Archaeology Reading Group 2012

Forum Romanum
Forum Romanum
(Photograph: Andrew Stephenson)


Sessions for 2012

2 February

Chair: Will Anderson

Talk of 'the death of archaeological theory'


John Bintliff 2011: 'The death of archaeological  theory?' in J.L. Bintliff and M. Pearce (eds.), The Death of  Archaeological Theory? Oxford: Oxbow Press, 7-22.

Leo S. Klejn 2006: 'Neither archaeology nor theory: a critique of  Johnson', Antiquity 80, 435-41.

Matthew H. Johnson 2006: 'Response', Antiquity 80, 442-3.

Further reading:

John L. Bintliff 1991: 'Post-modernism, rhetoric and scholasticism at TAG: the current state of British archaeological theory', Antiquity 65, 274-8.

Julian Thomas and Christopher Tilley 1992: 'TAG and "post-modernism": a reply to John Bintliff', Antiquity 66, 106-14.

Matthew H. Johnson 2006: 'On the nature of theoretical archaeology and archaeological theory', Archaeological Dialogues 13, 117-32.

Kristian Kristiansen 2011: 'Theory does not die it changes direction', in J.L. Bintliff and M. Pearce (eds.), The Death of Archaeological Theory? Oxford: Oxbow Press, 72-9.

23 February

Chair: Andrea Argirides

Heritage Protection in Times of Conflict

It can be argued that the ‘spoils of war’ is as old as the history  of warfare itself and even  modern-day warfare like Iraq and Afghanistan  and recent internal conflicts in Egypt, Libya and Syria have no doubt  endangered cultural heritage, cultural property and archaeological sites  within those regions. In recent years there’s been a plethora of  literature on culture, cultural heritage, cultural heritage management and  archaeological heritage, even resource management, discussing the importance  and relevance of protecting cultural and archaeological heritage in times of  conflict. Additionally, some of the key issues arising from this  literature include the following:
- Defining cultural and archaeological heritage and cultural  property - what are we protecting?
- Whose culture is it anyway?
- Whose responsibility is it to protect cultural heritage in times  of conflict?
- The ethics and politics of cultural property during  conflict.
- Ethics of archaeologists, cultural heritage experts and  anthropologists embedded in conflict and military operations.
- The politics of archaeological practice during armed  conflict.
- Preventing archaeological sites being used as military posts –  eg. Babylon in 2003.
- Understanding tangible and intangible heritage – what are the  priorities?


Paul Bennett and Graeme Barker 2011: 'Protecting Libya's  Archaeological Heritage', African Archaeological Review 28, 5-25.

22 March

Chair: Professor Jak Yakar (Tel Aviv University)

The Economic Organization of Preliterate Late Third Millennium Anatolian Society

The intensification of economic and sociopolitical contacts with Syria and Mesopotamia presumably brought about significant changes in the economic organization of Anatolian society in the second half of the third millennium BC. In the Mesopotamian and Syrian models of state-level economic organization, the management or supervision of the specialized industrial and agro-pastoral production sectors came under the jurisdiction of the central administration. Central economic control would have applied not only to production on state-owned lands, but also to the movement and distribution of goods and services throughout the state territory. One may assume that in Anatolia too with increasing specialization and work division in the second half of the third millennium BC palace and temple officials and personnel, and certain craftsmen, artisans and workers employed in non-agrarian production sectors in city-states could have received quantities of grain and other products from the palace and private sector as remuneration for their work and services. A taxation system imposed on agrarian production could have been the main source of revenue for a central administration required to remunerate the palace or temple workers and other non-productive city-state dependents. Since political power is dependent on a strong economy that generates wealth for its ruling class and the elite, the palace and/or temple administration in Anatolia, as in Syria and Mesopotamia, had to organize and manage the production sectors in the countryside. The system of management could have been a simpler version of the early second millennium Mari example described in an article by Frans van Koppen.


Frans van Koppen 2001: 'The Organisation of Institutional Agriculture in Mari', Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 44, 451-504.

12 April

Chair: Jason Adams (University of Melbourne)

Interdisciplinary  Interactions in Archaeology: How Does Archaeology Manage  Its Use Of (And Often Reliance On) Other Disciplines?

Part of the appeal of archaeology  for many archaeologists is the opportunity (and often the need) to make use of  other disciplines in order to build up a better picture of the culture/site  etc. being studied. These interactions do however bring with them risks. How  can we be confident in relying on someone working in another field when we have  little of no expertise in that area? How do we ensure that the materials and/or  information given by us to other disciplines for analysis/assessment etc. are  used in what we would deem an appropriate way? Also, how do we redress a  situation where we feel the archaeological project has not been served by, or  indeed has been compromised by, the actions of someone in another discipline,  be they unintentional or intentional?

