WAC-6 Themes and Sessions

The programme and other information can be downloaded in these documents-


WAC-6 Programme



Session and Theme Abstracts

Archaeological Theory? Legacies, Burdens, Futures

Andrew Cochrane (Cardiff University)

Ian Russell (University College Dublin, UCD School of Archaeology)

Timothy Webmoor(Stanford University, Stanford Archaeology Center)

Christopher Witmore (Brown University)


What is archaeological theory? Where is archaeological theory?

Opening many contemporary books on archaeological theory it becomes apparent there is little internal debate between differing theoretical positions. Instead, one is presented with the shoring up of alternate ‘camps’ operating without significant interaction. While branding ‘labels’ proliferate, and are often taken for developed theories, the inter-relationships between various agendas are seldom interrogated; e.g. agency theory, cognitive archaeology, embodiment, evolutionary archaeology, feminism, materiality, middle range theory, phenomenology, thing theory, etc. The fragmented terrain of this ‘hyperpluralism’ characterises the field world-wide and has been embraced generally as a positive development. Within this climate, however, there are arguments that archaeological theory is no longer at the heart of archaeology as a coherent enterprise, and even that “theory is dead”. Reasons for these concerns are multiple, in part relating to transforming definitions of theory itself. With few exceptions, this situation derives from a lack of intellectual debate and disciplinary negotiation. Additionally, a host of other factors also come into play—from the explosion of the heritage industry and CRM to the fluctuations of the academy; from behind-the-doors networking to the media economy of popular archaeology. Recognition of these concerns does not form the end point for this Congress Theme, but rather it constitutes a point of departure.

We encourage sessions to engage questions of archaeological theory relating to:

  1. Legacies; what has become of these ‘theoretical camps’?
  2. Burdens; can we avoid the theory/practice bifurcation while exploring the edge of thoughtful practice?
  3. Futures; what are the new agendas? What are the obligations, energies, and concerns which form common grounds beneath the fragmented terrain of archaeological theory?
In a period of radical transformations within the discipline, we hope sessions will take stock and further explore a range of interests and applications.
  5. What are the very long term implications of theoretical, pedagogical and institutional changes for the practices of archaeology?
  6. Will careful and critical thought in archaeology be sidelined as irrelevant in a climate of politically correct, open inclusion and popular opinion-driven, production of heritage for all?
  7. Do the very activities of discerning evaluation and debate inherent to theory make theory elitist?
  8. Who is included and excluded from archaeological theorizing?
  9. And more importantly, how are the standards of evaluation and reasoning changing as a consequence of the new climate? Or is theory no longer needed?


Furthermore, we encourage panelists to consider the investigation of stimuli that prompt bold questions. What does an archaeological sensibility contribute to the understanding of humanity? What are the unique contributions of archaeology in its collaboration with other disciplines? Can archaeology contribute to cutting-edge agendas and debates in a transdisciplinary arena? We aim to foster a rich series of exchanges addressing where we are and what is at stake. Simultaneously we seek to reframe or even undercut the current state of affairs—a hyperplural stagnation—by identifying collective concerns for understanding humanity’s location within the intra-relationships of this shared world.




Archaeologies of Art

Inés Domingo Sanz (Flinders University of South Australia, Department of Archaeology,)

Sally May (Flinders University of South Australia)

Muiris O’Sullivan (University College Dublin, UCD School of Archaeology)

Sven Ouzman (University of Pretoria, Department of Anthropology & Archaeology)

Ian Russell (University College Dublin, UCD School of Archaeology)


Archaeologies of Art encourages the creative interplay of various approaches to ‘art’. This theme attempts to free the archaeological encounter with ‘art’ from its special interest niche so that it can make a more collaborative and critical contribution to the vanguard of archaeological theory and artistic practice. Established topics such as rock art, monumental architecture and land art will be featured in multiple sessions. These topics have previously been considered archaeological ‘Cinderellas’, but the past 30 years has seen them reach a maturity of thought and action that needs to be presented so that practitioners may chart future areas of interest and application – all while being mindful of the history of each of these approaches.

Responding to these established topics, we encourage the exploration and expansion of the frontiers of traditional research and practice. Sessions on the materiality and context of contemporary art and the interplay between archaeologists and artists in all its manifestations and temporalities are thus welcome. Similarly, discussions on the social lives of artworks will help bridge and even reconfigure the ‘past’ – ‘present’ bifurcation. Foundational questions such as what is ‘art’, who or what can be an artist, and the roles of art in the world also fit within this theme’s gambit. Archaeologies of Art will also offer a forum for responses to the programme of the Ábhar agus Meon / Materials and Mentalities exhibition (www.amexhibition.com) and mark the 10th anniversary of the excavation and reconstruction of Francis Bacon’s studio, now located at the Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane (www.hughlane.ie/fb_studio).




Archaeologists, War and Conflict: Ethics, Politics, Responsibility

Reinhard Bernbeck (Binghamton University)

Yannis Hamilakis (University of Southampton)

Susan Pollock (Binghamton University)


The “Archaeologists and War” Taskforce, established in the aftermath of WAC-5 is charged with investigating the ethical and political role of archaeologists in armed conflicts around the world. Taking as its starting point the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent media focus upon the archaeology of ‘Mesopotamia’, the taskforce was established to “investigate the role of archaeologists in situations of armed conflict around the world, and explore the ethical dilemmas and the social and political consequences and effects arising from that involvement”. Given the perceived increasing involvement of archaeologists with the military in many parts of the world, and other phenomena that appear to testify to the militarization of archaeology (recalling perhaps the distant past in the history of archaeology when archaeologists formed an integral part of military imperialistic campaigns), this theme invites sessions which will confront the ethics and politics of this phenomenon. It also aims to explore possible stances and practices by archaeologists and others who oppose militarization and colonialists/imperialists wars, but find themselves working amidst such situations. More specifically, we welcome sessions with a thematic, historical, or geographical focus but which address questions such as:

  1. Can archaeologists use their expertise to foster cultural understanding and thereby work against militarization and military “solutions”?
  2. Is it possible to reconcile an anti-war stance with an archaeological involvement (advice, contribution with scholarly expertise, scientific investigations) in military conflicts?
  3. When should archaeologists opposed to the war become involved in ‘reconstruction’ efforts or forensic investigations?
  4. Does the desire to “rescue” antiquities justify the collaboration of archaeologists with military structures or the exclusive focus on sites and artefacts as opposed to human lives?
  5. What is the nature of links between imperial/colonial wars and financial profit through archaeological activity?
  6. Is there a need for a new code of ethics that takes into account the notion of the ‘embedded archaeologist’ (that is, the archaeologist who is embedded in military structures, adopting the role of an “objective professional”)?
  7. Can there be, in contexts of armed conflict, a role for an archaeology that is both politically engaged and neutral, in the sense that it takes an ethical stance that is opposed to any and all violence?
  8. What should the role of forensic archaeologists and anthropologists be when asked to investigate existing or assumed mass graves?
  9. Should we accept the participation of serving army personnel in archaeological conferences and publications?
  10. How can we resist a further militarization of archaeology?
  11. How can anti-war archaeologists in opposing camps of a conflict but with similar ethical stances collaborate and bridge the dividing line?




Archaeology and the Museum

Sonia Archila Montañez (Andes University)

Sally May (Flinders University of South Australia)


This theme highlights archaeological research relating to, or coming from within, the museum sphere. The theme will focus on the shifting role of archaeology and anthropology museums in our contemporary societies, a society which is increasingly multicultural, multivocal and global. In particular, this theme will explore the changing power relations within the museums sphere of influence and the role of social memory and social history in influencing perceptions of the past.

