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Nordic Theoretical Archaeology Group

University of Oulu 25th-28th APRIL 2012

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Paper abstracts can be found from the link behind the title of each session. If the link doesn't work try using Internet Explorer.

Surveillance in Historical Archaeology: Theories and Technologies, and the Material Culture of Social Control

The concepts of surveillance and social control can be related to power dynamics and power relationships. In historical archaeology notions of surveillance are in many cases derived from Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon and Michel Foucault’s development of the idea o­f panoptic surveillance. Surveillance has been an important research topic in historical archaeology since the 1990s. Mark P. Leone has studied the pre-Independence period development of the panoptic society and the monitoring of individuals in the eastern seaboard American towns of Annapolis (refs). Stephen A. Mrozowski and Paul A. Shackel have both discussed how surveillance has been conducted in different urban industrials environment (refs).Taking a step back, Matthew Johnson has connected the surveillance and the development of capitalism in the modernization process of English society, which preceded American colonial life (refs).The development of control and surveillance has deep roots in other European countries. In early-modern Sweden urban planning and mapping was used to control subjects of the Crown from the 17th century (refs).
We would encourage researchers to present papers which identify and analyze the instruments of social control through surveillance, and the monitoring of individuals in the historical processes of urbanization, modernization and industrialization. The subject of surveillance/control can be explored using a wide range of source from the early modern and modern period, and we would encourage session participants to draw upon documentary, pictographic, and cartographic sources, buildings archaeology, and the evidence of material culture. 

Timo Ylimaunu, University of Oulu
Per Cornell, University of Gothenburg
Göran Tagesson, The Swedish National Heritage Board

Session Discussant: Professor Mark P. Leone, (University of Maryland)

What about the things themselves?

A number of scholars have proclaimed the return of things in social and cultural research. In addition to making archaeological approaches to the recent and present past more popular and viable than ever before, the return of things has already allowed us to produce other histories, and to explore alternative and neglected human pasts and presents. However, despite the enthusiasm for what things allow, and the claims of their return, they themselves do not seem included in the empathy and care for the marginal and othered otherwise persistently voiced in these studies. Things continue to be regarded primarily as a useful means to reach something humanly else. This reverberates with a common position in archaeology and material culture studies where things are of interest to us only insofar they involve people; relationships of significance are always between humans and things (Harman 2010). This session invites papers exploring what a return to things themselves may imply; in other words, how things exist, act and inflict on each other, also outside the human realm. By attempting yet another (re)turn to things contributors to this session are challenged to scrutinize the possibility of a new ecology of practices (Stengers); one that does not require the abolition of things’ otherness or unfamiliarity in order to render them humanly useful and which also accepts the possibility that things themselves may be the source of their own signification.

Harman, G. 2010. Towards speculative realism: Essays and lectures. Ropley: Zero Books.

Bjørnar Olsen, University of Tromsø

From All of Us to All of You: Dissemination in archaeology

Session has been cancelled and two of the abstracts have been moved to the session "On the relationship between past and the present in archaeology".

This session invites papers about dissemination in archaeology, present relationships between archaeologists and the public as well as future dissemination strategies. From the infancy of archaeology, dissemination of excavations and research results has occupied a vital part in the field of archaeology. Along with scientific research, hermeneutic analysis and interpretation and laborious fieldwork, dissemination has constituted the backbone of archaeological self-perception and identity, as well as its public legitimacy.
However, in recent years, archaeologists have had a tendency to hand over this important aspect of their profession to other fields of study, such as Museum studies and experience economy, thus distancing themselves and their profession from their main target audience: ordinary people in the streets. Today, we can rightfully ask the questions: Does dissemination still play a vital role in the archaeological professions? How do we bridge the gap between the public and the archaeologist, and how do we as archaeologists increase the public interest in our profession? Why should modern archaeology be concerned with dissemination at all?
This session invites papers in English on the following topics:

  • ‘On site’ dissemination: theoretical and methodological considerations
  • The museum as medium: experiences with and considerations on archaeological exhibitions
  • Archaeological research and the public: dissemination of academic knowledge in archaeology
  • Archaeology and the media: experiences with dissemination through traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc.)
  • Archaeology and cyberspace: experiences with dissemination in the digital world
  • Writing and speaking archaeology: the language of dissemination
  • Dissemination strategies in archaeology: future plans and efforts
  • Archaeology, Reconstructions and Re-enactment – new ways of dissemination?

