As much for my own benefit as anyone else, I want to do a round-up of what I did, and what I didn’t do at this year’s superb 21st annual meeting of the European Association for Archaeologists hosted by the University of Glasgow.
I spent almost 2 days in sessions, a half day in meetings with publishers for various book projects and having a meeting about the Archaeological Journal. I presented a ‘Meet the Editor’ session about publishing in the Archaeological Journal and publishing in general. I then spent just over half a day doing sundries like exploring book stalls and talking to more publishers, going around the Hunterian museum’s galleries, I got to be interviewed by Anarchaeologist and I spent lots of time talking to loads of archaeologists about our mutual interests and about potential publications in the Archaeological Journal.
I saw two whole sessions in their entirety and three sessions in part. You can download and view the entire programme here.
Current Approaches to Archaeological Juvenile Burials
I only saw a fragment of this exciting, varied day-long session. I confess that I cannot really comment on it as a result and it would be unfair to discuss individual presentations in any depth. From my research interests, however, I would single out Emilie Perez‘s paper for attention, since it explored spatial patterns in the placing of infant and child graves in Merovingian field cemeteries and early parish cemeteries.
Grave Disturbances: The Secondary Manipulation of Burials
I saw the second half of this session and it was superb, showing the challenges of interpreting disturbance in graves from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages. I know there have been many publications and debates on this topic of late, but this was my first chance to hear a group of scholars addressing them. I was particularly interested in Alison Kevnas‘s paper reviewing grave reopening across early medieval Europe and drawing on the work of many scholars. I also liked Ulla Moilanen on empty graves and secondary burials in early medieval Finnish inhumation cemeteries.
Stones Across Time and Space: Negotiating Identity Through the Use and Re-use of Carved Stone in North-West Europe
This was a fabulous session that matched my research interests and linked to themes I’m covering in my forthcoming co-edited book Early Medieval Stone Monuments. Some papers were reprises and extensions of those I saw presented at the Runes Network in the spring.
There were five papers, each with merits of their own as well as interconnecting themes of interest. From Anouk Busset outlining her comparative research on Scotland, Ireland and Sweden, Cynthia Thickpenny on symbol stones and land organisation in Pictland, David Petts on early medieval Northumbria, Victoria Whitworth on hogbacks (or ‘Formerly Known As Hogbacks‘) and finally Adrian Maldonado on Iona’s stonescapes.
The theme of materiality came out strongest and as most original about these papers as a group. Indeed, each paper made me think again about my work on this areas and gave me new thoughts.
A personal frustration because I didn’t get my act together and submit a paper proposal: given the absence of two speakers, I wish these conferences had the facility to incorporate late speakers. I would have loved to have spoken and felt I had things that would be of interest to this audience. Never mind: I talk enough!
Medieval Royal Centres, the Heritage of Power and National Identity
I saw the first half of this session, with papers on John Ljungkvist on Gamla Uppsala, David Petts (again) on Yeavering, a brilliant paper by Rhiannon Comeau early medieval Wales and two papers on medieval Scone, the first by Oliver O’Grady. This was a very interesting session, as much for what it tells us about the challenges of reconstructing royal centres for modern audiences as for the archaeology of these sites and their landscapes.
The Control and Management of Burial in Christian Cemeteries
This session was original and different, and explored a range of different dimensions to the control and management of burial in Christian cemeteries from the Conversion Period to the 20th century. Every paper addressed the theme in some fashion, although a robust theoretical framework was lacking. Still, I got a lot out of each paper. Sadly the very last paper I had to miss as I had to run for my train! My personal favourites were papers by Sian Anthony on modern cemeteries and the role of grave-diggers in mediating the disturbance and management of graves and Jennifer Crangle looking at the medieval management of cemeteries and the perception of the body. Again, I wish I had gotten my act together and planned to present.
During lunchtimes I had many interesting talks and a superb semi-working lunch with a brilliant mortuary archaeologist. In my evenings, I ate curry with early medievalists, tapas with post-medievalists. I attended and enjoyed the whisky reception at the Hunterian and I attended and schemed over wine with many fine archaeologists at the Maney-hosted wine reception and book launch of the new EAA monograph series.
Still, I managed to miss the opening reception and both parties as a result of these other activities. I also left before the annual dinner and I don’t have time and money to go on the excursions before and after the conference much as I would like.
The EAA is full of short conversations with people I known from Facebook and Twitter and from previous conferences and I talked to dozens and dozens and still feel and I missed loads of people I wanted to talk to.
I enjoyed the EAA very much. The programme handbook with its pointless themes that I still don’t quite understand but must have been fun in a committee room cooking up. It was almost impossible to navigate the programme and I spent way too long trying to find rooms and missed at least one session as a result. The 8am starts were horrific for everyone involved and some half-day sessions were over by 10am and I missed them.
Still, session organisers kept to time and introduced and chaired their sessions professionally. Papers were audience and coherent on most occasions and there were few bloopers. The stewards and centralised arrangements were excellent and the rooms were efficiently equipped for purpose. The social media peeps were also great, but inevitably much of the social media debate is by individual delegates themselves.
The various sundry souvenirs were ace too: I bought an tartan tie, the pattern of which was a bespoke design for the profession I was told. I also bought a new WHS/Tyzack 4 inch solid forged trowel: one can never have enough.
As before, I ended up missing the MERC dimension as I had promised I would, if you want my views on MERC, see my response to the Istanbul conference here. I think I attended MERC sessions, I’m not really sure. Still, I was approached by one of my favourite archaeologists and jokingly called a ‘MERC-hater’ because of my blog on the subject. Oh well…
In summary, I enjoyed the Glasgow EAA far more than Istanbul and Pilsen but regret not speaking at least once…