The TAG 2014 Booklet with final programme and timetable (1.91 Mb file)

TAG2014 will have a plenary session organised by the host institution, but beyond this it is not the intention of the organisers to dictate the themes and issues discussed in the sessions. TAG sessions address conceptual and philosophical issues in archaeology, but within those broad parameters we will have sessions on diverse topics.

Please remember that the intention of TAG has always been to promote discussion. The papers delivered should be short and snappy (20 minutes is standard), and you should try to allow time for questions and debate.


S1: Archaeological Approaches to Violence in Prehistory

Organiser: Alberto García Piquer (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain)

The broad aim of this session is to allow and promote discussion around this polemical topic and, especially, to explore such questions as the following: (1) In prehistoric societies, might violence have been an instrument that allowed society to assimilate and accept situations of social asymmetry? Starting perhaps with structural violence against women and extending further to more generalized types of intra- and inter-group violence? (2) What might have been the historical conditions under which societies might have organised themselves by exercising such structural violence? How can we make the study of alternative practices a key focus of archaeological research? What kinds of archaeological indicators can and should be developed in order to identify such practices in prehistory; and to analyse their origin and causes?

S2: Archaeology and Assemblage

Organisers: Yannis Hamilakis and Andrew Meirion Jones (University of Southampton)
Email: and

The concept of assemblage has long been part of the archaeological lexicon, implying groups of associated or related artefacts. Recent uses of the term have relied on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, who related it to the play of contingency or structure, organization and change, and emphasized the internal heterogeneity of the assemblage and its dynamic character. Developing this idea, the cultural theorist Jane Bennett (2010) describes assemblages as ad hoc groupings of diverse elements. ‘Assemblage’ relates to processes of arrangement, organizing and fitting together, and through these processes of arrangement and re-arrangement new material configurations are brought into being. For Bennett, this process is emergent, in that it makes things happen.

A number of recent writers in archaeology have adopted this definition of assemblage using the concept to describe the relationship between the archaeologist and the archaeological record, and the changing nature of the archaeological record (Fowler 2013; Hamilakis 2013; Lucas 2012; Jones and Alberti 2013), while others have contrasted the notion of context and assemblage (Jones and Alberti 2013), and stressed the role of sensoriality in the activation of assemblages, proposing the term, “sensorial assemblages” (Hamilakis 2013). In addition, North American archaeologists have reworked the notion of assemblage in order to understand the Native American concept of ‘bundling’ (Pauketat 2013; Zedeño 2013). How useful is Bennett and Deleuze’s notion of assemblage to archaeology? How does it relate to the notion of assemblage as typically understood by archaeologists? What are the limits of the notion of assemblage; can everything be described as a form of assemblage? Is ‘bundling’ a useful cross-cultural concept or should its use be restricted to North American context?

This session is intended to continue the debates begun in the TAG 2013 session ‘Towards an archaeology of becoming’.

S3: An Archaeology of Sport: Theory, Method and Practice

Organisers: Paul Murtagh (Durham University/Archaeology Scotland) and Phil Richardson (Archaeology Scotland)
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The session is concerned with exploring, defining and better understanding the archaeology of sport. Sport permeates many aspects of life in the modern world, from the everyday casual participation in sports, to global events such as the Football World Cup and the Olympics. However, whilst sport has been researched in many areas of the social sciences, particularly within the fields of Anthropology, Sociology and History, this area of research is remarkably understudied in Archaeology. Recently, there has been a growing interest in sports archaeology, including surveys and histories of sports places in a number of cities across the UK as part of the “Played in Britain” series (e.g. Inglis 2004). Archaeologists such as Jason Wood (2005; 2011) have promoted the heritage value of sports archaeology, and a recent edition of World Archaeology (2012) was dedicated to exploring a number of important sporting heritage themes. However, while these developments are welcomed, it is clear that, as a discipline, archaeology has yet to fully embrace sports heritage. This session aims to demonstrate how an archaeology of sport can provide us with a new ways of understanding how sport developed, the role of sport in society, as well as the value of sports heritage. In addition this session will explore how this emerging area of archaeological research allows us to examine wider theoretical themes to do with issues such as materiality, community and identity. This session welcomes papers that explore questions such as: What is sports archaeology, and why is it important? What techniques and approaches should be used to study sports archaeology? In what ways can studying sports archaeology help us explore and better understand other archaeological questions? Papers that focus on current sports archaeology projects are also welcomed.

