Next Seminar: Entanglement and Identity in the Mediterranean

In trying to move beyond the older, simplistic extremes of diffusion v. indigenous development as well as outmoded and uncomfortable ideas about colonisation, particularly in the Mediterranean, scholars began exploring concepts such as hybridity and creolisation to understand cultural interaction. However, both terms imply a binary aspect of cultural interaction that the term transculturalism, a process of multiple types of polylogs, encounters, and interactions, seeks to avoid.

Entanglement and appropriation, especially as introduced in the work of Stockhammer, represent complementary aspects of a transcultural approach, which focuses on the cultural use of objects. An entangled approach considers the function of an object, its symbolic use, social styles of acting and doing, and hence an agency of objects as determined by analysing the contextual meaning of an object, rather than simply focusing entirely on style and production. Thus, entangled approaches seek to determine if imported objects, locally produced objects in a foreign style, locally produced objects in a local style, and even stylistically hybrid objects are being used according to local or foreign social norms. The purpose of this discussion is to consider the meaning and application of transculturalism and entanglement for interpreting various aspects and scales of culture and identity, both within Greece and the Aegean and with regard to these regions and their neighbors.

This session of TASA will be led by Dr. Louise Hitchcock (Associate Professor, University of Melbourne). Some of the questions this seminar will address are the following:

How do we assign distinctions between style of object and the identity of the culture using it?

What are the implications of an agency of objects for either transforming or re-enforcing cultural identity?

What is the relationship between daily routine and cultural identity?

How useful is entanglement for exploring regional interactions within a single culture?

The seminar will take place at 7pm on Friday, 16 May 2014 at the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies (IIHSA) at 51a Odos Notara, Exarcheia Athens.

Numbers are limited to 15, please RSVP by email ( to book a place and request the readings.

Next Seminar: The Phenomenon of ‘Phantom Place’ and Ships

This seminar, led by Dr. Chryssanthi Papadopoulou (Leventis Fellow at BSA), aims to discuss the phenomenon of ‘phantom place’, and its occurrences and impact on our experience of Place.

This phenomenon, which finds its equivalent in Merleau-Ponty’s analysis of the phantom limb, manifests itself when a bygone place acquires such representational value in absentia so as to determine our experience of the tangible place. To elaborate further on the impacts of this phenomenon an alternative spatiality will be employed as a case study: the ship. This talk will show how a warship (the Classical Athenian trireme) was perceived in absentia in its original context and how its place transformed into an unparalleled phantom which has haunted subsequent generations from antiquity until today. It will also demonstrate how the absent place of a ship becomes a powerful presence in the experience of shipwreck sites by maritime archaeologists. Thus, through the place of the ship we will trace the diachronicity and implications of the phenomenon of the phantom place on human cognition of Place.

The seminar will take place at 7pm on Thursday January 30th 2014 at the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies (IIHSA) at 51a Odos Notara, Exarcheia Athens. Numbers are limited to 15, please RSVP by email ( to book a place and request the readings.


Archaeology, in both theory and practice, constantly encounters absence; the absence of people who once lived at a site, the absence of finds and evidence, the fragmentary nature of archaeological “things”, etc. Perhaps absence is the ontological prerequisite for any attempt at doing archaeology. Or, to reverse the statement, archaeology itself is a human discursive strategy that addresses absence as the ontological basis of history and human time. Modern approaches to time have seen the temporal progress as the process of ruination, and thus archaeology develops accordingly as a technique of dealing with the ever-increasing accumulation of ruins. But the ruin itself, precisely what remains from a long-lost unity, it is formulated through absence.

Absence is not only the subject matter as one may say of archaeology, but it is also one of the ways it manifests: on the one hand, absence of material evidence of the past is as important as their presence in ranging archaeological sites in a hierarchical scale of importance within a nation state, such as Greece, with the highly iconic sites, the Parthenon for example, near the top, and less visible ones, such as peak sanctuaries, near the bottom. The seasonal nature of archaeological work in general, as well as the intermittent activity of state archaeological services, makes for a peculiar social relationship, whereby archaeology (either a discipline or as official body) is mostly experienced through its absence.

When one comes to ethnographically study the archaeological process, one constantly encounters absences on many levels. Both the absence of material, various strategies that develop around that void, and absence as the perceived distance of archaeology and public are both subject matters that are brought to the fore in an ethnographic study of places with material remains of the past.

This session of TASA led by Dr Aris Anagnostopoulos (University of Kent) aims to explore two areas:

Firstly to become itself a focus group that exchanges experiences, somatic and discursive strategies of dealing with absence. To this end, participants are invited to contribute their experiences, thoughts, emotions and sensations as examples for discussion and theorization.

