, providing a step by step methodology, with a preliminary application of these methods to the transhumant societies of the Vlach communities in North Western Greece.

16:25 | Marte Spangen, Førsteamanuensis/Associate professor, Arctic University of Norway

Roads of the North – movement, interaction, and landscape negotiation in northern Norway

The medieval and early modern Far North of Fennoscandia is often viewed as a periphery of little population and activity. However, archaeological, historical, and toponymical sources reflect a relatively significant amount and variety of people moving within and to and from these areas for purposes of livelihood, taxation, and trade. In the project «Roads of the North», a combination of archaeological sources, isotope studies, old maps, and other historical sources, as well as toponyms, are studied to trace the movements of these groups and the interaction between them in the primarily Sámi areas of northern Norway. This includes studies of the historical development of Sámi mobility patterns and economics before the introduction of more extensive reindeer pastoralism and herding; the archaeological traces of the threefold taxation of the Sámi by Russian, Danish/Norwegian, and Swedish state powers, and how regional and local landscape access and use were negotiated between these groups and different native Sámi communities.

The study of these movements and interactions are paramount to our understanding of the ethnic and cultural complexity of the area in the past. However, it is also an aim to provide a more diverse narrative of the past than the stereotypes that tends to permeate a somewhat heated current debate in northern Norway about borders and land rights in the past – and today. The ongoing debate emphasizes the need for research on these topics and for communication of these research results to a wider public.

16:40 | Lauren Nicole Coughlin, University of Southampton

If nowhere else, they belong when they are in that class

Identity is an intangible aspect of our daily lives and can be taken for granted or desperately sought. Identity supports resilience and often relies on a space and particular group of individuals to manifest. Therefore, it is particularly difficult to facilitate heritage identity in the event of a forced migration.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, almost six million Syrians have registered as refugees. 662,000 Syrian refugees have entered Jordan. The Zaatari refugee camp is home to nearly 80,000 refugees, half of which are children. The numbers are nearly the same for host communities in the Mafraq district surrounding the camp, including the town of Umm el-Jimal. Umm el-Jimal is the site of an ancient town and is host to a community archaeology project that supports local development initiatives. The influx of people in an already resource poor region has put pressure on the local communities and governing bodies, creating social and economic tensions. Therefore, the local community archaeology project, known as the Umm el-Jimal Project, started a heritage education programme that focused on delivering heritage, art, and archaeology content to both Jordanian and Syrian children in order to facilitate discussions around a shared history. Research on the benefits of this project is ongoing and suggests that the chosen pedagogy for the class creates an environment that supports resilience, identity building, social cohesion, and belonging. I will look at how heritage education is used to facilitate identity building and social cohesion in marginalized children and young people.

16:55 | Alexandra E. T. Kriti, Headland Archaeology Ltd. / Kingston University of London

Cooking [at] the borders: The Taste of the Aegean Internationality(-ies)

The so called ‘refugee crisis’ has re-formed the social landscape(s) of the Balkans and especially those of the Aegean islands. Sea crossing routes, border passages and ‘hotspots’ are just few of these emerging sites to name. The ‘borderline’ islands of the Aegean are focal points of this ongoing situation due to their geographic location, imaginary symbolism and propagated historical background.

Lesvos island is probably the most famous example of how international and national politics together with insular policies and perceptions have dictated the new inhabitants’ lives, especially in regard to their national identity, class, gender or even age. Food has been heavily involved in the discourse of those conflicts instrumented by various agents as a means of discrimination and deprivation, acceptance and co-existence or even collective solidarity, autonomous action and even business’ co-operation.

The presenter’s volunteer participation at the ‘Lesvos Solidarity PIKPA’ camp the last couple of years is attempting to shed light on the performance of those ongoing conflicts and resilience processes as expressed through the preparation, serving and consumption of food within its premises. Whether these performances are creating a new cuisine – a cuisine inspired by the internationalities living at the borderline islands of the Aegean, it is under future investigation(s) and open to the participants to discuss, argue and/or challenge.

Interestingly enough, the current research topic has been declined as ‘not evolving enough archaeology’ by most of the archaeological departments that was proposed at. It would be exciting to hear what the TAG audience believes.

17:10 | Ana Catarina Vital, UCL Institute of Archaeology; Gwendoline Maurer, UCL Institute of Archaeology


17:30 | END