41st AEA Webinars

Tuesday, September 15, 2020 to Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Sustainability in Environmental Archaeology

The 41st AEA conference will take place in Groningen, the Netherlands, later in 2021. In the meantime, four webinars are being planned for later in 2020, details below.


Final program

Dear All,
As you are aware, we had to postpone the 41st Association for Environmental Archaeology fall meeting to be held in Groningen, The Netherlands, to 2021. We have however been able to come up with a great alternative. Based on the four themes planned for the conference, we will organize four webinars, to be held in September and October. Each session will have a keynote speaker (30 minutes) addressing the various aspects of sustainability and environmental archaeology. This presentation will be followed by two presentations (15 minutes each) by early career researchers (ECRs), preferably PhD students in the final stages of their research.

To attend the AEA webinars registration is required. Registration is free for both AEA members and non-AEA members. Through the registration we will forward you a link a couple days ahead of each webinar that allows you to join the session.

The link for the registration is: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScWHef9_kQEao_xVLLVVL2O5BzRPPZPHjdR44–oUEcE9tA5g/viewform?usp=sf_link


Session 1: September 15th 7pm (CET) – Sustainability of the Profession – Dr Gill Campbell – Historic England & Chair of the AEA

Session 2: September 29th 7pm (CET) – Sustainability in the Past – Dr Kristina Douglass – Pennsylvania State University

Session 3: October 13th 7pm (CET) – Sustainability and the Environment: Dr Camilla Speller – University of British Columbia

Session 4: October 27th 7 pm (CET) – Social Sustainability: Prof. Christine Hastorf – University of California, Berkeley

The full program is available here: 41st AEA Webinars program

Biographies of the keynote speakers are available here: Keynote speaker biographies

The goal of this conference is to address sustainability in the field of environmental archaeology. Sustainability is a key issue in societal, political, and scientific debate. The pressing need to create a more sustainable future is reflected in the United Nations’ ‘urgent call to action’ detailed in seventeen SDGs. This raises the question of how the issue of “sustainability” is or should be incorporated into archaeological research, practice, and discourse.

The seventeen goals and the concept of “sustainability” will be central to the 2020 AEA webinars. They are addressed and explored through four themes: “Sustainability of the Profession”, “Sustainability in the Past”, “Sustainability and the Environment”, and “Social Sustainability”. Through these themes the webinars will revolve around the concept ‘sustainable environmental archaeology’, exploring it from different perspectives and topics.

Best wishes,

The 41st AEA Organization team (Nathalie Brusgaard, Canan Çakirlar, Merit Hondelink, Youri van den Hurk, Arnoud Maurer, Mans Schepers, Taravat Talebi Seyyedsaran, and Francesca Slim)


Session 1: Sustainability of the Profession

Environmental archaeology as a discipline is in constant motion. New methods, practices, and research ideas are constantly being developed and excavations revealing new information regarding the past. It may be argued, however, that the discipline of archaeology itself is struggling with several sustainability issues. New methods often require destructive sampling, exhausting available resources. Furthermore, the sustainability of archaeology as a profession is affected by aspects such as the number of students taking a degree course in archaeology, limited financial sources, and fast-paced advancements made in scientific methods. This justifies the need for archaeology to continuously develop new methods, carry out outreach activities, engage in new partnerships with various fields, and improve heritage management. This all contributes to the potential impact of environmental archaeology on our understanding of a sustainable environment.


Session 2: Sustainability in the Past

Sustainability is not only a topic of concern for societies today. In the past, communities were also challenged by issues such as climate fluctuations, environmental and landscape change, and the cultivation and maintenance of healthy, sustainable human, animal, and plant populations. The archaeological record can inform us on how people dealt with these issues and what it reflects about the interactions between humans and their living and non-living environment. This may be visible and studied at different scales, from local hunter-gatherer communities that practiced selective hunting and foraging strategies to long duréé changes in the landscape due to human intervention and their socio-economic practices. Reflecting on sustainability in the past can contribute to both a broader understanding of the past and new perspectives on the future.


Session 3: Sustainability and the Environment

Throughout history, humans have been exploiting a wide variety of environmental resources and have been niche-constructing both the biotic and the abiotic environments. This impact on our surroundings has in some instances led to environmental degradation, climate change, and the introduction, endangerment, alternation, extirpation, or even extinction of animal and plant species. Environmental archaeology offers the possibility to assess the status of environmental factors in the past, and can provide modern sustainability studies and approaches with a baseline or data that can benefit attempts to protect our environment. 


Session 4: Social Sustainability 

Social archaeology examines the social dimensions of human life in the past through the interpretation of archaeological remains, informing us about expressions of ethnicity, race, age, status, class, and gender. It provides insights into the social sustainability of past societies. Through, for example, the investigation of the unequal distribution of power, wealth, and resources, social archaeology can reveal patterns regarding social practices and how communities and societies were shaped and developed through time. Interpretations of the past are also influenced by social issues in the present. Increasingly, archaeological studies advocate for more agency for groups traditionally under-represented in research. Here environmental archaeology also plays an important role in lending more agency to non-human species, for example in social zooarchaeological and multi-special approaches.






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