The annual conference of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) will take place in Glasgow, UK in September 2015. Together with P. Bray, A. Cuénod, and C.N. Duckworth, I organise a session on ‘Recycling things and ideas: linking scientific, archaeological and conceptual approaches to the reuse of materials in the past’, which will certainly result in valuable new ideas, discussions and approaches.
Recycling touches upon all aspects of archaeology, but it often suffers from its perceived ‘invisibility’ in the material record. Reuse, reforming and mixing of material alters its composition and shape, and can therefore directly affect conceptions of source, provenance, technology and chronology. The malleability and reuse of material challenges simple ideas of identity, value, economy and exchange. Despite the profound effects of recycling it is often difficult to identify and quantify in the archaeological record, particularly for materials and artefact-based studies (by comparison with, for example, architecture). This means that the manufacture of objects from ‘prime’ raw materials is often implicitly assumed to be standard practice. We are also in danger on relying on modern conceptions of recycling that focus on ecological concerns and coping with scarcity. Improved communication and co-operation across a range of disciplines offers new ways to better understand the flow of materials in the past. This session aims to provide a forum for these discussions and will highlight new approaches and models. Papers will examine how lab-based science, experimental archaeology, excavation and artefact-led archaeology, and conceptual archaeology can come together to identify and quantify recycling and its effects. This will be in conjunction with considering the challenges involved in pursuing inter-disciplinary work.
Further activities at the EAA will be the organisation of a round table about the Sellout of our past: different strategies of how to deal with illicit trafficking of European Cultural Heritage and a presentation on metal analyses of Bronze Age defensive armour.