Archaeologies of Shrinking Worlds: Space Contraction and Globalisation in the Human Past

Organiser Russell Ó Ríagáin (University of Cambridge)

While globalisation has been one of the most over-used buzzwords of recent decades, it can be said to be one of the salient features of contemporary society. However, as many critics of the globalisation and contemporary exceptionalism have pointed out, it is not such a departure from the past as the majority of commentators have asserted. This session seeks to explore the ways in which space was conceptually contracted at various points in the human past.

It will examine episodes where intensified movement of resources, ideas and peoples across previously existing boundaries and patterns of social organisation took place. It will consider periods where greater interdependency between different parts of the globe—including regions, cities, localities, national, sub-national and supra-national societies—occurred. The session will explore the many forms this contraction can take and its many possible causes such as economic, ideological, political, technological, imperial or environmental factors.  Also under examination will be the ways in which this space contraction can be interpreted as the result of deliberate planning by human agents, or the unintended outcome of aggregate human action.

Therefore submissions are encouraged from scholars of all periods of the human past, working on all scales, and operating in all archaeological paradigms. Submissions are especially encouraged from those working in areas related to this topic such as imperialism, colonialism, cultural change, trade, religion, ideology, cultural contact, agency, networks, hierarchy/heterarchy cycles, contingency, environmental adaptation and any other area providing insight into the subject matter. Submissions are also encouraged examining episodes where the reverse took place, where fragmentation took place after periods of high interdependence.

Cultural Diversity in the LGM of Southwest France

Speaker: Christina Collins (University of Sheffield)

The onset of the Last Glacial Maximum led to abandonment of northern latitudes and contraction of human populations into several refuge zones. In such a way, the inhabited world was significantly reduced, leading to increased population density within the refuge zones.  Focusing on the Southwest France refugium we use radiocarbon dates and lithic data as proxy measures for population density and innovation respectively. The effect of space contraction upon human cultural diversity in the LGM is subsequently explored.

The universal cave art. The reasons behind the phenomenon

Speaker: Trimmis Prokopios Konstantinos (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)

Humans make use of caves from the Paleolithic till present for the same reasons with similar ways. One of these reasons is the ideological expressions in the cave space. This practice had a unique acme during the Magdalenian period in West Europe. However, this was not the only area that cave art is detected. In several areas around the world (South America, India, Australia, Africa) more than one cave forms had been used for similar aspects, with similar ways. Moreover, a worldwide phenomenon is appeared due to the fact that caves have a powerful environment, they indicate the path to the mother earth, and they also reveal the universality of human’s needs.

This phenomenon could be explained by the similarities between the human communities in every place around the world. Human communities during the centuries face the same difficulties and the same needs. For that reason, the archaeological research revealed that the communities discovered similar ways to serve their needs. Moreover, the worldwide faith in the Higher Powers and the common need to calm down the forces of nature led the human art so as to develop common methods in order to deliver the messages and communicate. The coding of the messages in the cave space led to a worldwide phenomenon which remains hard to interpret it.

Normalization as conceptual contraction: the production of Roman teraa sigillata

Speaker: Astrid Van Oyen (University of Cambridge)

Study of the Roman empire has veered from an emphasis on global homogeneity to a focus on local heterogeneities, and back. Recently globalization has been forwarded as a metaphor for describing the increased interaction and connectivity between different localities in this period.

This paper seeks to add to these recent approaches by examining the role of technology in “shrinking worlds”, through an analysis of the practices involved in the production of terra sigillata. This Roman red-gloss tableware epitomizes the very paradox of perceived homogeneity (recurrent package of characteristics such as clay types, colour, forms etc.) versus heterogeneity (different production sites, different chronologies etc.). As such terra sigillata production provides a good testing ground for rethinking issues of scale and conceptual contraction.

In particular, emphasis will be on one key mechanism of conceptual contraction: the creation of norms. In the broader social sciences, Foucault has most famously engaged with this topic. In relation to this session, however, two issues emerge: firstly, how can archaeology contribute to these insights; and secondly, how does an exploration of norms tie into narratives of globalization. The conceptual tool of the ‘black box’ will be borrowed from Actor-Network-Theory to account for a contingent process of normalization, by which certain practices became embedded in a repertoire of ‘normality’, thus enhancing the likelihood of their global reception.

Revolution, Reaction, Retention: Etruscan architectural responses to a globalizing Mediterranean

Speaker: Christopher J. D. Holland (University of Bristol)

This paper will examine the architectural shift from ‘huts’ to ‘houses’ which occurred in seventh century BC Etruscan Italy after the region was rapidly integrated into a globalizing Mediterranean.  The external presence of the Phoenician culture transmitted from their colonies in Sardinia and the Iberian Peninsula and similarly, although later, from Greeks through their colonies in Sicily and Southern Italy, all acted to represent this increasingly interconnected Mediterraneanized culture.  This paper will define and illustrate the processes of Mediterraneanization, exampled by the social transformation which occurs in Etruria after the molding of the Mediterraneanized culture with the pre-existing Etruscan one. This eventually led to Etruria breaking away from its Bronze Age tradition of curvilinear domestic architecture to form a ‘new’ Etruscan culture which utilized rectilinear forms.  Through the analysis of a number of case studies, this paper will both emphasize this adoption of new Mediterraneanized construction methods and a continuation of architectural tradition, demonstrating Etruria’s assimilation into an overarching Mediterranean culture but also the region’s response of a strengthened localized tradition.

Landscapes of Norse-Indigenous Interaction: The cultural record of the indigenous Sámi population & settling Europeans in Northern Sweden

Speakers: Heather F. Green (University of Sterling) & Ian A. Simpson

The advance of Europeanization in Northern Sweden occurred chiefly when large scale international trade sites developed between 900-1400AD; the Norse moved in search of land to settle and to increase their level of interaction with the Sámi who were a rich source of tradable materials. The movement of Europeans then continued inland into Sámi territory from the beginning of the 18th century.

This study aims to demonstrate what historical cultural information is retained in the soils from both the indigenous Sámi population as well as the settling European populations. Identifying these processes will enable their relative contribution to cultural landscape change to be assessed as well as establishing a reliable Sámi signal within the soil record. In doing so new understandings of cultural contact and landscape change will emerge with the possibility of unveiling overlap landscapes which have been occupied by both cultures.

The presentation will concentrate on what micromorphological and chemical signals are emerging within the soil for both cultures.

Conceptual Space Contractions & Globalizations on the World’s Edge: the case of the Irish Past

Speaker: Russell Ó Ríagáin (University of Cambridge)

This paper will attempt a race through the human past in Ireland in terms of its varying levels of inclusion and participation with the trajectory of human historical development. It will briefly assess why at different points in time Ireland was part or not part of greater pan regional trends from the Palaeolithic to almost the present time. Human, such as socio-political, economic and cultural, in addition to non-human, such as climactic, topographic and geographic factors, will be taken into account to attempt an explanation of the longue durée processes at work over this huge sweep of time. The paper will also show that there can be conflicting movements of conceptual space contraction and expansion at different times in different spheres of human activity, such as the political and the ideological. Some periods will receive more focus than others for explanatory purposes, such as the early Neolithic, Iron Age, early medieval, and Viking Age.

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