Rikke Olafson, DREAM, University of Southern Denmark
Zsófia Kölcze, Prehistoric Archaeology, Aarhus University
Katrine Balsgaard Juul, Prehistoric Archaeology, Aarhus University

Archaeology of pain and suffering

Today, archaeologists are increasingly turning their attention to the felt, lived-in and tangible worlds of the past. Archaeologists have also increasingly recognized the need for consideration of living, feeling and fleshed bodies in archaeological research. Still, pain and suffering have been avoided topics among archaeologists because of their elusiveness, subjectivity and difficulties in cross-cultural comparison.
In the past, without efficient painkillers and medical aid, common ailments took severe forms and caused intense pains. Notions of suffering and pain were understood in their social and cultural context. Ideas of pain and suffering were also related to the conceptions people had about the human body and its relationship to the surrounding world. Therefore it should be remembered that pain may not have been perceived as a negative feeling but may have been a desired result in some social situations. As an example one might recall many painful initiation rites practiced among several societies documented by ethnographers. The existence and social meaning of such rites and rituals in past societies must be acknowledged in archaeological research even though the rites and rituals cannot be reconstructed. Circumstantial evidence of the existence of such rites may however be observed in archaeological record even outside osteological evidence.
                 This session aims to discuss how pain and suffering can be incorporated into the study of the lived-in worlds of the past. We encourage papers pertaining to, for instance, archaeology of disease, trauma, violence, fear, hunger etc. We also welcome papers that discuss pain and suffering in theoretical and cross-cultural perspectives and papers that tangle the subject via artefact- or site studies.

Anna-Kaisa Salmi & Jari-Matti Kuusela, Archaeology, University of Oulu
anna-kaisa.salmi(at), jari-matti.kuusela(at)

" Warring Heritages"  

Archaeology is in the heritage and identity business.  It cross cuts the private and the public sectors. Archaeological sites once thought of as inviolate and as symbols of identity are now targets of violence whether they are the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the Temple Mount, the Mostar Bridge, the Bhuddas of Bamiyan, or the artifacts of the Baghdad museum. The conflict may be violent but need not be -it can be a conflict of words, images, or other public communication systems.  It can be the call for repatriation of Greek statues, Agamemnon's treasure, Wampum belts, or Jewish Art confiscated by the Nazi's or even religious and national issues over human remains. The goal of this session is to present papers examining levels of conflict in diverse heritage projects in the Old World at the Oulu TAG and analogously present papers examining levels of conflict in diverse heritage projects in the New World at the Buffalo TAG.  Are there general lessons to be learned so that supposedly conflicting heritage identities may coexist in the modern world?  Is it possible to have a "heritage court" to resolve conflicts and if so what and how would it be operationalized?   In this increasingly and twittered world is there a place for "private", "community", and "national" heritage or must there be only a globalized understanding.  Participants will include archaeologists, heritage and preservation specialists, as well as government officials, conflict theorists, and representatives of affected communities.

Ezra Zubrow, University at Buffalo

Archaeology of auditory past

It is an obvious, but less frequently exploited fact that the archaeological record bears also evidence of past musical activities and ancient sound worlds. Remains of musical instruments, as well as depictions of musicians, carry information on intentional sound production, many other artefacts and ecofacts information on auditory environments and soundscapes. These acoustic phenomena were not irrelevant or random elements of the environment, but organic, meaningful and active parts of the cultural setting, involved in constructing the social reality. Studying them enables thus to deepen our understanding of the past societies, both in sensory and cognitive level.
This session discusses issues and methodological problems that researchers interested in music archaeology or auditory archaeology, might encounter. For example, how do we define the concept of musical artefact? How can we explore the meaning and use of these finds? How can we employ archaeological data in reconstructing soundscapes? When should we use ethnographical analogies? The session aims to bring together all Nordic colleagues working in the research area.

