What you need to know about WAC4




What the WAC logo means

The imagery locates the logo as generally southern African, and more specifically from the Cape. The stone depicted is an engraved post-office stone which recalls the various contacts made between different people at the Cape during the early colonial era. Its function, as well as its visual resonance, at once suggests both local and international exchange and trade, as well as being reminiscent of the Rosetta Stone.

The fish, in general, represent deep time, providing a contrast to the concerns of the historical archaeologist as symbolised by the post office stone. Specifically, these fish are taken from Bushman rock paintings which depict, in all likelihood, South Africa’s only electric fish, and may refer to beliefs around trance and death.

The study of rock art has become an increasingly important discipline within archaeological practice in this country, where it is possible to integrate knowledge or informed assumptions about the intellectual traditions of the past, with an inquiry into inter-cultural contacts, domestic habits and the taxonomy of technology. This, however, is carried out in the knowledge that while new methods will be found to understand the past, many of the meanings once resident in objects and images are lost forever.

In its entirety, the logo symbolises both the inscrutability of the past, as well as the prospects of discovery and illumination that characterise archaeological endeavour.

Pippa Skotnes, Artist [17-Oct-97]

What WAC will cost
We have kept the Congress registration fee in the same region as that for the WAC3 meeting in New Delhi. The registration fee will include attendance at the opening function, access to all congress sessions and facilities, teas and lunches, the full set of abstracts for the meeting and access to any of the pre-submitted papers through the Web. Accompanying partners who do not wish to attend the academic sessions will be able to purchase daily lunch tickets if they wish, and will be able to choose from a range of day tours in and around Cape Town.

As usual, WAC members will receive preferential registration rates. We can also offer a World Archaeological Congress enrolment package, which combines the WAC4 congress registration with WAC membership, from June 1998 until June 1999. If you take advantage of this offer, we will forward your membership details directly to the WAC secretariat. We will also be happy to send on arrears subscriptions on behalf of existing WAC members.

There will be a separate early registration rate for members of the Southern African Association of Archaeologists resident in Africa. Details can be obtained directly from the Congress Secretariat. We are working hard at securing sponsorship for delegates from countries where economic conditions restrict the possibilities of attending international academic conferences; again, details can be obtained directly from the Congress Secretariat.

If you are giving a paper, you will be asked by your symposium convenor to pay an abstract fee of $60. This is not an extra charge. The abstract fee will be credited to your registration account, reducing the amount of your congress fee by $60.

We can also offer very reasonable accommodation rates in the university residences, and will welcome accompanying partners who are not registered for academic sessions at an additional $180 for 6 nights (bed and breakfast).

The full registration package is available through this Web site, and as part of the Second Announcement which was mailed in March 1998. Registration and accommodation options will be as follows (all prices are in US currency):

WAC members early registration (before 30 September 1998)

Registration and 6 nights bed and breakfast, UCT residence


Registration only (hotel options available)


WAC enrolment package
(includes one year’s WAC membership – offer available until 30 September 1998)

Registration and 6 nights bed and breakfast, UCT residence


Registration only (hotel options available)


Standard early registration (before 30 September 1998)

Registration and 6 nights bed and breakfast, UCT residence


Registration only (hotel options available)


WAC members standard rate (after 30 September 1998)

Registration and 6 nights bed and breakfast, UCT residence


Registration only (hotel options available)


WAC enrolment package (includes one year’s WAC membership – after 30 September 1998)

Registration and 6 nights bed and breakfast, UCT residence


Registration only (hotel options available)


Standard registration (after 30 September 1998)

Registration and 6 nights bed and breakfast, UCT residence


Registration only (hotel options available)


From Croatia to Cape Town
Nicholas Shepherd attended the InterCongress on the destruction of cultural property, held in Croatia in May this year. Nick Shepherd has recently completed his doctorate at UCT on the subject of post-colonial archaeology: a critical examination of where South African archaeology has been in the past, and where it might go in the future. Currently living in London, he is acutely aware of the relationships between “core” and “periphery” – “first” and “third” worlds…

In early May I was fortunate enough to attend the World Archaeological Congress Inter-congress on the Destruction and Conservation of Cultural Property on the island of Brac, Croatia. The circumstances of my getting there are extraordinary and are worth relating. They begin with me knocking on Professor Peter Ucko’s door at the Institute of Archaeology on a Thursday morning. I was coming to Ucko as a relative outsider from a third world university. Although I knew his work well we had never previously met. Ucko is the moving spirit behind the world archaeology movement and has written perceptively about the relationship between archaeology and apartheid, my own area of work. On Saturday evening I was phoned by Peter Stone, WAC’s Chief Executive Officer, and told to get a Croatian visa.

In some ways this is how WAC works. At one level its congresses are a drawing together of like-minded people, connected by a network of personal contacts, parallel concerns and over-lapping agendas (at a quite different level they have been the occasions of some quite amazingly politicised and bitterly-fought conflicts). Unusually for an academic organisation it has a charter which includes a number of specifically social and ethical concerns. It also recognises the implicitly political nature of archaeological work. Uniquely among archaeological organisations a number of places on the executive are reserved for representatives of indigenous people from around the world. The definition of who constitutes an indigenous person or representative is a loose one. In essence it refers to those people who have been the subjects of archaeological research, or are the descendants of people who have been the subjects of archaeological research, without having significant input into or control over the process. In particular this has referred to indigenous minorities in the settler societies of North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, although this is not only the case. What WAC does, that is to say, is to set up a series of dialogues: between researcher and subject, between point of academic entry and point of cultural insertion, and between people who previously only met on opposite sides of a trowel, an ethnographer’s notebook, or a dispute about access to cultural property.

