AEA Conference

Islands: Isolation and connectivity

The AEA Spring Conference, April 2016

Hosted in Kirkwall, Orkney by the Archaeology Institute, University of the Highlands and Islands

Followed by meetings of the Professional Zooarchaeology Group and the Archaeomalacology Working Group

We are hosting three consecutive meetings in the Archaeology Institute in Kirkwall.  Following a wine reception and plenary lecture on the evening of Friday the 1st of April, we will hold the one-day AEA spring conference on the 2nd of April.  In the evening we will have a ‘taste of Orkney’ conference dinner at the nearby Lynnfield Hotel.  On the 3rd of April, we will hold the Professional Zooarchaeology Group meeting, while simultaneously providing a field trip option for those wishing to explore more of Orkney.  On the evening of the 3rd we will have a reception at the Stromness Museum which houses superb natural history collections.  Field trips will again be available on the 4th of April, and on the 5th and 6th of April the Archaeomalacology Working Group meeting will then take place.

AEA Conference Abstract

The notion of the island as a laboratory, as a world in microcosm with well-defined boundaries, is an appealing and long established cliché. For almost two centuries, we have explored the distinctive biological and historical trajectories of different islands, and have identified a variety of ‘island effects’; on plants and animals and on human communities. Such work demonstrates that many islands offered distinctive potentials (and barriers) for social and ecological development. That said, research has often struggled to deal with a number of crucial problems; issues of scale and influence, of biogeography, connectivity and sustainability, that we are often ill-equipped to explore. This meeting provides a context in which to take a critical look at some of the premises upon which island-based work has often been undertaken, and asks some fairly fundamental questions. Is it helpful to think of islands as isolated or remote? Was the sea a barrier or a medium of movement and communication? How should we understand the place that island communities occupied in broader worlds? How did the nature of that wider articulation change over time and how was it manifest differently for individual communities/species? Most important of all, how should we reconcile the local details of colonisation, adaptation and (even) abandonment within broader processes of environmental and social change? Structured around the theme of isolation and connectivity, this meeting will give us a chance to look at some of these crucial concerns, with contributions from archaeobotany to zooarchaeology, from biomolecular analyses to climatology, and from landscape to seascape. Although this meeting will take place in the Northern Isles, there is no geographic restriction on submissions: by presenting papers set in various diverse ‘conceptual islands’ and island groups we hope to draw together and share methodologies and discussions.