Session Overview – University of Copenhagen

Nordic TAG 2015 > Session Overview

Session Overview

Following is a description of each session to be held at the conference. This does not include individual presentations, but only a description of the session topic.

Nordic TAG Sessions

Archaeology and Language – and the future of archaeo-linguistic studies
Guus Kronen (University of Copenhagen) & Rune Iversen (University of Copenhagen)

This session invites papers that, in one way or the other, combine linguistics and archaeology in order to gain new knowledge on past societies. Linguistics and archaeology have a long research history in common that, among other things, includes place-name research, the recovery and decipherment of inscriptions in archaeological contexts, and studies on the spread of languages and languages families, most prominently the Indo-European group.
However, the unfavourable combination of culture historical theory, archaeological cultures, migrating peoples and search for the proto Indo-European homeland (Urheimat) that took place in the late 19th and early 20th century paused further studies on archaeology and language. For many archaeologists language is simply not an issue to consider, even when dealing with, for example, long-distance contact networks, formations of states and empires, ethnicity/identity and other social aspects of past societies. 
In recent decades, scholars such as Colin Renfrew, James P. Mallory, Kristian Kristiansen and David W. Anthony, have shown how studies on archaeology and language can be combined avoiding the culture-historical approach of earlier generations. Moreover, advances in archaeo-genetics are now starting to yield tangible results, showing that cultural innovations can indeed often be linked with the movement of people, and therefore potentially also with the spread of language. 
The questions we would like to raise in this session concerns the future for ‘archaeo-linguistic’ research, what can we learn from each other and what kinds of research questions are in particular suitable for future integrated studies? The main goal of this session is to present new and ongoing studies that combine aspects of archaeology and linguistics, theoretical perspectives on the field of archaeo-linguistics and, hopefully, encourage new fruitful studies on archaeology and language.


Archaeology outside the correlationist circle
Johan Normark (University of Gothenburg)

Correlationism is a term that describes the position where subject and object never can be thought of separately, they are always correlated with each other. Speculative Realism (SR) is an umbrella term for various attempts to break with this correlate. So far it is the Object-Oriented Ontologies (OOO) that have had greatest impact outside philosophy. Some of the strengths with OOO are that they take a stand against reductions of objects to processes and networks. Objects are not exhausted by these relations, they are existent in their own right. Time and space are the result of objects and not the opposite. Rather than inserting objects into an anthropocentric narrative, objects are the starting point of a multiscalar view where all processes occur inside objects. 
Being a discipline focused on objects archaeology could not just make use of these ideas but also elaborate on them and put them into operational use. Concepts like vicarious causation, alien phenomenology, gravity, bright objects, incorporeal machines, hyperobjects, etc. change the way archaeological objects can be treated and understood. This session invites contributors to discuss how OOO and SR can be useful for archaeological studies.

Transmission of knowledge in crafts
– aspects of learning within prehistoric communities
Morten Ravn(Viking Ship Museum Roskilde) & Mikkel Sørrensen (University of Copenhagen)
Contact: Morten Ravn: or Mikkel Sørensen: 

Knowledge is at the very core of society both in the past, today and in the future. Through knowledge, and the ability of putting knowledge into action, people create both tangible and intangible constructions. Craft traditions and tricks of the trade are transferred from one generation to another in a dialectic interaction between the participating individuals and the norms, rules and other defining and delimiting structures within the communities that these individuals share. 
In this session we call for papers that deal with the transmission of knowledge in prehistoric and historic communities of practice. We suggest that submitters focus in particular on craftsmanship as something that is conducted by individuals, negotiated in performed actions and thus creating communities of practice and identities. In this regard, learning is paramount. 
Learning processes have many different forms and consist of many different methods. However, some basic elements are always present when knowledge is being transmitted between craftspeople in prehistoric communities: The process is based on human-to-human interaction; hence it takes place in a social context. The interactions are grounded in communities which embody a matrix of knowledge and know-how about one or more practices. Furthermore these elements define and delimit social structures specific for the communities. Moreover, the matrix of knowledge and know-how is often a long-lasting cumulative construction, which frequently is referred to as a tradition. 
To help inspire submitters and to focus the session we put forward some preliminary questions:
- How do we access the ways in which learning was performed including the methods and tools used in the transmission of knowledge, in a prehistoric society?
- How did prehistoric individuals and communities relate to tradition? Was this a non-reflective process where individuals followed tradition and preformed actions without consideration? Or did the individuals constantly relate the traditional rules and guidelines to the present task at hand and thereby negotiated the best practices?
- How do changes in conduct take place within prehistoric communities of practices? Some changes might be isolated additions; others might be part of a set of profound technological and social innovations?

