Developing Integrated Archaeology

UPDATE 2015: Our conference paper ‘Third ‘Annual Student Archaeology’ Conference: Edinburgh, June 2015’ is now available in International Journal of Student Research in Archaeology 1 (1): 235-237.

The 3rd Annual Student Archaeology Conference: Developing Integrated Archaeology (ASA 2015 Edinburgh)


The Annual Student Archaeology Conference (ASA) series, established in 2013, aims to provide students with a friendly and supportive platform to share their research and activities with one another and the wider archaeological community. The ASA conference takes place each summer and is organized by a committee of students from the hosting institution.

This year I had the fantastic opportunity to be part of the organizing committee of the 3rd ASA conference that was held at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh in June 2015. After our bid to host the conference was selected as the winning proposal by the ASA national committee, myself, and 3 other PhD students – Ülle Aguraiuja, Rachel Faulkner-Jones and Marta Lorenzon – eagerly started our funding applications and planning our conference theme and sessions. The main theme of ASA 2015 was ‘Developing Integrated Archaeology’. Our aim was to focus on developing an integrated approach between soft and hard science in archaeology and how a multidisciplinary methodology can contribute to the understanding of human culture and its evolution. We decided on 4 sessions, each focusing on a different aspect of archaeological theory and method. More importantly, we dedicated one of these sessions on the role of archaeology within the wider community and its role in public engagement. These sessions are outlined below.

For key note-lecture it was our great pleasure to welcome Professor Colin Renfrew (Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn) to Edinburgh and we thoroughly enjoyed his talk on ‘Difficult integration: Archaeology, Language, Genetics: the Indo-European Problem Revisited. To close the conference we decided on a round table discussion on ‘Transitioning between Academic and Commercial Archaeology’. This session aimed to highlight student concerns regarding transferable and employable skills in academic and non-academic careers, and the usefulness of academic-focused degrees in commercial archaeology. Students had the opportunity to ask questions to a panel of heritage professionals such as Andy Heald (Managing Director, AOC Archaeology), Alison Sheridan (Principle Curator, National Museums Scotland), Gaille MacKinnon (Lecturer in Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Dundee), David Connolly (British Archaeological Jobs and Resources) and Simon Gilmour (Director, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland).

As a gesture of appreciation to the conference participants we also had a prize giving ceremony for best- poster, presenter in each session, and honorable mentions for the most thought provoking talks. On the third and final day of the conference, participants could choose from 4 optional conference trips to the Museum of Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland, Rosslyn Chapel and a Holyrood Park walking tour.

More information and updates on the conference can be found on our conference website, twitter, facebook and goole+ pages.

Session 1. Scientific Archaeological Methods
The application of science-based methods to archaeology is long established, and its use and impact are continuously expanding. The vast array of scientific techniques available to archaeologists today has made the study of biological and material remains of past people and cultures more comprehensive than ever. Interdisciplinary approaches have become an integral part of any archaeological research project and have created whole new sub-disciplines such as environmental archaeology, paleodietary studies, and forensic archaeology, to name but a few. This session is intended to cover a broad range of topics, including (but not limited to) dating techniques, remote sensing and archaeological survey methods, geoarchaeology, archaeological chemistry (aDNA, stable isotopes, residue analysis), paleobotany, zooarchaeology and osteological methods. Participants could discuss methodological aspects or focus on case studies that employ science-based approaches to investigate archaeological research questions.
Session 2. Archaeology beyond Academia
Archaeological research produces a huge amount of information that is often significant to the communities in which it is practiced. From uncovering untold histories to providing educational opportunities through public outreach and economic development via tourism, the value of archaeology extends far beyond academia. This session will explore the role of archaeology within the wider community, the strategies employed in teaching and promoting public engagement, and developing commercial and public archaeology initiatives. We encourage submissions focused on the use and methods employed in areas such as archaeotourism, community archaeology and public archaeology, and the consequent dissemination of archaeological knowledge to the wider community and general public, in addition to collaborative networks created between professional, academic and community led archaeologist. Reports and outcomes of recent and/or current archaeological projects with community interaction are welcomed.
Session 3. Applied Archaeological Theory
Theory and practice in archaeology can sometimes feel like two distinct disciplines, despite the significant benefits conferred on projects adopting a multi-disciplinary research focus. Applied theory encourages non-traditional interpretations and broadens the spectrum of archaeological research. This session will explore the relationship between theoretical paradigms and physical archaeology, the impact of theory on the practice and analysis of artefact recovery, and novel theory-based interpretations. We encourage submissions focussed on re-assessing existing assemblages, the application of theory in projects involving excavation and post-excavation analysis, and novel interpretations or models where theory has been a significant influence. Reports or updates on recent archaeological projects or studies investigating the interplay between theory and practice are welcomed.
Session 4. Historical Archaeology
Historical Archaeology investigates the past through combined studies of both material culture and documentary sources. Archaeological sources are analysed and interpreted in connection to the historical dataset such as maps, texts and oral history. Due to its multidisciplinary focus, historical archaeology is one of the most rapidly expanding archaeological disciplines and is composed of many sub-disciplines such as industrial archaeology and underwater archaeology. This session aims to present different case studies regarding historic cultures, which should be investigated through material culture, as well as through documented and oral history. The overall goal of the session is to present different approaches in investigating historical contexts. More specifically, the session aims at showing and discussing complementary case studies on themes such as migration, contact and conflict.
Round Table Discussion: Transitioning between Academic and Commercial Archaeology 
As a student conference, the 3rd ASA organising committee have recognised the importance of helping participating students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, to open a dialogue into future careers in archaeology. This will be undertaken at the University of Edinburgh with an informal round table discussion involving specialists from different branches of career archaeology; commercial, museums, academia, and forensics. The workshop will be mediated by Tom Gardner, commercial archaeologist and post-graduate student at the UoE. The discussion will have a free form, involving a loosely structured set of themes, from student work, unpaid internships, and commercial health & safety practice, to forensics employability, CV formatting, and the IfA and CBA’s role in archaeology careers. The conference committee wants this session to be informative and malleable, where topics of discussion and questions are desired, and new avenues for discussion relevant to the participating audience are encouraged. The aim of the session is to prepare conference participants, especially students, for what a career in archaeology entails, and how to achieve it.

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