Opening Remarks on the Colloquium Theme
The Absence of the Profane
Sculpting and Enacting a Topography of Power
Reconstructing Anatolian landscapes
Merging the Natural and Constructed Landscape of the Hittites
Event Place Performance
Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
By Ömür Harmansah
Assistant Professor of Archaeology
and Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies,
Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World
and the Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies
at Brown University
Dear colleagues, dear students, guests,
It is with great excitement that I welcome you to the first of the Joukowsky Institute Archaeology Colloquia, “Drawing on rocks, gathering by the water: archaeological fieldwork at rock reliefs, sacred springs and other places”. I would like to thank my academic home Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World here at Brown University, who is sponsoring the event. And I would particularly thank our director Sue Alcock for her unfailing support and encouragement for making this event possible, I must say that this colooquium was actually her idea, having seen my enthusiasm about rocky places and watery landscapes over the course of last year. Little did I know then what was waiting for me in organizing my first conference. I am also grateful to our Institute manager Sarah Sharpe who is really the hardworking engineer behind all of this; I have seen fabulous encvouragement from my colleagues and graduate student community at the Joukowsky Institute, thank you. Finally many thanks to all our visiting participants who travelled and are travelling as we speak in the snow storms of the East coast, and our six discussants, whose ideas I am confident will enrich our discussions tremendously. The format of the colloquium is quite self-explanatory. We have six half-hour papers throughout today , and each will find its initial intellectual challenge from our respondents, then we will open the floor to questions and more debate. There is plenty of coffee and pastries outside to keep us going, and we will conclude the day with a reception at the Joukowsky Institute, all are invited. After we all sleep on these papers tonight, we will have a round-table discussion tomorrow morning at the Joukowsky Institute, starting with a modest breakfast, good coffee and shameless debate from 9:30 to 11 am. We have a slight change in the program of this afternoon’s session, Ben Marsh from Bucknell University was unfortunately caught in storm in Pennsylvania, he will eventually make it here today I hope, but we moved his presentation to 3 o’clock just to be sure. Lee Ullmann will be the first speaker of the afternoon session.
Archaeologist John Bintliff, in the opening paragraphs of his edited volume on “the Annales School and archaeology” asked: “How many times have I sat at the beginning of a symposium listening to the organizer setting out a new and trendy approach to transform the theory and practice of archaeology?” Given the modest scale of our gathering today in Prodivence on this cold and snowy morning, I am not sure if I might be as bold or as ambitious to claim a shaking of the discipline from its foundations, but let me say a few words about why this colloquium is important for me , and where it fits in relation to the direction that archaeological practice is going these days, before turning the microphone to our speakers and discussants.
Between the good old archaeological practice of excavating large sites and cities, on the one hand, and the rather spectacular developments in the extensive and intensive archaeological survey projects in the last 30-40 years, there is one aspect of landscapes that always seem to fall between the cracks of our field methodologies., having received relatively little interest in a conscientious and rigorous manner. I am talking about those unorthodox localities in the landscape that escape our overarching site typologies, resist our methods of scientific quantification, make a mockery of our systemic approaches to land use and settlement patterns. I am speaking of places where our tidy nature-culture categories collapse. More than dots in the landscape, places gather a complex and heterogenous set of human practices around them - their materiality is a coming together of things, rocks, soils, plants, waters, animals, humans, and the myriad of ways in which they interact. Localities can be often fragile and ephemeral entities, as Arjun Appadurai has elegantly argued. Vulnerable to forgetting and silencing, places have situated practices, associated human imaginations and deeply embedded material residues: they are incerdibly hard to get a hold of through standard archaeological field techniques. They however most frequently run deep in their temporality, where multiple pasts coexist in very odd combinations and serendipidities.
The idea of place has recently come to the foreground of academic discourse in understanding the world, and understanding our ways of dwelling in the world, particularly in the social sciences and humanities. In archaeological projects, the academic book titles, contemporary art projects, and philosophical treatises on 20th century phenomenologists, the concept of place is increasingly coupled with landscape. In their important contributions to the debate, Arjun Appadurai and Doreen Massey have placed such rise of interest towards locality and place in the contemporary discourses of globalization, and warn us againts an endemic pessimisim that comes together with it. According to one of the grand clichés of social theory, we live in the age of televisions, cell phones, e-mail, live podcasts and video-conferencing- with these new technologies of communication, our worldly relationships have been uprooted from their embeddedness to particular localities- and the powerful sense of place, the sense of locality comes under siege, in a world of spatial disintegration, cultural disruption in the badlands of modernity. According to this pessimistic view, the idea of locality, the embeddedness of place in face to face relationships is a thing of the past, especially the ancient past, and as archaeologists we have been recruited to pursue that. Appadurai and Massey among other scholars have convincingly reassured us that place-making practices that endow our world of bodily experience with its meanings and symbolisms, are not that easy to kill- this is even beyond the powers of global capitalism.
What I would like to suggest is that archaeologists may indeed have a prominent role in this debate as they are armed with field methodologies and interpretative paradigms that can most approriately address questions concerning the making of places. I would like to argue that places were equeally fluid, dynamic, heterogenous and even ephemeral at times in antiquity, and the relationships that brought about their existence housed complex technologies of communication and representation. The complexity of places can be studied through a rigorous exploration of them as locales of human interaction. The visual experience, the haptic experience of places, the cult practices associated with them, full scale bodily performances that take place in them, the interventions of the political elite through acts of monumentalization, commemoration and spectacles, their contested status among various cultural groups as hubs of representations of power, as well as their unique materiality as palipsests of past human activities , the stories, the collective imaginations that entangle them, all of this speak to the richness of places.
In this gathering, our intention is to explore sacred springs, rock reliefs, caves, sink-holes, river basins and river gorges, water reservoirs, and such phantasmagoric, geologically powerful landscapes that are continuously drawn to human imagination and practice. Our intention in putting this colloqiuim together was to bring scholars who work on similarly unorthodox archaeological landscapes, and share with each other the theoretical and particularly fieldwork related challenges that they present to us. I sincerely hope new ways of thinking will emerge from our collaboration.