Laurent Olivier
Celtic and Gaulic Archaeology, Musée d'Archéologie Nationale, Saint-Germain-en-Laye
The Memory of Things


Wednesday, February 12, 2014


12:00 pm – 1:30 pm


38 West 86th Street

Open to BGC faculty, staff, and students only.


Laurent Olivier will be giving a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Wednesday, February 12, 2014, from 12 to 1:30pm.  His talk is entitled “The Memory of Things.”

Laurent Olivier is Curator-in-Chief of the Celtic and Gallic Department at the National Museum of Archaeology in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, Professor of National Antiquities at the École du Louvre, and Reader in the History and Theory of Archaeology at the École Pratique des Hautes Études. He received his PhD in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge. Olivier has authored over two hundred scientific papers and book chapters.  His recent publications include Nos ancêtres les Germains: les archéologues français et allemands au service du nazisme (Paris: Tallandier, 2012); The Dark Abyss of Time: Memory and Archaeology, trans. Arthur Greenspan (Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2011); and L'art gaulois, co-author, Christophe Renault (Paris: J.-P. Gisserot, 2010).

There is a terrible problem in translating the French word mémoire into English. For English speakers, only human beings are supposed to remember their own past; things do not, as they are just things. Things are lifeless. Things cannot enjoy any memory, since they are not people. But things record. Matter accumulates scratches, traces, and deposits, which are the record of its past states: its mémoire. And things, when they become superimposed to each other, let appear the transmission of some form of inheritance, an inheritance made of shapes, morphological characteristics. Archaeological remains are specifically such “objets-mémoire,” things that remember as things, things that are living, just as things do. 

Brown Bag Lunch