IAW Spring 2024 Schedule

Week 1: Wednesday, March 20

No Meeting


Week 2: Monday, March 25

Tian Yaqi

 “Recent Archaeological Research on the City Yong of Qin Empire (221-207 BC)”

Chen Aidong

“Archaeological Studies of the State Sacrifice of Qin (221-207 BC) in the Vicinity of the Great City Yong”

Combined abstract: The pre-imperial Qin capital, Yong , occupied national headlines in China for the excavation of the gigantic tomb of the Duke of Qin in the 1990s. In the past twenty years, archaeological work in Yong has focused on studying the ecological system of the city, coupled with an effort to uncover the city’s position in the religion of Qin before its conquest of China. While the work in the city has successfully exposed the entire riverine system including canals and lakes alongside production and palatial sites, of the five sacrificial altars of Qin (秦五畤) located in the suburb, the most famous altars to Heaven of all time, archaeologists believe that they have found at least three and possibly four. While two (including the Blood Pool 血池) had already been excavated five years ago, excavations continued to be carried out on the other two religious sites in 2020-2023. There is little doubt that the new discoveries will shed important light on the mentality of the Qin Empire and on the religious tradition of early China in general. While the political and military history of the Qin Empire were the subjects of numerous studies, we are only now beginning to understand the role of religion in the formation of that empire.


Week 3: Wednesday, April 3

Dan Hansen

“Beyond Reuse: Re-Engagement and Interdiscursivity in the Pictish Built Environment”

AbstractRecent archaeological work on the people known as the Picts of northern Britain (ca. 300 – 900 CE) has revealed that many of the Picts’ characteristic monuments and structures made use of materials previously made significant in prehistory. A portion of the Pictish “symbol stones”— a class of stone monuments bearing a distinctive iconographic repertoire—were crafted from prehistoric megaliths, while Pictish-period hillforts are often modifications of Iron Age enclosures. Scholars have speculated on the relevance of these practices to identity formation and legitimation in this period, with Pictish elites possibly positioning themselves in relation to the prehistoric past. Yet, to focus solely on reuse risks ignoring other practices which may partake in similar kinds of signification. Symbol stones are often placed near or within prehistoric sites, while “new” Pictish hillforts bear formal resemblances to Iron Age constructions. Drawing on insights from semiotic anthropology, this paper places Pictish-period reuse within a broader category of interdiscursive phenomena including citation, imitation, and reappropriation. It examines spatial statistical results from a study of symbol stones and hillforts, traces these features’ possible modes of interdiscursivity, and sketches some hypotheses for the relevance of these modes to processes of identity-making in the Pictish period and beyond.  


Friday, April 5

Glenda Chao

Narratives of the Local in Eastern Zhou Hubei: Critically Revisiting Burial Practices and Social Ranking in Xiangyang (ca. 6th-3rd centuries BCE)

Abstract Advances in archaeology, as well as in the preservation and reading of early inscriptions and manuscripts, made since the late twentieth century have redefined the study of early Chinese history. The rapid pace of development in China over the last several decades has resulted in a proliferation of new materials unearthed through construction, agriculture, mining, and other human activities that shape the soil, activities which naturally scale along with economic and population growth. Despite the frequent need for sometimes-rushed salvage operations, the increasing systemization and sophistication of the recovery, preservation, and study of these materials has expanded our sources on early Chinese practices significantly and, more importantly, has ensured that a much higher proportion of them have the accompanying context that allows us to interpret them more holistically. Due to these transitions, familiarity with both archaeological sites and unearthed manuscripts has now become the norm among scholars of early China across the world. Armed with this growth in interdisciplinarity, the field has also begun to re-examine traditional narratives of early Chinese social, cultural, and intellectual history with renewed vigor. This talk will introduce some of the ways that my work on the archaeology and history of the Xiangyang region of northern Hubei during the first millennium BCE fits into this ongoing scholarly dialogue. I begin with a discussion on methods and approaches to the study of material culture from this region; I then outline ways that my work both challenges and contributes to ongoing scholarly narratives about archaeology of this region; following this, I offer detail on the evolving relationship between mortuary praxis and sociopolitical change in Xiangyang during the 5th-3rd centuries BCE; finally, I discuss future work that might come out of the research that I am currently conducting.  