S4: Bridges Over Troubled Theoretical Waters: Crossing the Divide between Data-based Archaeology and Archaeological Theory in Prehistoric Studies

Organiser(s): Paul R Preston (Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation), Katie Davenport-Mackey (Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation, and Archaeology & Ancient History, University of Leicester), Seosaimhín Bradley (Archaeology, School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences, University of Central Lancashire), Tom Elliot (Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation, and Institute of Science and Environment, University of Worcester)

Discussant: Robert Gargett, (Ronin Institute, the subversive archaeologist)


During recent workshops of the MESO-Lithics project, a number of issues have arisen that have far-reaching implications for archaeology as a whole. Namely, interpretations derived from archaeological theory in prehistoric studies are becoming ever more ambitious, ranging from low-order functional or economic theory to higher-order socially or stylistically mediated narratives. However, such interpretations are presently limited by the legacy of ideological upheavals and profound revolutions in thought over the last sixty years. From Culture History to the post-Post-Processual fragmentation of theoretical perspectives. Added to this is the prevalence of following fashionable philosophers such as Bourdieu, Heidegger and Deleuze (to name just a few). However, a common feature that has remained a detriment to archaeological studies is the tendency of disciples of each theoretical movement to reject that which went before ―throwing out of the methodological and conceptual baby with the theoretical bathwater― irrespective of the value of certain approaches. One of the major casualties of these ‘revolutions’ is the use of data to support interpretations – especially by theorists. As a result, many have apparently forgotten the role of, or indeed how to marshal, data in their interpretations. Instead narratives have become ideologically led, as archaeologists increasingly prefer ‘top down’ theoretical approaches. This session aims to redress this by promoting a discussion on how this impasse may be redressed by showcasing recent attempts by archaeologists to bridge this important, conceptual divide between data and theory.

Contributions are welcomed on any aspect of archaeological evidence, including but not limited to – lithics, ceramics, faunal remains, osteology, environmental studies, chronologies, and other data. We aim to publish the results of this session.

Keywords: Prehistory, Theory, Science, Data, Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Lithics, Ceramics, Faunal remains, Osteology, Environmental Evidence.

S5: Between the Arts and Archaeological Interpretation

Organisers: Stephanie Koerner (Liverpool University and University of Manchester) and Claire Marshall (Plateau Imprints, UK)
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Julian Thomas (University of Manchester)
Mike Pearson (University Aberystwyth)

Few participants in the earliest TAG meetings are likely to have expected that innovations in the arts would come to play crucial roles in in the dynamics of archaeological research and the ways in which findings are interpreted. At the time the most influential polemic was grounded in notions that saw the arts and the humanities, on the one hand, and the so-called hard sciences, on the others, as belonging to opposed and mutually uncomprehending ‘two cultures’ (Snow 1962; Preucel 1991). Starting already in the late 1980s (e.g. Pearson and Thomas 1988), the situation has been radically transformed by remarkable innovations in the dynamics of the arts and archaeological interpretation (for instance, Renfrew, Gosden and DeMarrias 2004).

The broad aim of this session is to explore patterns of diversity and overlap between such innovations. The themes and issues that the session seeks to explore include (but are not all restricted to):

  • precedents and parallels
  • archaeologists and artists as curators – curators as archaeologists and artists;
  • media, aesthetic experience, participation;
  • substance, memory, display;
  • plurality of sensorial experience;
  • experimentality in archaeology and the arts;
  • challenges of interpreting the ‘contemporary past;
  • material culture interfaces of the actual and the possible.

S6: Cataloguing Magic: The Complex Biographies of Ritual Objects in Museum Contexts

Organisers: Ceri Houlbrook, Natalie Armitage, Chiara Zuanni (University of Manchester)

Following the success of ‘The Materiality of Magic’ session at Liverpool TAG 2012, this second session aims to further establish ‘magic’ as a term and subject on the archaeological agenda. Despite its simple definition in the Oxford English Dictionary, as ‘the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces’, ‘magic’ is a term viewed by many scholars with wariness or distrust, having been ascribed certain pejorative or sensationalist connotations. These connotations have greatly influenced our perceptions and uses of it. This factor will therefore be considered in specific relation to museum contexts; how has the word ‘magic’ been used by museums and the heritage industry? Has it been avoided? Has it been exploited? However, as well as offering an exploration of the sensationalist undertones of ‘magic’, this session also aims to de-sensationalise and de-stigmatise it by defining it simply as a term encompassing ritual practices and popular beliefs, and inviting our contributors to propose their own definitions of it. The primary purpose of this session is to investigate the complex biographies of ritual and folkloric objects within museum contexts. Not limited geographically, we aim to offer a wide range of case-studies demonstrating the complex issues involved in the museumising of ‘magical objects’. How have they been catalogued? Do their statuses as ritual or folkloric artefacts influence how they are stored and displayed? How are they presented and interpreted? These are just some of the questions this session aims to explore.

S7: Cognitive Archaeology: The Challenge of Understanding Human Becoming

Organisers: Karenleigh Overmann (University of Oxford) and Joanna Fairlie (University of Liverpool)
Email: and

Cognitive Archaeology tries to understand how ancient peoples thought by systematically interpreting the artefacts they left behind. However, the act of interpretation presupposes the need for answers to fundamental questions: What is cognition (Edelman & Tononi, 2000), and what is the role of materiality in it (Knappett, 2005; Malafouris, 2013)? What are the causes of change in hominin–human cognition over the last two million years? Finally, how does understanding the answers to these questions make a better archaeologist?

