The 13th ICAZ International Conference was held at the Cultural and Convention Center at METU, Ankara, Turkey between 2-7 September 2018. The conference themes included:
A World of Seas
Seas are both separating and connecting bodies. They impose limitations and offer opportunities. Settlements built in the sea shore have less agricultural land available but they have a whole range of marine resources available. They have fewer land places to turn when in need but they have a whole world to reach if they sail. They have the advantage of trade, material resources and supplies coming with it whether these are necessities or luxury and the exotic. In the cases of islands, habitats can be unique and fragile. This theme seeks to explore: How the animal economies of costal settlements are formed under the influence of their proximity to the sea; how they differ from the ones in their hinterlands; how trade and through it contact with other cultures shaped economic behaviour, consumption patterns and taste; how ideas, economic systems and even animals were “transported” by sea; how these “new-comers” may have affected local populations and ecosystems. Within this theme special attention will be given to the Black Sea, Caspian Sea and the Caucasus mountain area. Zooarchaeological work in these areas is not sufficiently disseminated. Some regions are little explored. But they played important role from the very early Palaeolithic times to very recent periods as corridors over which humans and cultures migrated.
Animals, the State and the Individual
It has become a habit in zooarchaeological studies to reconstruct animal husbandry on the basis that rational decisions were made by animal keepers seeking maximum returns. Nevertheless, other mechanisms have also influenced and regulated such decisions. These include formal states and their components such as official religion as well as informal powers and ideologies, habits and socially “expected” behaviours. State and ideology intervene through laws, taxes, support or restriction of markets/marketing, rationing, warfare and politics, prohibitions, exclusion of social groups from certain forms of consumption or deliberate participation, regularly held festivals, feasts and fasts, banquets and dinners with formalised hospitality expectations are all factors that influence both the animal economy and the decisions of the individual on what to raise and what to eat. This theme aims to explore the extent to which, and, the ways these mechanisms shaped aspects of animal husbandry perhaps even against the “maximum return” policy. It asks how states and expanding empires transformed local populations and their relation to animals. In addition, it seeks to combine evidence from animal bones with information coming from the records of such formalised behaviour; written laws and regulations, treatments on animal raising, archives/bills of grand kitchens and palaces, literature and art and even old cookbooks and housekeeping guides. It also addresses the question of how much of these are actually visible in the archaeological record and through this question an evaluation of our methodological tools is posed.
Methods and Theory
The rapid development of techniques in scientific fields such as chemistry, biology and information technology and their readily loans to our discipline has created a number of “sub-fields of interest” within zooarchaeology. As much as it is mandatory to follow up, update and introduce new methodologies, it is also nesecery to define sufficiently the applicability, reliability and usefulness of these techniques and what is more their integration and contribution to our interpretations as a whole. Together with these comes the need to define the place and role of zooarchaeology as a part of the archaeology world, the scientific community but also our contemporary society. This last one props the simple but vital question of “Who else is ever going to read our reports apart from us”. Under this theme topics related to advances in method and theory in zooarchaeology are invited. Importance is put on issues of communicating our work to a wider audience, approaching the public but also the “stakeholders”.
The AMWG Meeting – Shells of molluscs as archaeological and environmental records
Organised by Laura Le Goff
Since the publication of the first papers dedicated to molluscs in the early 1970s, archaeomalacology has raised the interest of an increased number of specialists, archaeologists, and historians. The objective of the proposed session at the ICAZ conference in Ankara was to bring together researchers studying shells of molluscs, but also crustaceans and echinoderms, and to facilitate discussions. The was intended to be very inclusive, to highlight the diversity of methods and approaches within the time periods, from Pleistocene to modern times, and in very diverse socio-cultural contexts. The session also welcomed papers from both marine and non-marine environments.
This session was focused on a broad range of topics: discussing for example the specificities of littoral settlements and exchange networks, the changes in customs and cultures (diet, ornaments…), the impacts of human activities and/or their adaptations to the environment, and aimed particular to address the following research topics: archaeomalacology of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, as this area is a geographical focus of this ICAZ conference, and the uses of shells in architecture (as ornamentation or construction material). Papers dealing with regional, inter-regional, methodological, environmental, and anthropological problems, bringing in multiple proxy-data rather than discussions restricted to one specific site or merely descriptive presentations was strongly encouraged.
AMWG 2018 Meeting Report
by Daniella Bar-Yosef
During the last ICAZ Meeting in September 2018 in Ankara, archaeomalacologists met during a session entitled « Shells of molluscs as archaeological and environmental records ». Between 25 and 40 people attended the session, to hear 12 oral presentations. Half an hour was also dedicated to 3 posters presentations. The works presented were representative of the diversity of approaches and chrono-geographical areas: from Pleistocene to Middle Ages on several continents. The session
started with palaeoenvironmental reconstructions: some works focused on the presence of certain species to better understand the evolution of surrounding landscapes, others focused on the chemical record within the shell itself. The use of shells as raw material was also discussed several times, either to make beads and small decorative objects or to use as building material. The different presentations showed the variety of techniques used to modify and shape the molluscs shells. Moreover, several presentations focused on the role played by invertebrates in the diet of populations from all periods, as recurrent food on littoral settlements or as a special delicacy in the desert. All the presentations focused mainly on molluscs, but crustaceans were also represented with the discovery of shrimp remains on a roman site. Finally, several speakers discussed more global syntheses about long-distance trade and distribution patterns to better apprehend the cultural identities and the connectivity between them.
The session was concluded by a Business Meeting to start planning the next AMWG Meeting that should be held in Pune, India, in the fall of 2020. The importance of making the discipline and its results known through publication was also highlighted. Incidentally, all the authors at the business meeting agreed to participate to the publication of a specific volume devoted to the AMWG session. Finally, this meeting ended with a rich discussion about the role and the place of archaeomalacology within archaeozoology, archaeology and history in general. Although this field is better and better known and taken into account, some points for improvement were raised, particularly with regard to the teaching of the discipline, which is still too dependent on the presence of an archaeomalacologist within the university. A longer report will be published in the AMWG Newsletter.