Opening Event – University of Copenhagen

Nordic TAG 2015 > Opening Event


The N-TAG 2015 Panel Discussion:

“The Next 30 Years in Theoretical Archaeology”

Copenhagen 16th of April 2015, 10:30-12:30,
KUA, room 23.0.50

(Did you miss the event? Continue the debate by giving your comments on the N-tag Facebook.)

To get participants talking, we start the conference with a panel debate! We have selected five very different panellists in terms of personal experiences and interests; archaeologists whom we hope will be around to make a contribution to the field in the next 30 years. We hope for insightful personal answers which will spark interesting discussions with the audience and possibly over the following days of the conference - and maybe the occasional ground breaking idea. Find the questions below to prepare for the debate!


Anna S. Beck, Museum Sydøstdanmark/University of Aarhus

Ingrid Berg, University of Stockholm

Steinunn Kristjánsdóttir, University of Iceland and National Museum of Iceland
Co-organizer of session on Lost Paths - Post-Humanism in Archaeology and Bioarchaeology 

Johan Normark, University of Gothenburg
Organizer of session on Archaeology outside the correlationist circle

Tim Flohr Sørensen, University of Copenhagen
Co-organizer of session on Technologies of Disposal: The archaeology of waste, burial and removal

 The debate will be moderated by

Tobias Richter, University of Copenhagen

Kristina Winther-Jacobsen, University of Copenhagen

Debate format
The debate will be in the format of a Question and Answer session. The moderators will pose a question to the panellists. Each panellist has two minutes to give a brief answer. The moderators will then ask the audience to engage with the panellists based on their responses. During this discussion panellists are welcome to engage with each other.

Working down the list below we will try to cover as many questions as possible, but the time frame is to ensure we cover different aspects. Once we reach the end of our Q & A, question 8 will be asked only to panellists (even if we have not reached the end of the list of questions).


1)     In a recent op-ed in the journal Antiquity (89, 2015:1) Koji Mizoguchi has called on archaeologists to re-engage with long-term historical patterns, to better integrate method with theory and to have a greater dialogue between archaeologists from different backgrounds around the world. Would you support Mizoguchi's analysis or not, and why?

2)   Since the 1960s archaeology has undergone two major epistemological turns, from processual to interpretative archaeology. With the emergence of actor-network theory, object-agency and thing-theory in archaeology we appear to have begun to return to a more materialist perspective on the past. Does this represent a further epistemological turn away from idealist views of the past towards a materialist conception of history?

3)    Archaeology is constantly struggling with its split personality disorder: while our field has its roots in the humanities, most of the methods we employ – from stratigraphy and radiocarbon dating, to ancient DNA and composite analysis – are rooted firmly in the natural sciences. As the humanities continue to be under pressure in most universities in western countries, how do you see this relationship developing to our advantage in the next 30 years?

 4)    The rapid development of bioarchaeological techniques has begun to have an effect on the kind of questions archaeologists ask and the questions they look at. Will isotope and ancient DNA analyses reintroduce diffusionism, migration and environmental change as explanatory paradigms into archaeology and is this a change we should welcome or be wary of?

5)    Hardly a day passes by without reports about the destruction of yet another museum or archaeological site in Iraq or Syria. Looting and the illegal trade in antiquities are rampant. In the west, austerity measures combined with on-going development poses a different set of challenges to our efforts to protect and preserve archaeological heritage. Archaeologists often seem powerless in the face of these myriad challenges. How do we better address these issues individually/ as a group?

6)   Archaeologists have invested much time and effort into thinking about our engagement with various communities, be they indigenous people, the public and smaller scale communities. These engagements have taken place on multiple levels: in museums, at open days, on volunteer excavations and in the form of heritage advocacy. How would you wish the relationship between archaeological practice, heritage and the communities we work in develop in the future?

7)   Digital recording and presentation of excavations, sites and artefacts is having a huge impact on how the past is recreated today and how it is presented to broader audiences. With digital technologies becoming more widely available, easier to use and more widespread, where do you see the challenge in the development of the relationship between research and the dissemination of knowledge in the future?

8)  What is your greatest wish for the development of archaeology in the next 30 years? What do you not wish to happen to the discipline?

The debate will be videotaped and highlights will be posted on the webpage.