Archaeology Reading Group 2013

Forum Romanum
Forum Romanum
(Photograph: Andrew Stephenson)


Sessions for 2013

21 February

Chair: Emily Poelina-Hunter

Nude Figurines with Tattoos

This article outlines the origin of the study of painted motifs on Cycladic figurines and proposes new evidence to support the theory that some of the motifs may represent tattoos. It compares the motifs painted group of Cycladic figurines with a particular type of Egyptian figurines and the tattoos preserved on female Egyptian mummies. The function of Cycladic figurines is still unknown and suggestions that they were an Aegean equivalent of an Egyptian ushabti figurine will be explored in association with the process of determining the shared elements between Cycladic and Egyptian figurines. By focussing on a comparison of the painted motifs on Cycladic and Egyptian figurines and considering why they were painted at all, one can base interpretations of function and meaning on physical data such as what pigments were used and the designs of the motifs.


Emily Poelina-Hunter (unpublished): 'Shared Motifs on Cycladic and Egyptian Figurines'

21 March

Chair: Will Anderson

Consumer Choice

Identifying patterns in the consumption of material culture is a fundamental part of archaeological practice. How these patterns are defined and interpreted depends upon a number of methodological and theoretical factors: homogeneity and variability of cultural forms is conditioned by the ways that such forms are classified and approached; the significance of certain material and operties in the past is also open to debate. Recent and current approaches to materiality have stressed how the consumption of cultural forms is both reflective and formative of social identities. This view implicates agents in determining the forms that they consume and socialise. But does ‘consumer choice’, an ideological tenet of contemporary neoliberal capitalism, exist in practice? To what extent do we determine the things that we produce, use and manipulate? and how much are we trapped within the social structures, economic and environmental conditions that we inherit?


W. Anderson 2013 (in press): ‘From manufactured goods to significant possessions: theorising pottery consumption in late antique Anatolia’, in C. Rowan and A. Bokern (eds.), Embodying Value? The Transformation of Objects in and from the Ancient World. BAR Int. Series. Oxford: Archaeopress.

2 May

Chair: Deb Gilkes

Considering all the Factors: Arid Australian Archaeological Site Formation

The authors present a descriptive model of the processes that create archaeological sites and apply the model on case study sites in semi-arid Northern Australia. The sediment rate on a site is compared to known environmental and cultural influences, the processes that affect directly the artefacts and site in the depositional sequence. Does this model fulfil the potential to aid identification and analysis of cultural remains and improve environmental reconstruction?


Ingrid Ward and Piers Larcombe 2003: 'A process-orientated approach to archaeological site formation: application to semi-arid Northern Australia', Journal of Archaeological Science 30, pp. 1223-36.

23 May

Chair: Aleks Michalewicz

Fieldwork Across Disciplines: What Can We Learn From Each Other?

Archaeology Reading Group, Linguistics in the Pub and the Ethnography Forum invite you for an interdisciplinary session to discuss the fieldwork experience.

  • What do our approaches to fieldwork have in common?
  • How might we benefit from sharing information and techniques?
  • Are there any differences in how we interact with the communities at our field sites?

Come and share your experiences and thoughts! If you’d like to read something in advance, see Chapter 17 ‘Toponymy: recording and analysing placenames in a language area’ in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Fieldwork, or have a look at Chapters 1.1 ‘Anthropology and Linguistics’ and 1.9 ‘Anthropology and Archaeology’ in The SAGE Handbook of Social Anthropology (both accessible as e-books via login to UniMelb library)

Continue the conversation - join us for a drink after the meeting at the Carlton Yacht Club, 298 Lygon Street.

5 September

Chair: Will Anderson

GIS in Archaeology

The use of GIS in archaeology has supported certain approaches including predictive modelling, research on ‘least cost pathways’ and ‘viewshed’ analyses. The readings for this session - a critical essay and two studies that investigate visibility and movement - are meant to provoke discussion on the ways that technology may guide, complement and/or contradict archaeological theory and practice.


David Wheatley 2004: ‘Making space for an archaeology of place’, Internet Archaeology 15.

Mark W. Lake and Patricia E. Woodman 2003: ‘Visibility studies in archaeology: a review and case study’, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 30, 689-707.

M. Llobera, P. Fábrega-Álvarez and C. Parcero-Oubiña 2011: ‘Order in movement: a GIS approach to accessibility’, Journal of Archaeological Science 38, 843-51.

26 September

Chair: Caroline Tully

Animism in Archaeology

The term “Animism” was originally linked with early evolutionary approaches to religion characteristic of scholars such as E.B. Tylor (1929) who proposed that Animism was a primal form of religion characterised by a mistaken ontology in which life was attributed to inanimate objects and phenomena. The “New” Animism, espoused initially by A. Irving Hallowell (1960) and taken up as an interpretive lens by scholars such as Eduardo Vivieros de Castro (1998), Nurit Bird-David (1999), Timothy Ingold (2000, 2006) and others, re-interprets Animism as a relational rather than a failed epistemology: the world is full of persons, only some of whom are human. The two articles for this meeting adopt New Animist perspectives in interpreting the iconographic representation of the Late Bronze Age Minoan landscape (Herva), and Anthro-Zoomorphic “body-pots” from first millennium CE Argentina (Alberti & Marshall)


Vesa-Pekka Herva 2006: ‘Flower lovers after all? Rethinking religion and human-environment relations in Minoan Crete’, World Archaeology 38, 586-98.

Benjamin Alberti and Yvonne Marshall 2009: ‘Animating archaeology: Local theories and conceptually open-ended methodologies’, Cambridge Archaeological Journal 19, 344-56.

31 October

Chair: Larissa Tittl

‘How would you know?’ Phenomenology, Landscape Archaeology and ‘Knowing’ the Ancient Past

Phenomenology argues that humans access knowledge of the world through bodily experience: in archaeology, phenomenological approaches interpret past human interaction with landscape through the embedded and embodied experiences of both prehistoric people and the contemporary archaeologist. Prehistorians including Christopher Tilley argue that these interpretative frameworks are impossible unless they have been ‘born out of [the archaeologist’s own] personal physical experience and knowledge of place’.

Whil Tilley’s version of phenomenology may appear extreme, phenomenological approaches can offer innovative and non-traditional perspectives on ancient landscapes and the people who lived within them. Andrew Fleming calls for a more considered approach to archaeological landscape studies, one that prioritises a close and critical examination of field data and the construction of knowledge about the ancient past. Two of the articles for this meeting encapsulate Fleming’s and Tilley’s opposing views of phenomenological archaeology (Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain); in the third, Saro Wallace offers a response to the often-critiqued subjective bias of phenomenological approaches (prehistoric Crete).


Andrew Fleming 1999: ‘Phenomenology and the megaliths of Wales: a dreaming too far?’ Oxford Journal of Archaeology 18, 119-25.

Christopher Tilley 2004: ‘Round barrows and dykes as landscape metaphors’, Cambridge Archaeological Journal 14, 185-203.

Wallace, S 2007: ‘Why we need new spectacles: mapping the experiential dimension in prehistoric Cretan landscapes’, Cambridge Archaeological Journal 17, 249-70.