Secondly, this seminar wishes to discuss:
●How is absence encountered? How is it explained in research reports? What sense does it make? What strategies are developed to fill in the voids of absence in practice and in theory?

●How do archaeologists explain absence to interested publics? How are these absences treated by the public (suspicion, complacency, indifference)? What role does this absence play in the relations between archaeology and the public?

●What can recent theoretical developments in social anthropology and the humanities tell us about this absence, especially as regards the epistemological status of archaeology?

The seminar will take place at 7pm on Thursday March 28th 2013 at the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies (IIHSA) at 51a Odos Notara, Exarcheia Athens. Numbers are limited to 15, please RSVP by email ( to book a place and request the reading

Next Seminar: Approaches to ‘Social Complexity’ in Archaeology

In recent decades the theoretical parameters of ‘social complexity’ in archaeology have shifted considerably. Those neoevolutionist theories which formed the foundation of many previous avenues of research have been extensively critiqued for their inability to adequately explain processes of change, for identifying inequality as a seemingly inevitable consequence of social progress, and for implicitly positioning modern western state societies at the apex of the typology. Archaeologists of both processual and post-processual schools have moved away from the typological trajectories of band > tribe > chiefdom > state (as per Sahlins and Service 1960, 37) and egalitarian > ranked > stratified > state (Fried 1967) and classificatory terms such as ‘chiefdom’ and ‘state’, which no longer meaningfully describe those societies encountered in the anthropological or archaeological records.

In the wake of this shift, a number of complementary and competing theoretical perspectives on ‘social complexity’ have emerged, which seek to redress the limitations of previous schemes. Rather than identifying ‘social complexity’ as a framework within which inequality, heterogeneity and social stratification develop concurrently and systemically , several new approaches have sought to decouple these three components , resulting in the development of a multiplicity of theoretical models, which include multiple dynamic models of hierarchy alongside concepts, such as the ‘decentralised state’, ‘heterarchy’, ‘factionalism’, and ‘dual-processual’ models. Inevitably, any reassessment of the nature of ‘social complexity’, and any reanalysis of the criteria upon which archaeologists define ‘social complexity’, has far-reaching consequences for our understanding of the past.
This TASA session, led by David Smith (University of Liverpool) and Stephen o’ Brien (University of Chester), will explore both the potential and the limitations of new approaches to ‘social complexity’, using the societies of the Late Bronze Age in the Aegean as our evidential base. Items for discussion will include:

• Is the concept of the ‘state’ still useful to archaeologists?
• How might non-hierarchical social formations be recognised in the archaeological record?
• How do non-evolutionary models of society impact upon our understanding of processes of change?
• What are the implications of non-hierarchical models of power for the analysis of ‘state’ societies such as those of the ‘palatial’ Late Bronze Age in Crete and on the Greek mainland?

Seminar will take place at 7pm on Thursday October 18th 2012 at the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies (IIHSA) at 51a Odos Notara.
Numbers are limited to 15, please RSVP by email ( to book a place and request the reading

Next Seminar: Reading the Past? Images in Archaeology as a Source of Information

The study of images has always played a significant part in archaeology as it is considered a useful tool towards the reconstruction of various aspects of life of ancient societies, such as beliefs and symbolisms that are not otherwise visible in the archaeological record. This is especially true in prehistoric archaeology due to the lack of writer sources. Wedde (1995), for example, discusses issues of Aegean Bronze Age hierarchical systems based on iconographic representations.

In fact, as Morgan (1985: 19), observes ‘iconography, as a notation of a culture, is as expressive and informative as any language’. However, even in historical periods, when written documents are more abundant and contain plenty of information, the careful study of images is crucial in order to differentiate myth from reality (see Ferrari 2003).

The aim of this seminar, led by Dr. Angelos Papadopoulos, is to present and discuss some of the key aspects of the study of images in order to comprehend to a greater extent the role of representations in ancient societies.

• Should images and representations be considered as ‘portraits’ or ‘photographs’ of the past and to what extend should the archaeologist be dependent on them in order to interpret the available data?

• Are images what may be called pure ‘art’ or where they manipulated and presented in certain ways in order to highlight individuals, such as the local elite(s) or specific moments in time, for example victories over the enemy?

• Are there common patterns between the various cultures and polities in the use and appreciation on certain icons, so that different peoples can understand the meaning of an image or a scene?

• Who had access to the images decorating the walls of palaces and temples and why there are variations in size and type of representations?

