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Turning the Page: Archaeological Archives and Entangled Cultural Knowledge


Olympia Bobou (Aarhus University), Rubina Raja (Aarhus University) and Maria Stamatopoulou (University of Oxford)

Dates: 23-24 November 2023

Time: 8:15-16:15

Venue: The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters,  H. C. Andersens Blvd. 35, 1553 København


In recent years, scholars have re-evaluated the role and significance of archaeological and historical archives and archiving practices. In the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century, archives have been, for most parts, considered as objective, non-biased containers of knowledge. This notion was challenged first by historians, who re-examined the ways and the selection of the material that was collected for archiving (see esp. Dirks 2002; Stoler 2009). Their studies revealed that, far from neutral, archiving practices were informed by conscious and unconscious biases and choices, resulting in historical documents that could reveal as much by the omissions as by what had been chosen to be documented and preserved in the archive. This theoretical approach of archives as sites of contention and curated historical documents has also been applied to archives that were formed during excavations or other archaeological fieldwork (Baird and McFadyen 2014).

One of the most pressing issues in modern archaeological scholarship are the issues of power structures embedded in the ways in which archives were accumulated and structured, which often led to the disempowerment of local societies, nations, or groups of people, usually in colonial contexts. In this relation, archaeological archives have proven a rich source of information for examining how late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century excavations were used by colonizing powers, as well as revealing the Eurocentric or imperialistic biases of ostensibly neutral archaeologists. Each country, however, had its own historical trajectory; excavations sponsored by colonial powers were conducted at the same time as excavations supported by national governments and organizations in some countries, while in others, foreign-led teams had a monopoly on studying the archaeology of the region. Furthermore, archaeologists themselves and their sponsoring foundations could own the archival material in late nineteenth and early twentieth century, rather than the governments of the countries in which they were excavating. Thus, archival material could travel between countries or be divided between institutions, depending on the excavators’ wishes and affiliations. The archival material can also shed light on the formation of collections in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; this cannot be separated from the various laws regarding antiquities that were formulated and passed in this period.

This two-day conference has two main aims: firstly, to highlight the importance of archival material as a source of study and unleashing ‘lost’ knowledge. The re-examination of excavation records can result in new publications and reconstructions and, in general, give new insights into the primary sites of investigation. It can also reveal unknown aspects and histories of the excavation processes. Secondly, the aim is to illustrate some of the particular problems of working with archives and the solutions taken, for example, when dealing with archives dispersed between different countries and institutions in order to push for new suggestions for best practices within archival studies and the publication of archives.

Confirmed speakers

  • Christina Avronidaki and Giorgos Kavvadias (National Archaeological Museum of Athens)
  • Olympia Bobou and Rubina Raja (Aarhus University)
  • Rubina Raja (Aarhus University)
  • Olympia Bobou (Aarhus University), Rubina Raja (Aarhus University), and Maria Stamatopoulou (University of Oxford) - organisers
  • Athina Chatzidimitriou and Maria-Xeni Garezou (Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport)
  • Jack L. Davis (University of Cincinnati), Michael Loy (University of Cambridge), and Sharon R. Stocker (University of Cincinnati)
  • Jon M. Frey (Michigan State University)
  • Oliver Gilkes (independent scholar) and Milena Melfi (University of Oxford)
  • Christopher H. Hallett (UC Berkeley) - Chair
  • Morag M. Kersel (DePaul University)
  • Miriam Kühn (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Islamische Kunst)
  • Christina Mitsopoulou (University of Thessaly)
  • Marie-Dominique Nenna (Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, CCJ)
  • Nassos Papalexandrou (University of Texas at Austin)
  • Kostas Paschalidis and Chrysanthi Tsouli (National Archaeological Museum of Athens)
  • Maria Stamatopoulou (University of Oxford)

Practical information for speakers


Please book your own travel to Copenhagen, and we will reimburse you after your stay. Please note that we can only reimburse economy-class tickets booked directly through an airline and not via a search engine. 

As soon as you have organised your travel, please forward your itinerary to Christina Levisen (levisen@cas.au.dk), so that the hotel booking can be confirmed.

After the event, you will receive a link to AU’s online travel reimbursement form. It is important that you keep your receipts, as you will need to provide documentation for expenses.


Bryggen Guldsmeden
Gullfossgade 4
2300 København

Phone: +45 32 22 15 00
Email: bryggen@guldsmedenhotels.com

Dinner and diet

A speakers’ dinner will be held on Day 1 of the conference, and we will of course cater for you during the event. If you have any dietary restrictions (incl. allergies), please let Christina Levisen (levisen@cas.au.dk) know no later than 1 November 2023, so that the restaurant/caterers can be notified.

Dinner 23 November: Restaurant Pluto, Borgergade 16, 1300 København