Patterns of the Deep Past. Interrogating the ‘long term’ in archaeology and history

Date and time
Sat 07 Sep 2019, 10 AM

Bern University, Switzerland

Ann McGrath to Co-Convene a session at the 25th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists

Co-Convened by Shuman Hussain, Ann McGrath and Martin Poor.

Both historians and archaeologists are fundamentally concerned with documenting and explaining long-term change. Yet, there is surprisingly little exchange between the two fields of expertise and both have cultivated different concepts, theories, and visions of the ‘long term’. This situation is understandable in so far as the often-divergent nature of historical and archaeological evidence affords different perspectives and interpretations, but it is also problematic, as each discipline may be diminished by failure to productively engage with each other. In fact, there appears to be a growing transdisciplinary consensus that phenomena of the ‘long term’ should be distinguished from their ‘short term’ counterparts. In historical research, for example, the theme of ‘scale’ has become prominent, with scholars beginning to reflect more deeply upon the internal dynamics and dialectics of varying temporalities of change. In a similar vein, archaeologists have begun to expose diachronic patterns and asymmetries that seem to shape long-term trajectories. In so doing, they are exploring emergent configurations of stability and transformation which cannot be explained only by short-term processes. Key notions such as ‘temporality’, ‘causality’, and ‘historicity’ possibly must be re-considered in this light. What is the specificity of long-term phenomena? What are the mechanisms that drive them? What is the ontological status of patterns of long-term stability and change? What is the relationship between regional and global histories of transformation in a long-term perspective?

The aim of this session is to address some of these questions in the hope of contributing to an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to the ‘long term’. We aspire to bring together scholars who work in different geographic/environmental settings, focus on different types of evidence (e.g. lithic technology, ceramics, other art forms, textual sources), and tackle varying time frames. Our ambition is to discuss phenomena related to the ‘deep past’ and the ‘long term’ in the broadest possible way and to ignite a new dialogue between theoretical concerns and situated case studies in discrete moments of time.