Seminar will take place at 7pm on Friday May 27th 2011 at the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies (IIHSA) at 51a Odos Notara. Numbers are limited to 15, please RSVP by email ( to book a place and request the reading

Next Seminar: Gender in Archaeology

Attention to gender and feminist questions within archaeological practice and theory has followed a somewhat different path from other disciplines, but inquiry into the presence of women and the difference gender makes, is ongoing in a variety of areas. The discussion be led by Meryl Altman, Professor of Women’s Studies at DePauw University, will address the following important issues:

●How does gender affect the use of space, the meaning of objects, the distribution of resources and power?

●What theories about gender (implicit or explicit) underlie various ways of conceptualizing (for instance) the household and the city? Suspicion has rightly fallen on certain “grand narratives” (evolution from matriarchy to patriarchy, “oriental seclusion,” etc., whether in conservative or feminist versions); is it desirable to avoid all grand narratives? (Is it possible?) To what extent should “domesticating” vs “foreignising” strategies be pursued, i.e., is it helpful to emphasize similarities or differences with the present day?

●How does the development of gender and feminist theory and methodology articulate with other developments in the field of archaeology (processualism, post-processualism, interest in “networks,” questions about the possibility/desirability of reconstructing “experience”), and are there differences between the archaeological study of the Aegean region vs the rest of the world?

●What is/ should be/ can be the relationship of gender archaeology to ethnography? is there a place for aesthetics? how do we understand relations between gender representations and gender realities? between “status” of women and women’s power defined as access to resources? what role, if any, remains for biology?

●How can the sorts of evidence available, and the methods of investigation used to explore that evidence, influence the social picture that develops? How can we be careful not to erase differences between women – in particular differences of social class – and still come to some conclusions? What do we do when the texts say one thing and the material culture says something difference? What do we do when there are no texts? Is it reasonable to generalize between literate and pre-literate societies?

●How does the study of sexuality (including same-sex practices and gender fluidity) overlap with study of the presence and role of women, where are there some disconnects, how can these different approaches most productively work together?

●How does the study of gender intersect with studies of ethnicity, colonialism, and migration?

Seminar will take place at 7pm on Wednesday April13th 2011 at the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies (IIHSA) at 51a Odos Notara.

Numbers are limited to 15, please RSVP by email ( to book a place and request the reading

Next Seminar: Theoretical & Methodological Perspectives on Networks & Connectivity in Mediterranean Archaeology

Albeit within the archaeological discourse interaction has always played a critical role, it can be safely asserted that for many years its functioning has been one of the most under-theorized themes in archaeology in general and in Mediterranean archaeology in particular. This is because inter-societal interaction has been often taken for granted and considered more a prerequisite than a topic per se.
In the last two decades or so, however, this situation has considerably changed. Indeed, a relatively well-defined branch of studies has gradually emerged which sees its main object of analysis not in the individual entities forming the archaeological record but rather in connections between them. Albeit often starting from quite different standpoints (from “island archaeology” to more science-oriented applications), these studies appear to have a common denominator constituted by the adoption of methodologies based on/loosely inspired by a specific branch of mathematics called graph theory.
In archaeological applications of graph theory, archaeological objects are connected by various means to other nodes, and forming a network. What is of interest of networks (whatever their form) is primarily their overall properties and the roles that nodes acquire by virtue of their position in that whole. As a result of this position nodes might have different degrees of “centrality”, “between-ness” or “remoteness”, features that, in turn, can be linked to aspects that it is possible to recognize in the archaeological record (prominence of a particular site in a region, abundance or lack of archaeological remains at some particular locales etc.). Finally the limiting/empowering capabilities of physical space are another aspect that network applications examining case studies from the Mediterranean past are starting to deal with (i.e. Knappett et al. 2008).
In this TASA session, led by Francesco Iacono (University College London), we will discuss and highlight the potential and the limitations of the use networks both as a rigorous methodology and as a broader metaphor of past human activity, addressing in particular issues related with:
● Why archaeology should be interested in networks & how networks in the past can help us to gain a better understanding of the current world
● Relationship between various notions of centrality & the emergence of prominent sites in a region
● The role of environment in shaping continuity or discontinuity of interaction (i.e. the role of the sea, a connecting element rather than a dividing one Horden and Purcell 2000, Broodbank 2000),
● Limitations entailed by the use of networks approaches with the often incomplete data offered by the archaeological record
● Social implications of networks. Are networks neutral? What is the influence of networks on societal differentiation?
Seminar will take place at 7pm on Monday March 14th 2011 at the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies (IIHSA) at 51a Odos Notara.
Numbers are limited to 15, please RSVP by email ( to book a place and request the reading