TAG Session: Archaeologies of Destruction

Here’s an abstract for a session on ‘Archaeologies of Destruction’, to be held at the upcoming TAG in Southampton, 15-17 December:

Archaeologies of destruction
Ben Croxford (btcroxford@yahoo.co.uk) and Troels Myrup Kristensen (University of Aarhus; klatmk@hum.au.dk)

It is often the norm that material studied archaeologically is incomplete or in some way damaged. Despite the frequent engagement with the bits and pieces in question, the processes responsible for this state are not often explicitly tackled. The work of Chapman (2000; 2007) has emphasised the possibilities where broken objects are concerned and encouraged consideration of the means of production, i.e. destruction: challenging assumptions relating to destruction as an act and damaged as a condition that renders objects redundant. Many researchers are working on these issues, dealing with assemblages of damaged objects and considering the implications of their breaking. Such work though is often carried out in isolation, in part due to the range of object types, periods and geographic regions involved. This session offers an opportunity to draw together these ultimately similar efforts, these archaeologies of destruction. This will enable a broad consideration of a variety of damaged assemblages and ideas surrounding the act of damage and its social significance.

The treatment of anthropomorphic sculpture offers a particularly interesting prospect for consideration. Damage to such objects is common and found in a range of periods and regions. Several historic instances are well-known and seemingly well-understood i.e. the various campaigns of Christian iconoclasm. Current research (e.g. Graves 2008) offers new insights into such events, adding complexity to the often simplistic older narratives of straightforward destruction to cease use. The interaction such damage represents is infinitely more multifaceted than often allowed, offering insight into concepts of damage within wider society (both our own and those of the past). Furthermore, the anthropomorphic character of the material has specific implications for understanding engagement with flesh and blood bodies and the manipulation of these. Destruction is a common activity and well attested archaeologically. The aim of this session is to bring together the various strands of thought concerning such action to enable an archaeology of destruction.

Chapman 2000. Fragmentation in Archaeology: People, Places and Broken Objects in the Prehistory of South Eastern Europe.
Chapman, J. and Gaydarska, B. 2007. Parts and Wholes: Fragmentation in prehistoric context.
Graves, C.P. 2008. ‘From an archaeology of iconoclasm to an anthropology of the body: Images, punishment and personhood in England, 1500–1660’. Current Anthropology 49 no.1: 35–57.

Abstracts for papers can be submitted here.

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