The session organizers will be guided by the following questions:

  1. What role do museums play in the development of the discipline of archaeology both in theory and practice?
  2. How are museums of anthropology and archaeology contributing to debates surrounding heritage management?
  3. How have museums of archaeology and anthropology engaged with notions of decolonization and the growing recognition of the political implications of their activities?
  4. How have/could museums contribute to the debate surrounding the inclusion of social groups that have traditionally been excluded from the museological discourse?
  5. How have museums of anthropology and archaeology modified their procedures to engage with their increasingly (or increasingly recognised) multicultural societies?
  6. How are museums of anthropology and archaeology contributing to the re-shaping of memory?






Archaeology in the Digital Age 2.0

Michael Ashley (University of California, Berkeley)

Cinzia Perlingieri (University of Naples “l’Orientale”, Centro Interdipartimentale di Servizio di Archeologia)

Steve Stead (Paveprime Ltd.)


“We are witnessing the transformation to a society where instantly available, reliable and credible information will be as indispensable as electricity, water and transportation.” Dr. James H. Billington, The Librarian of Congress before the House Subcommittee on Legislative Branch, March 20, 2007.

Our world has transformed since the theme, ‘Archaeology in the Digital Age’ was held at WAC-5 in 2003. Google organizes our information (9 million hits for ‘archaeology’), Flickr captures our vision (over 40,000), and social networking keeps us in touch with friends around the world virtually. The Internet allows for global sharing never before possible, and digital capture techniques put the power of Hollywood-style visualizations in the reach of archaeologists internationally. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and the tremendous advances of digital technology have led to substantial, potentially severe challenges for the stewardship of the archaeological record.

How archaeology is responding to the challenges of the digital age, and how the digital revolution is impacting our discipline is the focus of this theme. Digital technology and the creation of ‘born digital’ content are indispensable aspects of cultural heritage efforts today. From low-tech documentation – Microsoft Office, html websites, video, PDF, digital photography – to cutting edge technologies – laser/lidar scanning, GIS, 3D modeling, distributed databases, semantic ontologies and faceted browsing – there is a spectrum of opportunities, dependencies and challenges that did not exist even 30 years ago.

We are at a unique point in history, where cultural heritage professionals must work to care for the physical past while assuring that there will be a digital record for the future. Peter Brantley, Executive Director of the Digital Library Foundation, thinks, “the problem of digital preservation is not one for future librarians, but for future archaeologists.” If one imagines that the well-intentioned efforts of researchers and scholars in the modern era could be unreadable only fifty years from now, there is tremendous responsibility on individual cultural heritage professionals to insure a future for their digital work.

The most critical factor for digital heritage sustainability is to “plan for its re-use.” (ADS web 2007). Fortunately, recent phenomena in intellectual property law such as Creative Commons and GPL, are making it easier than ever to share content while protecting the rights of contributors. But the challenge of assuring sensible privacy, such as locations of archaeological sites or individual identities in the world of instant messaging by mobile phone to Google Earth or Facebook is considerable, even when well intentioned.

We see this theme as a dialogue on the present and future of archaeology in the 21st century. The sessions, papers, forums and workshops will explore the wealth of opinions and expertise on this vast topic, ranging from nuts-and-bolts practical information on geographical information systems to producing non-linear narratives and multi-vocal visualizations of the past. We wish to deliberate the challenges for ethics and ‘authenticity’ – ‘who owns the past’ and who owns the ‘virtual heritage’ we create? We hope to develop strategies for education, both online and in the classroom, as well as for educating ourselves on the promises and pitfalls of digital technology.

We welcome contributions that extend the discussion to embody multi-national perspectives and creative as well as sensible approaches to digital technologies.

Please visit the Archaeology in the Digital Age 2.0 blog for futher details



Archaeology of Spiritualities

Alan Peatfield (University College Dublin, UCD School of Archaeology)

Christine Morris (Trinity College Dublin, Department of Classics)

Kathryn Rountree (Massey University, School of Social and Cultural Studies)

Tonno Jonuks (University of Tartu, Department of Archaeology)


Archaeology of Spiritualities is an attempt to resolve the impasse within the Archaeology of Religion, which has crystallised the debate about definitions and interpretations as primarily about beliefs in deities (an intellectualisation) or about rituals (a materialist, rationalist approach). Such approaches are essentially based on western paradigms, e.g. Judaeo-Christian belief systems, or academic rationalisations. This does not allow for the immense variety of religion as human spiritual experience and its cultural expression. It particularly does not account for those non-western religions, where it is human spiritual insight which dominates, rather than theistic beliefs. This debate further fails to address the fundamentally experiential nature of religion, and works against interpretative methods which explore this experiential nature of human spirituality.

In keeping with the spirit of WAC, the aim of Archaeology of Spiritualities is to provide a forum for a multiplicity of methodologies in the study of religion, in order to engage the varieties of different cultural expressions of spirituality. The aim is to provide points of encounter between western and non-western approaches to the archaeology of religion, both in terms of ideas of deity (monotheistic and polytheistic) and their connections with landscape and sacred space, and in terms of how the cognitive abstractions of spiritual experience might be discerned in the archaeological record.

Within this context, Archaeology of Spiritualities particularly welcomes sessions which explore the encounter between archaeology and the varied expressions of spiritual and religious experience. Examples of pertinent issues include: the interaction between archaeology and both world religions and religions in traditional/tribal cultures; the dialogue between archaeology and contemporary spiritualities (including the Goddess movement, contemporary paganism and shamanism); landscapes and sacred space in multi-religious traditions; the insights of experiential and experimental methodologies; the influence of neuro-theology; ritual and music.



Archaeology, Development and Quality Assurance: An International Perspective

Arlene Fleming (Cultural Resources and Development Specialist)

Charles Niquette (Cultural Resource Analytics Inc.)

Margaret Gowen (Margaret Gowen Limited)

Steven Brandt (University of Florida, Department of Anthropology)

Ian Campbell (Cultural and Environmental Safeguards Specialist)


Public and private infrastructure development is a multi-trillion dollar global industry. The acceleration in pace, volume and scale of construction projects requires increased attention and timely action by archaeologists; it presents both opportunities and challenges. Individuals, organizations and institutions involved in archaeology stand to benefit significantly from becoming an integral part of the modern construct for socio-economic development and environmental management. At the same time, it is essential to ensure that the practice of archaeology meets professional standards throughout the world.

The infrastructure development process increasingly requires Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) during project preparation, as mandated by national laws and the policies of numerous public and private financial institutions. EIA seeks to avoid or mitigate environmental damage, and it recognizes cultural heritage, including archaeology, as a required component of a holistic analysis, together with biophysical and social features. The evolving planning tool, Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), also includes cultural heritage as a component. Thus, development planning and projects can provide the impetus and the financing to expand the archaeological record through survey, documentation, excavation, analysis, curation, exhibition and publication. However, in many countries, archaeologists and cultural heritage experts have not been active participants in development nor in EIA, due in part to a knowledge and communication gap between cultural and environmental authorities. Timely and effective action by archaeologists requires that they maintain an awareness of potential and current development projects.

Assuring that archaeological work undertaken within the development context meets professional standards involves relevant training for archaeologists. It also requires a basic understanding of archaeological standards and practice on the part of those responsible for EIA and other phases of the development process. The role of commercial sector archaeology in development has stimulated debate with academic archaeologists over procedures and standards. Issues include: the disposition of the archaeological record compiled during EIA and project implementation; the contribution of commercial archaeology to the knowledge base and to the profession; and the need for integrated and collaborative professional activity – among archaeologists, as well as with other disciplines. Quality assurance in archaeology has numerous facets, including ethical standards, technical skills, analytical and presentation standards, publication requirements, public outreach, and the need for continuing education. In current practice, quality assurance, in all its forms, appears to vary from being voluntary, partially voluntary, to being prescribed by the state.

This theme will illustrate, examine and discuss strategies and methods for integrating archaeology into the development process with an emphasis on quality assurance. The theme will be developed in a variety of formats, including panel discussions, workshops and case studies (both oral and poster). Presentations are invited on a variety of topics relating to the theme, including: archaeology in the development process; State-sponsored activities in research, heritage management, legislation, education and training, fieldwork, data and materials management, analysis and dissemination; education in universities and institutes; museum collection, curation, conservation and study; field school research; and commercial sector archaeology.