Week 4: Wednesday, April 10

Henry Bacha

“Materializing Inka-Colla interaction in the colonial Viceroyalty of Peru”

Abstract: This presentation engages as its central problematic an iconographic motif—identified by scholars as depicting a ritualized drinking encounter between the Sapa Inka and a Colla (an ethnic collectivity that emerged in the northern Lake Titicaca basin during the Late Intermediate Period) figure—painted on keros (Andean ceremonial drinking vessels) produced in the colonial Viceroyalty of Peru during the seventeenth century. This depiction of a peaceful interaction between the Inka sovereign and an evidently analogously powerful Colla monarch contrasts both with historical accounts of Inka military conquests of a resistant altiplano; and archaeological evidence suggesting that the political landscape of the late pre-Inka Collao was characterized by sociopolitical autonomy and fragmentation rather than by unification under a Colla state. Comparing and integrating iconographic analysis, historical narratives codified in sixteenth and seventeenth century crónicos, and a review of archaeological data from the historic Colla heartland, I interrogate the implications of such a depiction of Inka-Colla interaction in the early to mid-colonial Andes. Ultimately, I propose an interpretation of the Inka-Colla motif as serving a performative function, alternately (and perhaps simultaneously) insisting upon the equivalence of the historic Colla señoríos to the Inka in terms of sociopolitical sophistication and might while also asserting the essential benevolence of Inka rule and imperial expansion. In doing so, I follow recent scholarship in arguing that colonial-period kero imagery functioned in a symbolic register distinct from those of oral and textual narrative forms (Martínez Cereceda 2022; Martínez Cereceda et al. 2008, 2014, 2016), and therefore served as a site of contestation over diverse visions of Andean history beyond the perspectives of the cuzqueño, Inka-descendant elite that dominate colonial historical sources.


Week 5: Wednesday, April 17 (SAA Week)

No Meeting


Week 6: Wednesday, April 24

Timothy Harrison


Week 7: Wednesday, May 1

Anna Berlekamp

Title: “Applying Circuitscape: Investigating movement in Central Anatolia”

Abstract: Investigating movement in the ancient world is always difficult, commonly relying on indirect proxies and used to investigate the “best” pathways from one defined point to another. But how we investigate general movement through the landscape without clearly defining those points is a more difficult problem. Circuitscape, more commonly used in ecological studies than archaeology, is one method to understand movement through a landscape. This paper applies Circuitscape in Central Anatolia to investigate movement into and around the plateau, highlighting conduits of high mobility. The movement corridors produced through Circuitscape are then compared to Middle Bronze Age Anatolian settlement. The Middle Bronze Age in Central Anatolia was a period of high institutionalized inter- and intra-regional trade with merchants coming from Assur in Northern Mesopotamia to Kanesh in Central Anatolia and then circulating throughout Central Anatolia. Traditional narratives of Middle Bronze Age trade movements focus on mapping merchant itineraries, which, although important for understanding the mechanics of the trade network, applies a foreigner lens and only includes the areas directly within the purview of the Assyrian merchants, excluding southern and western areas of the plateau. This Circuitscape analysis allows one to investigate movement outside strictly the Assyrian merchant network, incorporating all areas of the plateau and investigating trade from a more Anatolian perspective.


Week 8: Thursday, May 9 (note non-canonical day)

Derek Kennet

“Suhar: an early-Islamic Arabian port on the Indian Ocean”


Week 9: Wednesday, May 15

Claire Watson

“Measuring Connectivity through Trade”

Abstract: “Linkages between groups in the historical and archaeological record(s) are tantalizing. This is especially true as the modern phenomenon of globalization—along with frequently ill-advised, ill-informed backlashes against the idea and avoidance of the single market, like Brexit—has come to dominate the public imagination. The tantalizing aspect of connectivity is largely from its resistance to measurement: what does it actually mean to aver that one group was connected to another in Antiquity? Is connectedness something that can be usefully compared, to the extent that we could justifiably say that one group is well-connected and another less so? And connectivity in what sense? Archaeologists are frequently presented with an incomplete material record for trade; despite this, trade, or material connectivity, represents one of the best means to assess connectivity archaeologically. This incomplete record is nonetheless troublesome and demands attention. This text, adapted in some more-or-less meaningful way from or for my dissertation, makes a case for empirically assessing connectivities between regions within a geographically and economically disparate empire (in this case, the Late Roman). By utilizing archaeological evidence for trade, I intend to delineate and utilize a method for gauging a particular kind of material connectivity. This method has several potential troublesome points connected to the incompleteness of the record, which are the aspects I am most interested in discussing here.”