This session will explore these questions by presenting embodied and extended cognition as mechanisms that allowed past peoples to interact and exchange meaningful information with their multiple environments, improve their niches, and change themselves (Bateson, 2004). Changes to hominin cognitive abilities across evolutionary spans of time and the mechanisms that enabled those changes will be discussed. Material Engagement Theory (Malafouris, 2013) will be propounded as a model for understanding the deeply interactive connection between mind and environment, and the role of materially based purposeful activity in triggering cognitive change. Better understanding of interactive mechanisms of neural plasticity and cultural change (Malafouris, 2009; Renfrew & Malafouris, 2008), environmental change and niche construction (Kendal, Tehrani, & Odling-Smee, 2011; Laland & O’Brien, 2010), and developmental and environmental processes (Gilbert & Epel, 2009; Gottlieb, 2007; Wexler, 2008) should enable a deepened understanding of the archaeological record. It will mean an enhanced ability to establish sound epistemological approaches during interpretation of artefactual data (Garofoli & Haidle, 2014), and clarify the potential offered by different metatheories, particularly distinguishing between linear and complex models. This session will explore the dynamic interplay of mind and matter in human becoming. Papers are invited on topics such as:

  • Epigenetics as a basic mechanism for environment-influenced plastic neuronal development that enhances expert learning skills.
  • Perceptual–action model or the distillation of meaningful patterns out of redundant sequences of actively acquired perceptual information in order to generate purposeful interaction with our environments.
  • How does materiality contribute to human cognition in terms of characteristics of agency, affordance, and meaning? Does it contribute equally across different domains of human thought? How do we re-conceptualize cognition in view of its material component?
  • Epistemological issues and methodological decisions, and how they affect data analysis.

S8: Cosmologies in Transition: Continuity and Transformation in the Material Record

Organiser: Fabio Silva

The archaeological record is primed to the identification of technological and economical transitions: periods when new technologies and subsistence strategies were introduced, such as Levallois points or farming. However, transitions of a more immaterial nature, such as religious conversions or other shifts in world-view, are not as readily identifiable or interpreted when the material record is the only primary source available.

The aim of this full-day session is to further our understanding of periods of economical, social, religious or technological transition, their impact on the cosmologies of those involved and how these are imprinted on the archaeological record. The goal is to shed light on the methodologies of interpretation, especially of prehistoric transitions where the material culture is the only available record. Approaches can be purely theoretical, applied (e.g. case study based), ethnographical, historical or archaeological. Archaeologists interested in cognition, religion, ritual, landscapes and skyscapes are particularly welcome. Scholars from other disciplines interested in material culture are also welcome. Examples of interesting transitions to cover in this session are the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition, Pleistocene to Holocene, Mesolithic to Neolithic, hunter-gatherer to farmer and the Hellenization, Romanization, Christianization, Islamization and Colonial Periods; others will be considered as well. Papers in this session will be published in a volume edited by the session organizer (publisher to be confirmed).

S9: Decolonising Human Origins

Organisers: Martin Porr and Jacqueline Matthews (Archaeology/Centre for Rock Art Research and Management, University of Western Australia)
Email: and

Session Abstract:

Archaeology has experienced in recent decades some significant challenges regarding its inherent colonialist legacies in theory and method. Approaches to global human evolution and the Palaeolithic have so far not received similar critical attention. This is an interesting phenomenon that most likely is related to the presentation of human evolution as a natural process that can be described and explained in biological, ‘scientific’ and objective terms. However, against this assessment stands some significant research that demonstrates the social and cultural construction of ‘biological’ or ‘genetic’ facts. The same applies to the narratives that are constructed to explain the course of deep human evolution and the causalities that were involved. These critical approaches suggest that biological and cognitive human evolution is largely constructed within a Western framework, which rests on an essentialist view of human characteristics, ‘human nature’ or ‘cognitive capacities’. These ideas have highly problematic links to colonialist concepts of innate human abilities, which underwrote racist ideas in the 19th century. As a result, this orientation also silences Indigenous perspectives and voices in the discourse about so-called modern human origins and the deep past of humanity. This session is aimed at critically analysing current approaches to human evolution and human origins and search for new approaches that enable a renegotiation of what it means to be and become human.

S10: Digging the Legend: Cultural expectations in the archaeology of conflict

Organisers: Andy Brockman and Martin Brown
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The first modern exercise in forensic Battlefield Archaeology was probably the work of Doug Scott and his team for the US National Parks Service which succeeded in completely overturning over one hundred years of print and Hollywood mythology about “Custers Last Stand” and the Battle of the Little Big Horn. As powerful as this was as archaeology, it was an equally powerful statement of the potential for the engagement of the archaeology of conflict in the broader cultural landscape of received national and international narratives and myths.

The session is inspired and framed by a moment in an iconic film, John Ford’s western, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”. The film ends with the character of the newspaper editor saying “When the legend becomes the fact, print the legend”. Dealing as it so often does with deeply ingrained cultural and national mythologies the session will explore how the Archaeology of Conflict must be aware of both the possibility for positive community engagement this provides, as well as of the dangers of received, cultural narratives interpolating themselves into the investigation and interpretation of the archaeology of conflict.

