Moving and Mixing: Mobility, Theory and Provenance

Session chairs: Dr Efthymia Nikita, Prof. Cyprian Broodbank and Prof. Thilo Rehren

The movement of individuals, ideas, and material culture was prominent in the past; it assumed different characters, had diverse motivations, and it was important in promoting interaction and exchanges. Mobility held a central place in one of the earliest archaeological theory paradigms, “culture-history”, whereby migration was viewed as the explanatory factor for all cultural change. The subsequent processual and post-processual paradigms did not explicitly deal with mobility but they have been instrumental in advancing the analytical methods we employ to assess past movement, and acknowledging the complexities of past mobility in terms of motivations and implications. The 21st century has seen a renewed interest in mobility studies, to the extent that some speak of a ‘mobilities’ paradigm. In addition, a number of more focussed archaeological theories have evolved, such as the archaeology of personhood, actor-network theory, postcolonial theory and the ontological turn. Although these theories could generate a much richer understanding of past mobility, they are rarely being considered in the context of past movement. Instead, past mobility studies are still hugely centered around arbitrary dualisms, with most prominent the local vs. non-local dichotomy. Recent theoretical trends challenge such dualisms, they stress the need to move beyond anthropocentric approaches and focus on how people and things emerge together. Palaeomobility studies are a prime area of archaeological inquiry in which these more inclusive principles should be applied given the complex interaction of humans, objects and ideas that take place during mobility events. This round table meeting aims at bringing together scholars interested in different aspects of past mobility, from artefact provenance analysis to human mobility and the spread of ideas, to discuss the challenges and potential of blending different methodological and theoretical approaches so that a more comprehensive understanding of this key archaeological aspect is gained.