Rethinking the Archaeological Map

Posted on June 8, 2016


This week’s archaeology conference videos, again from TAG, are… map related:

From the very beginning of archaeological practice, maps (and plans) have been one of the discipline’s most fundamental tools. The number, variety and prominence of maps in archaeology have been increasing further since the beginning of the 1990s due to the availability of a growing range of digital technologies used to collect, visualise, query, manipulate and analyse spatial data. It is therefore surprising that whilst generalised critiques of mapping as a modernist practice have been ubiquitous, direct and focused critiques of “the archaeological map” have been rare.
This slow development of archaeological cartographic critique should be considered a missed opportunity given the growing dissatisfaction in other areas of the social sciences with the modern Western map and particularly its grand claim to represent “the world as it is”. We suggest that this multidisciplinary dialogue with post-/non-representational, morethan- representational, neo-pragmatist tones would undoubtedly enrich archaeological thinking. Moreover, archaeology could significantly contribute to this dialogue, thanks to its vast and multifaceted experience with maps and mappings as well as its well established tradition of thinking about cultures through the visual, material and other performative qualities of the images that they produce.
The session aims to present an opportunity to scrutinise the archaeological map and the possibilities for diversifying archaeological mappings. The meeting will be open to both theoretical and empirical approaches providing they seek to destabilise and unsettle the current status of maps and mappings in archaeology.
Among the issues that could be addressed in the session are the need for a critique of archaeological maps and mapping practices; performativity of archaeological mapping practices; the map as assemblage; promises of epistemologically modest genres of archaeological maps (e.g. explicitly performative, narrative, affective, playful); deepmapping; maps as a creative artistic process; counter-mapping; maps and visual literacy; maps as story-telling; idiosyncrasies of archaeological cartographic discourse; gender issues in archaeological mapping; archaeological map in the digital age; archaeological map as a part of archaeological visual culture; and the potentials and promises of ‘sciencetechnology-studies’ in the study of archaeological mapping.

Session organisers: Mark GILLINGS, Piraye HACIGÜZELLER and Gary LOCK (University of Leicester, University of Leuven and University of Oxford)

Introduction to Rethinking the Archaeological Map

Rethinking the conversation: a geomythological deep map


“Deep maps do not explicitly seek authority…but provoke negotiation between insiders and outsiders, experts and contributors, over what is represented and how. Framed as a conversation and not a statement, they are inherently unstable, continually unfolding and changing in response to new data, new perspectives and new insights.” (Bodenhamer 2015)

In this way, the deep map can become a conduit for rethinking geomythological research and representation. Traditionally, geomythology has been the study of landscape stories
through the purview of geoscience (Piccardi and Masse 2007) with little regard for myth’s own voice. Bounded in the epistemic bias of orthodox perspectives storytelling has been dismissed as an inferior feature in the landscape; a source to be critiqued or stood behind as a bridge for public engagement but not as a partner to be afforded equal value. This paper challenges that stance, suggesting that an alternative is possible wherein established archaeological practices are overthrown in favour of a more interdisciplinary methodology (Kavanagh 2015) through conceptual deep mapping. For ‘the world as it is’ in which we live does not stand still, it does not pose for a paper-held cartographical portrait; it is forever in flux. This refers both to the aesthetic topography and to the social structures it supports, as well as the intellectual data it can yield. To therefore map a landscape is more than geography, it is to facilitate a palimpsest of cultural narrative which struggles to be contained within the rigid parameters of a conventionally academic bracket, as so often seen with historic landscape characterization. One solution to this, is not to even try. Instead to bring together the polyphony in a manner that is at once playful and scholastically sound without overt agenda. This is offered by way of introducing a ‘work in progress’ short film that responds to geo-archaeological fieldwork in collusion with art, music and myth to represent one stretch of coastline across time, space and disciplines with the aim of not compromising integrity and to re-establish the very foundation upon which normative perspectives reside.

K.E. KAVANAGH (Independent)

Bodenhamer, D.J., Corrigan. J. and Harris, T.M. (eds). (2015). Deep maps and spatial narratives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press
Kavanagh, K.E. (2015). Of myth & man: Essaying the space-between in geomythological theory. Unpubl. M.A. Thesis. University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.
Piccardi, L. and Masse, W.B. (eds) (2007). Myth and geology. Geological Society, London, Special Publications No. 273

Mapping risk: new visualizations of maritime networks in the Aegean Bronze Age

How useful can network analysis be in maritime settings if based on invariant spatial relations? A model of maritime networks across the Aegean in the Middle Bronze Age (MBA) has been proposed by Knappet, Evans and Rivers (2008, 2011. Knappet, 2013) using distance between sites as a core measure, which they acknowledge as inadequate. By constructing new maps based on a data set of average travel time under sail between sites and proposing a new measure of ‘risk’ of travel, remarkable different network patterns are revealed, highlighting the inherent problems in the use of the modern Western map in archaeological contexts, offering a step to visualising the real risks and ‘worlds’ of Bronze Age mariners, and supporting Sindbaeks (2014, 129) proposal that ‘…network analysis in archaeology should not be regarded primarily as a means of mapping out data pertaining to past relations and interactions, but as a method of framing, assessing, and criticizing such data’.


Mapping sound: creating a synaesthetic landscape

A core principle of phenomenology states that as human beings we experience the world with all of our senses simultaneously. Merleau-Ponty (1962) describes this process as synaesthesia, literally all sensations together. No one hears a sound removed from touch and vision, and no one sees an object divorced from sound or spatial awareness. Since every human experience is a synaesthetic one, the analysis of the lived experience of an archaeological site should be approached with this concept in mind.
Through the use of modern acoustic testing equipment including speakers, amplifiers and recording devices, archaeologists can experience how sound behaves in an archaeological setting and record the objective and subjective properties of sound in specific contexts. Yet in order to analyze the consequences of the interaction of sound and space, one must transform the sonic into the visual: the sound map. This paper explores the consequences of this transformation, what is gained and what is lost in this process of discussing and analyzing a sonic experience in purely visual terms.
Dianne SCULLIN (Columbia University, U.S.A.)



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