The session will draw on the example of recent work in Burma relating to the mythology of buried Spitfires and in Sweden the crash site of RAF Lancaster “Easy Elsie,” and aircraft belonging to 617 Squadron of “the Dambusters” fame. Other iconic moments of conflict will also be discussed.

S11: 3D Imaging in Archaeology – A Brave New World?

Organisers: Marcus Abbott (ArchHeritage) and Thomas O’Mahoney (University of Manchester)
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3d imaging in archaeology is well established, but it is only now, as computing and hardware costs decrease significantly, that it is being accepted as a mainstream part of archaeological investigations. Often a new analytical or recording technique is treated like a ‘black box’ – when it works effectively it is wonderful, but when things do not occur as expected the technique rather than the investigator’s approach is often blamed. Although 3d imaging is often portrayed as such a ‘black box’ technique, this session will attempt to show that this is not the case, and will highlight how the decisions made by users can influence the interpretation of the data produced.

By providing case study examples of digital projects we aim to provide an accessible introduction to some of the work that is being achieved in this high technology sector of archaeology. We understand that some individuals can find the amount of information overwhelming and the techniques are sometimes explained in a very technical manner. As part of the session, we wish to offer anyone who might be considering utilising these techniques in a project of their own, the opportunity to ask an expert panel on how the latest technology might help them with their own project or project proposal.

Abstracts for formal talks, short break-out sessions and posters will be accepted. The aim is to promote a ‘workshop’ environment with active audience participation to encourage genuine understanding .

S12: House Societies in Prehistory

Organisers: Colin Richards (University of Manchester) and Julian Thomas (University of Manchester)
Email: and

In his book The Way of the Masks (1982) Claude Lévi-Strauss introduced the notion of the ‘house society’, a corporate social group that holds an estate of collective material and immaterial wealth. Here, the ‘house’ refers at once to a physical structure and the community who are attached to it, as, for instance, with the ‘House of Windsor’. Such a group is reproduced by transmitting its name, goods and titles across the generations, between members of the community who may be real or fictive kin. This transmission achieves its legitimacy through an ideology of kinship or affinity. From an archaeological point of view the critical feature of house societies is that their continuity is vested in material things: often the dwelling structure itself, but also the valuable goods that pass between the generations, signifying the unbroken existence of the community. Lévi-Strauss argues that such a house represents a ‘moral person’, a social actor which may compete or collaborate with others. These claims are particularly interesting in the context of recent calls for a ‘flat ontology’, which sees material things as participants in the creation of society, rather than merely reflecting human actions and intentions.

Lévi-Strauss makes the quasi-evolutionary argument that house societies may represent an intermediate stage between kin-based and class-based societies, where social inequality still needs to express itself through the medium of ‘the old ties of blood’. However, as Susan Gillespie points out, it may be that ‘housiness’ is actually a characteristic of a range of quite different societies, and that communities may become more or less ‘housey’ over time. The concept need therefore not be linked with unilinear evolutionism at all.

In this session papers will seek to explore the utility of the notion of house societies in a variety of temporal and geographical contexts.

S13: This House Believes that Archaeology Should NOT be Instrumentalised’

Organisers: Tara-Jane Sutcliffe (Council for British Archaeology) and Sarah Howard (Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage)
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Discussant: Paul Belford (Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust)

This session takes the form of a house debate focusing on the instrumentalisation of archaeology, which has always been an aspect of the discipline but that has grown apace in recent years with the popularity of Public Archaeology, Community Archaeology and archaeologies with a ‘social purpose’ at their core.

There is much to extol in archaeological projects and practices that benefit communities and individuals in the present, as will be demonstrated in this session by those who position themselves in favour of the instrumentalisation of archaeology. Nevertheless, caution is required in ostensibly subjugating archaeology to political, economic, social and even psychological ends. Contributors arguing that archaeology should NOT be instrumentalised will take to task the role of archaeologist-as-social-worker and the potentially deleterious effects of aligning archaeological enquiry with political agendas (aka, archaeology-as-agitprop). In so doing, questions will be raised concerning the ethics of archaeologies that are primarily driven by national socioeconomic agendas and the institutional policies of funding bodies. Should archaeology be independent of these agendas? Or is an archaeology that is more integrated into societal issues and engages with contemporary discourses a more relevant one? Ultimately, the debate over instrumentalisation has at its core what we as archaeologists believe is the role of our discipline in the contemporary world and how this might change in the future.

Deliberately provocative, the purpose of this session is not to dismiss or discredit social-purpose archaeologies but rather to encourage critical appraisal of the parameters of praxis.

S14: How to Publish your Article in Archaeology

Organisers: Dr. Ilaria Meliconi

This short (ca. 1 hour) workshop is intended, especially, for early career researchers, and aims to give researchers guidance on how to publish an archaeological study through standard and recognised journals. It will focus on a selection on the part of the audience of several of the following topics: copyright; author responsibilities; impact factors and other metrics; Open Access and CC licenses; how to be a great reviewer; getting your article noticed by the media.

