SOMA: Message of the present, promise of the future

A conference held on the 21st-23rd February, University of Edinburgh.

Review by Sevi Triantaphyllou

The novel idea of a Symposium on Mediterranean Archaeology had a broad appeal to a large proportion of graduate students. Two and half days full of talks and events brought a breath of fresh air to the archaeology of the region. Indeed, the warm welcome of all the graduate students of the Department of Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, reminded us of the creativity, we, as young researchers, are able to develop on similar occasions.

The friendly welcome was the main element which contributed to the lively atmosphere of the symposium. Most of the presentations drew attention to current perspectives in archaeology: society and social behaviour, exchange and distribution patterns, sites, landscapes and cultural contact were a few of the topics presented. The talks were enthusiastically attended and well-received and were followed in most cases by lively discussions. The poster session gave the graduates the opportunity to discuss informally the aims and aspects of their work.

Considering the papers presented, it is striking that they mostly referred to the prehistory of the area, with an over-emphasis on problems of Minoan Archaeology, which could really constitute a separate conference. Topics on Classical, Byzantine or more recent times were significantly under-represented. Moreover, the limited representation of subjects displaying the potential of scientific analyses in archaeological interpretation did give the message that greater effort is needed to increase research in this direction.

At this point, the poor representation of book displays should also be emphasised. Except for a few cases, archaeological book series were remarkably absent, depriving us of the chance to become informed about new editions and titles.

The whole success of the event can be summarised in two points. Firstly, the symposium gave the opportunity to new scholars to present in an informal, but not amateurish way, their work and their own views and ideas, many following new perspectives in archaeological thought and interpretation. Secondly, it was important that people working more or less in the same broad geographical area had gathered together to exchange views and experiences as well as addresses for future contact. The polychrome mosaic of scholars coming from all over Europe and America, along with the presence of other colleagues, particularly field archaeologists, contributed greatly to the stimulating feel of the symposium.

The conference proved that progress in the field of archaeology can come from the fruitful exchange of views and ideas by scholars from different ideological and educational backgrounds. Moreover, structuring the sessions according to particular themes indicated quite clearly that broad geographical areas, such as the Mediterranean, should be viewed as an integrated cultural identity, if a synthesis of civilisation in this area is to be developed.

Finally, the city of Edinburgh, as much as we were able to see in between the session breaks and during the small hours, attracted all of us for different reasons, ranging from splendid selections of malt scotch whiskeys to late night life! I warmly thank the graduate students of the Department of Archaeology, who had the idea to organise such a conference. We all left Edinburgh behind us richer in experiences and with the intention of contributing to future Symposia on Mediterranean Archaeology.

About the author: Sevi Triantaphyllou is a graduate student in the Department of Archaeology at Sheffield. She is working on mortuary data from the Aegean and has a particular interest in the potential of human bones analysis for the interpretation of the mortuary behaviour of past populations.

Sevi Triantaphyllou 1997


assemblage 1997