Critical Technologies: the Making of the Modern World

Alice Gorman (Flinders University of South Australia)

Beth O’Leary (New Mexico State University)

Wayne Cocroft (English Heritage)


Everyday life in modern industrial nations has been shaped by technologies that have radically altered the nature of travel (cars, trains, aeroplanes, submarines, spacecraft), communication (telephones, television, telegraphs, radio, computers and satellites), and warfare (rockets, missiles, aeroplanes, nuclear weapons), among others. These technologies have recreated human geographies through their capacity to transcend distance and time, allowing the traffic of information and material culture across vast spaces, sometimes almost instantaneously. They are the foundation of the globalising world, and yet the material culture of globalisation is rarely examined critically from an archaeological perspective. Given WAC’s aim to redress global inequities, it is timely to focus an archaeological gaze on the technologies that support the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ of the 21st century. Sessions are invited to examine the sites, places and artefacts created by critical technologies, including but not limited to such topics as:


  1. The Cold War and nuclear confrontation
  2. Telecommunications
  3. Aerospace
  4. Outer space
  5. Robotics
  6. Technological landscapes
  7. Heritage management and conservation challenges
  8. Defence and warfare
  9. Indigenous engagement with critical technologies
  10. Theoretical issues in contemporary archaeology
  11. Capitalism and critical technologies
  12. The archaeology of the future

Critical technologies are not confined to the 20th century and after; we also encourage papers and session proposals that investigate 17th-19th century antecedents of modern technologies, and their impacts.




Cultural And Intellectual Property Issues in Archaeological Heritage: Identifying the Issues, Developing Modes of Resolution

George Nicholas (Simon Fraser University)

Sven Ouzman (University of Pretoria, Department of Anthropology & Archaeology)

Susan Forbes (Te Papa Tongarewa)

Eric Kansa (University of California, Berkeley)


In recent decades, questions about who “owns” or has the right to benefit from “the past” have emerged as highly contentious issues in archaeology and cultural heritage domains, charged with political, economic, and ethical implications for diverse stakeholders. Scholars, practitioners, Indigenous groups, and policymakers worldwide increasingly face these issues in situations ranging from potential applications of ancient genetic material, to restrictions on researchers’ access to data, to the widespread use of ancient images in marketing, and, of course, to reburial and repatriation of cultural patrimony. Concerns about ownership of, control over, and/or access to both objects and information continue to increase. In addition, digital information has great potential for endless replication, reuse and “remixing,” but the legal, social, and ethical dimensions of remixing cultural heritage are poorly understood. These issues cut across both disciplinary and geographic boundaries, and they affect individual researchers, local communities, federal agencies, universities, museums and international organizations, as well as developers, tourism firms, media producers, and the public at large.

Our objective for this theme is to generate sessions that will: a) document the diversity of problems, principles, interpretations, and actions arising in response to cultural and intellectual property issues in cultural heritage; b) analyze and offer insights into the many implications of these situations; c) generate more robust theoretical understandings of the issues; and d) identify best practices for ensuring fair access and equitable resolution. We thus seek submissions on all aspects of cultural and intellectual property issues, especially in terms of case studies and applied situations.

This theme is being organized as one facet of the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage project (www.sfu.ca/IPinCulturalHeritage)



Developing International Geoarchaeology

Helen Lewis (University College Dublin, UCD School of Archaeology)

Melissa Goodman-Elgar (Washington State University)

Stefania Merlo (University of Botswana)


Developing International Geoarchaeology is the title of two very successful recent international conferences bringing together geoarchaeologists from around the world. The goal of DIG is to bring together a wide variety of international researchers, practitioners and students in what is a diverse and interdisciplinary field in order to facilitate discussion, stimulate research, and promote international scholarship in geoarchaeology.

This proposal is to expand the DIG remit and audience, by running a series of sessions and poster sessions focused on developing geoarchaeological approaches internationally, as a theme at the World Archaeological Congress, aimed at the world archaeological audience. The intent is to present work interesting to an international and interdisciplinary audience, to elicit discussion of geoarchaeological approaches, and to make new connections between archaeologists from different parts of the world. The theme will also be associated with an international archaeological soil micromorphology workshop, to be run independently at UCD in the 2-3 days prior to WAC.

Most sessions will include both oral and poster presentations. We aim to allow as many presentations as possible, but may have to limit the number of oral presentations if there is significant demand.




Emerging Global Archaeologies
In association with ICOMOS Scientific Committee for Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM)

Douglas Comer (Cultural Site Research and Management, Inc.)

Brian Egloff (University of Canberra, Cultural Heritage Studies)


Technologies provide rapidly expanding access to information, perspectives, and place. They have rendered archaeology a fundamentally global discipline in which arguments for narratives, understandings (especially in the sense of Geisteswissenschaften), and explanations can compete with and enrich one another. Four issues stand out here:

  1. Ethical Standards for Global Archaeologies: Emerging from colonialism, archaeologists now celebrate the existence of archaeologies, or multiple accounts of the past based upon material evidence. We are also on record as favouring repatriation for museum quality artefacts and sacred material. Still, material of greater historical, scientific, and ideological value than that which inheres in most museum objects is frequently obliterated by development, and even by archaeological excavation. This destruction is incompletely mitigated by recordation and reports. Is excavation for any reason other than salvage ethically defensible? Should excavation be conducted only by those demonstrating the most persuasive affiliation with a site, and, if so, should they be held to different standards if access to technologies and training is limited? How should archaeologists integrate and transparently document capacity building and interaction with indigenous communities into research?
  2. Standardization: Does the absence of rigorously applied global professional standards deny archaeologists effective participation in planning developments in ways that minimize destruction of cultural resources? Why have the standards and policies held by global development organizations (e.g., the World Bank) usually not resulted in this? Should global standards be developed by professional organizations such as WAC or ICAHM? If so, how should they be enforced? Training in archaeology is dominated by a few countries. Should this training be standardized to empower nascent indigenous scholarly perspectives?
  3. Global Interpretations: It seems logical that greater access to archaeologically-derived data by more people via the Internet should produce more interesting and useful interpretations. Global theoretical schemes, however, have been criticized as inextricably bound to notions of progress used to legitimate colonial and neo- colonial positions. What are the potentials and pitfalls here? Are there examples of global interpretations that have provided important historical or scientific insights? Do global interpretations of the past inevitably overwhelm local interpretations that are integral to the ideologies that sustain indigenous cultures?
  4. Landscape Preservation: Development and attendant homogenization of cultures threatens to eliminate traditional ways of life. Deforestation, construction of impermeable surfaces, and the use of fossil fuels destroys environments on local and global scales. A shift in emphasis from the site to the landscape would make archaeology more relevant to landscape preservation, but how can this be done? The role of archaeology in the development process is variable. Can this be standardized, or can we provide best practices? Further, certain technologies, including aerial and satellite remote sensing and the use of GIS, are especially useful to landscape research. Objections have been raised by some, however, that these technologies can be misused by looters; inherently violate state sovereignty; and pose threats to the security of institutions and individuals. What is the promise of these technologies, and how can the concerns that have been raised be addressed?



Engaged and Useful Archaeologies

David Gadsby (University of Maryland, Center for Heritage Resource Studies)

Sarah Colley (University of Sydney, Department of Archaeology, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry)

Barbara Little (University of Maryland, Department of Anthropology)

Paul Shackel (University of Maryland, Department of Anthropology)

Laurajane Smith (University of York, Department of Archaeology)


Archaeologists struggle to make their work relevant to a variety of communities and disciplines. Issues to which archaeologists apply their work range from ecological conservation and sustainability, to land claim issues, to economic development through tourism, to promoting heritage and identity, to building communities, to battling racism.