Nordic Heritage Studies - THE NEXT 30 YEARS
Andreas Bonde Hansen (Museum Vestsjælland/ University of Copenhagen)

It has been thirty years since David Lowenthal launched The Past Is a Foreign Country (1985) and Heritage Studies, as we know it today, became a reality. Heritage Studies has widely been an archaeological phenomenon in Northern Europe and Nordic archaeologists has influenced heritage theory and practice around the world. 
The Heritage studies paradigm has been dominated by post-colonial critique, new museology and social constructivism. Moreover, terms like sustainability, inclusive heritage and negotiation has been key subjects the heritage discussion. Most of these terms and theories are widely a product of the heritage practice discussion as it looked a generation ago. 
In this session, we ask whether this paradigm will remain or what movements will replace it. Furthermore, we wish to discuss the archaeological influence on heritage mediation and utilisation in the nearest future. Thus, this session will contain discussions on tourism, didactics, heritage politics, etc. 
We aim to cover a full day session. Presenters will have 15 minutes for their presentation. In relation, there will be 10 minutes discussion with a selected opponent, after each presentation.


Fortifications in Late Iron Age Northern Europe:
an artefact of terminology or a valid subject of research?

Arjen Heijnis (Aarhus University)

The purpose of this session is to address the problem of fortifications from a methodological perspective. Many researchers in various Northern European environments have been studying what are commonly known as ‘hillforts’, but with relatively little interaction between the different regions. Yet society in the first millennium AD was characterized by long-distance contacts and distant references. Additionally, because the professional archaeological world is highly integrated, we often use the same terminology to describe a number of regional phenomena. Besides this common toolbox as archaeologists, we also develop our own, local methods in dealing with these similarly-named features. How similar are our research questions really, and how are our research methods different? How do these differences and similarities allow us to contextualize our material in an international perspective? Can we speak of a single ‘hillfort phenomenon‘ when talking about Late Iron Age Northern Europe, or are we seeing a number of independent traditions?

Crossing Over: From Multidisciplinary to Interdisciplinary Archaeological Theory and Practice
Kathryn M. Hudson (University of Buffalo) and John S. Henderson (Cornell University)
Contact: and

Projects that mobilize theoretical approaches, thematic emphases, and analytical methods from different disciplines have been an important part of archaeological practice, though they are often conceptually differentiated from the disciplinary core. Recent years have witnessed an increase in the frequency and visibility of research in this mode, and future work is likely to continue along the same trajectory. For the most part, such research has been multidisciplinary rather than interdisciplinary: it has made use of perspectives and methods grounded in many fields to contribute in important ways to agendas defined solely by archaeology. Interdisciplinary approaches, however, should incorporate other theoretical frameworks and questions in a way that gives equal weight to both archaeological and non-archaeological perspectives and thus generates a more mutually enriching framework. This session seeks to explore the potential of interdisciplinary research that can contribute to other disciplines as well as archaeology and open theoretical and interpretive spaces that transcend conventional disciplinary boundaries. We invite papers that consider the theoretical, methodological, analytical and interpretive potential of this kind of interdisciplinarity and how it can shape the future of archaeology.

Conflict Archaeology and the Practice Approach
Rolf W. Fabricius (Combat Archaeology)

Conflict archaeology, as a distinct strand of archaeological research, is still in its earliest stages and, as such, still in need of much refinement. In view of the multifaceted aspects of combat and the longstanding and multi-generational social structures that underlie it, there are obviously many approaches that can be employed in studying phenomena of conflict. One major concern for the progress of studies of conflict in
archaeology is the general attenuation of the practice of violence, entailing an examination of agency in terms of how people act in the world, i.e. what they actually do, think and feel. When archaeological studies have focused upon subjects of or related to violence or warfare, it is not uncommon for the main area of debate
to be restricted to such subjects as origins, social consequences, ceremonial aspects, social stratigraphy and weaponry typologies and dispersion etc. Certainly, a rich and nuanced understanding of the relationship between violence and society has been attained as a result of these investigations into the diagnostic traces of violence and warfare; but the broad contextualization comes at a price of an impoverished understanding of the practice itself. Regrettably, there has been little focus upon the methods by which it was conducted and how it was conceived, of the reasons for military success and failure. This session, therefore, aims at exploring how a practice approach towards understanding archaeologies of conflict can contribute to the
field. We invite papers which relate to studies of conflict and employ clear theoretical frameworks in order to explore interpersonal violence through direct consideration of how it is undertaken and understood. We welcome contributors discussing the theoretical and philosophical treatments of this general approach as well as specific case studies that apply it.

