Session: #390

Theme & Session Format

5. Theories and methods in archaeology: interactions between disciplines
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

CANCELLED: Genetics and Archaeology: Debating Old Feuds and Formulating New Prospects
In recent years, archaeogenetics have made huge contributions to the study of prehistoric societies. Genetic data have put the issue of large group migrations back on the agenda and the field is now moving on to questions such as marriage, mating patterns and hereditary inequality. However, there has been the inevitable disconnect between euphoria surrounding the potentials of aDNA and the realisation of its complexities and limits. In this case, the ‘morning after’ effect is increased by a lack of understanding between the sub-disciplines involved. Not all archaeologists feel comfortable with what aDNA actually can (and cannot) tell us, while archaeogeneticists are often accused of oversimplifying and sensationalising their findings without due regards to archaeological complexities. Basic issues, such as the definition of ‘populations’ and the best scale of analysis (individual and community relations, population genetics…) all remain to be negotiated. In this session, we would like to bring together archaeologists who routinely work with genetic data and those who remain sceptical, as well as archaeogeneticists. The focus is not on presenting specific case studies/results. Instead, we wish to reflect on how the process of knowledge creation has worked for the different participants. What questions were archaeologists, geneticists and others in the team actually interested in? Did these overlap? How were genetic and archaeological data integrated, and was this successful? And where do participants see the field moving next? Can we (and should we) move beyond broad-brush models at the continental scale to site-specific analyses? Should we tackle potentially controversial issues such as racism or sexism in the past, and if so how is this best communicated to colleagues and the wider public?
Genetics, aDNA, population genetics, mobility, marriage patterns, kinship
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
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Main organiser:
Karina Gerdau (France) 1
Daniela Hofmann (Norway) 2
Mélanie Pruvost (France) 3
1. University of Strasbourg
2. University of Bergen
3. University of Bordeaux