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The Breaching of Sensory Archaeology: Senses in the Field


Professor of Prehistory

UCL Institute of Archaeology



Exploration of the relationship between social space and sensory space is in its infancy in archaeological studies. This presentation re-situates perceptions of the practice and role of Sensory Archaeology. In exemplification, I will focus on my work on the development of poly-sensory field methods on large-scale field projects in Italy (on the Neolithic farming villages – villaggi trincerati – of the Tavoliere Plain) and the UK (Bronze Age Bodmin Moor, Iron Age Hillforts). These have presented both challenges and opportunities in developing rigorous, repeatable methodologies that support the study of social and sensory landscapes through archaeological evidence.  Initially interpretative archaeology emphasised the study of heightened sensory experience associated with ritual performance. The main subject of today’s presentation, the multiple senses of dwelling/inhabitation, has been less explored. The sensory ‘turn’ in archaeology allows different questions to be asked and can place interpretative parameters on the possible. It is not suggested that a sensory, subject-centred approach replace traditional field archaeology or high-tech characterisation of human social practice, but that it should be used alongside these pre-existing methodologies.

Wed March 8th 2023, 12:00 - 1:00pm