We propose this theme in the belief that archaeologists not only have a great deal to learn from human beings through time and across the planet, but also that we have a great deal of useful information to impart to non-archaeologists. Thus we welcome the inclusion of other ways of knowing about the past, especially ancient wisdom traditions. Our problems today include poverty, starvation, lack of clean water, racism, misogyny and abuse of women, changing definitions of family, war, invasions, slavery, religious conflicts, migrations, and the impact of humans on the earth. Of what use is archaeology in addressing such issues?

Engaged and useful archaeologies attempt to address and inform these problems by reshaping the structure of our communication with communities of Indigenous people, descendant communities, and researchers from other disciplines. They also have the potential to recast the roles and responsibilities of archaeologists to the communities in and with which they work. They recognize the voices of Indigenous groups, descendant communities, and other constituencies, ensuring that they possess power within the whole course of the archaeological process. They also provide relevant, useful, and timely information which can serve a tool for solving social and scientific problems.

Such archaeologies become an effective foil for intellectual colonialism. In doing so, they cast researchers as facilitators who have something to offer in exchange for the archaeological information that they collect and helps to balance the complex power relationships between researchers and communities. Ultimately, archaeology becomes a tool for civic engagement, activism, and social justice as well as a powerful source of information about the history of the human race and the world it inhabits.

We invite proposals that elucidate archaeological approaches to engagement with communities of all kinds as well as sessions that explore:

  1. ecological lessons in sustainability;
  2. health, disease and the aftermath of epidemics;
  3. community healing and community building;
  4. religious conflicts and cooperation;
  5. multicultural and multiethnic accommodation, particularly with respect to migrations;
  6. enslavement and the struggle for freedom;
  7. heritage as a tool of peace;
  8. making money from archaeology – ethical, professional & theoretical implications;
  9. does archaeology always need to be ‘useful’ and why?;
  10. who benefits from archaeology and why?

Sessions within this theme explore these various problems in engaged practice and show how archaeologists are implementing new programs that serve and empower communities through heritage.




Exploring WAC’s Approach(es) to Ethics
In association with The WAC Committee on Ethics

Julie Hollowell (University of British Columbia, Department of Anthropology)

Alexander Herrera (Universidad de los Andes, Departamento de Antropologia)


This theme, organized by the co-chairs of the WAC Committee on Ethics, seeks to elicit possibilities, guidance, and feedback from those attending WAC6 on how to approach ethical issues that come to the organization’s attention. WAC is increasingly asked to provide expert guidance on a wide range of ethical dilemmas that arise in local and global archaeological interactions. WAC needs a framework based on its own core values—one that incorporates intercultural dialogue, social justice, and accountability to people and to the past—to inform the process of responding to particular situations.

With this in mind, the WAC Committee on Ethics has begun exploring various frameworks and guidelines for ethical decision-making that highlight approaches archaeologists and others might use to think through what are often complex issues in ways that would ensure better informed and more equitable decision-making and research relationships. We invite people from diverse parts of the world to share ethical contradictions and quandaries they face in relation to archaeology or heritage practice. We are especially interested in learning from situations where equitable and thoughtful resolutions have occurred and in gathering positive and negative examples of how ethical dilemmas have been (or should have been) handled in practice, and in some cases resolved. We hope to hear from people in diverse parts of the world so as to better understand how WAC’s values articulate with a range of social and political contexts and constraints.

We welcome contributions to this theme in diverse and interactive formats. These could be in the form of:

  1. sessions whose participants describe and analyze approaches to ethical issues in particular locations and situations with the aim of locating good practices;
  2. forums where ethical case studies are discussed and analyzed;
  3. roundtable discussions on different philosophical frameworks that might guide ethical action by WAC;
  4. other formats and topics.




Getting the Message Across – Communicating Archaeology

Marcia de Almeida (Sociedade de Arqueologia Brasileira)

Anne Pyburn (Indiana University)


Archaeology links the past with the present, but it also links people with common heritage across borders, and colonized peoples around the world. Archaeology links the academy to the public and the economy to the polity. Furthermore, archaeology links science to humanism at the most fundamental level.

All of these links are avenues of communication and all of them offer opportunities for archaeologists and heritage workers to learn from the past, to teach about diversity, to work for social justice, to create economic opportunity, to encourage preservation, and to be politically active. The key issue is always “the message”: how do practicing professionals learn what aspects of their research and practice provide important and useful information on one hand, or fuel for defamation and dangerous stereotypes on the other? How can they get access to the information they need to make informed decisions about ethical engagement?

The topic of this theme is “getting the message across” in reference to all of these types of messages. Communication requires an exchange of ideas and cannot rest on the dissemination of academic wisdom: successful teaching is the most engaged of all work. Teaching is not something that one person or one group does to, or for, another group; it must be conducted on a collaborative basis. Teaching is a form of communication; it is a dialogical process. Above all, teaching is something that people must do together.

Sessions in this theme will discuss the messages of mass media, the classroom, community based research, and public displays and events. The idea of messages and the communication of ideas cuts across many of the other themes of this Congress, and we hope this theme will provide an integrative forum for the many voices and perspectives of archaeology.




Heritage Tourism Agendas

Gerard Corsane (University of Newcastle upon Tyne, School of Arts and Cultures)

Lyn Leader-Elliott (Flinders University of South Australia)

Kelly Dixon (The University of Montana, Department of Anthropology)

Cornelius Holtorf (University of Lund, Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens historia)


This theme will examine ways in which the principles of culturally sustainable tourism can intersect with those of heritage management and interpretation.

Heritage is assumed to include intangible as well as tangible values. We encourage contributors to take a broad view of cultural heritage and to consider it in relation to the natural environments in which it has evolved. Cultural landscapes, sense of place and spirit of place will be discussed, as well as specific sites, collections, cultural practice and performance.

A strong body of international charters and guidelines now sets frameworks for ethical cultural and heritage tourism, such as those for sustainable tourism, cultural tourism, Indigenous tourism and ecotourism. There are also guidelines for cultural and natural heritage identification, management, presentation and interpretation. We seek critical reflection on these guidelines, and examples of ways in which they are being applied in different communities and different cultural contexts. In addition, the entertaining ‘capacities’ of archaeology have provided heritage management with experience and expertise spanning both tourism and research. At the same time, archaeologists and others have been investigating the history of entertainment, emphasising the social importance of leisure pursuits over time, as well as the politics and ethics of entertainment in the past and in the present to underscore the ways in which entertainment has often been exclusive and enjoyable to some people at the expense of others.

Democratising decision making in heritage tourism projects is a major issue in many countries, especially where there are power imbalances between the tourism industry and host communities. We seek examples of projects in which processes are being negotiated and developed to achieve results that benefit communities as well as commercial stakeholders. We also seek projects that encourage interdisciplinary examinations of the worldwide fusion of entertainment and archaeology and that explore the antiquity of the concept of cultural tourism within a global context.

This theme will cover issues of:

  1. Ownership, authenticity, and collaborative partnerships
  2. The need to match audiences (markets) with heritage tourism product and processes
  3. Archaeology, ethical and engaging interpretation, visitor experiences
  4. Ownership and democratisation of the processes of heritage tourism product development, marketing and distribution.
  5. International principles and protocols, charters and declarations: intentions and achievements
  6. Sustainable tourism – integrating cultural and social factors
  7. Archaeology, Entertainment, and Heritage Tourism
  8. Identifying, presenting and interpreting sense of place/spirit of place to tourists/visitors





Indigenous Archaeologies: New Challenges

Sally Brockwell (Australian National University, Department of Archaeology and Natural History, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies)

Anna Källén (Stockholm University)

Susan O’Connor (Australian National University, Department of Archaeology and Natural History, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies)

Rasmi Shoocongdej (Silpakorn University)

Dawn Casey (Western Australian Museum)


Indigenous Archaeology has become a signature of WAC. Through the active promotion of indigenous issues in archaeology, WAC has contributed greatly to the vital discussion of the social values and contemporary consequences of archaeological practice. This theme seeks to build on this tradition of articulating critique against socially irresponsible archaeology and heritage management, and to focus on the numerous issues that are relevant for Indigenous archaeology in 2008.

