Theme titles are organized to complete the phrase: “Archaeology as…”


Learning: Education and Public Outreach

Arwa Badran (Hashemite University); Akira Matsuda (University of East Anglia)


The relationship between archaeology and the public has been widely researched and its practices critically debated. Developments in ideas, approaches and strategies within this field in many parts of the world looked into the role of archaeology within the public realm from various angles, such as community engagement and learning about and from the past; participatory approaches to sustainable heritage management, public interpretation and meaning-making of heritage; teaching about the past in formal education, and the role of archaeologists towards sharing the public the benefit of archaeology.

Sessions and individual contributions within this theme may address a number of questions related to this dilemma: How does public archaeology (theory and practice) and its development differ across the globe? How do archaeologists communicate the past to the public? How should archaeology engage the public and inform their learning of the past? How does teaching about the past, whether within formal or informal education, differ across the globe? What are the effects and implications of these different teaching styles? To what extent are policies and strategies allowing for bottom up public participation in managing heritage? Where does ownership or stewardship over the past lie? We also welcome sessions that discuss successful examples of public archaeology and education.


Science and Technology: Methods, Analysis, and Tools

Robin Torrence (Australian Museum); Chris Hunt (Queen’s University); Rathnasiri Premathilake (University of Kelaniya); Mariano Bonomo (University of La Plata)


The number and sophistication of scientific techniques central to archaeological research have been increasing at nearly an exponential rate for several decades, as witnessed in the huge growth of specialist journals such as the Journal of Archaeological Science, Archaeometry, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, and Journal of Paleopathology. But have these new tools contributed to better answers for significant questions posed by archaeology? In what way is cutting edge science delivering on, or advancing contemporary archaeological research questions? Or has the development of new techniques become an end in itself divorced from the central goals and aims of archaeology itself? Is the research becoming more technique driven than problem oriented? How can scientific techniques be expanded or better directed to address questions raised by contemporary goals and theory in archaeology?

The aim of the sessions and individual contributions that will make up this theme is to bring together archaeologists representing a range of different specialist fields, continents, and theoretical orientations to assess the state of current archaeological science, to showcase innovative approaches, and to scope out opportunities for future applications and collaborations. Sessions and individual contributions that discuss methods, analysis and specific tools are welcome.


Discussion and Debate: Ethics, Politics, and Engagement

Julie Hollowell (Indiana University); Alex Herrera (University of the Andes)


From its very beginnings, archaeology has been entangled in ethical dilemmas, fraught as it has been with nationalism, the expansion of capitalism, scientism, expert authority and Otherness at multiple scales of time and place. The ethically precarious position of archaeology has become ever more apparent as questions of accountability and social justice are raised by archaeologists and social scientists, as well as by those affected by archaeology.

WAC’s Committee on Ethics is sponsoring this theme at WAC7, to be composed of sessions on a broad range of ethics related topics—whether these are issues confronting archaeology as a discipline, experienced by those affected by archaeology, emerging within WAC as an organization. We encourage sessions that explore new or critical perspectives on the ethics of particular archaeological practices, problems of professionalism, or issues related to interpretation, access to data, or the democratization of archaeology, as a discipline, profession or craft.

Session topics may focus on relationships between archaeology and knowledge production or archaeology and transnational corporations; the ethics of CRM, cultural tourism, or underwater archaeology; the disjuncture between “world heritage” and local benefits; or connections between archaeology, human rights, social movements, and/or alternative political and economic models. What ethical issues are raised when we act as advocates for others? What does an archaeology that takes social justice as a core value look like? We are also interested in topics related to WAC as an organization—its role, structure, and claims of representation or advocacy.  We welcome contributions to this theme in diverse and interactive formats.

Understanding and Interpretation

Veerasamy Selvakumar (Department of Epigraphy and Archaeology); Kaushik Gangopadhyay (Centre for Archaeological Studies and Training in Eastern India)


Artefacts, symbols, built structures, and features are integral components of culture. Cultural materials, apart from their primary function as objects per se, assume multiple meanings in various cultural contexts. They become symbols and identify individuals, communities, groups and cultures.  Style and design of material culture form the basis of interpretations of archaeologists. Archaeologists define material culture based on various attributes of artefacts. Correlating material culture with a specific identity is a challenging task facing archaeologists.  The designs and styles of material culture are influenced by numerous cultural and environmental factors, and changeover time. Archaeological research often focuses on describing and explaining such changes.
The theme “Understanding and Interpretation” focuses on the relationships between material culture and identity. It welcomes contributions that explore these relationships from various cultural contexts, both archaeological and ethnographical, across the world.
Some of the possible areas related to the theme include:

