Fragmentation in the Middle Ages: Call for Papers

While the ‘Medieval Exchanges in southern Italy’ project has now ended, the work it has started has not!  I will be co-organising a session at the forthcoming Theoretical Archaeology Conference 2008 at the University of Southampton entitled:

Putting Humpty Together Again: Overcoming the Fragmentation of the Middle Ages

The conference will be held at the Avenue Campus (School of Humanities) on 15-17 December 2008 (Monday to Wednesday).

This session is co-organised with Ben Jervis, also of the University of Southampton (Archaeology) and is supported by the Society for Medieval Archaeology.

To submit an abstract, please use TAG 2008’s submission page on the website as well as emailing a copy to both myself ( and Ben Jervis (

The deadline is 1 September 2008

Full session abstract

Medieval archaeology is one of the most vibrant fields of historical archaeology. In previous years and decades there has been much debate over the directions medieval archaeology should travel. This has generally centred around questions of interdisciplinarity: understanding the archaeology in the contexts of other disciplines such as history, anthropology and philosophy; or criticisms of the lack of archaeological theory applied to the interpretation of landscapes, sites and objects when compared with archaeologists engaged in prehistory. However we have identified many other areas of ‘fragmentation’ which archaeologists and those who use archaeological evidence have faced and attempted to overcome. Some examples include:

• Transitions between periods, e.g. Saxon to Norman, early to high medieval, late to post medieval
• Divisions between material specialists, e.g. ceramicists, numismatists, small finds or metalwork specialists
• Geographic boundaries, e.g. studies according to modern regional and national boundaries (Kent, Italy) or those according to contemporary boundaries (Wessex, Normandy)
• Landscape and settlement vs. object-based archaeology
• Cultural focus vs. biological/environmental focus (including human and animal remains)
• Life and death archaeology, e.g. finds and settlements relating to people’s lifestyles and those found within funerary landscapes
• Relationships between urban and rural archaeology
• Theme-based divisions, e.g. social, economic, cultural, military
• Fragmentation between professions, e.g. academia, heritage (including museums), commercial archaeology and conservation

This session seeks papers from those who want to, or have, overcome the kind of fragmentation outlined above in their investigations and research. Have you actively sought to apply theory to the way you view your period, sites and materials in order to transcend the traditional boundaries of your field? Can you demonstrate ways in which you have tried to challenge fragmentation successfully? Or, if you have tried and it has failed, why? Is some fragmentation necessary to retain specialisms and expertise or is it time to challenge the basis of these divisions which operate within the boundaries of outdated academic traditions?