The Future of Searching for the Origins
– theoretical implications and challenges in archaeology

Asta Mønsted (University of Copenhagen), Ann Sølvia Lydersen Jacobsen (University of Aberdeen), Rannvá Sørensen and Poul Erik Lindelof
Contact:,, and

The initial introduction to the sessions, and the first session will be held by one of the members from NAAG Asta Mønsted. As part of the session an excursion will be held in the Ethnographic collection at the National Museum, where there will be opportunity for discussion. Participants will have to sign-up for the excursion.
Our aim is to discuss the way archaeology address questions of origins, the often implicit discourses that set the framework for how we approach origins, and why we are somewhat obsessed with origins. What is meant by the term “to originate”? What is original? In our search for origins, how do we prioritise? Why do we feel a need to search for the origins of cultures? 
Theoretical issues that could have relevance for this session:
1) What are the theoretical qualifications and implications for identifying “the native“? 
2) What meaning lies in the term ‘origin’? And who has the right to determine the origin of cultures? 
3) What is the relation between the written/oral sources and the archaeological evidence? 
4) Has the search for origins changed and in which direction is it heading? 
5) What are the political aspects of archaeological origins? How is and will archaeological research be used in nation building? Can the political implications in archaeological studies be ignored?

Household, History and Archaeology 
Dag Lindström (University of Uppsala) and Göran Tagesson (National Heritage Board, Linköping, Sweden),

The household is commonly identified as a fundamental element of social organization in past times. This is also a field where the combination of material culture and written text is both rewarding and, in fact, necessary. Archaeologists as well as historians have collected massive amounts of empirical observations concerning houses and households, and they have developed theoretical approaches, but they have not very often collaborated systematically on these matters. Nevertheless, this is a field where the benefits of cooperation between archaeology and history, material culture and written texts, are obvious. It is also a field where methods and theoretical approaches have developed rapidly during recent years. Much new empirical evidence has also been added.
Theoretical discussions as well as analyses based on empirical observations now tend to take place in dynamic intersections where the household is understood as much more, and sometimes even as something much different from a specific social structure. New approaches tend to combine social organization and agency with spatial and material dimensions. The household as a unit for organizing property, production and consumption is confronted with the household as ideology, discourse and manifestation. 
Within the disciplines of social, economic and cultural history a lively discussion is now taking place concerning households in relation to social practice, space and material culture. The introduction of concepts like ‘the open house’ (Eibach) is one of many examples of interpretations where the household is analyzed as a varied, flexible, dynamic, permeable and open social organization, which also very much relates to space and materiality.
In historical archaeology, the household has since long, as well, been a major concept when discussing both spatial and material culture. Lately, studies concerning the early modern period has increased rapidly, and thus making possible very close household analysis in multidisciplinary studies. This makes possible new perspectives; emphasizing the complex structure of households, household, gender and agency, household cycles and family history as well as alternative models of households (Beaudry 1999). 
In our session we would like to welcome contributions discussing the household both from theoretical and from methodological and empirical points of view. The main focus is how to develop the analyses and understanding of households in past times, as for example thorough deeper cooperation between history and archaeology.

Lost Paths - Post-Humanism in Archaeology and Bioarchaeology 
Steinunn Kristjánsdóttir (University of Iceland and National Museum of Iceland) & Joe W. Walser III (University of Iceland and Durham University)
Contact: and

Post-humanism is an emergent response to humanist ideologies that focus on the human self as the center of the natural world. Not only has the relationship between humans and their environment repeatedly been approached as a nature-culture binary dichotomy in archaeological research, but likewise in evolutionary medicine were it has been suggested that pathogens have evolved and adapted in response to human interventions, including the human bodies allergic and disease fighting responses. While it is clear that pathogens adapt to the many ways in which humans fend them off, it can from a post-humanistic perspective be argued that the ongoing development of the human condition is similarly dependent upon our adaptations to pathogenic organisms. Post-humanism diverges from such dualistic perspective by placing the humans as an interactive part of the natural world. By using archaeological research and scientific analyses, this session intends to examine human agency as an interactive part of the natural environment. Research on humans, animals, microorganisms and environments from a post-humanistic perspective are warmly welcome but with the aim to use the broad perspective of post-humanism to critique and develop less human-centric interpretations and ideologies regarding biology and cultural theory.

The Digital Future of Archaeology
Bodil Petersson (Linnaeus University) & Isto Huvila (Åbo Akademi, School of Business and Economics/ALM)

In recent years, the sway of digital technologies and the influence ‘the digital’ has had upon almost every aspect of archaeology has become a fact. This is true for documentation as well as for analysis, research and presentation. As in the rest of society, digitization has become the fact of the matter very often celebrated as both part of and important for any "future" perspectives. But what is "future" from the perspective of digitization? Is it access, overview, analysis, new perspectives, new modes of presenting archaeology, or what? When thinking of interpreting archaeology, what impact does digitization have on the understanding of archaeology as a knowledge domain? How is digitization in itself affecting the knowledge base of archaeology? More - of what? More - of the same? More - of new stuff? The aim of this session is to critically elucidate how digitization affects archaeology as a knowledge domain within which the subject is filtered through digital systems often not built by, but rather adapted or appropriated by archaeologists for their purposes. We welcome papers on the present-day practice, future perspectives and historic views on the subject of archaeology and its adaptation to new digital contexts.

