Choreographies of making archaeological data

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Thu, 05/28/2020 - 21:47

A presentation together with Lisa Börjesson and Olle Sköld reporting results from the work conducted as a part of the CAPTURE research project at the EASST/4S 2020 conference organised online.


Archaeological fieldwork is a complex collective exercise. It unfolds as a 'dance' that brings together archaeologists working at the fieldsite, a vast number of material artefacts from the present and the past, in and out of the archaeological stratum and including tools and documentation equipment. It engages people from the broader archaeological community, the peoples of the past, and to an increasing extent through public and community archaeology initiatives, the local population and the society at large. Throughout the making of data, a series of performances occur, when the archaeologist is required to put her work in the making on display (investigation plan, Data Management Plan, public outreach, reporting, scholarly processing and publication etc.). Even if a fieldwork project is often a short-term exercise, its temporalities span from the distant past to the future, and its locality to a specific small area of land expands to cover a broad scope of spatial entanglements.

Understanding the rhythms, openings and closings of the choreographies of how archaeologists work in field is a key to understanding what goes in and happens within, and what comes out of archaeological fieldwork, what is the 'data' that archaeologists are collecting and documenting according to fieldwork manuals, and what characterizes archaeological making. Drawing on an observation study of an archaeological teaching excavation in Scandinavia, this paper inquires into the choreographies of archaeological fieldwork, and more specifically, how a better understanding of its movements as epistemic choreographies of scientific and scholarly work can help to unpack and describe its inputs and outputs, what it achieves and how it is made in the longue durée and vaste ampleur of its space-time.