Call for Contributions


The life-histories of settlements and methodological integration in north European rural settlement archaeology

Amsterdam Centre for Ancient Studies and Archaeology, March 30-31 2017

Organisers: Amsterdam Centre for Ancient Studies and Archaeology (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and Environmental Archaeology Laboratory (Umeå University, Sweden)

1. Aims

This workshop is the start-up event of IMASS: Integrated Methods in Archaeological Settlement Studies. IMASS is a network of researchers who share a positive vision for new combinations of methods and perspectives in settlement archaeology. IMASS’ main premise is that archaeology already has the necessary tools to further advance the field, but that it lacks platforms that connect specialists and specialisms within the field of settlement archaeology and allow researchers to coordinate theoretical reflections on methodological integration and formulate joint strategies for dissemination of new insights and knowledge.

The workshop will clarify the need for more integrated approaches in north European settlement archaeology on rural habitation and will propose specific ways of integrating methodologies. This is pursued by producing an edited volume of workshop publications and a selection of digital documentation of the workshop proceedings (see more info below) that explore possible avenues for further integration of methods and perspectives.

2. Theme and main questions of the workshop: The life-histories of settlements and methodological integration in north European rural settlement archaeology

Past settlements are complex and dynamic phenomena, yet current methodologies provide researchers with static images of the past. This is a central problem in most settlement archaeological research that the many methods and perspectives drawn from the humanities and the social and natural sciences have yet to adequately address.

As the organisers of the first IMASS workshop we invite researchers who agree that more thorough integration of methods and perspectives in current north European settlement archaeology is not only desirable but necessary in order to address more complex research questions. The main questions of the workshop are:

What methodological integrations or combinations are needed to translate the static settlement archaeological record into knowledge about a dynamic past?

How do we as archaeologists best combine existing methods and approaches into new combinations for acquiring new knowledge and answering current research questions?  

Over the last decades, variations of life-history or biography concepts have become increasingly popular for interpreting settlement archaeological data. These concepts emphasise that settlement records should not only be interpreted in functional terms, but also as manifestations of people’s social life, i.e. their biographies.  

The connectedness between households and communities and the material expressions of their settlements is, however, complex. The settlement archaeological record can be read as a proxy for the life-histories of the people who inhabited settlements, but straightforward correspondence between the temporalities of the settlements and people cannot be assumed.

An understanding of settlement life-histories is important for settlement archaeological interpretations, but there is a need for more refined and multifaceted techniques of reading the records, in order to produce life-histories that offer more valuable contributions to settlement archaeology. The third question of the workshop is therefore:

How can life-history concepts be implemented more prominently as methodological frameworks in archaeological settlement investigations?

A discussion paper, to be distributed prior to the workshop, will argue that the life-history approach is a valid starting point for designing new method combinations. The argument is illustrated with examples from current settlement archaeological research. Workshop participants are encouraged to challenge the ideas expressed in the text, to expand or critique parts of it, and to provide alternative theoretical frameworks for methodological integration in settlement archaeology. We particularly welcome papers that illustrate concrete examples of how methodological integration in settlement studies can be achieved, discussion pieces about the possibilities and limitations of methodological combinations, and papers that explore similar or alternative theoretical frameworks for methodological integration.

3. How to apply

In order to apply to the workshop please send an abstract (max. 500 words) of a work-in-progress together with a short description of your background and interests to The application should not exceed two A4 pages. Deadline for submissions is December 20th 2016.

To give each participant sufficient time for the presentation and discussion of their work, the workshop is limited to approximately eighteen participants. In the event that significantly more contributions are submitted a selection process will be made on the basis of the contents of the application. The selection will focus on bringing together a diverse and complementary group of participants.

4. Workshop format

Participants are encouraged to prepare a work-in-progress paper for pre-circulation before the start of the workshop. These texts will be made available to the other participants as a reader through the workshop website. We do, however, acknowledge that not all participants have the time or material to prepare a draft paper, therefore we will also accept presentation-only contributions. The contributions will be arranged into thematic sessions. Each participant will open their allotted slot with a presentation. One of the other participants will be selected to chair a follow-up discussion. Each session will end with a summary and panel discussion of the presented contributions chaired by one of the keynote participants. 

5. Publication of results

Dissemination of the results of the workshop will have two outlets:

  1. Workshop proceedings: after the workshop participants will be encouraged to finalise their submitted work-in-progress papers for publication in the workshop proceedings. Contributors will receive extensive feedback on their work. Further decisions concerning the publication will be collectively decided during the workshop.
  2. Website and digital documentation: the IMASS website will be maintained after the workshop. During the event all presentations and discussions will be recorded (voice only). The voice recordings and the PowerPoints will be made into vodcasts which will be made publicly available on the IMASS website. Each participant who so desires can also create links from the IMASS website to their own department or project websites. Any additional information resulting from the workshop, such as planning for future events, can also be communicated via the website.

6. Fees and costs

No workshop fee. Participants will be provided with lunch and coffee, as well as one conference dinner!

7. Confirmed participants

Dr. Yvonne van Amerongen (Leiden University)

Professor Harry Fokkens (Leiden University)

Dr. Radoslaw Grabowski (Umeå University)

Dr. Heleen van Londen (University of Amsterdam)

Dr. Karen Milek (University of Aberdeen)

Dr. Niels Algreen Møller (Museum of Southwest Jutland/Thy Museum)

Professor James Symonds (University of Amsterdam)