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
Three consecutive meetings were held in the Archaeology Institute in Kirkwall.
- A wine reception and plenary lecture on the evening of Friday 1 April
- One-day AEA spring conference on 2 April. In the evening we had a ‘taste of Orkney’ conference dinner at the nearby Lynnfield Hotel.
- The Professional Zooarchaeology Group meeting was held on 3 April, while simultaneously providing a field trip option for those wishing to explore more of Orkney. On the evening of 3 April a reception at the Stromness Museum was held.
- Field trips were available on 4 April
- The Archaeomalacology Working Group meeting took place on 4th & 5th April.
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 gave 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 took place in the Northern Isles, there was no geographic restriction on submissions.
CHAT 2016 ORKNEY
Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory (CHAT) Conference
21-23 October 2016
Hosting the conference in Orkney away from the usual metropolitan centres offered CHAT a chance to experience rural areas by situating itself within one. Orkney is both rural and island, and a microcosm for wider issues. In the past and present Orkney is a gateway, a crossroads and a hub, typified by recent renewable technology test sites. In this sense, the edge-lands are for innovators both in the past and present, and are orientated towards the future. With superfast communications technology, the internet and increased mobility, the dominance of urban centres for popular culture and social interactions is eroding. Are we ‘all urban now’ or is rurality growing new modes of existence?
We identified a number of sub-themes and questions:
- Experiencing and experiences of rural areas: What are rural ‘ways of life’ and how can we think about these archaeologically? Rural areas as contested landscapes past and present. How is our experience of rural heritage sites (tourism) mediated through convention and control?
- Agriculture, technology and landscape: What are the social and political economies, landscapes and materialities of the recent past and present in rural areas and islands? Can we re-theorise rurality in Historical and Contemporary Archaeology?
- Movement and travel within and between rural areas: How do these mobilities evidence themselves in blurring the boundaries (land and sea), both socially and spatially, between rural, urban and island areas? What is the role and history of digital technology in rural development?
- Ruralisation of the urban: Archaeologies of parks, wastelands, community gardens, theme parks, pseudo-rural landscapes and counter-urbanisation. How has urban design brought rural into urban?
- Rural areas as innovators / future orientated: Renewable technology and the development of more sustainable ways of life. Boom-bust economies of the recent past. Are terms such as ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ still useful? How can we challenge concepts / assumptions of remoteness and marginality?
The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Conference - ‘Our Islands, Our Past’
- Date: 14-17 September 2017
- Venue: Orkney
This conference was organised to contribute to the Scottish Government’s ‘Our Islands, Our Future’ agenda, initiated by the Local Authorities of the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, which stresses the different status and needs of island areas, and plans to enshrine the concept of ‘island-proofing’ in legislation through an Islands Bill.
We examined the distinct individual islands’ identities, and collective traits and traditions through the traces of past communities, and we expanded this to thinking about islands and island communities more widely. The conference formed part of the celebrations of the Scottish Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, and presented an opportunity to think about the future of the Islands’ archaeology and heritage, in the face of environmental, political and economic uncertainties. This conference also formed part of the development of a regional research framework for the three islands groups, with priorities for research feeding into a new research strategy.
Since moving on from thinking about islands as research laboratories, and with enduring perceptions of isolation and marginality, there remain issues that are particular to islands as discrete entities, such as islanders’ concepts of themselves as bounded communities, fragile communities, and the undoubted enhanced role of imagined communities in an island context. There are also issues of magnification and exaggeration that seem to manifest themselves to extremes in an island context, ranging from political discourse to monumental architecture.
Research themes discussed included:
- Creativity and Innovation
- Islands and identities
- Future islands, future archaeologies
- Materials and resources
- Travellers and voyagers
- Boundedness and permeability
- Island utopias
- Connectivity and communications
- Fragility, sustainability
Our Islands, Our Past Student Conference
St Magnus Centre, 15 September 2017
The University of the Highlands and Islands 'Our Islands, Our Past' Student Conference was held at the
St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall, starting at 9.30am on 15 September 2017. This conference was designed to
give Archaeology students an opportunity to present research which had been undertaken as part of their
studies to a wider audience.
The Conference included presentation, poster and roundtable discussion sessions for students to
promote themselves and their work, together with opportunities to take part in interactive talks on the overall
Archaeology Programme and with Archaeological Professionals on future employment aspirations.
The Student Conference preceded the overall conference and presented an opportunity to think about the future of the Islands' archaeology and heritage, in the face of environmental, political and economic uncertainties.