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Inaugural Lecture Ms. prof. S. Voutsaki: Archaeology of/in a changing society

When:Tu 26-11-2013 at 16:15
Where:Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Inaugural Lecture: Ms. prof. S. Voutsaki

Title: Archaeology of/in a changing society

Chair: Griekse archeologie

Faculty: Arts

Why do societies change? This is a difficult question even when it concerns events we ourselves witness – can we really explain what has caused the current crisis? The question appears even more daunting when we are dealing with the distant past, and when we have to base our inferences on the material traces of past actions– i.e. on the archaeological data alone. Voutsaki wants to demonstrate not only that we can understand social processes which unfolded thousands of years ago, but also that we can reconstruct individual responses to change.

If we want to understand how different persons, groups and communities reacted to the wider transformations around them, we need to analyze and compare different archaeological data sets – e.g. mortuary practices, house architecture, settlement patterns. Mortuary data in particular allow us to carry out the analysis at different levels – the region, the community, the age and gender group, and even the individual person. In addition, a whole range of new analytical techniques – ancient DNA, stable isotope analysis, etc. – shed light to people’s health, pathologies, provenance and even kinship relations. These new findings need to be placed within a theoretical framework if we want to avoid a reductionist reading of human life – after all, identity cannot be equated with one’s genes.

These new methods and theories are transforming the way we do archaeology. However, archaeology is also changing under the weight of the economic crisis. Voutsaki’s main point is that we can only understand the past, and make it relevant, if we situate disciplinary practice in the present.

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