The two readings I have chosen  will enable us to look at these questions in a specific situation where science  and field archaeology come into dispute. The readings are:

Perry, Linda 2005: ‘Reassessing  the traditional interpretation of “Manioc” artifacts in the Orinoco Valley of  Venezuela’, Latin American Antiquity 16, 409-26.

Barse, William P. 2008: ‘Grater flakes,  the Pozo Azul Norte site and Orinocan subsistence practices’, International Journal of South American  Archaeology 3, 37-44.

It is important to read the  articles in this order as the Barse article is a response to the Perry article.  Please think about these articles from as many different angles as you can,  e.g. the methodologies, practices, results, conclusions and intentions of the authors, as well as the resulting the implications for field archaeologists.

3 May

Chair: Louise Hitchcock (University of Melbourne)

Entanglement,  Transculturalism and Hybridization Processes in the Late Bronze-Early Iron  Ages

Entanglement presents us with a new way to understand the role of objects in promoting agency, as well as a way forward in understanding and  interpreting the appropriation of the foreign object and the meaning of  so-called hybridized objects in constructing identity.


Stockhammer, Philipp W. 2009:  ‘The change of pottery’s social meaning at the end of the Bronze Age: new  evidence from Tiryns’, in Christoph Bachhuber and R. Gareth Roberts (eds), Forces of Transformation: The end of the  Bronze Age in the Mediterranean. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 164-9.

Stockhammer, Philipp W. 2012:  ‘Questioning hybridity’, in Philipp Wolfgang Stockhammer (ed.), Conceptualizing Cultural Hybridization: A  transdisciplinary approach. Heidelberg: Springer, 1-3.

Stockhammer, Philipp W. 2012: ‘Conceptualizing  cultural hybridization in archaeology’, in Philipp Wolfgang Stockhammer (ed.), Conceptualizing Cultural Hybridization: A  transdisciplinary approach. Heidelberg: Springer, 43-58.

12 July

Chair: Andrew Stephenson

Publishing and Authorship

This session will look at what you need to know when  publishing you work: your responsibilities, but also you rights and entitlement  to acknowledgment and payment.  We will  look at commercial, open access and creative commons alternatives and where  you can go to for help. Sample documents  will be circulated before the meeting.

16 August

Chairs: Emily Poelina-Hunter and Aleks Michalewicz

Online and Open Access Publishing and Academic Profiles

How does online and open access publishing work, especially when you are able to using a profile website like or LinkedIn?  How useful are   these web sites for disseminating your research, increasing professional   networks and creating a public profile for archaeology students and   academics?   We will be joined by Prof. Tony   Sagona and Assoc. Prof. Louise Hitchcock to gain a staff perspective.


Katherine Mangan 2012: ‘Social Networks for Academics Proliferate, Despite Some Doubts’, The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 58, issue 35, 20-1:

Marketing and Communications, University of Melbourne 2010: Social Media Guidelines. Online document available at

Val Colic-Peisker 2012, 'Beware the scammers targeting academics', The Australian, August 5 2012. Online article available at

25 October

Chair: Damjan Krsmanovic

Late Bronze Age Anatolia: A Game of Thrones?

Studies of Late Bronze Age Anatolia have been  dominated by a focus on the Hittites. As a result, perspectives on other  cultures have tended to be from a Hittite perspective, often influenced by contemporary textual information. This paper (see below) represents a recent trend  in Late Bronze Anatolia studies which seeks to do away with such top-down  assessments which privilege one culture over others. This has led to  ruminations on the nature and extent of Hittite hegemony, as well as defining  the character of other Anatolian polities on their own terms. Glatz and Ploudre  show how certain evidence is demonstrative of the political climate of certain  places at certain times. In instances of political and social instability,  different 'parties' sought to use common material culture and iconographic vocabulary in order to project competitvely ideas about power and control.


Claudia Glatz and  Aimée M. Ploudre 2011: ‘Landscape monuments and political competition in Late  Bronze Age Anatolia: an investigation of costly signaling theory’, Bulletin  of the American Schools of Oriental Research 361, 33-66.

13 December

Empiricism in Archaeology

Even as the brouhaha between processual and  post-processual approaches fades into history, questions linger over ‘knowledge  claims’ in archaeology. In a recent article, Matthew Johnson defines and contextualises empiricism as a key theoretical standpoint, usually taken for  granted, sometimes denied or papered over, but invariably resurfacing to  challenge any deviant ‘intellectualist’ tendencies. Johnson identifies the  legacy of empiricism as deriving from modernist and Enlightenment ways of  thinking and cultures of antiquarianism dating back to the 17th century and  proposes some ‘therapeutic practices’ for archaeological interpretation. The  article touches on themes discussed in previous reading group meetings  including the interpretation of medieval castles and phenomenological  approaches in landscape archaeology.


Matthew H. Johnson 2011: 'On the nature of empiricism in archaeology', Journal of the Royal Anthropological  Institute 17, 764-87.