40th Association for Environmental Archaeology Conference

Takes place 29th November - 1st December 2019 at the University of Sheffield

Diamond external 3

Late registration now available

Buy standard tickets (£120)

Buy student tickets (£100)


Living through change: the archaeology of human-environment interactions

As environmental archaeologists, we recognise that human activity can impact local and regional environments, and, conversely, that dynamic environments can stimulate responses in human behaviour.

The role of humans as agents of environmental change is increasingly central to debates far beyond our discipline and, given current global politics and the present threats of environmental change, it is more important than it has ever been for environmental archaeology to contribute powerful, vivid and evidence-based accounts of human-environment interactions from the deep and recent past. At the forefront of the study of past human-environment relationships, environmental archaeologists are keenly placed to explore what it means to live through long- and short-term environmental change.

The 40th conference of the Association for Environmental Archaeology will provide an opportunity to reflect on the discipline’s past, and debate its future in the context of growing bodies of data, the integration of multiple proxies for change, new analytical techniques and fresh theoretical paradigms.

We welcome papers that explore environmental change from the human perspective through engagement with questions of change, adaptation, sustainability and human impact. Papers are accepted from across the breadth of the discipline, including – but not limited to:

  • Human-induced changes to landscapes and environments at all scales
  • Human response to anthropogenic and natural environmental change
  • Sustainability and adaptability in changing environments
  • Environment as a driver of economic and/or socio-political change
  • The past as proxy and model for future human-environment interactions
  • The Anthropocene and other conceptual paradigms
  • The contribution of environmental archaeology to policy-making and public engagement

Keynote speakers

Gill Campbell

The AEA at 40: Environmental Archaeology enters its prime

Friday 29th November 2019, evening, Millennium Gallery, conference delegates only

This presentation will reflect on the history of the association and how environmental archaeology has changed and grown as a discipline over the last forty years. It will consider definitions of environmental archaeology and the role of environmental archaeologists in a volatile world.

The tools which we now have at our disposal to study the interaction of people with their environment over time are becoming ever more sophisticated. We can provide osteological biographies of individuals, both people and animals, and describe in some detail past landscapes, land use and cuisine. Our discipline is no longer only about understanding past economies and environments but also about the central role plants, animal, soils and rocks play in cultures, from belief to a sense of belonging. However, what do we do with the information and data we can provide about the human condition and how can we make our voices heard and ensure the environmental archaeologists stand firmly at the core of debates about the future of our species and the planet that is our home? How can we help form policies and practices that will shape the future from the past?

Mark Knight

The Must Farm pile-dwellings c. 850 BC: interpreting the extraordinarily well-preserved material history of a short-lived prehistoric settlement

Saturday 30th November 2019, evening, The Diamond, public lecture

The resolution we now have for the environmental sequence in the Flag Fen Basin is truly impressive. There are few landscapes where a comparably detailed picture of changing environmental textures can be set against an equally impressive record of archaeological remains (Fengate, Flag Fen, Bradley Fen and Must Farm). Yet there has been a tendency for ‘fen’ to be treated as an omnipresent and more or less static component of this location. Even though environmental reconstructions illustrate a landscape that went from dry to wet – with fen conditions gradually emerging and peat progressively subsuming the contours of its gravel ‘islands’ – the impression remains that life in the Flag Fen basin was always played out along a fen-edge whose margins were only subtly different to the present day peat cover.

In truth, the Flag Fen Basin was part of an exaggeratedly time-transgressive environment, and therefore, an especially fluid terrain. Here very little remained the same and the physical ‘backdrop’ at the beginning of the Bronze Age was fundamentally different to that at the beginning of the Iron Age. Shifting too was the character of occupation.

Umberto Albarella

Sunday 1st December 2019, end of conference, The Diamond, conference delegates only

Umberto Albarella will take on the discussant role to conclude the proceedings, bringing together the themes of the conference to reflect on the issues that define environmental archaeology on the 40th anniversary of the AEA. 


Organising committee

For enquiries about the conference please contact the Organising Committee: aea2019@sheffield.ac.uk

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