Indigenous archaeology, with its strong emphasis on the social dimensions of archaeology, has been fundamental in establishing dialogue about ethics and global perspectives on heritage management. However, it has arguably also been involved in creating stable discursive categories of good (indigenous) and bad (nationalist/imperialist) archaeologies, which has lead to an appropriation of the term ‘Indigenous’ as an etiquette that should guarantee an ethical and essentially ‘good’ archaeological practice. Recent discussions about repatriation, the ownership of heritage, and cultural and natural resource management, bring these categories of allegedly good and bad archaeologies out for scrutiny, indicating the benefits of going beyond these stable valorized categories in the discussions of Indigenous archaeologies.

This theme welcomes proposals for sessions and papers addressing issues that are in all possible ways related to Indigenous archaeology, and in particular, those that offer critical reflection on recent directions in research and heritage management. The aim is to generate involved, passionate and controversial discussions that stimulate new creative thinking in global and local archaeologies.




Intimate Encounters, Postcolonial Engagements: Archaeologies of Empire and Sexuality

Barbara Voss (Stanford University, Department of Anthropology)

Eleanor Casella(University of Manchester, School of Arts, Histories, and Cultures)


The goal of this project is to stimulate research and discussion on issues of sexuality in the archaeology of colonialism. Archaeology has tended to minimize sexuality in its studies of colonization and of colonial, colonized, and post-colonial societies, although our colleagues in other disciplines have long understood that sexual politics and sexual encounters were central to projects of empire and in local responses to those projects. Participants are invited to (re)examine and (re)imagine archaeological research in ways that confront sexual silences in the archaeology of the colonial past and present. What can archaeologys methodological emphases on place, material culture, and representation bring to studies of sexuality and colonialism? How do theories of materiality, landscape, and representation contribute new perspectives to queer theory and postcolonial theory?



Issues in Historical Archaeology

James Delle (Kutztown University)

Charles Orser (New York State Museum)

Tadhg O’Keeffe (University College Dublin, UCD School of Archaeology)

Pedro Funari (Campinas University, Brazil)


After decades of relative neglect, the archaeological study of the past five centuries is firmly established as one of the most vibrant and challenging pursuits in World Archaeology. No branch of the discipline has a richer data-base than Historical Archaeology, and no branch is, we suggest, so overly political or engages so overtly with the world of politics. WAC6 in Dublin offers us a perfect opportunity, in an appropriately resonant location, to review its progress and to debate its core concerns and methods.

We invite colleagues to organise and contribute to a series of sessions which explore those issues which most Historical Archaeologists regard as central to the field. Among these are colonialism and postcolonialism; capitalism (and Jamesonesque ‘late capitalism’); modernity and postmodernity; local and global scales of enquiry, globalisation, class and inequality, time and temporality, intertextuality, and historical materialism.


Land and Archaeology

Alejandro Haber (Universidad Nacional de Catamarca, School of Archaeology)

Martin Wobst (University of Massachusetts, Department of Anthropology)


Archaeology is heavily dependent on land-related concepts. Almost every archaeological argument and publication implies relationships to land, and makes assumptions and applies concepts about land. Without those usually implicit and often hidden assumptions one could not talk about archaeological sites, archaeological surveys, or archaeological landscapes, nor settlement patterns, or archaeological cultures. Relationships to land are more or less overtly implied in many archaeological theories and theoretical models, and archaeology is practiced on land, surveying, excavating, measuring and removing data on land. Relationships to land are conceptualized very differently by colonizers and colonized, before and after colonization, by urban and rural people, by lords and peasants, and by the same people in different phases of their history. Many of these relationships differ significantly from those implied by archaeological theories and practices. To some peoples land is a powerful and loving being, with important implications for their relationships to that land. Land is often a very central issue in Indigenous and other peoples’ theorizing, in contrast to the concept of territory. Often, land claims are the foremost aims in Indigenous and/or peasants’ social and political movements. Particular territories are usually very important in Indigenous and/or local collective identities.

This symposium will help expose and critically scrutinize the different discourses on the relationships to land in archaeology, the diversity and richness of relationships to land, and the ways in which archaeology has reinforced or disempowered particular kinds of relationships to land and discourses about land. Under this theme, participants are encouraged to create symposia, strategy sessions toward future interactions, round tables, work-shops, counter-posed position papers, or critical analyses of recent practice. Initial planning anticipates the following topics:


  1. Cultural concepts about land and their material markers.
  2. Land ownership: history of the concept, and its range of variation in pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial contexts.
  3. Archaeological theory and method on Land and their effect on the land of descendant populations.
  4. Archaeological practices on land.
  5. Archaeological metaphors about land.
  6. Past land uses as resources for the present.
  7. Archaeology as the hand-maiden of settler societies.
  8. Decolonizing the landscape. Archaeological research to fight colonization, internal colonization, and re-colonization in the age of post-colonial theory?
  9. Why has landscape become the buzz-word of this decade?
  10. Toward variation, change and diversity in land studies.
  11. The archaeology of low intensity uses of the land.



Living in Island Worlds

Paul Rainbird (University of Wales, Deptment of Archaeology & Anthropology)

Bernard Knapp (University of Glasgow, Department of Archaeology)

Ian Lilley(University of Queensland, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit)

Aidan O’Sullivan (University College Dublin, UCD School of Archaeology)


Islands have long been fascinating places for poets, artists and writers, providing usefully blank sheets to imagine utopian societies or to re-imagine existing nations – as in colonial encounters between empires and discovered islands. Islands are also of interest to scientists who explore the distinctive qualities of island fauna and flora. It is unsurprising then that island archaeology has rapidly emerged as an exciting and innovative sub-discipline in archaeology. With a long history of providing evidence of Darwinian evolution and biogeographical models it is not surprising that an emerging scientific archaeology was attracted to island studies. But islands have also been the subject of anthropological fascination dating from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century expeditions to the Torres Strait and Trobriands amongst other locations. Anthropological and other social methods have also then attracted archaeologists to islands. Island archaeologies explore such issues as the perceptions and uses of islands, landscapes and surrounding waters; the role of islands as bounded places in the construction of distinctive social identities and the connections that people have established within – and between – islands and outside worlds. Until recently, islands were seen as usefully isolated ‘laboratories’ for the study of social change across time, but more recent studies emphasise the connections that islanders make with outside worlds, giving rise to an interest in ‘islandscapes’. There are several geographical areas of island interest in archaeology, with the Pacific and Mediterranean perhaps being best known in past research and publications on archaeological approaches to islands. The Caribbean, north Atlantic Islands (including Britain and Ireland), the islands of South East Asia, the Indian Ocean and those of the Americas, particularly the west and northwest coast of North America, as well as many other islands outside these regions, are also witnessing thriving research at the moment. Emerging archaeological research in islands all around the world will therefore be drawn together in this theme. Island worlds have been viewed variously as restrictive or expansive, the sea as a barrier or bridge to communication, but is there/should there be a difference between island archaeology and coastal archaeology, or is there a need for a sub-discipline at all? In this Theme we invite sessions that address such questions, we also wish to encourage themes that are regional, but would also welcome proposals that offer a comparative perspective to the issue of living in island worlds. We also recognise that sessions and papers need not deal solely with the past, for example, what are the threats and opportunities to small island nations in relation to heritage management, and particularly concerns related to climate and other environmental change. The term ‘Island’ has also become a potent metaphor which equates to insularity, collective identities, isolation and microcosms and sessions and papers exploring this in archaeology will also be welcome.



