The 3rd Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium, University College London: Institute of Archaeology

A report by Dannielle Croucher and Hayden McKee, University College London

The 3rd Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Student Symposium took place on the 18th and 19th of November 2016, at University College London. This follows two previous conferences held by students at Newcastle University (2015) and the University of Bradford (2014). The conference focusses on up-and-coming research in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age disciplines, incorporating all aspects of archaeological study in these time periods, and has been kindly sponsored by the Prehistoric Society and the UCL Joint Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies.

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The 2016 symposium was hosted by UCL’s Institute of Archaeology as a platform for postgraduate, independent and early career researchers to present their work. The theme of the conference was Anarchy in the U.K. challenging researchers to deconstruct archaeological theory and promote revolutionary thinking.

The conference commenced on the evening of Friday 18th, with a keynote lecture from University College of London’s Professor Mike Parker Pearson on the scientific revolution in archaeology. The lecture discussed the probability of a new era of science in archaeology focusing on his genetic research of the Neolithic Bell Beaker communities and the possible deconstruction of current theories of mass migration to the U.K. The lecture was followed by questions and a wine reception.

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On Saturday the 19th the first session included new research on challenging the connotations of animal domesticity (Emily Banfield, University of Leicester), visualisation of Neolithic domestic dwellings in the Milfield Basin (Seren Griffiths, University of Central Lancashire) and domestication of Neolithic-Bronze Age mind (Alexander Aston, University of Oxford),

The second session centred on monumental construction and labour, including papers on the origins of stones at Stonehenge (Katy Whitaker, University of Reading), constructing communities reviewed through assemblage theory (Mareike Ahlers, Newcastle University) and challenging Renfrew’s labour theories in monumental construction (Barney Harris, UCL Institute of Archaeology)

The third session included talks on categorising artefacts focusing on the Unstan Bowl (Michael Copper, University of Bradford), farming in Anatolia (Beatrijs De Groot, UCL Institute of Archaeology) and challenging the absence of cremations in the British Chalcolithic funerary record (Anna Bloxam, UCL Institute of Archaeology).

The fourth and final session focused on emerging digital platforms for engaging the public in archaeological sites centred around the effort at Ҫatalhöyük, Turkey (Tara Copplestone and Izzy Bartley, University of York and University of Aarhus) the reoccurring colours, red, black and white,  in neolithic monuments in Atlantic Europe (Penelope Foreman, Bournemouth University) and concluded with a second keynote lecture from Dr. Joanna Brück on mortuary practices and social evolution in Early and Middle Bronze Age Britain with a critical evaluation of the Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowmen.

The symposium created a relaxed and safe environment for new researchers to gain experience in presentation, promote current research and gain valuable insights from other academics, as well as providing a highly captivating day of archaeological research for the audience. The environment was positive and encouraging form all guests, volunteers, speakers and professors, and we look forward to next year’s symposium hosted at UCLAN.

Dannielle Croucher and Hayden McKee, University College London

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