Following the previous two successful University of Chester archaeology student conferences – Dead Relevant and Archaeo-Engage, the third University of Chester Archaeology Student Conference will take on a period-focused theme.

There are multiple simmering and raging current controversies regarding the uses and abuses of the Early Middle Ages in the heritage sector, popular culture and politics. These range from debates regarding the interpretation of famous early medieval finds, sites and processes, as for the interpretation of burial practices Sutton Hoo, Suffolk to the labelling and characterisation of settlements and finds, and brand-new art installations inspired by myth and legend, at Tintagel, Cornwall. The wider significance of the ‘Dark Ages’ in today’s world is also extremely controversial, from the far-right’s appropriations of Germanic and Norse material culture, myths and symbols (and what we as early medieval researchers should do about it), to debates raging about migration, religion, race and nationhood (including Scottish independence) that overtly draw on early medieval history and archaeology to enforce and extend their arguments. Also tackling popular culture’s ‘historical’ and ‘fantasy’ portrayals of the period and the way material culture is envisioned in these fictional accounts, from Vikings to The Lord of the Rings, the conference seeks to bring final-year archaeology students and special guest speakers to critically ‘dig’ into the 5th-11th centuries AD and their portrayals and uses in the present.

Here’s the conference blurb: please circulate! The conference will be free, open to all, and we welcome archaeologists, historians and other specialists with an interest in the Early Middle Ages from near and far.

Wednesday 13 December   

Digging into the Dark Ages:  The 3rd University of Chester Archaeology Student Conference

Lecture Theatre

9am-5pm.  Free.

The Early Middle Ages (5th–11th centuries AD) are still sometimes called the ‘Dark Ages’.  Yet the period between the end of Roman rule and the Norman Conquest was far from ‘dark’.  Archaeology has increasingly revealed the era’s complex and diverse societies.  This conference aims to explore and critique present-day uses and abuses of the ‘Dark Ages’.  Talks will address a range of themes and approaches, from television shows to heritage sites, from ancestry testing to political debates over immigration and Brexit.  The conference will also seek to identify new strategies by which archaeologists can engage communities in the Early Middle Ages.

I’ve secured two superb special guest speakers to bracket the student presentations for the conference.

Dr Chiara Bonacchi, is a researcher at UCL and public archaeologist.

Dr Adrian Maldonado is an early medieval archaeologist as well as having a sustained and active profile in public engagement.