S15: Inclusivity and the Pedagogy of Archaeology

Organisers: Katy Bell (University of Winchester) and Ellen McInnes (University of Manchester)
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“If you have decided to become an archaeologist you will need a reasonable education in archaeology” begins one career advice website. In this session we will argue that the pedagogy of archaeology goes beyond the practice of preparing the archaeologists of the future. As an inclusive discipline archaeology attracts a wide range of people who use the subject as a transition between points. This session explores this role of archaeology within Higher Education and the community, alongside, and as part of, strategies of teaching and engagement. Confirmed papers look at the inclusion of people with Asperger’s Syndrome in Higher Education, and the development of Higher Education teaching. However, the session aims to include a variety of examples of where the inclusive nature of archaeology, as both a subject and practice, has encouraged academic, personal, and community development. Papers are encouraged, which consider how new and innovative ways of teaching facilitate the development of participants and allow them to make a transition, be it socially, mentally or financially.

S16: Imperial Conquests, Indigenous Traditions, and the Emergence of New Societies

Organisers: Chris Gosden (Oxford University) and Peter Wells (University of Minnesota)
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When imperial powers conquer other peoples, they typically impose new forms of military, political, and economic control over those they conquer. In contexts in which the conquered peoples did not practice writing (as in the case of the peoples of temperate Europe), we ordinarily have textual sources only from the conquerers (e.g. Caesar, Tacitus), and no self-referencing accounts from the conquered. Even the archaeology of imperial situations tends to favor the imperial powers, since they often leave much more permanent material remains (e.g. stone architecture) than those they conquer.

In recent years, archaeologists and historians have turned their attention to the conquered peoples to try to understand their experiences. Some have argued that conquered peoples often shape the future societies at least as much as the conquerors do. A variety of terms have been applied to the complex social dynamics that follow conquests. These include “creolization,” “entanglement,” “hybridization,” “mixing,” and “resistance.” How useful are these terms?

Papers in this session examine the roles that indigenous styles, motifs, expressions, practices, and beliefs have played in the formation of new societies following imperial conquests.

S17: Is it just fortune and glory? The Social Impact of Archaeology

Organiser: Dean Paton (Big Heritage, UK)

Archaeology is an academic discipline, a career and a hobby, but is it also a tool for change? Can archaeology in all its forms have a wider social and environmental impact? This session explores the social impact of archaeology in the 21st century. The aim is to explore the potential for archaeology to tackle current social and environmental issues and whether archaeologists should be more prominently engaged in these broader debates given the span of human activity we explore.This session is organised by Big Heritage and would welcome papers that both support and challenge the above.

S18: Madness, Medicine and Material Culture

Organisers: Katherine Fennelly (University of Manchester) and Charlotte Newman (English Heritage)
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Institutions for the sick have been the subject of much academic scholarship of late, due to a number of factors including the archiving and/or digitisation of nineteenth century records, the mass closure and repurposing of buildings, and policy changes with regard to public welfare and mental healthcare. Twentieth century reforms in patient treatment, spatial arrangement and architecture raise questions about the intentions and effects of eighteenth and nineteenth century reforms surrounding accommodation for the mentally and physically ill in hospitals, asylums, workhouses and prisons. Furthermore, the dereliction, demolition or repurposing of institutional buildings with ‘difficult’ or marginal histories has attracted research on the sensory and emotional experience of patients, inmates and staff, whose spaces of hospitalisation, confinement, incarceration or labour are now undergoing significant transformation.

This half-day session aims to showcase current research on the material culture and spatial organisation of historical institutions for the physically and mentally ill, with the intention of addressing questions on regional and cultural variation, institutional remit and difference, political and social concerns, and the extent to which human experience can be determined from the material record. This session seeks to attract papers that address hospital and asylum architecture and spatiality, patient and inmate classification, patient or inmate experience and sensory environment, and the heritage potential and/or concerns surrounding problematic large-scale public buildings like hospitals, asylums, workhouses and prisons.

S19: Mesolithic Britain and Ireland: 10 Years On

Organisers: Chantal Conneller (University of Manchester) and Graeme Warren (University College Dublin)
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In 2004, a workshop (published as Mesolithic Britain and Ireland: new approaches) sought to assess the impact of new theoretical approaches and a new generation of researchers on Mesolithic studies. Contributors suggested Mesolithic archaeology was developing its own unique theoretical stance. This approach drew on the long history of artefact studies and on the strong environmental tradition of the period but reworked these in light of interpretative approaches in the discipline more broadly. 10 years on this session aims to take stock and assess. Can we still see a distinctive theoretical approach to the period or has a subsequent generation of researchers taken work on the Mesolithic in new directions? How has new research and new discoveries over the past decade created a new set of issues and concerns for Mesolithic archaeologists? As with the original workshop early career researchers will address a single aspect of Mesolithic lives (technology, subsistence, ritual etc) to evaluate current progress in building new understandings of the period.

