Home Archaeology Institute Events Association for Environmental Archaeology conference 2016 (with meetings of the Professional Zooarchaeology Working Group and the Archaeomalacology Working Group)

Association for Environmental Archaeology conference 2016 (with meetings of the Professional Zooarchaeology Working Group and the Archaeomalacology Working Group)

When Apr 01, 2016 09:00 AM to
Apr 03, 2016 10:00 PM
Where Kirkwall
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Islands: Isolation and connectivity

The AEA Spring Conference, April 2016

Hosted in Kirkwall, Orkney by the Archaeology Institute, University of the Highlands and Islands

Followed by meetings of the Professional Zooarchaeology Group and the Archaeomalacology Working Group

Download the full programme here.  Paper copies will also be in the delegate packs.

Please check our facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/AEAorkney/ for any last-minute updates.

We are hosting three consecutive meetings in the Archaeology Institute in Kirkwall.  After receiving a substantial number of abstracts, we have extended the AEA conference to two full days on the 1st and 2nd of April.  A wine reception and plenary lecture will take place on the evening of Friday the 1st of April.  After the final day of talks on the 2nd, we will have a ‘taste of Orkney’ conference dinner at the nearby Lynnfield Hotel.  On the 3rd of April, we will hold the Professional Zooarchaeology Group meeting, while simultaneously providing a field trip option for those wishing to explore more of Orkney.  On the evening of the 3rd we will have a reception at the Stromness Museum which houses superb natural history collections.  Field trips will again be available on the 4th of April, and on the 5th and 6th of April the Archaeomalacology Working Group meeting will then take place.

Advice for delegates

Speakers have 20 minute slots and there will be time for a quick question after your paper and also in dedicated question times at the end of each session.  Please bring your PowerPoints on a memory stick for uploading.

Download the Archaeomalacology preliminary programme here

Attendance of the Professional Zooarchaeology Group is primarily for members of the PZG, but new members are welcome; see below for details.  The programme will be available just prior to the meeting.

AEA Conference Abstract

The notion of the island as a laboratory, as a world in microcosm with well-defined boundaries, is an appealing and long established cliché. For almost two centuries, we have explored the distinctive biological and historical trajectories of different islands, and have identified a variety of ‘island effects’; on plants and animals and on human communities. Such work demonstrates that many islands offered distinctive potentials (and barriers) for social and ecological development. That said, research has often struggled to deal with a number of crucial problems; issues of scale and influence, of biogeography, connectivity and sustainability, that we are often ill-equipped to explore. This meeting provides a context in which to take a critical look at some of the premises upon which island-based work has often been undertaken, and asks some fairly fundamental questions. Is it helpful to think of islands as isolated or remote? Was the sea a barrier or a medium of movement and communication? How should we understand the place that island communities occupied in broader worlds? How did the nature of that wider articulation change over time and how was it manifest differently for individual communities/species? Most important of all, how should we reconcile the local details of colonisation, adaptation and (even) abandonment within broader processes of environmental and social change? Structured around the theme of isolation and connectivity, this meeting will give us a chance to look at some of these crucial concerns, with contributions from archaeobotany to zooarchaeology, from biomolecular analyses to climatology, and from landscape to seascape. Although this meeting will take place in the Northern Isles, there is no geographic restriction on submissions: by presenting papers set in various diverse ‘conceptual islands’ and island groups we hope to draw together and share methodologies and discussions.

Associated meetings: Professional Zooarchaeology Group

The PZG Spring 2016 meeting will be held on Sunday 3rd April at the University of the Highlands and Islands, Orkney, on the theme of the 'Zooarchaeology of Marine Faunas'. The meeting will be an opportunity to bring together zooarchaeologists and modern biologists/ecologists to consider the relationship between species distributions, climate change and human impact, to raise awareness of research aims across the disciplines and to explore potential for shared practice (eg modelling; potential of deep-time datasets; conservation policy).

After a morning of short (c. 15 minutes) formal presentations and case studies (c. 5 minutes), we will have a hands-on bone lab in the afternoon which will consider the utility and application of marine mammal and fish bone manuals.