  • Theories on ritual, cosmology, and meaning
  • Emic and etic perception of material culture
  • Function versus cultural identity
  • Typology, classification and archaeological cultures
  • Colours, symbols and identity
  • Artefact types and regional cultural traditions
  • Palaeoart forms and their contribution to defining cultural identity
  • Architectural forms and their regional, chronological and cultural tradition
  • Iconography, writing, identity and meaning
  • Gender and material culture
  • Children and material culture
  • Multiplicity of meanings

Heritage Conservation and Protection

Sergiu Musteata (Romanian Academy, Iasi branch); Giorgia Cesaro (UNESCO, Jordan)


Cultural and natural heritage around the world is exposed to numerous risks resulting from natural and human-made threats. These risks can be either catastrophic (earthquakes, floods, cyclones, fires) or continuous threats with cumulative effects (pollution, erosion, material decay, development, tourism, inappropriate site management, and looting). The exposure to such risks, coupled with environmental, economic, social and political contexts and the lack of material conservation and management systems increases the vulnerability of heritage properties. The UNESCO, Council of Europe, and other international organizations have adopted conventions for cultural heritage preservation that set the common rules and standards of the member states to address these issues. Debates concerning archaeological research, heritage preservation, and heritage management have increased in recent years, often as an effect of such organizations, and their rules and standards. After decades of such processes, it is time for evaluation of their implementation.

All countries have a rich past, but they have different systems of cultural heritage management, from regional autonomy to federal control. Sessions in the “Heritage Protection and Conservation” theme might discuss how different state bodies (or other organizations) are implementing international conventions according to their national cultural policies, legal frameworks and management structures.

Other proposed topics:

  • Identification of natural/human-made risks to cultural heritage,
  • Strategies and methods to mitigate risk to cultural heritage from natural and human-caused disasters
  • Tools/methods for risk assessment of cultural heritage (e.g. documentation, inventorying and mapping for recording and analyzing risks), examples of best practices
  • Post disaster recovery of cultural heritage
  • Awareness raising and capacity building of communities, professionals, decision makers to manage risks to cultural heritage from natural and human-caused factors


The Future: New Perspectives on the Past

Lauren Robinson (Institute for Archaeologists); Kylie Lower (Ironbridge Institute, University of Birmingham); Khawla Goussous (Friends of Archeology/ Ahhliyyah School for Girls, Jordan)


This theme is designed to both highlight innovative uses of method and theory in archaeology and also to highlight new voices in archaeology. As such, students and established archaeologists are encouraged to submit contributions for the “Archaeology as the Future” theme. A primary goal of this theme is to promote cross-regional and international networking between scholars around the world that have different academic and cultural backgrounds.  Another goal is to promote problem-solving on a variety of archaeological issues. “The Future” is an ideal theme to host forum and workshop sessions. Cross-disciplinary sessions and papers are also encouraged.

Proposed sessions that include a majority of student participants can include time for constructive feedback and provide an opportunity (within an accommodating atmosphere) for students to present/express their own ideas and thoughts regarding the various aspects of archaeology within their own country and internationally. Sessions that may lead to future opportunities for collaboration such as international fieldwork, study, or publishing are encouraged in this theme. Lastly, contributions can include sessions and papers that speak to where they see the future of archaeology as a discipline.

Possible topics:

  • Opportunities for international travel and fieldwork
  • Future archaeological projects
  • Innovative practices from a particular country or region
  • Conflicting worldviews and value systems across cultures
  • How archaeology relates to other disciplines


Business: Profitability and Sustainability of Cultural Heritage

Cornelius Holtorf (Linnaeus University); Ian Lilley (University of Queensland); Marcia Bezerra (Universidade Federal do Pará/CNPq)


Economic Development: Community Engagement and Grassroots Movements

Peter G Gould (University College London); Mike Robinson (Ironbridge Institute, University of Birmingham); Amanda Forster (Institute for Archaeologists)



Donald Henson (University College London,


Open Access: Freedom of Information, Peer Review

Stephen D Stead (Southampton University); Julian Richards (University of York)


With the increasing democratization of archaeological data through the use of the World Wide Web it is important that robust mechanisms for exposing, discovering and reusing it are made available. This theme aims to explore in both theory and practice the latest developments in this area. The theme will have a number of papers covering the concepts, technologies, management approaches and leading examples in this exciting field. A key discussion will be the role that WAC should play in setting the standards and best practices.

Sharing data brings new responsibilities for data producers to explain how the data was derived in order that potential re-users of the data can know if it is fit for their (re)purpose. This brings an important area of current research to the fore; the analysis and presentation of digital provenance. Papers, demonstrations and workshops that explore this challenging aspect of our digital output are welcomed.

