Ruth Tringham and Brian Boyd will present at the Archaeological Encounters Seminar. They will each give a short paper followed by a moderated conversation and Q&A session.
Do Baskets Speak? Creating Afterlives of an Archaeological Project at Neolithic Çatalhöyük
Ruth Tringham

When we publish the final report of an archaeological project, we tend to think of it as the culmination of its life journey through time, but it seems to me “rather the point of departure from which a new journey begins”—an afterlife. By afterlives I am talking about the narratives that remediate or are drawn out of the primary content and documents of archaeological projects. In this presentation, I will discuss this concept through my own experience of creating afterlives of archaeological projects, starting in the completely born-analog context of archaeological excavations in southeast Europe. Analog documents (printed texts and photos, film, tapes, etc.) have different challenges to their modification (remediation) and different sensorial affects from those created digitally. I was acutely aware of these differences during the BACH (Berkeley Archaeologists @ Çatalhöyük 1997–2004) project that covered the transition in the documentation (especially through audio-visual media) of archaeological fieldwork from predominantly born-analog to born-digital. It is not simply the technological audio-visual prowess, speed, and efficiency of digital documents; digital afterlives allow us to engage the audience in the transparency of the creative path from data to imagination, forefronting the ambiguity of the archaeological record. This presentation explores the many different forms that afterlives of archaeological projects can take (including some recent experiments), keeping long dead projects alive and sustained.

Remains, Not “Ruins”: Archival Afterlives in Palestine
Brian Boyd

Picking up on Ruth Tringham’s point about “the narratives that remediate or are drawn out of the primary content,” I will focus on the roles of archives and “ruins” in the continuing injuries of colonialism and settler colonialism in Palestine. In Archive Fever, Derrida distinguished between (a) archive as the relationships involved in memory, the writing of history, and the political authority to identify, classify, and interpret and, (b) archive as “shelter”: relegating, reserving, and forgetting. This latter perspective clearly has political utility: to regard the archive as a kind of sepulchre—a place to bury stories, memory, people, and lifeworlds—in other words, as a ruin. Drawing inspiration from Gerald Vizenor’s notion of “survivance,” I argue that archives and “ruins” should be seen not as desire, nostalgia, or wreckage, but—in their afterlives—as containers of fragmentary records that allow unresolved histories to be written. Those histories may sometimes be stories of the colonial order of things, but equally they can tell of unfinished projects, missed opportunities, and concepts for future developments. In other words, archives and “ruins” remain alive as stories wanting and waiting to be told. An ongoing archaeological project in the Jordan Valley will help to illustrate these issues.

Ruth Tringham is a professor of anthropology in the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley and received her PhD in archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on the transformation of early (Neolithic) agriculturalists and the establishment of households as the primary unit of social reproduction. She has directed and published archaeological excavations in Southeast Europe (Selevac and Opovo in Serbia, and Podgoritsa in Bulgaria) and, most recently, the BACH project at Çatalhöyük, Turkey. After the BACH project, she continued fieldwork at Çatalhöyük until 2007 on the Remediated Places project involving the creation of interpretive video-walks. She also was a project leader on the prize-winning Remixing Çatalhöyük project and the Okapi Island project, a mirror of Çatalhöyük in the virtual world of Second Life. Most of her recent and current practice of archaeology incorporates re-contextualizing digital primary archaeological data (including media) to create their afterlives in the form of database narratives and recombinant histories about people, places, and things. In doing so, she combines the use of imagination, multisensorial experience, and gamification to engage a broader public in alternative scenarios about the prehistoric past.

Brian Boyd is lecturer in anthropology and director of museum anthropology at Columbia University. He is currently co-director of the Center for Palestine Studies, co-chair of the Columbia University Seminar on Human-Animal Studies, and chair emeritus of the New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Division. He has been carrying out archaeological research in Palestine/Israel for many years, and is currently co-director (with Dr. Hamed Salem, Birzeit University) of the collaborative Columbia/Birzeit project Building Community Anthropology Across the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. His publications focus on the prehistoric archaeology of the Levant, the politics of archaeology in Israel/Palestine, critical human-animal studies, and sound/music studies.


This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 3 pm on the day of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.