Archaeological Things

Archaeology aims at reconstructing past habitats and explaining social and cultural dynamics from the evidence of material culture. Its most common practice is confined to the study of objects and their taxonomy. Archaeological objects revealed by excavation are classified according to their identification as products of certain cultures, but archaeological ‘things’ consist of a much wider array of evidence of human interaction in the past and might include environmental or spatial data alongside tangible material culture. These things, or in other words, the sum total of archaeological data, are then correlated with anthropological and sociological concepts, in order to explain their meanings within the cultural context in which they have existed.

Things bear different meanings at various times and places beginning with their appearance or formation up to the time of their disposal. Things create tangible and intangible habitats that exist in various contexts. The cultural habitats in which we exist are created by the interaction of things, their various functions and combinations. Symbolic perceptions of them that exist in disparate geographies and at different times, may either be unique or surprisingly similar. Their dynamic nature and existence reflected in these similarities or diversities clearly reveal that human civilization is not a phenomenon that follows a linear evolutionary developmental trajectory.

The conceptual framework that encompasses archaeological things is mostly derived from a model that considers form and composition, but not necessarily the interactions that also define and differentiate things. Therefore, archaeological things reveal much less than they could and are commonly accepted as passive components of social and cultural dynamics.

Contemporary archaeology seeks ways of defining the interaction of things describing the multi-scaled interrelationships of people and things. The dependency of humans on things, the interaction of things with each other, habitats created by various combinations of things in different numbers or amounts, interrelation of individuals and societies with things, and the social structures and cultures shaped by these dynamics are driving issues and worth considering in light of the continuing development of archaeological theory in this area.

The first meeting of TAG Turkey held in 2013 reached its goals in terms of bringing together scholars who hold opinions on the position of Turkish archaeology from a theoretical archaeological perspective and how it has evolved through shifting political conditions.

In the second meeting of TAG Turkey, planned for 5-6 February 2015, we will attempt to join in the rapidly developing theoretical debates around the world on archaeological things. The subject seems likely to be at the topmost agenda of archaeology for years to come. With an aim to create a lively forum for discussion, we call for contributions on human-thing relationships with a conceptual framework particular to archaeology.