Session: #516

Theme & Session Format

5. Assembling archaeological theory and the archaeological sciences
Session format:
Discussion session (with formal abstracts)

Title & Content

From Critique to Synthesis: Transcending the Genomic Divide within Archaeology
It is difficult to exaggerate the impact of ‘ancient genomics’ on our understanding of human prehistory. Offering a host of sweeping narratives on migration, conflict, ethnicity, and kinship, aDNA provides us with accounts that are easy to identify and empathize with. For many, it is a dream come true: prehistory reconfigured to a human scale.
However, these benefits of ancient DNA also resulted in the reproduction of old and often troubling narratives, burdened with heavy Eurocentric, racial, and biological flavors. They also tend to reduce human cultural dynamics to a handful of explanatory mechanisms, including mobility and population turnovers. Moreover, rather than producing durable and mutually-beneficial relations, the division of labor between the participating disciplines tends to create a hierarchical relationship, where archaeology is systematically relegated to a position of servitude: it provides the means, the conditions, and the conceptual framework, but the narrative is generated by the geneticists.
This session asks to initiate a mutually constructive dialogue between archaeologists and practitioners of ancient genomic, proteomic, and related sciences. This dialogue will earnestly address the deep-seated problems at hand and seek to build new explanatory frameworks to overcome them, fusing anthropologically-informed models with archaeological, archaeological science, and genomic data sets. In doing so, the aim is to refocus efforts on tracing mechanisms that underscore the formation, diversification, crystallization, and transformation of human behaviors. Among others, these may include experimentations with plant and animal management, translocation and uptake of domesticates, generation of new forms of socio-political organization, and the formation of urban communities. Ultimately, this session seeks to move beyond recent debates about the incommensurability of anthropological, archaeological, and genomic modes of knowledge in order to actively develop new venues that transcend these divides.
archaeological theory, ancient genomics, biomolecular archaeology
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Main organiser:
Cheryl Makarewicz (Germany) 1
Assaf Nativ (Israel) 2
Martin Furholt (Norway) 3,4
1. Kiel University
2. ZInman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa
3. Dept. of Archaeology, Conservation and History University of Oslo
4. Institute of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology, Kiel University