Archaeology Conference to Discuss Rural Areas

CHAT 2016 V1 Conference poster A4 WEB

Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory (CHAT) Conference

  • Date:     21st – 23rd October 2016
  • Venue: Orkney Theatre, Kirkwall
  • Theme: RURALITY

Archaeology Conference to Discuss Rural Areas from an Archaeological Perspective

The University of the Highlands and Island Archaeology Institute is hosting an exciting international conference this autumn and encourages Orkney Residents to register for the event.

In a world that is becoming increasingly urban – over 50% of the world’s population now live in an urban environment – archaeologies of the present and recent past have tended to overlook rural places. Hosting the conference in Orkney away from the usual metropolitan centres will offer the CHAT conference a chance to experience rural areas by situating itself within one. Orkney is both rural and island, and a microcosm for wider issues. In the past and present Orkney is a gateway, a crossroads and a hub, typified by recent renewable technology test sites.

The conference theme – Rurality – aims to explore the varied experiences of rural areas archaeologically, explore the social and political economies, landscapes and materialities of the recent past and present in rural areas and islands. How are different modes of movement and travel within urban areas expressed archaeologically? Is it still useful to think of distinct urban and rural areas, or as some would suggest; are we all urban now? How are rural areas orientated towards the future with renewable technologies and other innovations?

These are the questions that a multi-disciplinary group of archaeologists, anthropologists, geographers, historians and artists will discuss during the conference. Talks range from archaeologies of rural landscapes in St Kilda, Nova Scotia, and Greece, to the archaeology of rural protest and management of rapid change.

The conference runs from 21st to 23rd October 2016 at the Orkney Theatre in Kirkwall, Orkney. Registration is necessary and booking can be made online (£45 waged, £25 un-waged). There is also a day rate for Orkney Residents. For more information see , enquiries to .

Notes: CHAT is an annual conference which is held in a different place each year, with a different theme, with the aim of exploring archaeologies of the historical period and present. There is an overall standing committee, and each conference is organised and run by the host institution. See for more information.


Living on an Island – The AEA Conference.

Over 70 delegates from across the world arrived in Kirkwall on the 1st April for The Association for Environmental Archaeology (AEA)Conference and Professional Zooarchaeology Working Group Conference.

“Just a few lines to say thanks for a great conference. Lecture programme most interesting; great excursions (thanks especially to Mark for helping us appreciate the exceptional archaeology) and fine conference dinner.I enjoyed every second of it. Even the weather which wasn’t always exactly the best – though we did have glorious sunshine on the Saturday – did not put a damper on proceedings.” Michael O’Connell, Palaeoenvironmental Research Unit, School of Geography and Archaeology, National University of Ireland Galway.

Living and working on an island was the central theme of the AEA Conference held at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. Led by Dr. Jennifer Harland, Dr. Ingrid Mainland and Dr. Scott Timpany, the conference addressed some of the most important issues facing island communities across the world – namely isolation, environmental change and how communities connect with the rest of the world. The aim of the conference was to cast light on how ancient island communities coped with change and perhaps draw some conclusions on how threatened island communities can adapt to change in the future.

It became apparent early in the planning of this meeting that islands hold immense appeal to archaeologists as a destination for fieldwork and indeed as a venue for a conference! One of the conference organisers, Dr Ingrid Mainland said,” What was intended to be a short day of papers quickly expanded into 3 days as delegate requests started to come in. We were delighted to welcome over 70 delegates from across the world on Friday. “

Papers were presented describing archaeological findings from a wide variety of locations from the islands of the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands, to Iceland and the cold reaches of the North Atlantic. Topics were equally diverse addressing many aspects of environmental archaeology including the fragile environment of central Mediterranean islands 5000 years ago to the study of land snails in the Western Isles and how they can inform us on ancient environmental change to a paper studying the role of humans on the evolution of own Orkney Vole.

Dr. Mainland added that, ”This was the third AEA conference on the theme of islands and it was interesting comparing the topics discussed at the first meeting back in 1980 when the environment and climate change were not such mainstream topics for discussion. This now places Orkney on the map in the study of island ecosystems within environmental archaeology.”

For a copy of the Abstracts go to the AEAOrkneyProgramme.

Archaeomalacology Conference

A_14074Methods in our Madness : Approaches in Archaeomalacology.

Archaeomalacology Working Group Meeting. 5th-8th April 2016

The diverse implications of examining malacological assemblages in archaeological contexts are widely recognized. From understanding past environments and reconstructing palaeo-landscapes to exploring past subsistence strategies; and from elucidating socio-cultural dynamics of maritime interactions to the use of shell as raw materials in both technological and cultural spheres, shellfish play an important part in archaeological narratives. This workshop plays two roles: first to present current archaeomalacological research from around the world – demonstrating the above. The second part aims to discuss and develop more standardized approaches to taxonomic classification, collection, quantification and analysis of shell assemblages and reporting techniques. While there is a vast array of archaeological examination of shell remains, current outputs lack appropriate standardization, making cross-cultural or inter-site analysis difficult – something that will become increasingly detrimental to the discipline. The AMWG has reached a critical mass whereby such standardization should become practical and possible.

Themes of particular interest:

– Current research in archaeomalacology from across the world

– Socio-cultural value of shells

– Shells as raw material

– Archaeomalacological methodologies

– Taxonomy, classification and quantification

– Palaeo-environmental studies



CHAT 2016 conference call for papers closes 17 April

CHAT 2016 poster

A wee reminder as the date for submissions draws near!

