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Curl Lecture – Oliver Harris

September 20 2019 @ 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm


will be given by

Dr Oliver Harris, University of Leicester

Archaeology and the creation of pasts

Friday 20 September 2019, at 5.30pm (approximately) in the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, University College London, 2nd Floor, South Junction Wilkins Building, Gower St, London WC1E 6BT.

The lecture will be preceded by the RAI’s AGM. All are welcome to the AGM; only RAI Fellows may vote.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to https://raiagm2019.eventbrite.co.uk


In place of traditional definitions of archaeology as the study of human beings through their material remains, or as a corollary of either history or anthropology, this talk seeks to define archaeology as the creation of pasts. The pasts created are multiple, overlapping, complex and sometimes contradictory. They tease out different kinds of narrative that operate at different scales and seek to emphasise different kinds of storytelling. This approach resists recent calls, therefore, to reduce archaeology to either history or to the application of scientific techniques. The acts of creation identified here, furthermore, are not ones delivered by archaeologists alone. Instead they take place in co-operation with a host of other actors including people in the present, the sites and objects we uncover and the techniques the former use to interrogate the latter. These co-operative acts of creation are not then simply the imposition of archaeologists in the present, as older ideas of ‘social constructivism’  might imply, but much more complex, emergent, relational and multiply authored – and there is nothing relativist about them. These issues will be explored through case studies ranging from the excavation of the first Viking boat burial discovered on the UK mainland to the current use of ancient DNA to explain the changes we see at the start of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age.


September 20 2019
5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Event Category: