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Material Culture and the Past


Prof. Marijke Gnade & Dr. Arno Verhoeven.

Members of the research group

drs. D.J. Biesiekirska
dr. C. Cavallo
J. Eerbeek MA
prof.dr. J. Eidem
prof.dr. J.H.G. Gawronski
prof.dr. M. Gnade
dr. S. Heeren
dr. J.R. Hilditch
drs. M. Hogervorst
dr. A.M.J.H. Huijbers
drs. R.A.E. Kok - Merlino
dr. A. Kotsonas
drs. C. Beestman - Kruijshaar
dr. H. van Londen
drs. M. Louwaard
dr. P.S. Lulof
dr. C.W. Neeft
dr. R.G.A.M. Panhuijsen
dr. W.D.J. v.d. Put
M. Revello-Lami
dr. E. Smits
prof.dr. V.V. Stissi
drs. J.A. Stobbe
dr. L.L. Therkorn
dr. A.A.A. Verhoeven
Anne Versloot
dr. G.J.M. van Wijngaarden

External Members:

J. Crouwel
J. Waagen

Description of the research programme of the research group

The research in this research group is closely related to that in the groups titled Archaeology of Cultural landscapes and natural environments and Archaeological heritage & contemporary society. This particular research group focuses on the social and cultural role of material remains from past societies in their widest sense, including urban and extra-urban landscapes, architecture, prestigious and mundane objects, and biological remains of humans and animals. The study of material culture will focus on (proto-) historic societies in the Mediterranean and north-western Europe. Archaeological remains from fieldwork, museums and other archaeological archives will be studied in order to better understand the societies of which they were part. Building on a rich tradition of interdisciplinary thought within archaeology, the research group intends to further explore the use of transdisciplinary approaches, with particular reference to history, art history, classics, material culture studies, geography and the social sciences. The research group pursues three main topics of interest, but encourages new topics that tie in with the introductory description.

A. Settlement histories

Archaeological fieldwork in and around settlements in the Mediterranean and north-western European regions offers great possibilities for the study of the dynamic histories of settlements. Settlement remains provide a wide spectrum of information on past societies: how people lived, worked, believed and died. Taking a longue-durée and comparative perspective, the archaeological evidence can be used to reconstruct continuity and change in long-term processes such as urbanisation, socioeconomic developments, political organisation and ideologies. At the same time, the complexity of continuity and change can be studied on a more local and temporal level by shifting from the grand stories of settlement phasing to the specificities of a small cultural context, the stories of every day live in a settlement.

B. Biographies of pottery

Pottery is the most abundant class of archaeological material in the Mediterranean and north-western Europe during historic times. Moreover, it was widely used among different social groups in the respective societies of research and, due to its changing appearances related to use and technology, it serves widely to characterize and date archaeological remains. The University of Amsterdam has a long and rich tradition in pottery studies. Based on this tradition, new ways in which pottery can increase our understanding of past societies will be explored.

C. Material interconnections

Trade and transcultural interactions can have great impact on social and political developments. Moreover, visual culture is often as much the result of interconnections as it invokes these. Material remains are an important source to investigate trade and interactions between different groups in the past and to explore isolation and connectivity among different regions and social groups in specific periods. The study of (the lack of) interconnections in the past merges archaeological, art-historical, ancient historical and technical knowledge. In this research interactions within geographies of different scales (i.e. local, regional, long-distance) will be explored.
5. Envisaged results
- Publications in peer reviewed journals
- Lecturing series and fieldwork publications with regards to methodology and results, specifically as deriving from the projects at Leiderdorp (the Netherlands), Satricum (Italy), Geraki, Zakynthos, Halos (Greece) and Troy (Turkey)
- Lecturing series at the Amsterdam Archaeological Centre
- Applications for individual PhD research
- Programmatic research application at NWO (VENI, VIDI and Vrije Competitie) and at international and private research funds.

Work plan and time schedule

The research group is part of continuing research at the Amsterdam Archaeological Centre. A coherent programme of lectures and applications will be formulated for the period 2013-2018.

Societal relevance

Archaeological remains play a substantial role in the identity of people on a local, national and international level. All archaeological fieldwork takes place within the legal boundaries of archaeological heritage policies in the respective countries. The results of the archaeological research from this group will be disseminated not only in academic publications, but also to a wider audience through popular books and journals and through exhibitions in museums.