Useful: Reintroduction of Ancient Techniques and Recovered Knowledge

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


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

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

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

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



Historic Water Management Systems & Relevance for Sustainable Development

Anuradha Chaturvedi (School of Planning & Architecture, India)


Historic water management systems encompass a vast range of diverse typologies and have been of significance worldwide in ensuring the sustainability of historic settlements within their natural resource base. They form a crucial component of significant cultural landscapes, and have a special, continuing relevance and meaning within semi-arid and arid areas of the world, and also within island eco-systems, where sustainable supplies of potable water are scarce.

Within the Deccan area of India, the systems of ‘Qanats’ or sub-terranean water channels and cisterns constructed between the 14th & 17th centuries were associated with the development of important capitals, urban trade and sacred centres such as Golconda, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Burhanpur, Daulatabad-Khuldabad, Bijapur etc., and also islands and trade centres such as Diu. Even today, vestiges of these are still functional and of potential relevance for ensuring sustainable regeneration, and integrated conservation and development of significant historic centres and cultural landscapes.


Water and societies: resource, commodity, and threat

Federica Sulas (University of Pretoria, South Africa) ; Innocent Pikirayi (University of Pretoria, South Africa)


Shortage and excess of water are primary concerns worldwide. Until recently, water-driven catastrophes were often considered as circumscribed to regions away from the industrialized world such as the hunger-prone Sahel or the flooded South Asian plains. However, water-crises worldwide remind us how vulnerable all societies are to water behavior.

In the past, water-stress has been a trigger for decline of civilizations and also a driver for developing social complexity. How past societies dealt with water reflect environmental and climate conditions as well as cultural and socio-economic traits.

While research has largely focused on rainfall, other forms of water and their impact on society have rarely been considered. In a world where water waste is a critical factor, the management of groundwater and soil moisture is vital, and hydrological dynamics are fundamental in understanding past human decisions.

WAC-7, the Dead Sea, and water-related conflicts in the Middle East provide the ideal context for exploring water-people relationships over time from rural landscapes to urban sprawls: What water-use strategies survived the test of time? Did small-scale systems succeeded more often than centralized water control? By eliciting interdisciplinary approaches, this session explores the archaeologies of water and their implications for framing future water-people relationships.


Traditional Plant Knowledge in Modern Societies

Sonia E Archila Montañez, (University of Los Andes, Colombia); Victoria Castro Rojas, (University of Chile)


Traditional plant knowledge is one of the fields more extensively studied by several disciplines including botany, ethnobotany, paleoethnobotany, archaeobotany, ecology, palaeoecology, and ethnobiology. We would like to explore the potential for archaeology to contribute to the estimation of ancient plant use practices, symbolic systems, and popular stories associated with traditional plant knowledge. At present there is an increased interest in this topic as a result of the reformulation of the value and utility of traditional knowledge. This knowledge has been used in museum exhibitions, culinary research, handicraft production, tourism and ecotourism. Several other topics have been taken into account when considering traditional plant knowledge in the modern world. For example, it has been postulated if this knowledge can be seen as an alternative to ecological conservationism and if it is possible to find collaborative solutions for conflicts between traditional and scientific knowledge of plant resources, which may involve efforts to patent it (e.g., traditional medicine, gastronomy, building materials and handcrafts). We believe that archaeology and especially ethnoarchaeology could contribute to this discussion.


Agriculture’s past and present: sharing knowledge and building trust for the future

M. Alejandra Korstanje, (Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Argentine Republic); Alexander Herrera, (Universidad de los Andes, Colombia)


Demands for food sovereignty and the rising asymmetries of the global food market have brought to the fore traditional and ancient agricultural practices (defined here to include all forms of farming, pastoralism agroforestry and fishing, as well as their interactions and social and symbolic ramifications). With the applied archaeology approach embedded in top-down scientistic paradigms that centered on the re-introduction of agricultural techniques “lost” to local farmers now increasingly out of touch with dynamically evolving local community networks, this session aims to showcase new knowledge about past agricultural systems, debate the state of this field of research in different areas of the world and discuss possibilities for cooperating in the search for innovative applications of tradition.
This symposium will focus on the critical assessment of what has been done in the past and what is being done today to draw a horizon of future possibilities. It is an invitation to explore the potential of archaeology to contribute to a re-definition of collaborative research on technology, ideology, symbolism and oral history.

We invite papers that discuss new findings, reflect on intentions and picture possibilities for collaborative work with local communities in any and all parts of the world.