Institute of Archaeology


Gordon Childe Lecture 2023

Gordon Childe Lecture 2023: On not seeing like a state: Rethinking ancient Honduras 

Speaker: Rosemary Joyce (Professor of Archaeology, UC Berkeley Anthropology)

Terracotta-coloured ancient pottery vessel with painted figure in red/brown/orange colours
  • Welcome by Kevin MacDonald (Professor of African Archaeology and Director, UCL Institute of Archaeology)
  • Response by Ulrike Sommer (Senior Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology, UCL Institute of Archaeology)


Drawing on analyses of the visual culture of the ancestral Lenca of northwest Honduras, created in what archaeologists today call the Ulua style (ca. 500-1000 AD), this presentation explores the way social relations were shaped in a region where hierarchy was muted, where there is little evidence of absolute abjection of the kind taken as definitive of enslavement, or even of the less extreme forms of gender-based dependency treated as constitutive of some societies in neighbouring Mesoamerica. It advances an argument that the anthropomorphic and anthropomorphized objects that are the products of Ulua traditional craft production created discourses about valued forms of being, both human and other-than-human, in a region where the social order has been characterized successively as non-state, pre-state, egalitarian, and heterarchical; and in my current work, as illuminated by theories of anarchic society. I suggest that the kinds of visual- and object-relations and the social relations enabled with Ulua materials are not unique to this time and place, but form an example of less-recognized but perhaps quite common ways people once organized themselves.

[This event took place on 17 May 2023, 6.30pm] 

Gordon Childe Advanced Seminar 2023 - Response to Gordon Childe Lecture and Panel Discussion 

Chair: Ulrike Sommer (Senior Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology, UCL Institute of Archaeology)
Participants: Rosemary Joyce (Professor of Archaeology, UC Berkeley), Beverley Butler (Reader in Cultural Heritage, UCL Institute of Archaeology), Matthew Doyle (Associate Lecturer (Teaching) in Social Anthropology, UCL Anthropology), Andrea Martínez Carrasco (PhD Student, UCL Institute of Archaeology), Sada Mire (Associate Professor in Heritage Studies (UCL East), UCL Institute of Archaeology) and Jeremy Tanner (Professor of Classical and Comparative Art, UCL Institute of Archaeology)

[This event took place on 18 May 2023, 2.30pm]