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The research group Archaeological Heritage & Contemporary Society addresses the varied role of archaeological remains in contemporary societies.

Description of the research group

On a general level, this research group concerns itself with the processes by which meanings are assigned to material remains of the past. In particular, important fields of study are archaeological heritage management (including innovation techniques), public archaeology (including innovation by New Media), Museum archaeology, education and historical culture in archaeology. The material past plays a vital role in contemporary societies. People identify with local and regional archaeological heritage, but also in a national and international context. In each of these interrelated scales of heritage, material remains and context are contested and actively appropriated by a variety of stakeholders. Meaning transgresses through time and cannot be seen outside societal contexts, such as identity creation, the creation of collective memory, social binding/out casting and/or commercialisation. Archaeological Heritage Management: policy, research & the public International treaties and national policies form a framework from which central concepts, practices and regulations are implemented. This framework calls for an European comparative approach in research. Research topics may cover all aspects of the existing order in which archaeological heritage management is organised, effectiveness of rules and regulations, integration into other disciplines such as spatial planning, development of concepts, instruments and techniques as well as all aspects of public archaeology and education. The ways in which archaeology is presented in museum settings, in particular in archaeological museums, is changing very fast. In cooperation with the Allard Pierson Museum, museum archaeology is very much part of this research.

One of the central points of departure is the clear conceptualisation of essentialism and constructivism which refers to the way archaeological remains are perceived; as material culture passed on to us from generations before us which we need to study and preserve (essentialism) versus the heritage paradigm in which contemporary meaning and processes of selection and structuration determine what is and is not heritage (constructivism). Further development of ethics in heritage archaeology may help to elaborate on these fundamental paradigms in order to break their apparent conflicting nature. So far, the programme consists of the following projects:

  • Discovering the Archaeologists of Europe 2012-2014 (Leonardo da Vinci Programme)

  • Architecture of Identities and the 4D-Lab/Biographies of Cultural Heritage: Virtual Futures for our Cultural Past

  • Zakynthos Archaeology Project

  • Satricum Research Project

  • Museum projects in Allard Pierson Museum

Envisaged results

In general this program will result in books and articles, a local museum and archaeological park, thematic museum exhibitions, digital reconstructions and Apps, expert meetings, workshops, funding applications, lecture series. Several of these will be developed in close collaborations with cultural institutions in the Netherlands and abroad. The program will initiate projects for the long-term. Individual projects, however, have a restricted time schedule. While each member of the group is individually engaged in specific projects (including exhibitions and publications) we will meet on a regular basis to share results and develop collective discursive projects.

Societal relevance

Integrating the archaeological-historical landscape into spatial planning is a growing trend leading to increase and accentuation of historic monuments in public space. Archaeological heritage is part and parcel of the modern landscape and its development. Understanding the structuration of meaning - by groups, institutions or sometimes individuals - attached to and derived from archaeological heritage delivers intrinsic important knowledge about society and is of relevance in the discussion about public support and sustainability.

Research Group Type: Network group
Duration: 2021-2025

Group Coordinator(s)

Dr. H. (Heleen) van Londen

Faculty of Humanities

Capaciteitsgroep Archeologie

Dr. G.J.M. (Gert Jan) van Wijngaarden

Faculty of Humanities

Capaciteitsgroep Archeologie

Members of the research group

dr. C. Cavallo
prof.dr. J. Eidem
prof.dr. M. Gnade
dr. S. Heeren
dr. J.R. Hilditch
dr. A.M.J.H. Huijbers
dr. A. Kotsonas
dr. H. van Londen
dr. P.S. Lulof
dr. C.W. Neeft
dr. R.G.A.M. Panhuijsen
dr. W.D.J. v.d. Put
dr. E. Smits
prof.dr. V.V. Stissi
dr. L.L. Therkorn
dr. A.A.A. Verhoeven
dr. G.J.M. van Wijngaarden
J. Waagen

Institutional or professional partners

  • drs N. Vossen (private: pro-erfgoed & public NVVA [ Nederlandse Vereniging van Archeologen])

  • drs T. Hermans (public: Dutch National Heritage Agency [Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed])

  • prof. dr. A. Marciniak (public: Adam Mickiewicz University Poznan, Poland)

  • dr. G. McGregor (public: University of Glasgow, UK)

  • dr. W. Hupperetz (Allard Pierson Museum)