ScARF Student Bursary Report: Kirsty Lilley

Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) 44th Annual Meeting 2023, University of East Anglia (Norwich), December 2023

In December 2023, supported by grants from ScARF and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, I participated in the Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) Annual Meeting, hosted by the University of East Anglia in Norwich. TAG is the UK’s largest conference dedicated to archaeological theory, and as my PhD sought to combine theory with methodological and computational archaeologies, the opportunity to present a paper and engage in discussions with others in the discipline was very valuable for me.

Graphic poster for TAG conference with a grey outlined building against a blue wavey sky. The poster reads UEA Climate Archaeology TAG 2023.
Event poster for TAG 44 at the University of East Anglia
© Antiquity Publications Ltd 2023

The theme of TAG 2023 was ‘Climate archaeology: temporalities and ontologies’, so sessions were loosely based around the archaeology of climate change, the tangible and intangible implications it has for areas such as research, heritage, and conservation, and the theoretical and methodological issues related to its study. The topics of these included ‘archaeo-ecologies’ and environment, assemblage theory, decolonisation in archaeology, health and wellbeing, posthumanism, and archaeologies of wetland landscapes, amongst many others; the formats varied from traditional papers and roundtable discussions to interactive visits to the Sainsbury Research Centre’s collections. The varied content and session styles facilitated discussions and provided a means to contribute to the forefront of theoretical perspectives. In the evenings there were keynote speeches and events, including the famous Antiquity Quiz and TAG party.

Four seated and one standing speaker are below a large projection screen in front on an audience in and auditorium. The screen says 'Thank You' in large text.
Panel of speakers at TAG 44 © Kirsty Lilley

I co-presented a paper with my colleague and fellow PhD student at Edinburgh, Lusia Zaleskaya, in the session entitled ‘Repetition, Repetition, Repetition’. This asked contributors to consider the meanings of repetition within archaeological research, and to rethink its applications ‘beyond the normative’; in other words, not simply copying/reproducing, but as a productive force. Our talk explored the concept in relation to Neolithic funerary monuments (in Scotland and in Sardinia), where it is often the similarities that are emphasised in order to create typologies or classifications. Instead, we argued that, despite sharing features or attributes, it is perhaps more effective for archaeologists to consider these sites in terms of how communities in the past differentially chose to repeat, or diverge from, cultural traditions. For our examples, this took the form of architectural layouts, stylistic choices, or the inclusion of carved motifs in the tombs. The session, drawing on the work of its contributors, prompted a rich and varied discussion, and several ideas informed and inspired the final edits to my PhD thesis.

Two people stand in front of a large neon sign which reads 'We are having the time of our lives'. They are posing together and smiling.
Kirsty and Lusia at TAG 2023 in Norwich © Kirsty Lilley

Overall, the chance to attend and present at TAG was a way of establishing new connections, and maintaining existing ones – especially the many familiar faces from the Edinburgh-hosted TAG 43 in 2022. Moreover, it provides students with an environment for constructive feedback, and an open setting for discussion with experts at the top of their fields. I am very grateful to ScARF and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland for their generous support – and I am already looking forward to TAG 2024!

‘The chance to attend and present at TAG was a way of establishing new connections, and maintaining existing ones’