Maritime and Underwater Archaeology

Chris Underwood (Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Pensamiento Latinoamericano)

Connie Kelleher (Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Matthew Russell (National Park Service, Submerged Resources Center)


Given Ireland’s geographic position off continental Europe and its strong maritime traditions it is appropriate that WAC 6 includes a theme that embraces all aspects related to the sea and inland waterways, and the technologies that enabled humankind to migrate and settle around the world.

Maritime archaeology encompasses a diverse range of interests. These include human habitation on now submerged coastal landscapes to the use of the sea and inland waterways, with this often being the impetus that encouraged the establishment and expansion of settlements. The development of waterborne transport and their components also enabled the essential industries of fishing, transport, and trade to thrive and, equally, this expansion in waterborne power led, in many cases, to conflict and controversy for many nations.

With growing international support for the spirit of the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, it is also important that the world’s underwater and maritime archaeology community can come together to discuss and exemplify, through a broad scope of papers, the challenges that the discipline will face over the next decades.

The Theme will include a wide range of sessions including, projects that fall within the terms, maritime, nautical, marine, coastal and underwater archaeology and issues relating to methodology, legislation, resource management and public archaeology.



Materializing Identities I: personhood, politics and the presentation of identity

Joanna Brück (University College Dublin, UCD School of Archaeology)

Chris Fowler (Newcastle University)


This theme aims to address how people in different cultural contexts employ the material world to construct, challenge and transform social identities. The objects we use and the ways we use them define us and our place in the world. In addition, the properties of material things are often drawn on to describe features of people and communities in metaphorical terms. Material culture is therefore integral to the construction of the self and the creation of social relationships; as such, it facilitates both practical and social engagement with the world around us. However, this process has significant political ramifications. The apparent ‘permanence’ of the material world means that things are often strategically employed to define the ‘essence’ of particular social groups. Identity is, however, also fluid, transient and susceptible to contestation, so that the meanings ascribed to things may become the focus of intense debate.

From bodily ornament and modification to the stories woven around heirlooms, from religious architecture to the use of archaeological icons such the Tara brooch to construct nationalist ideologies, there are myriad ways in which the material world is employed to create identity. Indeed, the various ways in which social and cultural identity are embedded in and expressed through the material world have long been a focus of archaeological inquiry. Since the culture-historical approaches of the early twentieth century through to ongoing debates regarding rights over cultural property, research on how people draw the material world into discourses on identity continues to be one of the key contributions of our discipline to the humanities and social sciences.

Sessions are invited to examine the relationship between identities and material things – including bodies, landscapes, architecture, objects and natural substances. Sessions may focus on the role of material things in the production of, for example:

  1. Sexed and gendered identities
  2. Age groups and generational identities
  3. Personal identities
  4. Kin groups and family identities
  5. Ethnic and cultural identities
  6. Political groups and identities
  7. Religious and spiritual identities
  8. Human identities (vis à vis non-human beings, objects, etc)

Contributions within this theme may examine how identities come to be materialised through specific practices and events, and the role played by material culture in the maintenance and transformation of identities over time. Sessions may include studies covering any period of the past up to the present day and any part of the world and should present these in a comparative thematic context.




Materializing Identities II: materials, techniques, practice

Joanna Brück (University College Dublin, UCD School of Archaeology)

Chris Fowler (Newcastle University)


This theme aims to address how people in different cultural contexts employ the material world to construct, challenge and transform social identities. The objects we use and the ways we use them define us and our place in the world. In addition, the properties of material things are often drawn on to describe features of people and communities in metaphorical terms. Material culture is therefore integral to the construction of the self and the creation of social relationships; as such, it facilitates both practical and social engagement with the world around us. However, this process has significant political ramifications. The apparent ‘permanence’ of the material world means that things are often strategically employed to define the ‘essence’ of particular social groups. Identity is, however, also fluid, transient and susceptible to contestation, so that the meanings ascribed to things may become the focus of intense debate.

From bodily ornament and modification to the stories woven around heirlooms, from religious architecture to the use of archaeological icons such the Tara brooch to construct nationalist ideologies, there are myriad ways in which the material world is employed to create identity. Indeed, the various ways in which social and cultural identity are embedded in and expressed through the material world have long been a focus of archaeological inquiry. Since the culture-historical approaches of the early twentieth century through to ongoing debates regarding rights over cultural property, research on how people draw the material world into discourses on identity continues to be one of the key contributions of our discipline to the humanities and social sciences.

Sessions are invited to examine the relationship between identities and material things – including bodies, landscapes, architecture, objects and natural substances. Sessions may focus on the role of material things in the production of, for example:

  1. Sexed and gendered identities
  2.             Age groups and generational identities
  3. Personal identities
  4. Kin groups and family identities
  5. Ethnic and cultural identities
  6. Political groups and identities
  7. Religious and spiritual identities
  8. Human identities (vis à vis non-human beings, objects, etc)

Contributions within this theme may examine how identities come to be materialised through specific practices and events, and the role played by material culture in the maintenance and transformation of identities over time. Sessions may include studies covering any period of the past up to the present day and any part of the world and should present these in a comparative thematic context.




Memory, Archaeology, and Oral Traditions

Lynette Russell (Monash University)

Siân Jones (University of Manchester, School of Arts, Histories, and Cultures)


Memory has become a prolific area of enquiry in many disciplines, including archaeology, to the extent that reviewers identify a memory “boom” or “industry”. Once the refuge of the individual, there is now much talk of collective or social memory, which is thought to play a key role in the production of historical consciousness and group identities. The emphasis on active selection and construction of memory in the present has particular appeal for those disillusioned with the idea of an objective, distanced historical enquiry. Much research has focused on memory’s capacity to destabilise the authority of grand narratives and disturb dominant ways of understanding the past. In archaeology these developments have been prominent in post- colonial contexts and indigenous archaeology. Yet there are also parallel trends in Europe, where oral history and social memory are seen as a means to access vernacular culture and subaltern understandings of the past.

This theme will explore the relationship between memory, oral tradition and archaeology. It interrogates the concepts of memory and oral history, and explores their relationship to written sources and grand historical narratives. Sessions explore a range of issues:

  1. How should we conceive of oral tradition and social memory? And in recognizing their significance, how do we avoid objectifying and romanticizing them?
  2. Does a dichotomy between oral history/social memory and history still prevail and if so what are its effects on our understandings of the past? How do we deal with the intersection of written history and oral memory?
  3. To what extent is social memory disparate, located and fragmented and how do authoritative narratives emerge and persist? Can the study of memory and oral traditions contribute to multivocality and how might it challenge hegemonic colonial and indeed post-colonial discourses?
  4. What role do archaeological remains play in the production of oral history and social memory? What of the other “props of memory” – texts, images, folktales, myths, and places?
  5. How are oral traditions and social memory involved in the production of a sense of place? What are the processes involved in the materialization of memory?
  6. To what extent has a concern with oral tradition impacted on archaeological enquiry and what role does memory play in the discipline and in the making of disciplinary histories?
  7. Finally, what are the implications in terms of how we practice archaeology, represent the past, and conserve and manage heritage places?

The scope of the theme is worldwide. We welcome contributions on diverse topics, including:

  1. indigenous archaeology and oral tradition; ethno-archaeology and oral tradition;
  2. missions and mission stories; working class oral tradition and the social memory of labour;
  3. archaeology of war sites and oral tradition;
  4. the role of oral tradition and memory in migrant and diaspora communities;
  5. oral tradition and memory within the discipline of archeology.




Migration and Movement

Luiz Oosterbeek (Instituto Politecnico de Tomar)

Thomas Kador (University College Dublin, UCD School of Archaeology)

Tadhg O’Keeffe (University College Dublin, UCD School of Archaeology)

Susanne Hakenbeck (University of Cambridge, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research)


Movement is central to human existence and is consequently very much part of our everyday lives. Without movement our lives would be unimaginable, in fact we would cease to exist. However, movement comes in countless different scales both temporary and spatial; from the daily commute to a long distance journey and from a solitary stroll to mass migrations. While migration narratives have long been at the heart of explanations for social change in many archaeological traditions around the globe and have often been cause for heated debate, movement itself appears to have been received far less explicit archaeological attention. This is despite the fact that clearly migration cannot occur without significant amount of human movement.

