Mittwoch, 30. Mai 2018

19th International Congress of Classical Archaeology in Cologne and Bonn, 22-26 May 2018

A weblog entry by Sina Lehnig

Already a few weeks before the 19th AIAC (Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica) congress finally started, there was an excited anticipation in the air, which surrounded all classical archaeologists. The International Congress of Classical Archaeology constitutes the world's most important forum for the archaeology of ancient Mediterranean cultures and this year it was going to be held in my hometown Cologne, co-organised by Diana Wozniok, a long-time friend of mine. Of course, this made me feel even more personally involved and I was excitedly looking forward. What awaited me was more than 1300 participants who share the same passion for archaeology, fruitful exchange, the possibility to present my own research and to meet colleagues from other countries. 

The AIAC is not a new invention but looks back on a history of some 100 years, since the first congress was held in Athens in 1905. Since then, the congress has been conducted in a 5-year cycle in alternating host cities all over Europe, the Mediterranean region and the USA. This year the focus of the AIAC was on the investigation of “Archaeology and Economy in the Ancient World”. Especially today, economic aspects enter various areas of public life: urban development, religion, art, housing, food and death. But how and to which degree did economic efforts affect the life of ancient societies? While the field of ancient history has already been dealing with the investigation of past economies, awareness of an archaeological approach and the incorporation of material culture has only grown over the past decades. Within the AIAC congress, economy should be understood as a central element of classical societies, which has to be addressed in archaeological research. 

Fig 1. The big hall of the historical "Gürzenich" in Cologne filled with classical archaeologists (Photo: Aehab Asad)

The first day began with all participants gathering at the "Gürzenich" in Cologne, a historical building, which is usually used for the famous Karneval celebrations (Fig.1). Important figures from classical archaeology, like Andrew Wilson, gave speeches on the role of economy in ancient societies and the breaks were used to talk to colleagues while trying to grab a coffee or snack. On this occasion, I also met my Israeli friends and colleagues from the University of Haifa again, with whom I am working together in the framework of my dissertation project (Fig.2).

Fig 2. Our group of archaeologists from Israel and Germany celebrating our successful panel 
(Photo: Aehab Asad)

On the next day, the participants had to move to Bonn, the neighbour city of Cologne, where the panels were to take place at the University. It was not an easy task to decide for a panel or presentation due to their incredibly large number. Finally, I chose to participate in a panel, which discussed the production and distribution of food and other products in the Roman and Byzantine Eastern Mediterranean. 

Thursday was the most important day of the congress for me, since it was when I presented my own research. Together with my colleagues from the University of Haifa in Israel, I formed a closed panel, which discussed the rise and fall of the Byzantine Empire in the Negev Desert (ERC-project title: “Crisis on the Margins of the Byzantine Empire. A Bio-Archaeological Project in the Negev Desert”; Head: Guy Bar-Oz). The research focuses on the application of scientific, bio-archaeological methods to answer questions of rise and collapse. Our team consisted of researchers applying Archaeozoology, Archaeobotany, Radiocarbondating, Isotope Analysis, Dendrochronology and aDNA-Analysis (Fig.3). 

Fig 3. Racheli Blevis talking about the Negev-trade in fish (Photo: Aehab Asad)

Within my talk, I presented the preliminary results of my study on animal husbandry and trade in the Negev town Elusa (Fig.4). I pointed out important differences and developments within the Roman, Byzantine and Islamic settlement periods, which show how not only the interaction between people and their natural environment, but also their trade relations to far-off regions, changed over time. 
Our panel was a great success and I am proud to be a part of this new and innovative research. 

Fig 4. My presentation on animal husbandry and trade in Elusa (Photo: Jörg Linstädter)

Two more days of intense panels, discussions and meetings followed until the congress week ended on Saturday. The whole event was closed with a great party bringing everyone together again. After a lot of intellectual input, this was the best way to celebrate a successful congress and to preserve good memories.

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