If you are a member of PZG and wish to submit a presentation at the PZG workshop please contact the email address below stating clearly that your paper/case study is intended for the PZG working group meeting. Likewise, if you have a specific Marine Faunal bone manual that you would like to work with, or if you have a new manual that you would like to trial - please let us know!

Priority for attendance will be given to PZG members; please contact us by emailing and please use "PZG meeting" as the subject.  A small charge will be payable for refreshments on the day.

If you are not a member but wish to join the PZG - new members are always welcome - please see our membership policy at http://www.historicengland.org.uk/research/current-research/heritage-science/PZG, and in addition to your contact details please send a brief statement about your current work and interests in zooarchaeology to the PZG at .

Funding opportunities: AEA conference fund

The AEA is delighted to announce the availability of the Conference Fund to members of the AEA to assist attendance at the Orkney conference (1-3 April 2016). Prioritization of applicants for funding will be based on the following criteria: 1) those presenting papers or posters; 2) those with limited alternative sources of funding (particularly postgraduate students and those in the private sector); 3) members of at least six months standing. Applications from students must be accompanied by a letter of support from their supervisor.

Successful applicants will be required to provide a statement of expenditure and activities undertaken within 3 months after the event has taken place in order to receive reimbursement. Moreover, successful applicants will be requested to provide a report on the conference for the AEA Newsletter or website.

The deadline for applications is Friday 26 February 2016.

Any queries should be directed to the AEA Conference Officer: Robin Bendrey (r.bendrey@reading.ac.uk)

Funding opportunities: Student bursaries

We are pleased to announce that the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, in conjunction with the ScARF Student Network, have offered to fund 7 student bursaries.  These will cover conference fees, lunches, the dinner, and the field trip around Orkney's World Heritage area. These are available to undergraduate and postgraduate students from anywhere, not just Scotland.  Students are expected to present a poster (or paper).  Completed registration forms need to be submitted to the Society of Antiquaries by 15th February.  Full details are available here. 


Funding opportunities: EU COST network

We are delighted to announce two funded sessions are to take place, one within the AEA conference and one within the PZG working group meeting. Participants should receive full travel costs, accommodation and subsistence, provided they are from a EU state included in the COST network (see list; most EU states are included). In the event of over-subscription, priority will be given to less established researchers.  Posters and papers are both welcome.

These sessions are part of the Oceans Past Platform COST Action.

Within the remit of each meeting, we welcome contributions that additionally key into the following themes:

  • Changing settlement engagements with dynamic coasts (e.g. when did people settle on or abandon coasts and for what reasons?)
  • Changing regional specialisations of labour associated with trade and globalization
  • Changes in the scale and character of marine resource extraction and consumption
  • Changes to the chemistry of seas and marine fauna potentially influenced by coastal and riparian settlement
  • Using archaeological, historical and more recent catch history information to establish integrated trends in exploitation of key marine species
  • Linking trends with technological development
  • Linking trends with societal developments such as colonialism, past & present policy measures
  • The role of marine science insights for production and consumption

Please contact us with questions and/or if you would like your paper to be considered within one of these sessions.

Associated meetings: Archaeomalacology Working Group

Methods in our Madness: Approaches in Archaeomalacology

The diverse implications of examining malacological assemblages in archaeological contexts are widely recognized. From understanding past environments and reconstructing palaeo-landscapes to exploring past subsistence strategies; and from elucidating socio-cultural dynamics of maritime interactions to the use of shell as raw materials in both technological and cultural spheres, shellfish play an important part in archaeological narratives. This workshop plays two roles: first to present current archaeomalacological research from around the world – demonstrating the above. The second part aims to discuss and develop more standardized approaches to taxonomic classification, collection, quantification and analysis of shell assemblages and reporting techniques. While there is a vast array of archaeological examination of shell remains, current outputs lack appropriate standardization, making cross-cultural or inter-site analysis difficult – something that will become increasingly detrimental to the discipline. The AMWG has reached a critical mass whereby such standardization should become practical and possible.

