Session: #371

Theme & Session Format

Interpreting the archaeological record: artefacts, humans and landscapes
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Trial and Error in Times of Transition
This session aims to stimulate a discussion on the theoretical and methodological premises for the identification of experimental phases in the technical/technological and social developments of prehistoric and early historic communities.
All societies eventually faced the challenge to adapt to changing social or ecological conditions. The wellbeing and the progress of the pre-industrial population were based mainly on the equilibrium between the stable traditional solutions and the collective decision to modify them or not. However, the typical museum exhibits usually portray the successfully adopted innovations that turned into mainstream practices.
But how many times have we missed the early signs of inventions during their experimental phase? Could we identify the initial stages of technological novelties? Are we aware of the variability of the possible factors and the intensity of the eventual reactions? Is there any synchronism between the experimental stages of coeval productions based on various raw-materials (clay, flint, bone, etc.) or the actual dynamics point towards far more complex and independent developments? How can we identify the minor adjustments, the gradual progress and the abrupt technological changes that took place within global processes pertaining to major shifts like the Neolithisation or the rise of Urbanism and the complex social hierarchies?
As ‘History is written by the victors’, quite often it is the ‘best’ examples of the technological achievements that are to be examined or displayed. However, archaeology is tasked with documenting reality and is not similarly constrained. This session welcomes papers concerned with the experimental phases in the development of any technologies as well as with the inventions that remained stillborn well ahead of their time, with special attention to processes that took part in the Neolithic, the Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages across the Old World.
experimental phase, Early Neolithic, Prehistory, Protohistory, technical/technological development
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
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Session associated with DGUF:
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Main organiser:
Tanya Dzhanfezova (United Kingdom) 1
Petar Zidarov (Bulgaria) 2
1. Oxford University
2. New Bulgarian University