Theoretical Responses to Bioarchaeological Studies and Identity Issues

PhD course, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Madrid, November 3-8, 2015

Nordic Graduate School in Archaeology, Graduate School Kiel “Human Development in Landscapes”, German Archaeological Institute Madrid


The creation of ethnicity in our modern societies follows a perception of social relations that exist at places where we live. However, racism and fascism try to construct national and ethnic boundaries linked to origins (“Herkunft”), often rooted in history. In recent political discussions, the responsibility of archaeology and history cannot be underestimated. This is even more the case as simple interpretations of aDNA and isotope data led to a Kossina-like renaissance with interpretations of “ethnic groups” in prehistoric worlds.

Nevertheless, progress in bioarchaeological studies (e.g. aDNA and isotope studies) in combination with advances in chronological dating has enabled archaeology and history to interpret a quite new set of data. Models and visions of scholars are exceptionally divergent. Whereas most of the new information would have most likely been used ten years ago to identify far distance migrations, nowadays restricted mobility is also reconstructed with the same set of data. We are confronted with contradictory interpretations.

One of the reasons for the divergent discourses is found in the lack of a general holistic approach within archaeological theory and methods in integrating the new scientific data. From the viewpoint of archaeological and anthropological theory, the main issue concentrates on questions relating to how identities of past societies can be reconstructed on different spatial scales, how does mobility contribute to a concept of identity and should a genetic pattern ever contribute to the reconstruction of identities? Group and community identities are societal products and constructions that constitute a perception of social relations.

Three main areas for discussion can be defined for the workshop:

1. Identities as an aspect of social and cultural perceptions through space and time;

2. Distinguishing different qualities of data associated with “identities” and “mobility” by archaeologists;

3. The theoretical integration of bioarchaeological studies in the construction of identities.

PhD fellows with an interest in these research areas are welcomed to sign up for this course. Expertise in the material analysis of ancient technologies is not a prerequisite. Participants in the course must prepare a paper for discussion.



Prof. Dr. Stephen Shennan (UCL London)

Prof. Dr. Ben Krause-Kyora (Kiel University) 



Johannes Müller, Graduate School "Human Development in Landscapes, Johanna Mestorf Academy, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel



1 month or 7 ECTS

Location, travel and costs 

The seminar will take place at the German Archaeological Institute in Madrid. The Graduate School will finance and arrange travel and accommodation, as well as supply a daily allowance during the seminar for all participating PhD students. Two PhD students will share a room.


The Graduate School invites all registered PhD students to apply for participation. The application (in English) should include information on the individual PhD project, and how the project will benefit from the planned PhD course. Please use this application form and send it to: From these applications, c. 20 PhD students will be admitted to the course.



Vibeke Maria Viestad, Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, Box 1019 Blindern, N-0315 Oslo, Norway. Email: Phone (+47) 22841945, Mobile (+47) 41467354.


Important dates

Application for participation:  August 21, 2015

Submission of working papers (10 pages, Times New Roman 12, Spacing 1,5):  October 1, 2015

Published June 11, 2015 6:48 PM - Last modified Aug. 18, 2015 10:26 AM