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The Material Culture Research Hub is an open and dynamic research cluster for research on all aspects of material culture archaeology at Cambridge. However, the Hub actively includes material culture theory and researchers from aligned disciplines all interested in thinking about things and their relationship with people and society. Membership is open to all researchers interested in material culture and includes postgraduate students, post-doctoral researchers and research staff. Current research conducted within the Hub spans from the Palaeolithic art to modern heritage concerns and identity construction and everything in between. Among many other places, members work in Argentina, India, the Mediterranean, Malta, Turkey, Scandinavia, Egypt and Britain. Our ethos of theoretical and material opens up the door to thinking about what constitutes material culture and how we, as social scientists and archaeologists, think about it. 

The Material Culture Research Hub focuses upon theoretical discussion; it is interdependent with the Pitt-Rivers Laboratory, where scientific analysis of material objects takes place

The most important aspect of the Material Culture Research Hub is the encouragement of dialogue and thought. The Hub periodically hosts workshops, roundtables and conferences to promote interdisciplinary and/or topic-related dialogues. If you are interested in attending or developing a workshop through the lab, please speak to the manager. The Hub also sponsors the occasional conference. All of our events are open to the wider archaeology and academic research community.

Membership is not exclusive, but it does require an individual to be willing to participate in Hub events and present on occasion at one of our lunchtime meetings.  If you would like more information regarding membership please contact the Material Culture Research Hub Manager.

The Material Culture Research Hub is outward looking - we want to engage with others interested in material culture and discuss similarities - and differences - in how we interpret the relationship between things and people.  


The Material Culture Research Hub archives presentations and reading lists from its events for download by interested parties.

Lent Term 2017-2018

This term's goal is to explore the difference between 'age' and just 'time passing and things changing' by talking about old age. How is old age made salient, socially, and what is its articulation with the materiality of bodies, things, and places? We will discuss 'old age' as a socially constructed and contested concept about people, old age as something growing out of bodily processes (something biosocial); and the extent to which things and landscapes/places can be said to have age or to be old.


26 January 2018:  Old Persons

This week we will discuss how the passage of time is developed into something socially meaningful: age.  Two anthropological readings address the connection between aging bodies, value, social categories, power, ritual, and lived worlds.  Turner, T.  2006.  "The Body Beyond the Body: Social, Material and Spiritual Dimensions of Bodiliness", in F.E. Marcia-Lees, ed., A Companion to the Anthropology of the Body and Embodiment.  Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 102-118. Keith, J., et al. 1994. "Political economy and age", in J. Keith, et al., eds., The Aging Experience: Diversity and Commonality across Cultures. London: SAGE, pp. 198-259.

Readings can be found here: 


9 February 2018: Old Bodies

This week we will discuss the materiality of aging bodies themselves in relation to social age.  What does a bio-social archaeology of human age look like -- what kinds of evidence and theoretical perspectives will best trace the enmeshed dynamics of time, physical bodies and social personhood?

Appleby, J.E.P.  2010. "Why we need an archaeology of old age, and a suggested approach." Norwegian Archaeology Review 43(2): 145-68.

Pearson, J., et al. 2015.  "Reconciling the body: signifying flesh, maturity, and age at Catalhoyuk", in I. Hodder & A. Marciniak, ads., Assembling Catalhoyuk. Leeds: European Association of Archaeologists, pp. 75-86.

Readings can be found here:  


2 March 2018:  Old Places

This week we consider the extent to which places can have social age in some manner akin to human beings.  The meaningful and material salience that places' pasts could have in the past have been well-explored archaeologically.  We ask what (if anything) is common between the way human beings are aged, socially, and the way social spaces' salience changes as time passes: can a place really be 'old', or does it simply endure, change and end over time?

Readings can be found here:


9 March 2018:  Old Things

Continuing to expand on the concept of age, we ask how material-culture objects take on aspects of social age.  Does the changing value of material items over their social 'biographies' render objects person-like?  Given the potential overuse of 'biography' as a model for the way things change, given things' different materialities, to what extent or under what conditions might an artefact have reached 'old age', or something like it?

Miller, D. and Parrot, F. 2009. Loss and material culture in South London. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15(3): 502-519.  (Touches on heirlooms and the preservation of particular objects for memorial reasons, but also instances where old objects are deliberately rejected and removed from people's lives)

Voss, B. 2012. Curation as research. A case study in orphaned and underreported archaeological collections.  Archaeological Dialogues 19(2): 145-169.  (A nice way to also discuss arch methodology and its role in curating/preserving/destroying certain types of material things)

Readings can be found here: 



13 October 2017

Introduction to the theme:  Emergence

Readings can be found here:


27 October 2017

Seminar led by Dr. Parker VanValkenburgh on hybridity and colonisation

Readings can be found here:


10 November 2017

Emergence and Ecology

Readings can be found here:


24 November 2017

Emergence and Assemblages

Readings can be found here:  


Examples of previous events convened by Hub membes:

Academic year 2017-2018

20 October 2017:  Dr. Elisa Guerra Doce (Visiting Lab Member).  Title: A Give and take with the Gods: Brine-processing in prehistoric Central Iberia

27 October 2017:  Dr. Parker VanValkenburgh (Brown University).  Special seminar in conjunction with TAT discussing hybridity and colonisation.

 17 November 2017:  Mark Haughton (Ph.D Lab Member).  Title: Moving beyond statistics in investigating social dynamics through burial data:  a case study from Early Bronze Age Scotland

1 December 2017:  Dr. Kristin Armstrong Oma (University of Stavanger, Norway)Title:  Encounters with animals

1pm in the Material Culture Laboratory

16 February 2018:  Dr. Chris Wingfield (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology).  Title:  Re-Collecting the Missionary Road: Assembling an international, inter-disciplinary, and potentially post-colonial research project, 2017-2024.

Contact Us

Material Culture Research Hub
Department of Archaeology
Downing Street
Cambridge CB2 3DZ

Directors John Robb, Elizabeth DeMarraisMarcos Martinon-Torres

Hub Manager Sheila Kohring