Just as the producer of digital data has new responsibilities so does the consumer. Much of our academic kudos is derived from the publication of synthetic reports of our research but little is derived from the publication of the data on which those reports are based. We need to have a robust discussion about how to cite data sets and give their immense potential due recognition. At the Computer Applications in Archaeology Conference (CAA 2012) a new “Recycle” Award was instigated to recognize the value of research reusing older data sets. Should WAC also look towards recognizing this aspect of research?

Other topics for contributions can include but are not limited to:

  • Linked (Open) Data
  • Uniform Resource Identifiers
  • International Documentation Committee of ICOM
  • “Cloud” Computing
  • Specific software


Identity Politics: Ethnicity, Nationalism, Globalization

Jan Turek (University of Hradec Králové)


Archaeology as a subject dealing with past and ancient societies is seemingly apolitical. This may be the feeling of some archaeologists who have never experienced ideological obstacles in their work or do not have direct experience working under restrictive particular ideologies.  In reality, archaeology has often been used in creating background for political propaganda emphasizing the historical roles of a particular social class, ethnicity, or religion over others. In this theme we would welcome sessions on the political experience of archaeologists working under different circumstances of past or current political regimes. How is current archaeology contributing towards the shaping of national, religious and social identity? How is archaeology involved in constructing the current political agendas and how has archaeological knowledge of past experience influenced the current discussions on the future of the humanity? How does archaeological interpretation of the past shape the current social reality and ideology (and vice versa). How is our reading of the past formed by current ideologies and social/political orders?

We would also like to hear the stories of archaeologists working under totalitarian regimes and their experience with limitation of academic and political freedoms, as well as, methods of abusing archaeological knowledge for political propaganda.
How have archaeologists responded to these issues?

  • Restrictions of academic texts and representations of the past
  • Restrictions of other academic liberties
  • Restrictions of other rights such as political and religious freedoms
  • Segregations of ethnicity, race or nationalities


A Target: Preservation and Heritage Identities in Times of Conflict

Zaki Aslan (ICCROM, United Arab Emirates); Friedrich T. Schipper (University of Vienna)


The purpose of the theme “Archaeology as a Target” is to establish a working framework to guide national policies for heritage protection in times of crisis in relation to planning, infrastructure, law and public awareness. It will present relevant case studies arising from threats and damage caused through war, intolerance, civil unrest, theft, and illicit traffic of cultural artefacts. It will seek to understand how the impacts of these threats on archaeological heritage might be minimized.

As a result of the recent social as well as political upheavals in several countries world-wide, archaeological heritage has been negatively impacted. This theme therefore aims to assess:

a) How has archaeological heritage been damaged?
b) What weaknesses in the current heritage protection systems were identified during crisis events?
c) What measures can be taken to recover damaged archaeological heritage?
d) What role can cultural heritage play in recovery, reconciliation and nation building processes?

It is hoped that experiences from other parts of the world will contribute to refining methodologies with regards to the protection of archaeological heritage in times of crisis.

It is hoped that sessions will discuss how to make these recommendations available to policy and decision-makers, in order to promote the application of methods and guidelines in this area in future national policies.



Paulette Steeves (Binghamton University); Kellie Pollard (Flinders University); Talia Shay (Technion Israel Institute of Technology); Lilen Malugani Guillet (Universidad Nacional de Catamarca)


This theme invites scholarship that creates indigenous spaces in archaeological and anthropological knowledge production, thus shifting the borders and boundaries of history, bodies, geographies, and politics. These boundaries have existed throughout historical processes of knowledge production and academic pursuits. Indigenous and indigenous-oriented scholars are challenging, pushing, and crossing these borders and boundaries in both their homelands and academic disciplines. The current diversity of perspectives on indigenous experiences of archaeological research simultaneously challenges community and institutional practitioners to articulate legitimate alternative narratives of archaeological history and colonization. Peripheral interests are at the core of forging new intellectual terrain on the tensions which characterize alternative and privileged debate and interpretation. For indigenous scholars, peoples, and nations, telling stories of their own histories facilitates a movement towards emancipation, self-determination, and decolonization. Through specific practice indigenous scholars empower traditional methodologies of oral history, indigenous sciences, and ways of knowing, to inform knowledge construction and insight into past and present experiences of representation.