S20: Networks of dominance – Aspects of Inclusion and Exclusion in Archaeological Approaches to Social Connectivity

Organisers: Dr Toby Martin (British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford)
Kathrin Felder (Division of Archaeology, University of Cambridge)
Email: and

Recent theoretical work on the nature of human-object relationships increasingly informs the study of past social networks. As a consequence, archaeology is embracing the view that studying past human connectivity is not just a matter of reconstructing the static material traces of social networks but an attempt to understand how people and objects interacted in a dynamic fashion to physically and mentally furnish the fabric of human society. Networks can be used in the pursuit and maintenance of social dominance through strategies of inclusion and exclusion. Simultaneously, networks of dominance can be resisted, contested or transformed through intentional non-participation or counter-activities. Such strategies are performed in arenas that are inescapably material, including access to (or prohibition from) objects circulated in exchange networks, or intentional segregation in the built and natural environment. We are interested in the archaeological study of such social and material strategies in the formation, maintenance and disintegration of networks and invite papers from various fields of archaeological and interdisciplinary research that deal with, but need not be limited to, the following themes:

  • Strategies of dominance through social networking, their successes and failures;
  • Socio-material practices of networking (trade, gift exchange etc.) and material culture as a means of enabling dominance;
  • Biographies of networks of dominance;
  • Forms of participation and non-participation and their intended and non-intended consequences;
  • Inclusion and exclusion by access to (or prohibition from) specific material culture;
  • Methodological approaches to inclusion and exclusion in the study of human connectivity, including formal network-analytical approaches.

S21: OK computer? Digital Public Archaeologies in Practice

Organisers: Seren Griffiths (Manchester Metropolitan University), Lorna Richardson (University College London), Chiara Bonacchi (University College London, UK) and Gaberiel Mosenska (University College London, UK)

Community or public archaeology has often emphasised communities defined by an attachment to place, often defined by the archaeological site (cf. Simpson 2008); increasingly digital technologies allow a breakdown of this privileging of physical place and the concept of ‘community’ (cf. Waterton 2005; 2010), to connect geographically disparate populations. Digital public archaeology projects have emphasised crowd-sourcing, engagment, dissemination, and publicity using blogs, social media, webfeeds and so on (e.g. Richardson 2012; Bonacchi et al. 2012). As well as the challenges and opportunities relevant to other public archaeology projects, work which includes a significant digital public archaeology component has a series of more specific concerns. Increasingly the need for archaeologists to engage thoughtfully with digitally technologies has been recognised by a number of organisations (Archaeological Data Service 2010; Heritage Lottery Fund 2012; Institute of Archaeologists 2012), and greater numbers of projects are defined by their predominantly digital work. As a result there are implications both for local site-specific practice by people working as archaeologists — where we are “…progressively transforming a ‘‘world of scarcity’’ into one of ‘‘saturation’’, where space is no more an issue…” (Bonacchi 2012); the wider political context in which people interested in heritage operate (Richardson 2012); and how different interest groups including intelligent and critical consumers work in the historic environment “…without any professional or academic input whatsoever…” (Moshenka 2008).

As with other aspects of public archaeology, projects can include both ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’ approaches (cf. Tully 2007; Moshenka 2008; Belford 2011) to engagement with aspects of the archaeological record. There are also webfora and projects which include the co-production of resources by interest groups who might define themselves not as archaeologists, but who have a strong interest in the historic environment (neopagans, historical reenactors, and metal detectorists for example).

This session will discuss aspects of digital public archaeology, including the challenges and opportunities offered by social media and webfora, ways of encountering and engaging with digital communities; the role of explicitly ‘digital public archaeology’ projects, how these communities are constructed and maintained; how a range of authoritative voices use the internet (cf. Hodder 2008; Faulkner 2000; Grima 2002); wider issues in terms of sustainability and management (cf. Moshenka et al. 2011); and how they interface with more traditional aspects of archaeological practices.

S22: Rethinking Comparison in Archaeology

Organisers: Ana Vale (University of Porto/CEAACP), Irene Garcia Rovira (University of Manchester), Joana Alves-Ferreira (University of Porto/CEAACP)

Comparison in archaeology is used in a multitude of ways and on various different levels, and in some sense we are always comparing. We know that an object is a something and not something else because we can compare previous examples of objects to the object we are trying to understand. Whether we compare archaeological material between sites or general site plans, we establish correspondences of similarity and draw lines of connection between forms that can fit in the same morphological type, even when what we intend to do is compare to demonstrate the differences. Comparison necessitates the selection and hierarchy of archaeological features and things in order to structure what we are comparing. We compare in order to classify and to define parallels but also, and very often, in order to explain archaeological sites and objects as if the fixed form described by the archaeologist (by putting forward the similarities or studying the differences) brings with it its own explanation.

If we take the walled enclosures of the Iberian Peninsula as an example, we can see that they have been interpreted as fortified settlements because of the similarity of their ground plans (although a comparative study by Susana O. Jorge problematized this approach in 1994). However, when we compare site plans (for example), are we just comparing the similarities of the architectonic devices or do we want to understand similar social practices which were materialized in comparable buildings? In many cases, the comparison of similar site plans is undertaken as a routine exercise in archaeology without a reflection on the methods and the limits of the exercise.

