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.”
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.