Riitta Rainio, University of Helsinki

New aspects on the dress in the past

The session aims to seek new views on the research of dresses. The dress has many important aspects in human life. Dress may for example reveal the social role of an individual and how this role is acted out in life. Many aspects of identity or personhood may be approached through the clothes. Focus can be set to the one who wears the dress, but it is only one aspect. The dress has both individual and communal meaning both in everyday life and in feast. It is necessity through the life but it is also present in burials. Who wears what and why is depended on various pieces, which we would like to bring out to discussion. One element of clothing are the concrete artefacts, but beyond their physical appearance there are several phenomena like norms, manners, politics and fashion, which all are connected to the context. 
The dress may be studied from many kinds of archaeological materials. When textiles have preserved, their manufacture techniques and colours inform of, for example, economical, social and technical points of views. In addition, we seek for theorisation of the dress also through other find materials than textiles. These include for example fasteners, like buttons and fibulae, and ornaments of the dress. The dress may also be researched through iconographic and written sources.
The organisers warmly welcome presentations from textile researchers, archaeologists, historians and other researchers that work with textiles or dressing artefacts. Papers are not geographically tight and also time periods can vary.

Chairs: Sanna Lipkin & Tiina Kuokkanen, University of Oulu
sanna.lipkin(at), tiina.kuokkanen(at)

Rangifer Domus

The domestication of animals, and of landscapes, traditionally has been defined as a sudden technical achievement which allowed humans to rise above, exploit, dominate, and profit from their surroundings. Described dramatically as a revolution, or more recently as neolithization, these stark metaphors have often overwritten local accounts of how people nurture relationships with certain places or certain species, let alone thrive in them. Arctic landscapes are frequently described as needing more domination than most, making them ideal examples with which to compare these two positions. This panel will present recent research from environmental archaeology, genetics, anthropology, and the history of science to work towards a new model of human-animal relationships with a special focus on reindeer (Rangifer) both wild and tame.  The presenters, each from their own discipline, will re-examine the line between wild and tame forms to explore how they anticipate each other.  The papers will reflect new work on 'nurturing' using categories from the theory of personhood, the structure of the biosphere, niche construction, and the domus.  There will be an emphasis on Rangifer relationships internationally and not limited to the Nordic countries.

David Anderson, University of Tromsø

Borders, Margins, Fringes: archaeologies on/from the Edge

The Nordic-TAG has now for more than a quarter of a century acted as one the most poignant forums for cutting-edge debate in Scandinavian archaeology. At the time of its establishment, and for a long period thereinafter, theoretical archaeology was regarded rather peripheral within the general archaeological discourse. Now times have changed. Theoretical archaeology has earned a more central place within the discipline. Yet, is it not paradoxical to consider archaeological theory in terms of the mainstream or something generally accepted? Must theory not waltz at the margins of the mainstream debate? Is it not mandatory that theoretical debate transverses all conventionalities?
In 2013 the NTAG will for the first time visit the margins of the Nordic world when the 13th TAG conference will be held in Reykjavik, Iceland. As a consequence of the location the conference will focus on the concepts of Borders, Margins and Fringes and how they have penetrated archaeological debate from various angles and perspectives, equally addressing their involvement in relations to geography, culture, society and the academic discourse in general, as well as critically scrutinizing the application of these issues within the scholarship. This session will act as a warm-up for the NTAG in Iceland in 2013. Hence, people are invited to contribute papers that touch upon the theme from a multitude of vantage points.