Call for papers closes end of 17th April.

Email proposals to . We are happy to discuss alternative contributions such as film, installation, sound etc.

There will be student / hardship travel and accommodation bursaries which will be announced very soon.

Details about the theme – RURALITY – can be found on the CHAT website here:

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or queries.

We look forward to receiving your proposal!

Archaeology On Rousay

Landmark conference field visit RousayArchaeology on Rousay was in the limelight last week as the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute welcomed delegates to Orkney for the LANDMARKS workshop. Led by Mark Edmonds (University of York), Ingrid Mainland (UHI) and Dave Cowley (Historic Environment, Scotland), the workshop brought together some of the leading figures in landscape research from around the world for four days of lectures and field visits to west Mainland and Rousay.

The aim of the meeting was to exchange ideas about the practice of landscape survey, to review new technologies and to explore how patterns seen from the air and on the ground are interpreted. Papers on research from the Northern Isles were given alongside presentations on work in England, on the Continent, in Ireland, Greenland, Iceland and east Africa. Taking in everything from scatters of Palaeolithic stone tools to memory maps of Stromness, the workshop addressed basic questions of scale. Archaeologists spend much of their time studying sites. But people live across landscapes as a whole, reworking them over time, and the meeting brought home the importance of work, on land and at sea, that keeps those broader horizons in mind.

With presentations on airborne laser survey and underwater bathymetry, on field-walking, oral history and community involvement, the meeting tackled many issues of analysis and interpretation. The organisers said they were delighted with the papers and with the in-depth conversations that carried people around West Mainland and Rousay. Speaking at the close of the event, Mark Edmonds added that, “This was a great opportunity to talk about how best to investigate and understand the landscape around us and we all learnt a great deal over the four days. We were also very pleased that our grant from the Royal Society of Edinburgh allowed us to invite several students from the UHI and from other Scottish universities.”

CHAT 2016 Conference Call for Papers

CHAT 2016 V3 CFP A4 poster (2)CHAT 2016


21st – 23rd October 2016

Orkney Theatre, Kirkwall

Archaeology Institute, University of the Highlands and Islands, Orkney College, Kirkwall, UK

CALL FOR PAPERS 30th Nov 2015 (closes 17th April 2016)

Hosting the conference in Orkney away from the usual metropolitan centres will offer CHAT a chance to experience rural areas by situating itself within one. Orkney is both rural and island, and a microcosm for wider issues. In the past and present Orkney is a gateway, a crossroads and a hub, typified by recent renewable technology test sites. In this sense, the edge-lands are for innovators both in the past and present, and are orientated towards the future. With superfast communications technology, the internet and increased mobility, the dominance of urban centres for popular culture and social interactions is eroding. Are we ‘all urban now’ or is rurality growing new modes of existence?

We have identified a number of sub-themes and questions:

  • Experiencing and experiences of rural areas: What are rural ‘ways of life’ and how can we think about these archaeologically? Rural areas as contested landscapes past and present. How is our experience of rural heritage sites (tourism) mediated through convention and control?
  • Agriculture, technology and landscape: What are the social and political economies, landscapes and materialities of the recent past and present in rural areas and islands? Can we re-theorise rurality in Historical and Contemporary Archaeology?
  • Movement and travel within and between rural areas: How do these mobilities evidence themselves in blurring the boundaries (land and sea), both socially and spatially, between rural, urban and island areas? What is the role and history of digital technology in rural development?
  • Ruralisation of the urban: Archaeologies of parks, wastelands, community gardens, theme parks, pseudo-rural landscapes and counter-urbanisation. How has urban design brought rural into urban?
  • Rural areas as innovators / future orientated: Renewable technology and the development of more sustainable ways of life. Boom-bust economies of the recent past. Are terms such as ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ still useful? How can we challenge concepts / assumptions of remoteness and marginality?

We welcome proposals for papers, posters, films and installations that respond to the conference theme and follow the above or alternative lines of enquiry. As always, proposals from disciplines outside archaeology are welcomed. There will be a small exhibition space available in the theatre foyer for posters, installations or alternative presentations, and we are happy to discuss such contributions.

Please send proposals (up to 300 words) to no later than 17 April 2016.


It’s a shame to come so far and not see anything! So, we’re laying on fieldtrips on the Thursday, Friday morning and Sunday afternoon (details announced soon). We hope these will inspire debate and take the conference to the islandscape.

Planning your trip:

Come to Orkney, you know you’ve always wanted too! Book early to get cheaper deals and allow for extra time, we could have some weather. Why not come on the Wed/Thurs and leave on the Monday to take advantage of our fieldtrips? Check with us about accommodation in halls at


You can travel to Orkney by ferry from Scrabster and Gills Bay on the north coast of Scotland, and Aberdeen (Northlink , Pentland Ferries ), and air (Flybe operated by Logan Air ) from four major Scottish cities (Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Inverness). Train then plane is a good option. It is best to allow a day for travel each way. Do contact us for travel advice.


Rooms in new halls of residence next to the venue will be available, check with us first about discounts. Kirkwall has numerous hotels, B&Bs and hostels see


More information will be available soon on the conference website. This will include detailed travel options and accommodation. A number of travel/accommodation bursaries will be available.

CHAT – Contemporary & Historical Archaeology in Theory

See the CHAT website at for regular updates

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