The emergence of modern scientific analyses in archaeology has added fresh dimensions to our understandings of the processes involved in past people’s movements, and have granted new possibility for investigating them. The study of mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosomes for example has helped the production of extremely popular large scale migration narratives, especially as these datasets directly relate to modern populations. Skeletal stable isotope analysis on the other hand – in particular of strontium and lead – has allowed a focus on the journeys undertaken by particular individuals during their lifetime but have also been used to infer potential marriage and migration patterns. Approaches such as these have thus provided new impetus for re-examining the evidence for past movement and migration on all levels and scales.

This theme will bring together sessions concentrating on the various dimensions of movement from the small scale perspectives of individual journeys to seasonal movement cycles and migrations with a broad geographical focus. The sessions will also highlight the chronological depth of movement and migration studies in modern archaeology and anthropology, considering migrations of the earliest hominids across Africa and into Eurasia as well as historical and contemporary perspectives of both small scale movements and migrations. By uniting this myriad of topics and approaches under the one theme we draw attention to the close relation between the various aspects and scales of movement and migration which has to date not been fully explored



Moving Beyond the Meal: The Economics and Politics of Communal Foraging

Jill Jensen (Bureau of Land Management, Nevada, Elko Field Office)

William “Bill” Fawcett (Bureau of Land Management, Nevada, Elko Field Office)

Alejandra Korstanje (National University of Tucumán)


Communal foraging spans the world and much of human history. Although the immediate tangible outcome of communal foraging events may appear to be subsistence oriented, participation carries significant social, political, economic and personal costs and benefits. Communal foraging events also play important roles in the formation, maintenance, and negotiation of social and personal identities. Social rules for divisions of labor by sex, gender, and age are challenged and redefined in the context of communal foraging events. Such events are frequently targeted for exploitation/appropriation by outside/aggressive parties.

This theme brings a global archaeological perspective to the problems raised by communal foraging. The emphasis of the theme is on communalism involving food, thus “foraging” is treated here rather broadly and is meant to include practices by hunter-gatherer, horticulturalist, agriculturalist, and industrialized societies. Our aim is to structure the theme so that each session successively builds up a framework for understanding the phenomena of communal foraging. Proposed sessions may include the following: 1) Communalism, Group-Effort, and Familial Enterprises: The implications of definitions and recognizing the difference in the archaeological record, 2) Variations in Communal Foraging, 3) The Role of Facilities and Technologies, 4) Motivations for and Consequences of Participation, and 5) Indigenous Perspectives on Archaeological Inference.

Depending on the interests and abilities of the participants sessions will include traditional presentations, posters, panel discussions, group discussions based on electronic presentation of papers, or a hybrid of these formats.

Visit the theme web site >>



Our Changing Planet: Past Human Environments in Modern Contexts

Purity Kiura (National Museums of Kenya)

Matthew Davies (University of Oxford, St Hugh’s College)

Freda Nkirote (National Museums of Kenya)


This theme takes as a starting point a broad conception of ‘human environments’ as comprising physical (both ‘natural’ and ‘built’) and cognitive (social/cultural) elements. It aims to explore how people in the past engaged with and actively shaped these environments and, following this, how the archaeological study of past human environments can contribute to our understanding of modern land-use and environmental management. In particular, it aims to address the potential role of archaeology to understanding contemporary issues of environmental degradation, conflict over land and resources, and effective land management schemes. It also aims to encourage the discussion of key themes such as environmental ‘conservation’ and ‘sustainability’ and stimulate engagement with issues of climate change and global warming. In addition, this theme aims to encourage dialogue with cognate disciplines such as physical geography, historical geography, anthropology and ethnohistory and to discuss concepts such as ‘historical ecology’ and ‘landscape history’.

A range of both theoretical and research based papers are encouraged. In particular, papers which focus on defining the role of archaeology in understanding human-environment interactions and the theoretical and practical integration of diverse data sources will be viewed favourably. Papers which address issues of the moral and social responsibility of archaeologists, for example in substantiating or refuting land-claims, or assessing anthropogenic land-degradation, are also desired. In addition, we encourage archaeological case-studies and original pieces of research that aim to reconstruct past human-environment interactions and then relate these data to modern environmental concerns.

This theme also recognises that, while disciplines such as cultural ecology and evolutionary ecology often view human-environment interactions in functionalist and adaptionist terms, there is a real need to introduce a more humanistic perspective to such studies. Thus we encourage papers that explore the nature of human-environment interactions and which demonstrate the social/cultural processes whereby humans create their environment by classifying, categorising, building, manipulating and ascribing value to spaces and places. Both theoretical and practical papers which consider issues such as past and present systems of land-tenure, land/heritage ownership, range-management, and modern land conflicts are encouraged. In addition, papers which include consideration of past ritual and ceremonial landscapes and their impact on past and modern land-use practices/claims will be seen favourably.




Peopling the Past, Individualizing the Present: Bioarchaeological Contributions in a Global Context

Pamela Geller (University of Pennsylvania, Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology)

Alan Morris (University of Cape Town, Department of Human Biology)

Patrick Randolph-Quinney (University of Dundee, Unit of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology)


The human skeleton is affected by the life experience of the individual in terms of growth and development, nutrition, activity patterns, disease history and health stress, offset against the effects of familial inheritance and ancestry. From a bioarchaeological perspective each individual is unique, but data for groups of individuals can provide a wealth of information about whole populations in the past, as well as providing a framework for the study of individuals and groups in the present.

Critical reflection reminds us that historically the study of human remains has overtly or unconsciously evinced racist, ethnocentric, and sexist ideas. Accordingly, more recent outcries from descendant communities and sympathetic scholars have evoked important ideological and/or legal shifts—WAC’s Vermillion Accord, the U.S.’s NAGPRA, Australia’s ATSIHPA, and England’s Working Group on Human Remains being notable upshots. Analyses of human remains, nonetheless, remain a controversial issue, perhaps because the dialogue is often perceived as only being dichotomous and conflicting.

The study of human remains can open the door to important aspects of individual and populational life history, which cannot be recovered from other sources. But, how is the knowledge that bioarchaeologists produce important beyond our academic environs? Does this information have direct relevance or utility in the present day? In what way is the information obtained from analyses of human remains of value not just to scientists but descendant communities? Why do we do what we do and for whom? From this basis, we challenge contributors to think reflexively about their bioarchaeological work with regard to its sociopolitical relevance in the present.

Contributors may wrestle with these queries in several ways. They can consider how their populational research concerned with growth and development, nutrition, activity patterns, disease, and health impact medical diagnosis or treatment of present day peoples. They may consider how studies of past populations impinge on the identification of individuals in current forensic or mass-disaster contexts. They may explore how knowledge is communicated to the wider public. Or, participants may elaborate upon collaborations between researchers and descendant communities. Seeing that descendant communities should have a significant say in what happens to their ancestors’ human remains, what changes have we seen in the past decade with regard to repatriation and scientific research? When scientific research has occurred with descendants’ input, what research questions do these communities bring to the fore? And recognizing that descendant communities have diverse histories and experiences that contour their perspectives and wishes how might future collaborations proceed?

WAC6 provides an especially unique opportunity for scholars from six continents to collaborate on issues of global significance. The ultimate aim of the theme is to trigger debate on the study of human remains but also unashamedly to show the value of thosestudies. So as to broaden debate about and understanding of bioarchaeological studies, we encourage considerations from regions—Africa, East Asia, Australasia—and groups historically marginalized or under-represented in previous discussions. In doing so, we anticipate effecting productive and congenial discussion about this highly sensitive issue.