Kristján Mímisson & Steinunn Kristjánsdóttir, University of Iceland

The archaeology of holiness

Holiness and religion have always played an important role in human culture and these topics have also been widely studied in archaeology. In most of the cases these studies tend to relate to separate religious practices – rituals and cults being the most common ones – because these acts leave direct material traces that can be studied archaeologically. Another commonly used branch of the archaeology of religion is landscape studies and mostly cognitive approaches to the past landscapes. However, religion should be considered much more broadly than just a collection of rituals and cults and without doubt there is much more to it than just the traces of material culture. When studying religion one should not dismiss its other essential component – idea of holiness as a mental part of religion. That kind of problem setting is necessary in order to think further from the research tradition that has been practiced for decades and that considers religion as a collection of separate rituals that are not incorporated or combined into broader belief system. On the other hand, the idea of the broader concepts of holiness and religion make the researchers ask about those aspects of religion that are not directly covered with archaeological data.
The session invites papers to discuss the theory and methods for studying religion and holiness in the past. What kind of religious activities and artefacts are visible in the archaeological record, how do we decode and find them in the archaeological record and how do we or should we label them? Should we study single practices or can we decode broader religious concepts and phenomena of holiness in archaeology? What is the materiality of religion and holiness? What are the limits of the nature of an archaeological record when studying past religion and holiness? Can or should we use the same concepts as anthropology and comparative religion studies and to what extent can we draw parallels and take over approaches to religion from these sciences in order to get closer to the holiness and religion in the past? Or what might be the input or a contribution to the study of religion and holiness from the archaeological perspective? What are the shared parts of materialised religion and holiness in case of archaeological and anthropological record?

Tõnno Jonuks, Department of Folkloristics, Estonian Literary Museum
Ester Oras, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

Medical humanities in search of mobility and physical activity: theoretical principles

Mobility and physical activity has been a major interest for fields of physical anthropology, history and clinical medicine for the past decades. Mobility, in broad context, includes not only locomotion and physical activity but also mobility and migration over the landscape with different means of transportation. In anthropology human mobility can be traced through population demographics, genetic trait frequencies, internal and external bone morphology and differences in diet (e.g. isotope analysis). Physical activity studies include daily activities, such as occupation and sports. Physical activity can be studied anthropometrically through modifications in the skeleton such as musculoskeletal stress markers, markers of occupational stress, overuse injuries and bone biomechanical properties.
Clinical medicine has formulated the theoretical principles behind bone remodeling and thus behind the interpretation of mechanical loading. Imaging methods and –equipment have been fast developing and now adopted for wider use to investigate alterations due to mechanical loading in bone morphology. Previously mainly plain radiography has been utilized in anthropological studies but recent development in noninvasive medical imaging has increased the possibilities of imaging both skeletal as well as clinical samples.
It is of interest to study human temporal and ecogeographical variation in addition to consequences of decreased demands in physical strength. Combining historical information from the skeletons and evidence from archives and artifacts will aid in forming a comprehensive picture of human mobility in the past. We invite papers from archaeology, history and clinical medicine related with studies of mobility and physical activity through studies of population demographics, bone morphology (e.g. bone biomechanical properties, musculoskeletal stress markers, markers of occupational stress, and genetic trait frequencies), food intake (e.g. isotopes), and transportation methods.

Sirpa Niinimäki1,2 and Juho-Antti Junno2
sirpa.niinimaki(at), juho-antti.junno(at)
1Department of Biology, University of Oulu
2Laboratory of Archaeology, University of Oulu

Archaeological Perspectives on Climate Change

This session focuses on archaeological perspectives on climate change. In which ways can the archaeological record, together with other types of data, be used to inform on prehistoric climate change? How should we approach the relation between changes in climate and changes in human culture – an old enigma discussed already in the 1950’s by, for example, the anthropologist Julian Steward.
In times of global heating and warnings for dramatic changes in the global climate, is the time ripe for a renewed archaeological discussion of the relationship between prehistoric climate and cultural changes? We would therefore like to invite archaeological scholars that deals with this or related topics (from theoretical, historical, analytical, or other perspectives) to present papers in this session. Both interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches are of course welcome.