I suspect that these and other reasons make any meeting of WAC an extraordinarily challenging and stimulating affair. This was my first WAC meeting and it was unlike any other conference in my experience. Discussion ranged across four days with breaks for a visit to Split and a tour of the island. The linking theme was the destruction and conservation of cultural property. The range of geographical and cultural references was diverse as one would expect in such a meeting (Northern Ireland, Nigeria, Spain, Cameroon, Sri Lanka, Brazil). At the same time our location gave the subject of the destruction of cultural property a more pointed significance. Some of the most interesting papers detailed the destruction wrought by war in the former Yugoslavia. One reason for the choice of topic was in response to unfinished business from WAC3 (New Delhi, December 1994) – in particular, the ban on discussion of the destruction of the mosque at Ayodhya in 1992. The two sessions devoted to Ayodhya at the Inter-congress accounted for the angriest and most passionately-felt contributions. In the general loudness of voice and imagery the papers by Professor Krishna Mohan Shrimali and Nandini Rao constituted two still points of sanity.

What follows is a series of comments and impressions reconstructed from my notes from the Inter-congress. The first concerns the manner in which the papers and the discussion which followed could be fairly divided into a number of different approaches, sets of concerns, and, even, discursive paradigms. If you like, these are the tongues with which WAC speaks. In the first place, there were a number of clever and lively papers which brought to their material an awareness of contemporary theory, including a deconstructive strand in post-processual theory They refused to allow their terms to settle, looking for the meanings behind meanings, and the references behind references. They also provided some of the most genuinely enlightening moments of the Inter-congress. Again, this is as one would expect, given developments in post-processual theory in the past decade or so.

In the second place, there was a strand of discussion which spoke from a sense of the rootedness of cultures and traditions, and which freely employed those terms which a post-processual archaeology might be tempted to take-on: indigenousness, sacredness, identity, nationhood, tradition. This was the voice of WAC’s indigenous representatives, but it was also the voice, for example, of some of the Croatian delegates speaking of their recent experiences. What was immediately apparent was how valid and appropriate this voice was, how unproductive it would be for a post-processual archaeology to issue a blanket dismissal of such terms from a sense of theory’s higher mission.

In the third place there was a voice which remains in memory as hectoring and violent, and whose proper name is a form of fundamentalism. What was interesting was that it occupied not so much a parallel discursive universe, as an opposed one. It agreed to none of the normal rules of academic discussion, seeking to convince by the violence of its tone and imagery, by insistent repetition rather than argument. In contrast to the essentially Enlightenment values of academic debate, this third voice was anti-Enlightenment, speaking from the position of faith, belief and revelation – the position of revealed knowledge rather than discovered knowledge. More shall be written elsewhere about the manner in which what has come to be referred to as the Ayodhya issue occupied the time of the delegates at the Inter-congress. What I remember is the shift in register which it required, the sense of being required to listen and respond in different ways.

My second set of comments concerns the implications of some of the discussion at the Inter-congress for the WAC4 meeting in Cape Town in January 1999. This will be to bring the story of WAC full circle, meeting, as it were, on the site of its own inception (WAC was formed around the issue of the exclusion of South African and Namibian participants from a meeting in Southampton in 1986). The danger in such circumstances is the danger of white-washing South African archaeology – when I would argue that many of the issues in South African archaeology which spurred the development of WAC1 are unresolved. These include key issues of accountability, of indigenous participation, and of access, control and ownership as far as they affect cultural property. More generally, there is the issue of audience, or what might be called orientation. At least since its modernisation beginning in the late-1960s South African archaeology has tended to view itself as part of the Anglo-American tradition, and its closest ties have been with individuals and institutions in Britain and North America. This orientation, away from Africa and towards the developed archaeologies of the West, was encouraged by the academic boycott, and by the response of South African archaeologists (and their failure of response) to certain political issues connected to apartheid.

In this context the challenge for WAC4 is to act as a goad in the ongoing transformation of South African archaeology. It needs to move debate around these issues from their present position on the periphery to the centre of disciplinary concerns in this country. Most especially, it needs to encourage the reorientation of South African archaeology so that it sees itself as an archaeology in a continental context – with the issues, concerns and priorities of that context – rather than a kind of regional outlier of the sorts of archaeology practiced in the metropoles. Among its many functions and opportunities WAC4 would seem to offer South African archaeologists an ideal opportunity to repair links with the rest of Africa.

The second challenge for WAC4 as it meets in Cape Town will be to advance the debate around indigenous representation. This is a debate which is already underway. What WAC4 might usefully do – and I would anticipate that this might account for some of the most interesting sets of interactions at the Congress – is to bring its own indigenous representatives and participants into conversation with local indigenous representatives and participants, within the framework of a concern with cultural property and the processes of archaeological research.

Finally, to properly imagine the Inter-congress you need to know something about the setting. The island of Brac is in the Croatian Adriatic across the way from the mainland city of Split (most famous resident: the Emperor Diocletian). It is an area of unexpected and quite startling scenic beauty. I brought back two rolls of film of various shots of clear light and water. These I shall stick to the wall in my dingy shared house in London’s Telegraph Hill. The Croatian Ministry of Culture paid for our accommodation, and it would be proper to end this report by thanking them, as well as the Croatian Archaeological Society and the officers and organisers of the World Archaeological Congress for a unique experience. [22-Jun-98]