Experimental Archaeology - theories behind practice
Eva Andersson Strand (University of Copenhagen) and Henriette Lyngstrøm (University of Copenhagen) Contact: and

Practical experiments, or activities that would nowadays be called experimental archaeology, has a long tradition in Scandinavia - almost as old as archaeology itself. But it was not until the 1960s and 1970s, however, that a proper theoretical background for experiments was considered and developed. Through the 1980s, 1990’s and 2000s, the focus changed in archaeology in general and new types of questions were asked. And new questions were followed by new types of experiments. But has the theoretical background for experiments changed? And what new theories, methodologies and perspectives might influence the field in the future?
The main idea of this session is to provoke further theoretical debate within experimental archaeology. We would like to discuss the theories behind the practice today and explore in which direction theories might develop in the future. 
We especially encourage MA and PhD students, as well as post-docs and younger scholars to participate and to foster creative and wide-ranging debates.


Technologies of Disposal: The archaeology of waste, burial and removal
Vivi Lena Andersen (University of Copenhagen) and Tim Flohr Sørensen (University of Copenhagen) Contact:

Archaeological and anthropological studies of disposal have focused widely on disposal in terms of the object being removed as defining notions of waste, excess, dirt, discard, pollution, refuse, ruin or ‘matter out of place’, as famously phrased by Mary Douglas. However, it may be suggested that it is not necessarily so much the classification of particular forms of anomalous matter that define waste, but maybe instead the practices circumscribing acts of abandoning or removing stuff. As such, disposal is a technology for allowing objects (whether human or non-human) to pass from one state of being to another, centred on qualities of transformation, transition and transience. This session invites papers addressing technologies of disposal by exploring the interstice between ‘ordinary object’ and ‘discard’, or the borderline processes that occur before an object is turned into waste. And just as importantly, we are interested in papers discussing places of disposal as cultural sites: what kinds of capital and contingency are nested in repositories for suspended or discarded matter?


What did the Romans collect? A study into material culture and world structuring
Jane Fejfer (University of Copenhagen)

Collecting – the systematic accumulation of stuff – is a particularly powerful tool for expressing personal and collective identity. With outset in the almost exclusively text-based research on collecting in antiquity material culture is brought into the discussion with the purpose of re-evaluating the phenomenon in antiquity. In particular it is asked whether theories and methodologies applied in modern collecting studies may serve as models for the study of collecting in antiquity.

Archaeology in the environmental humanities 
Alison Klevnäs (Stockholm University) & Christina Fredengren (Stockholm University)

“The Anthropocene” has been suggested as a name for the period in which human beings became the main movers affecting the earth’s ecosystems, and in which human actions have caused environmental degradation at a global scale. But when did this period begin? Did such extreme human impact start only during the industrial revolution, or is it based in practices that go as far back as the Neolithic period or even beyond? Archaeology is uniquely positioned to provide deep time perspectives on the place of humans in the natural world, and thus to contribute to the growing academic field of the environmental humanities.
The central question in this session is: what can those of us that work with archaeology or heritage studies contribute with to environmental humanism, sustainability and resilience issues? Should environmental humanism alter how archaeology and heritage studies work? 
The session will gather research in the form of archaeological and heritage case studies that deal, for example, with the use of energy, human-animal relations, waste and recycling, water and wetlands. It aims to revitalize the field of environmental archaeology and feed into wider debate on environmental humanism.

Nordic TAG 2015 Proposal: Bog Bodies – excavating, analyzing, curating and displaying well preserved human remains from NW Europe
Melanbie Giles (University of Manchester) & Christina Fredengren (Stockholm University)
Contact: and

There are no more enigmatic and moving discovery of well-preserved human remains than the bog bodies of NW Europe. They range in date from the prehistoric era to the historic period, but many of the most iconic examples date from the Iron Age. Some are found dismembered and in fragments, whilst others are deposited whole, and many show signs of violent death. Interpretations are diverse, ranging from accidental death to violent sacrifice. Other objects also found deliberately deposited in the bog and environmental analysis has greatly enhanced our understanding of these as rich, if dangerous, landscapes. 
These iconic remains have not only fascinated archaeologists but the general public, through the work of authors such as Glob (1969) as well as the poetry of Seamus Heaney. In this session, we encourage participants to think more critically about the meanings and motivations that lay behind such violence. We also welcome papers from conservation experts involved in their challenging exhumation, investigation and preservation, as well as museum curators responsible for their display. We hope to showcase the latest discoveries as well as ‘cold case’ interpretations of well-known examples, and also draw in participants interested in the legacy of these human remains upon the archaeological and public imagination.