This session aims to promote reflection on comparison in Archaeology, its methods, contexts of use and limits. We welcome papers that address these questions with more theoretical approaches as well by the presentation of particular case studies.

S23: Rubbish and Ritual Revisited

Organisers: Andy Tullett

Pits are one of the main features found on all types of Iron Age site and are the primary source of anthropogenic data. This material, and hence the pits themselves, is fundamental in understanding all aspects of the Iron Age (Daly, Gosden and Lock 2005). A comprehension of formation processes and disparities in the discard, curation and deposition for the different kinds of material is therefore extremely important.

The publication ‘Ritual and Rubbish in the Iron Age of Wessex’ (Hill 1995) investigated the depositional processes on a number of Iron Age enclosures in Hampshire. It recognized a number of statistically significant artefact associations that were interpreted as resulting from observable social practices. The implication was that objects continued to be socially relevant after they had reached the end of their initial functional life and that biases existed in the material selected for deposition. More recently, the concept of structured deposition during prehistory has been questioned (Garrow 2007; Brudenell and Cooper 2008) whilst archaeozoologists have challenged explanations for articulated bone groups favouring more functional explanations (Hambleton and Maltby 2008; Morris 2008; Morris and Maltby 2010). One possible area of discrepancy lies in the fact that no systematic study of the sort conducted by Hill has been conducted outside of Hampshire or for other forms of Iron Age settlement.

This session will look at patterns of deposition from other regions of Britain during the Iron Age to explore the ordinary pattern of practice shaping deposition and the way that structured deposits are at variance with this.

S24: General session

Organisers: TAG


S25: Stoking the Flames: Towards an Archaeology of Fire

Organisers: Ellen McInnes, Lauren Doughton, and Rhiannon Pettit (University of Manchester)

Fire can be perceived by archaeologists as both phenomenon and artefact, subject to experimental recreation, scientific analysis and philosophical discussion (Gheorghiu 2002). This session seeks to explore fire as a material force by thinking about the range of practices in which people, materials and fire interacted. Fire is relational and understood in specific contexts and worldviews. To explore these understandings, Sørensen and Bille (2008) suggest that archaeologists should think about what fire does, rather than what it is: they argue that a study of the transformations fire brings about, rather than discussions of its nature, can tell us more of how fire was understood. Within their approach, fire can be studied from the perspective of space, the human body, material culture, the creation of place and the environment. However, there is also a place for a consideration of fire itself in these interactions in terms of different types of fire, how they manifest and how they behave.

Papers are invited that consider how the material experiences of interactions between people, smoke, flames, embers can be explored through archaeology. We encourage papers that use these interpretive narratives to explore the ways in which fire was understood by people and communities.


Gheorghiu, D. (2002). Towards Pyroarchaeology. In D. Gheorghiu (ed.) Fire in Archaeology. British Archaeological Reports International Series 1089, pp. 1–5. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Sørensen, T. F. and Bille, M. (2008). Flames of transformation: the role of fire in cremation practices, World Archaeology, Vol. 40(2), pp. 253-267.

S26: Students in Archaeology: Understanding and Engaging the Next Generation of Archaeologists

Organiser: David Altoft (University of York)

Students are essential to the development of archaeology, today as well as in the future. This session will critically ask what the discipline knows about its current students and whether it effectively engages and works with this particular demographic, and if not, how it can realistically improve. Papers are welcome from people of all demographics of archaeology, including students (of any level), academics, non-academic practitioners, and others. Papers should ideally act as case studies to facilitate discussion and so a diverse range of perspectives on students in archaeology is especially desired. Amongst other issues, papers can focus on methods of teaching, engagement, collaborative working, or initiatives that promote employability or skills development.

From looking at the concerns of students, their access to academic and commercial archaeology, participation in research, debate and other opportunities, this session will aim to reach a collective understanding between all participants of the barriers to student involvement in archaeology, and agreement on the ways forward to overcoming those barriers.

S27: TAG’s Next Top Model

Organisers: Daniel Brown

Clothing and bodily ornamentation are major vehicles for self-representation and, far from playing a merely decorative role in history, they are increasingly being recognized as central to debates concerning gender, morality, and the human body. They stand on the watershed of the past and the future, conveying a stronger sense of their present than do most other forms of material culture. Clothing then is one of the most easily recognized cultural signs – it is both public and private, material and symbolic, it is the ‘social skin’, and its two sided quality invites us to explore both the individual and collective identities the dressed body enables. It is eminently malleable and a window through which we can perceive a substantial proportion of the self – be it family affiliation, occupation, religion, ethnicity, legal and economic status, class, age, sex or a sense of style. How then are we to interpret and understand the dress of Minoan ladies, Scythian warriors, Etruscan princes, Viking marauders, medieval saints, Renaissance noblemen or Danish peasants? How do we go about using the variety of literary, iconographic and textile evidence to dress the past? This session aims to discuss just that, and we invite contributions that interweave the potential of ‘dress’ from any period or place to re-tailor our understanding and appreciation of clothing and adornment in the past.