Thomas B Larsson, Department of History, Philosophy and Religion,
Umeå University

Jans Heinerud, Västerbottens museum

North and South, East and West - Archaeology with and without borders

The aim of the session is to critically discuss borders and boundaries in archaeological research and the impact of nationalism on the archaeological mapping of the past. The aim is to contribute to a critical examination of the geographies and cartographies of archaeology, and to explore alternative approaches to the conceptualization and representation of cultures and peoples in the past, such as – possibly – the use of networks, flows and movements, instead of bounded, static and monolithic entities. We thus invite papers discussing archaeological borders in theory and practice, and papers exploring how national boundaries and other kinds of borders on interregional, regional and local levels are constructed, represented and debated in archaeological research.
Examples of relevant themes might include, among many others, Northern Fennoscandia, where the nation-state boundaries have fundamentally formed and delimited the images of prehistory, the divide between “East” and “West” (the “Iron curtain”), which has cut through the political and archaeological landscapes of Europe, or the northern and southern dimensions within Swedish or Norwegian archaeology. We also invite papers examining perspectives that are challenging established borders (but at the same time perhaps creating new borders), such as for instance the geographical, political and ethnic notion of Sápmi, which stretches across the nation-state boundaries in northernmost Europe, or different kinds of ideas and social and cultural movements that are questioning existing boundaries between people.
We welcome papers focusing on different geographical regions, in the Nordic countries, Europe and other parts of the world – a wide range of geographical and temporal themes will be fruitful for the discussions. The focus of the papers might be, among other possibilities, research historical, exploring the historical constructions, re-constructions and de-constructions of borders, theoretical, reflecting upon the conceptualization and impact of different kinds of borders and their interrelations with concepts such as archaeological cultures, identity, ethnicity, nationality, indigeneity and gender, and/or practical, discussing positive as well as negative experiences from cross-boundary approaches or projects in archaeology.

Chair: Carl-Gösta Ojala, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University

On the relationship between past and the present in archaeology
An archaeologist meets a gap. He/she lives in presents and works with the material which is in present. According to the basic theory of archaeology, the material an archaeologist is working with has been generated or produced by people living in the past. In prehistoric archaeology the material is conceptualized to be generated by people who have not left written records of themselves.  There is no conceptual information at hand about the people, only material which is classified by the archaeologist as artefacts or ecofacts. Artefacts are in their turn classified as bearers of attributes or belonging to certain types or styles.  In historical archaeology there are written, conceptual information. Archaeologist uses his material record to produce knowledge about spheres of life the written record do not expose. He can also try to strengthen of refute the information given in the historical records by archaeological material. 
This is the picture of the situation which is apparent on the substantial archaeological research. In the philosophy of the science situation is not so simple. In philosophy of science archaeological record, the present is in the observable realm. It is seen to be in the need of interpretation or explanation which is given in terms of past human behavior, meanings or practices. 
In the philosophy of science, there are three main traditions concerning the relationship between the observable realm and the interpretation or explanation which is given of it. In the positivistic or empiristic view there is no room for unobservable realm. For a strict positivist empiricist there is no past to explain. The only thing an archaeologist can do is to arrange the attributes in the archaeological record, the observable real, to form types or culture, but he/she cannot interpret these in the terms of the past, because there are no unobservable real. Transcendental idealist takes also for granted the priority of observable realm.  But for him/her it is allowed to speculate about the unobservable real. The interpretations about the past are always dependent on the individuals’ prior categories in the Kantian version, or present socially mediated ideologies in modern versions.  In transcendental idealism, the authenticity of archaeological record lies in present, not in the past. In scientific realism the empirical is seen to be epistemologically privileged. It is necessary for theory building about the past. But metaphysically empirical record is seen to be produced by human beings of then past. The knowledge about the past is made by model building as transcendental idealism supposes. But according to scientific realism different hypotheses can be tested by systematic analysis of source contexts and target context. 
There have not been coherent empirist or positivist archaeologies, but many positivistic declarations. Also transcendental idealism is more present in the philosophy of archaeology than in substantial theory building. This session invites papers dealing with the relationship between past and the present in archaeology. Papers discussing the use of the philosophical traditions concerning the relationship between the observable realm and the interpretation of it in archaeology are welcomed as well as case studies of the problematics of past and present in archaeology.

Chair: Eero Muurimäki









25 mars 2012
Tidig registeringsavgift Organizing

Janne Ikäheimo
Anna-Kaisa Salmi






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