Useful: Reintroduction of Ancient Techniques and Recovered Knowledge

Alejandra M. Korstanje (Universidad Nacional de Tucumán); Sonia Archila (Universidad de los Andes)


Traditionally, Applied Archaeology has involved the use of information derived from archaeological research to implement solutions to specific problems. A typical example of this area of the discipline would be the study, recovery, preservation, and re-use of ancient technological knowledge that had been locally abandoned. However, even when such initiatives have been significant from a social perspective, not all of the experiences carried out have succeeded, or been accepted by local communities.

Sessions in this theme will seek to generate discussions towards an updating of the state of research dealing with different approaches to applied tradition and heritage. In an inclusive manner, sessions will focus on assessment of what has been done in the past, what is being done today, and what types of future possibilities may exist for these types of practices. We would like to explore the potential for archaeology to contribute to the collaborative re-definition of technologies, symbolic systems, and popular stories.

The sessions proposed under this theme will take the following questions into account for guidance:

1. What importance is now being given to heritage as the result of the reformulation of the value and utility of traditional knowledge? (e.g., museums, culinary topics, handicrafts, tourism, ecotourism)
2. To what extent can ancient agricultural technologies help to solve present day problems in indigenous and rural communities? (e.g., raised fields, terracing, drainage, reservoirs, soil improvement, fertilizers, tools)
3. Can indigenous knowledge serve as an alternative to ecological conservationism? (e.g., ecotourism, national parks, use of resources in subsistence economies for participation in small-scale markets, disposal and recycling of wastes, use of alternative energies, ideologies related to nature protector deities)
4. What is the role of archaeology as a compiler/producer of knowledge related to the economic and symbolic uses of strategic resources such as water or minerals? (e.g., current social movements focused on water protection, mineral resources, and landscapes).
5. What collaborative solutions may exist for conflicts between traditional knowledge of plant resources and scientific knowledge, which may involve efforts to patent it? (e.g., traditional medicine, gastronomy, building materials and handcrafts)


Sustenance: Foodways, Subsistence

Shanti Morell-Hart (College of William and Mary)


Ancient gastronomic practices are recoverable through a variety of means, from inedible proxies such as texts and paintings, to bodily inscriptions of diet and nutrition, to actual residues and remains of foodstuffs. Worldwide, ancient foodways have persisted and transformed over time, coalescing into the contemporary practices and ingredients available in our globalized economy. Archaeological approaches to foodways have demonstrated that practices may persist though ingredients transform, and ingredients may persist though practices transform. Change is evident in such areas as transitions to famine foods, innovation in cooking methods, and introduction of new ingredients and recipes.

Modern “borrowings” from archaeological scholarship have been incorporated into the Slow Food movement, agricultural practices, and the revival of heritage foods, in the same way that these modern approaches to food have influenced our interpretations of past foodways. Critical issues include the copyrighting of foodstuff genomes, the recovery and sale of historic alcohol, the preservation and legal protection of gastronomic heritage, modern maladies that represent shifts from traditional foodways, dramatic environmental transformations linked to food practices, and nationalist movements that seek to sediment essentialized regional foodways. The importance and spatiotemporal range of gastronomic heritage invite a critical look at our reconstructions of ancient cuisine, and the impact of these reconstructions on modern foodways.


Discovery: Field Reports

Convener to be announced


The theme “Archaeology as Discovery” highlights the results of new archaeological investigations.  Reports from survey, excavations, and laboratory analysis are welcome to be presented as part of this theme. Sessions in this theme are also welcome to discuss new fieldwork and laboratory techniques.

Answering the Big Questions

Convener to be announced


This theme represents the ambitious undertaking of addressing some of the most fundamental and important questions that archaeologists seek to answer about the past.  Submissions to this theme should take a critical and nuanced approach to the theories that we use to shape our understanding of past and present peoples.



Talal Akasheh (Cultech for Heritage and Conservation); Zeidan Kafafi (Hashemite University)


Many archaeological theorists have encouraged their colleagues to examine their biases, however, the interpretations of archaeological findings can still be influenced by many factors not directly related to the data.  The interpretation of archaeological findings is often entirely left to the archaeologists responsible for an excavation, who may misinterpret data or arrive at wrong conclusions. Although careful peer review can be used to verify the authenticity of the findings, it may not be enough to confirm such conclusions.  Archaeologists need to acknowledge the misconceptions or prejudices that drive them to the a priori interpretation of facts and data according to a preconceived regime of thinking.  Another problem may arise as a result of the unfamiliarity of foreign archaeologists working in a region totally unfamiliar to them thus leading to oversights and misconceptions that prevail due to their background, origin or religious affiliation.  The theme “Archaeology as Subjective” encourages session submissions that delve into the many factors that can influence archaeological interpretations.  Sessions that investigate how these interpretations are popularized for the general public and how misinterpretations can serve as propaganda are also welcome.