Week 10: Tuesday, May 21

Kelsey Rooney

IAW Schedule: Autumn Quarter, 2023


NOTE: All workshop sessions will be held, unless otherwise noted, on Wednesdays from 3:30 ­– 5 pm in the Lasalle Banks Room of the ISAC Museum. (Please note, for instance, that Prof. Newman’s book talk next week will take place at 5 pm at Assembly Hall, International House (1414 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637))


October 11 (Week 3)

Prof. Sarah Newman book talk, feat. Mariana Petry Cabral, Claudia Brittenham, and Pauline Goul (registration and further details available here)

October 25 (Week 5)

Charles Wilson (PhD candidate, NELC): “Reassessing the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s ‘Seated Goddess with a Child’”

November 1 (Week 6)

Hanna Pickwell (PhD candidate, Anthropology): “Social distancing and reclaiming junk: Renegotiating possessibility in Covid-era Beijing”

November 8 (Week 7)

Adrian Chase (Postdoctoral Fellow, Mansueto Institute and Department of Anthropology): “Proximity and Distance: Neighborhood Identities at Caracol, Belize”

November 15 (Week 8)

Prof. Rocco Palermo (Assistant Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, Bryn Mawr College)

November 29 (Week 10): TBD

December 6 (Week 11): TBD

IAW Call for Papers 2023-2024


The Interdisciplinary Archaeology Workshop is now accepting submissions for Autumn quarter! 

Autumn quarter deadline: Friday, September 22, 2023

Proposals also accepted on a rolling basis for Winter quarter.

We hope that everyone is enjoying a great summer! Are you looking for feedback on a conference paper, MA thesis, or dissertation chapter? Have you been catching up on field reports and archival research over the summer; or preparing grant or job applications? The Interdisciplinary Archaeology Workshop (IAW) is now accepting submissions for the Autumn quarter of the 2023-2024 academic year.

This year’s IAW theme, Archaeologies of Proximity and Distance, endeavors to explore the interstitial areas that both separate and connect sites, material and sensorial phenomena, and archaeologists to one another. When archaeologists think of the terms “distance” and “proximity,” we may immediately think of things that are spatially related in nature, but such concepts can also be applied metaphorically to chronological distances, proximal interactions with the sensorial, and phenomenological spaces between experiencer and event. Similarly, the concepts of “proximity” and “distance” also implicate questions relevant to archaeological methodologies—for example, juxtaposing in situ, “on the ground” survey and excavation-oriented fieldwork with the increasing ubiquity of digital and remote-sensing methods in the discipline, facilitated by the technological innovations of recent decades. As such, we encourage the use of this theme as a way to interrogate and examine these proverbial (and sometimes literal) “spaces between,” and to encourage a consideration of the various methodological, theoretical, and epistemological approaches that might be employed to traverse these lacunae. How can archaeologists and the discipline of archaeology navigate and negotiate between divergent temporal, spatial, methodological, and affective scales? What modes of ethical, political, sensorial, and emotional attunement and engagement might archaeological research alternatively facilitate or impede? How might such “spaces” arise both through the use of particular methodologies and traditional disciplinary approaches to archaeological problems? What kinds of relational divides emerge between archaeologists and the objects of their inquiries, and how can such divides be navigated, negotiated, and bridged?

For this year’s IAW, we invite archaeologists from around the UChicago community and beyond to examine the physical and metaphorical distances between themselves and the subjects of their research, and to explore these resulting gray areas—be they analytical, theoretical, or physical—through new mindsets, methodologies, and research in archaeology. We hope that IAW will represent a space to discuss new technological, methodological, and theoretical approaches, to revisit existing work through different lenses, and to explore interesting collaborations either within or outside the academic world. We are committed to engaging students and scholars from across departments, disciplines, and programs, and to encouraging a wide range of perspectives on archaeological thought, methodologies, and research. (Additionally, while we hope that the workshop theme, Archaeologies of Proximity and Distance, discussed above will prove stimulating and generative, submissions need not necessarily engage or address the theme).

Students may opt for a presentation or pre-circulate a paper for discussion, with the additional option of identifying a fellow student or faculty member to serve as session discussant.

If you are interested in presenting a paper or an ongoing analysis to IAW, please contact student coordinators Harrison Morin (NELC, harrisonm@uchicago.edu) and Henry Bacha (Anthropology, bacha@uchicago.edu) with the following information:

  • Name
  • Department
  • Year in program
  • Paper title
  • Type of paper (e.g., dissertation chapter, MA paper, conference paper)
  • A short abstract or summary
  • The quarter(s) in which you are able to present (if more than one, please list your preferences in ranked order, and we will do our best to accommodate)
  • Preference for in-person or virtual (Zoom) setting

Additionally, please be sure to get in touch if you have suggestions for future IAW guest speakers or collaborations with other University of Chicago workshops, if you would like to be added to the IAW listserv, or have any additional questions, concerns, or comments.

Thank you, and we look forward to a great year!


Harrison and Henry