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Cutting edge experts gather for TAG Conference

Professor Andrew Gardner of the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, contacted Dr Jake Weekes earlier in 2022 to see if he would be interested in co-organising and running a session entitled, “The revolution will not be televised: the phenomenology of past social change”. Populated with good speakers from a wide variety of archaeological subjects and backgrounds, it proved to be a great success. Jake tells us more about the conference.

The conference, as usual, was attended by a wide range of heritage professionals (including many from organisations CAT competes with for tenders on a daily basis) and students, so it’s probably a good thing to have at least one CAT representative there. I bumped into Martin Bates, CAT’s Geoarchaeology Consultant, and Lindsey Büster, who has recently taken up a lectureship in prehistory at Canterbury Christchurch University; just as well, as Lindsey was one of the speakers in our session(!). Sadly Andy was ill and couldn’t make it, so it was up to me to chair the entire morning session.

I gave an introductory paper which included “plugs” for CAT’s new book on the Thanet Earth excavations (out early March), including Neolithic, Iron Age and Medieval rituals, as well as my own chapter on individualism in Romano-British funerary practice, which appears in a new Oxbow book also out soon. I was honoured by followed by: Matthew Johnson (Northwestern University, USA), author of the Bloomsbury Introduction to Archaeological Theory, which a paper focussing on two early post-medieval carvings as active media for change; Heidi J Miller (Middlesex Community College, USA) on the material culture social change at the early Neolithic centre at Chanhu-daro; Sadie Watson (Museum of London Archaeology) on the Boudican destruction horizon; Anton Ye. Baryshnikov (Russian State University for the Humanities) on the ‘concept of chronotope and multi-perspective approach in Romano-British studies’; Rosamund Fitzmaurice (University College London) on ‘individual social change in Prehispanic Mesoamerica’; Lindsey Büster (Canterbury Christ Church University), on the amazing archaeology of Iron Age houses at Broxmouth in south-east Scotland; and independent researcher Ana Amor Santos on representations of the human form in portable art of late prehistoric Iberia. All the papers brought new perspectives to our common theme, and the session was very well attended by interested and vocal delegates. I was very happy with it and very tired by lunchtime!

Some of the other sessions at TAG were (as is often the case) a bit idiosyncratic and not particularly relevant to my work at CAT; two sessions in particular, however, were an absolute treasure trove. The first was the Saturday morning session run by conference organiser Manuel Fernández-Götz of the University of Edinburg and his colleague Søren Sindbæk (Aarhus University), on ‘Revolutions in the archaeology of early urbanism: Conceptual and methodological innovations’; among other things, Manuel’s own paper on Iron Age urbanism, and its characteristic ‘agglomeration’ we especially significant in terms of late Iron Age Canterbury, and will be a tenet of its treatment in the Historic Atlas of Canterbury CAT working on with the Historic Towns Trust and a local team of experts. Secondly, the Saturday afternoon session ‘Beyond migration: How can biomolecular data help us interpret past social worlds’ organised by Ian Armit (University of York), Lindsey Büster (University of York/Canterbury Christ Church University), Claire-Elise Fischer (University of York), and Chris Fowler (Newcastle University). Here we were treated to case studies from cutting edge experts on archaeological science and bioarchaeology, and in particular the revolutionary approach of genome-wide studies of ancient DNA. The new context such studies bring to our understanding of kinship and origin of prehistoric people is indeed a revolution in archaeology, and I was able to apply it in writing the final afterword of the Thanet Earth book, which is now with the printer!

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