Social space and environment: landscape reconstruction in environmental archaeology

The University of Kiel is proud to host the autumn meeting of the Association for Environmental Archaeology in 2013.

Conference Programme (PDF)

Environmental archaeology is expanding beyond a collection of analytical approaches used to reconstruct palaeo-environments. A more holistic approach is evolving that integrates the reconstruction of landscapes at the interface of the natural environment and anthropogenic social space. This conference will explore how environmental dynamics and cultural processes shape the natural landscape, and how the shaped environment informs the configuration of human social terrains. Next to the organic and inorganic physical conditions, social values and individual as well as societal knowledge are increasingly recognised as the impetus for past landscape formation. The focus on monuments as landmarks that visualise social spaces in Northern European Neolithic societies is one example for an integrated research design that links analyses of social differentiation with research on changing environmental conditions: Here, ritual spaces can be separated from economic spaces. Past human activity has lead to the establishment of increasingly diverse habitats for wild and domestic plants, animals, and for man; the new physical habitats influenced societal knowledge and possibly stimulated technical innovations. The application of agriculture, as human-environment interaction, is one expression of the establishment, maintenance and reproduction of social relations. Thus, the environmental settings influence the range of social practices. From this given examples, we would like to open the stage for presentations on integrative environmental-archaeological research, to address questions such as:

What are the underlying processes for the environmental dynamics and the cultural processes that influence the shaping of landscapes in space and time? Are complex societies developing in a social frame, independent from environments? How far do the natural settings predefine decisions of ancient societies? How do we identify complex societal structures and can we trace the individual in the bio-archaeological record?

We invite, in particular, papers that explore different lines of evidence, integrating the analysis and interpretation of bio-archaeological proxies with the reconstruction of social space; the latter including, besides functional interpretations of ancient economies, the embedding of ancient ideological concepts or values in individuals and societies.