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Guest Lecture Series 2018-2019

In Michaelmas 2018, the Material Culture Laboratory will be collaborating with the departmental Garrod Lecture series. Lectures will be every Thursday in Michaelmas term at 4:00-5:00pm in the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research Seminar Room. Our guest lecture series invites researchers working with material culture theory to speak to the group in order to promote discussion, thought and dialogue regarding how we as archaeologists think about and use material culture in our interpretations. In general, there are two invited speakers in Michaelmas, two in Lent and one in Easter. The wider archaeology and academic community are invited to these guest lectures.

11th October 

Dr. Karina Grömer (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien)

A rarely known material evidence - Textiles as prestige goods in Central Europe, 1st millennium BC

The cultural and historical importance of textile technology, especially of spinning and weaving, can hardly be overstated. Textile crafts not only produced essential goods for everyday use, most notably clothing, but also utilitarian objects as well as representative and luxury items. Even after wear and tear, the ‘resource textile’ – produced with so much time and effort – was handled thoughtfully.

This is illustrated by a variety of archaeological sources – from tools and original textile finds to contemporary depictions and written sources of the Late Iron Age. Some key finds can be named in this context: the saltmines from Hallstatt and Dürrnberg in Austria; as well as the princely graves from Hochdorf and Hohmichele in Germany. There, more than 1000 textile fragments were found, shedding a fascinating and colourful light on textile production skill in the Iron Age in Central Europe.

The Hallstatt Period fabrics are of high quality, and decoratively designed by weave structures, colours, patterns and elaborately made borders. Also luxurious textiles with imported insect dyes are known. Within Early Iron Age, even the interplay between textiles and metal objects attached on them reaches a very high standard (up to woven-in gold stripes) – expressing wealth and beauty. So the visual complexity of textile objects, with bright colours and interesting patterns, can be proved, at least by original textile finds from the salt mine Hallstatt. This development was perhaps fostered by the emergence of differentiated social structures at the beginning of the Iron Age.

A fundamental question asked in the following paper is: why there was a development in textile crafts at all. After the invention of the basic techniques to produce fabrics for various uses, why people made a lot of steps forward and invested time, skill and know how to decorate them, to add quality. Here a theory coming from psychology and neurosciences is the basic framework to shed some light on that – Abraham Maslows concept about human motivation, the so called “hierarchy of needs” can help to understand the motivations behind developments in textile production


 18th October 

Professor Gavin Lucas (University of Iceland)

Salient Objects. Or, Are Some Things More Important than Others? 


 25th October

Professor Lin Foxhall (University of Liverpool)

Material actors: Exploring the agency of things in social networks


1st November

Dr. Stephanie Wynne Jones (University of York)

Living with objects at Songo Mnara (Tanzania)


 15th November - CANCELLED (To Be Rescheduled as a Lent Term lab event)

Dr. Andrew Turner (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge)

Calendrics, Astronomical Observation, and the Problem of Dating Monuments in Ancient Central Mexico


22nd November

Dr. Kunlong Chen 

Social and economic landscape in Shang period China: a metallurgical perspective

(This lecture reviews) the adoption and reshaping of metallurgy in pre-Shang period within its different social context in comparison to the pastoralists’ communities in Inner Asia and Steppes; and then investigate the further transmission of the technology, acquiring of the ore resources, circulation of the raw material and metal objects; hopefully I will be able to explore a little bit on the different roles of different regions within this metallurgical network and contribute to the understanding of state cognization of Shang and the regional relationships in a broader area coving north Loess Plateau and the Yangtze River valley in the south.