Provisional Independent Sessions




Rainforest as artefact

Huw Barton (University of Leicester)

Victor Paz (University of the Philippines)

Tim Denham (Monash University)

Jean Kennedy (Australian National University)

Robin Torrence (Australian Museum)


The purpose of this theme is to reset the agenda concerning research on the long-term history of human-rainforest interactions, with a primary focus on subsistence. The major outcome of this discussion will be to (1) form a clearer picture of the current critical issues in understanding human-rainforest interactions; (2) what it is we need to know in order to move forward; and (3) what research strategies and methodologies are likely to address the identified questions and to produce the most significant results in the future.

For many years researchers have been trying to identify the signature of human behaviour in tropical landscapes, untangle the interactions between human versus natural process, and determine the antiquity of occupation and various management and agricultural practices. In various contexts archaeologists and anthropologists recognize a range of human initiatives and responses to the problems of daily subsistence posed by tropical rainforest. Finding solutions to these problems is proving both complex and demanding because it requires the cross fertilization of ideas and methodology from a wide range of disciplines including archaeology, anthropology, botany, ethnobotany, palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, and genetics. It is hoped that by bringing together a wide range of scholars from across the globe, and from a wide variety of disciplines, the sessions will lead to new collaborative research projects and be a source for new ideas. Our approach is multi-disciplinary an d we invite applications from all disciplines and methodologies to encourage all of us to think ‘outside the box’ and identify new research directions. We invite new Session proposals within this Theme.

As part of this theme exploring the idea of ‘Rainforest as Artefact’ we hope to include a series of sessions on ‘aboriculture/agroforestry’, ‘plant translocation’, and ‘shifting cultivation’, which may fission into additional sessions depending on interest and numbers. This list is not exclusive and we will explore new territory depending on interest. In these particular sessions we would like to try a different approach to presentation where authors will be encouraged to pre-circulate their written contributions (2- 5,000 words). The format of oral presentations will be short 5-10 minute ‘position’ papers, summarizing the key issues. Authors will also be asked to discuss what they perceive to be the major issues in their particular research areas, and address what they feel is needed to solve some of their more pressing research objectives. Following the presentations, the group will workshop the major issues raised.

The aim will be to make concrete proposals regarding new definitions and concepts and identify the types of research that need to be undertaken to solve the questions raised in the papers.


Reflections on Archaeology and Politics

Talia Shay (The University Center of Ariel)

Victor González Fernández (Researcher-Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia)


The days of neutral, value-free science have long gone. However, when various stakeholders claim to have different mappings of the past, few of them tend to go beyond their own limitations of creed, ethnicity, race, etc., and state their positions clearly and unequivocally.

The purpose of this theme is fourfold:

  1. Firstly, to address cases around the world where a biased attitude to the past is clearly evident, including, but not limited to, the Middle East and South America;
  2. Secondly, to investigate the context of this biased attitude to the past, and its consequences (which have been particularly far-reaching in areas like South America), with a special focus on cases where this has resulted in a tangible influence on people’s identity, for example, in Israel and in the territory of the Palestinian Authority;
  3. Thirdly, we would like to encourage a dialogue on the development of a new code of ethics in these areas that relates specifically to the investigation of the relationship between people and their past;
  4. Finally, to offer a synthesis based on the cross-cultural comparison of the above issues, across the different parts of the world addressed in the theme’s sessions.
  5. Since the purpose of this theme is to provide knowledge about differences and similarities in the relationship between archaeology / anthropology and the arena of local, regional and national politics, we would particularly encourage sessions on the following topics:
  6. How archaeological knowledge in the Middle East, South America, and other areas is used or abused for political purposes
  7. The contextual background of biased attitudes to the past in different parts of the world
  8. Whether archaeologists prevent the results of scientific work from being used against particular groups or factions in these areas
  9. How these biased attitudes to the past influence people’s identity
  10. The indigenous perspectives on archaeological inference in different areas
  11. Whether reciprocal relations (and the emergence of new code of ethics) are evident between archaeologists / anthropologists and indigenous communities in particular areas.



The Impact of Innovation

Nicki Whitehouse (The Queen’s University, Belfast, Institute of Archaeology and Palaeoecology)

Nick Porch (Australian National University, Department of Archaeology and Natural History)

Mat Prebble (Australian National University, Department of Archaeology and Natural History)

Mim Bower (University of Cambridge, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research)


Innovation: change that creates a new dimension in the human experience; the successful exploitation of new ideas

Many perceive the period from the latter end of the 19th century to the present day as the time of the most substantial change and human innovation. But innovation is not new within the human landscape. New ideas and their successful exploitation have driven change and built the framework of the whole of the human past.

Innovation can be positive: movement into new physical/geographical landscapes can bring contacts with new experiences and peoples, which shape the development of new paradigms, mental and cultural landscapes. New technologies can allow the development of complex societies, specialisation and the development of new human networks through trade and communications. The utilization of new biota and the refinement of animal and plant species can allow the development of new subsistence strategies, which can improve the carrying capacity of the landscape resulting in population expansion. However, innovation can be negative: it can lead to degradation and extirpation of biota and the ecosphere, the collapse of cultural frameworks resulting in the loss of the shared human past, the spread of disease, war and conflict and the associated deterioration of human and animal health.

All innovation, whether positive or negative, has an impact. It has consequences in the natural environment, climate, biodiversity, water, soil, vegetation and the maintenance of ecosystem function. Fundamental re-organisation of ecosystem process (extinction, extirpation and human moderated introductions, whether intentional or unintentional) may occur as a result of human innovation. But innovation also has an impact on human society and the cultural landscape. Innovation can be the product of a paradigm shift, or result in a paradigm shift. It can also bring with it a re-writing of the human ritual and mental landscape.

Cultural, ecological and biotic responses to innovation and the successful implementation of new ideas and technologies yield distinctive archaeological, ecological, bio-archaeological, and genetic signatures that can be traced through landscapes and time.

This theme explores the extent to which it is possible to identify periods of stasis or innovation in the archaeological record. What was the impact of innovation, not only on the natural environment, but also on the human cultural, mental and ritual landscape, and how can we understand the rate of change? To what extent can we shed light on the processes of innovation and the results and consequences of these substantial changes?


Wetland Archaeology Across the World

Aidan O’Sullivan (University College Dublin, UCD School of Archaeology)

Robert Van de Noort(University of Exeter, School of Geography, Archaeology and Earth Resources)


Wetland archaeology has provided some of the most exciting discoveries in world archaeology; from bog bodies, boats, trackways, votive deposits to the waterlogged wetland settlements and landscapes of northern and central Europe, New Zealand, Asia and the Pacific Northwest. Sharing a fascination with watery and wild places of rivers, lakes, bogs and coastal wetlands, those archaeologists who practice in this field also use common methods and techniques in the investigation of these archaeologically-rich landscapes. In recent years, wetland archaeologists have also recognised the need to adopt emerging and changing interpretative approaches to the empirically-rich archaeological data they recover from wetland and waterlogged sites. Most importantly, there is a need to place wetland archaeology across the world, its data and practices, within contemporary debates in theoretical archaeology.

This Wetland Archaeology Across the World theme seeks to bring together world archaeologists, anthropologists, geographers and palaeoecologists who are interested in past and present wetlands and their communities. Topics to be discussed could include landscape archaeological approaches to wetlands environments; the past perception and understanding of wetlands as more than sources of economic benefit, but as storehouses of traditional knowledge, values and meanings; social identity and the ways that wetlands dwelling and using communities might have built distinctive social worlds through their active daily and embodied engagements with dynamic and ever changing wetland environments; the unique temporal rhythms of past lives and places that can be revealed and interrogated using wetland archaeological evidence and the role(s) of wetland archaeologists – or archaeologists who investigate wetlands – in contemporary political, environmental, ideological and social discourses and conflicts.

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