Themes of particular interest:

  • Current research in archaeomalacology from across the world
  • Socio-cultural value of shells
  • Shells as raw material
  • Archaeomalacological methodologies
  • Taxonomy, classification and quantification
  • Palaeo-environmental studies

Download the Archaeomalacology Working Group registration form here.

The preliminary programme is now available for download.

The deadline for registration was the 29th February 2016.

Conference Venue and Schedule

Please see the programme for the final schedule.

The conference and working groups will take place in the St. Magnus Centre.  This facility is situated in the heart of the historic city of Kirkwall, with space for up to 100 attendees with several rooms for break-out meetings if required. Teas, coffees and light refreshments (reflecting Orkney products) will be provided in the morning and afternoon as part of the conference fee.  Lunch will be provided as an option, at an additional cost of £10 per head.  Alternatively, delegates will be able to find their own lunches from the good range of coffee shops, restaurants, supermarkets and other shops all within 5-10 minutes of the conference venue. 

Events and Field Trips

Public Lecture and Opening Reception: The conference will open with a free public lecture, hosted by the Orkney Archaeological Society on the evening of the 1st of April.  We are pleased to announce that Prof. Terry O'Connor will be speaking; title to be announced shortly. There will be an evening reception as part of this event.

Conference Dinner: An optional conference dinner (for up to 50 people, ‘Taste of Orkney’) will be held at the Lynnfield Hotel, one of Orkney’s top restaurants on the 2nd of April. 

Evening Reception at the Stromness Museum: The Professional Zooarchaeology Working Group is scheduled for the 3rd of April and will be followed by an Open Evening and wine reception at the Stromness Museum, which holds the natural history collections for Orkney as well as ethnographic materials relating to Orkney’s recent past.  The current exhibition features artefacts from the Ness of Brodgar.  This event will be free and will be open to both PZG and AEA attendees. 


Orkney Coastal Archaeology (NOW FULL)

This full day option will be led by Scott Timpany and will visit the coastal palaeoenvironments of Orkney on the 3rd April for those not wishing to attend the PZG meeting.  This trip will visit various archaeological monuments, coastal eroding middens, and other palaeoenvironmental sediments of interest.

Maximum 26 people; lunch not included.

Orkney World Heritage Area

This full day field trip on the 4th of April will visit the iconic sites of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage area, including Skara Brae, the Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar and Barnhouse (whc.unesco.org/en/list/514).

Admission to Skara Brae and a packed lunch are included.

A further field trip will be available on the 7th April for those attending the Archaeomalacology Working Group.




AEA Spring Conference, St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall

Friday 1st April

Open OAS Lecture by Terry O'Connor, followed by the Evening Reception

Friday 1st April

AEA Spring Conference, St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall

Saturday 2nd April

Conference Dinner, Lynnfield Hotel, Kirkwall

Saturday 2nd April

PZG Meeting

Sunday 3rd April

Field Trip 1: Orkney Coastal Archaeology

Sunday 3rd April

Open Evening and Reception at the Stromness Museum

Sunday 3rd April

Field Trip 2: Heart of Neolithic Orkney, World Heritage Area

Monday 4th April

Archaeomalacology Working Group

5th - 9th April [optional fieldtrip on the 7th April]


Travel and accommodation

You can fly to Kirkwall from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness (with connections available from much of the UK and some part of Europe) with www.flybe.com or if you’re travelling from abroad, then through tickets to Kirkwall can be bought as part of a British Airways ticket.  It is advisable to allow for delays during your journey.

Ferry options are available from www.northlinkferries.co.uk (with ScotRail connections from Thurso) and www.pentlandferries.co.uk.

The conference will be held at the very start of the tourist season, so there should be plenty of accommodation options available to suit every budget.  Visit Orkney provides detailed listings.

Organisation team

For general enquiries please contact and put "AEA conference" in the subject line. 

Ingrid Mainland

Jen Harland

Annalisa Christie

Scott Timpany

Photo credits left to right: Ness of Brodgar excavation (by Hugo Anderson-Whymark), North Ronaldsay sheep, medieval fish bones from Westray (by Rebecca Marr)