S28: The Everyday Assemblage: Routine and The Ordinary in Archaeology

Organisers: Helen Chittock, (University of Southampton/ British Museum) and Mhairi Maxwell, (ACCORD Project, Glasgow School of Art)
Email: and

Archaeological research is often focussed on the extremes of human behaviour. Media coverage of our discipline constantly reports finds of the biggest, the smallest, the oldest and the most valuable. Museum displays, similarly, tend to feature objects that are selected not only to provide information but also to engage, amaze and draw in the viewer. While these exceptional narratives are highly valuable to our discipline, it could be argued that the quests for extremes and ‘the amazing’ pursued by archaeologists have the ability to skew our pictures of what people in the past were experiencing on a day-to-day basis.

Theoretical work on relational identities has stressed the role of encounters with people, places, animals, materials and objects during everyday life in producing and cumulatively building identities (Ingold 2011, Fowler 2004, Giles 2012). This idea has been taken a step further with the suggestion that repetitive actions reiterate and maintain social categories (Jones 2012), thereby bringing a new significance to the monotonous routines undertaken on a regular basis. Ordinary and everyday activities and encounters may, therefore, have been more significant in producing these social categories than exceptional events and objects.

This session aims to further explore and redress the balance between the ordinary and the extraordinary through looking holistically at the material remains of everyday life in relation to human scales of experience. Particular focus will be on routine and repetition, the way these are expressed archaeologically, and their potential effects on producing identities and social categories.


Fowler, C. 2004. The Archaeology of Personhood: An Anthropological Approach, Oxon: Routledge.
Giles, M. 2012. A Forged Glamour: Landscape, Identity and Material Culture in the Iron Age, Oxford: Windgather Press.
Ingold, T. 2011. Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description, London: Routledge.
Jones, A. 2012. Prehistoric Materialities: Becoming Material in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

S29: The Watchful World; Animate Environments in Hunter-Gatherer Archaeologies

Organisers: Nick Overton (University of Manchester) and Barry Taylor (University of Chester)
Email: and

Archaeology has become increasingly comfortable in exploring concepts of non-human agency in our narratives of past hunter-gatherers. Many of these accounts have taken inspiration, either explicitly or implicitly, from a wealth of ethnographic and anthropological literature that discusses animist ontologies of contemporary hunter-gatherers. But whilst these anthropological accounts highlight environments that are made up of a rich and diverse admixture of animate agents, including bodies of water, the weather and a rich variety of plant species, archaeological studies have concentrated on the agentic potential of objects or non-humans.

This is problematic, as it perpetuates a view of the physical environment as a passive backdrop to human action, and fails to appreciate how humans engaged in significant and meaningful relationships with the other agentic elements of the environment. As a consequence, our narratives also lack consideration of how these relations actively affect the wider interactions and engagements within particular environs. Archaeology, therefore, needs to acknowledge the agentic potential of all things in hunter gatherer environments, paying particular attention to as-yet overlooked human-environment relations as potentially socially meaningful engagements.

This session welcomes any discussion of archaeological hunter-gatherer human-plant-nonhuman-environment relationships that seeks to explore how humans engaged with elements of the wider environment in socially meaningful relationships. Of particular interest is how archaeology might combine increasingly accurate and rich data from palynological, paleoenviromental and zooarchaeological analyses with discussions of animate worlds, in order to produce detailed and informed archaeological narratives of human-environment interactions and relationships in the past.

S30: ‘A 3D Digital Image Can Tell a Thousand Words.’ The Application of Digital Imaging Technologies beyond Documentation

Organisers: Joana Valdez-Tullett and Marta Diaz-Guardamino (University of Southhampton) and Guillaume Robin (University of Edinburgh)

During the last decades, research on archaeological material (including rock art) has benefited from the application of a broad range of digital imaging technologies. Prominent amongst these are 2D image enhancement programmes (e.g. Photoshop, D-Stretch) and 2.5/3D imaging techniques (e.g. laser scanning, photogrammetry and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI)). Implementation of these technologies has contributed to the recording of uncountable rock art sites and artefacts around the world, but is still limited due to the need of specialized knowledge or lack a funding and has predominantly had a ‘recording-approach’. Despite the production of accurate recordings and ‘pretty pictures’, relevant research questions that can be explored through these imaging techniques remain largely overlooked.Thus, the contribution of digital techniques to the advancement of research questions relevant to contemporary archaeological enquiry (e.g. process and temporality in the making of rock art; micro-topography of rock art panels) is still underestimated. This session seeks to explore the application of imaging tools for the examination of specific research questions on archaeological material culture such as artefacts/portable objects and/or rock art, rather than for simple documentation. Illustrating with examples of various contexts and chronologies, the contributors will discuss how these innovative technologies can be used to, not only reproduce images, but also contribute to their interpretation, meet research goals and solve complex archaeological problems.