Session: #193

Theme & Session Format

Archaeological theory and methods beyond paradigms
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Patterns of the Deep Past. Interrogating the ‘Long Term’ in Archaeology and History [PaM]
Both historians and archaeologists are fundamentally concerned with documenting and explaining long-term change. Yet, there is surprisingly little exchange between the two disciplines and both have cultivated different concepts, theories, and visions of the ‘long term’. This situation is understandable in so far as the often-divergent nature of historical and archaeological evidence affords different perspectives and interpretations, but it is also problematic, as each discipline may be diminished by failure to productively engage with the other. Moreover, there appears to be a growing transdisciplinary consensus that phenomena of the ‘long term’ should be distinguished from their ‘short term’ counterparts. In historical research, for example, the theme of ‘scale’ has become prominent, with scholars beginning to reflect more deeply upon the internal dynamics and dialectics of varying temporalities of change. In a similar vein, archaeologists have started to expose diachronic patterns and asymmetries shaping long-term trajectories and to explore emergent configurations of stability and transformation which cannot be explained only by short-term processes. Key notions such as ‘temporality’, ‘causality’, and ‘historicity’ arguably must be re-considered in this light. What is the specificity of long-term phenomena? What are the mechanisms that drive them? What is the ontological status of long-term patterns? What is the relationship between regional and global histories of long-term dynamics?
The aim of this session is to address some of these questions in the hope of contributing to an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to the ‘long term’. We aspire to bring together scholars who work in different geographic/environmental settings, focus on different types of evidence (e.g. lithic technology, ceramics, ‘art’, textual sources), and tackle varying time frames. Our declared ambition is to discuss phenomena related to the ‘deep past’ and the ‘long term’ in the broadest possible way and to ignite new dialogues between theoretical concerns and situated case studies.
Interdisciplinarity, long-term change, deep history, temporality, materiality, non-ergodicity
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
Session associated with SAfA:
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Session associated with DGUF:
Session associated with other:
Laureate Program for the Deep Human Past, PaM


Main organiser:
Shumon Hussain (Netherlands) 1
Martin Porr (Australia) 2,3
Ann McGrath (Australia) 4
1. Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, The Netherlands
2. Archaeology/Centre for Rock Art Research and Management, The University of Western Australia, Australia
3. ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Monash University, Australia
4. Laureate Program for the Deep Human Past, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University, Australia