Fight or Flight: The archaeology of space, mobility, and violence
In the face of pandemics, wars, climate change, and an apparent rise in radicalization, a re-evaluation of the relationship between humanity and (violent) conflict is underway, both in- and outside of the scientific community. Archaeology is no exception to this. While it seems that, in the past, archaeological examples of conflict in prehistory have been interpreted so as to permit linear historical narratives – whether one of "a peaceful prehistory" or "rampant violence in a pre-modern world" – the study of "conflict" is more complex and requires a nuanced consideration.
The project will organize a three-day conference to further investigate the topic of "conflict", with a particular focus on the intertwining of violence, space, and movement. We will explore questions such as these: How did people avoid conflict and what role did space and mobility play when violence erupted, or when it did not? Can we consider spatial avoidance to have been a resilience strategy of past societies? Can we sustain the thesis that mobile lifestyles and low population density enabled prehistoric forager communities to coexist peacefully, by allowing them to literally avoid or rather outrun conflict? What archaeological evidence of violence or of crisis management is available to us? What evidence of peace has been uncovered, and where are the risks of misinterpretation when studying such evidence?
In addition to the archaeological perspective, the conference will elicit the perspectives of invited experts who study phenomena of this kind in relation to modern societies or who work with people affected by conflict and displacement today. Since human conflicts – whether ancient or modern – are far more complex socio-political phenomena than the grand historical narratives that they tend to call forth suggest, we believe that all disciplines dealing with this topic can benefit from inter- and transdisciplinary communication on these questions.
Ilia Heit studied Pre- and Protohistory, Geology and Slavic Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. He went on to earn a doctoral degree at the FU Berlin, where he took part in the BerGSAS doctoral program Landscape Archaeology and Architecture (LAA). His doctoral thesis is on the building and housing practices of the early village societies in Central Asia. His research interests include early farming communities in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. He is currently a member of the research staff in the Eurasian Department of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI). Ilia has been awarded a postdoc stipend by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, which will enable him to study possible crises and settlement dynamics in the South Caucasus and the surrounding region of the period around 5000 cal BCE (starting January 2024).
Dr. Jana Eger studied the Archaeology of Western Asia with a focus on the use of archaeozoological and bioarchaeological methods. She received her doctoral degree from the FU Berlin, where she took part in the BerGSAS doctoral program Landscape Archaeology and Architecture (LAA). Her thesis, Mensch-Tier-Verhältnisse in Monjukli Depe. Eine Analyse des sozialen Zusammenlebens in einer neolithisch-äneolithischen Siedlung in Turkmenistan was published by Sidestone Press in 2022. In her academic career thus far, she has worked in field projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan and Germany. In July of 2023, she will take up a postdoc position in a DGB-funded project at FU-Berlin’s Institute for Near Eastern Archaeology and the Institute of Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology at Kiel University (CAU).
Dr. Vera Egbers is an archaeologist specializing in Western Asia. She received her doctoral degree in 2020 at the Institute for Near Eastern Archaeology of FU-Berlin, where she was a member of BerGSAS (LAA) and the Cluster of Excellence Topoi. She studied in Berlin, Istanbul and Paris and has taken part in field projects in Turkey, Turkmenistan, Iraqi-Kurdistan and Brandenburg. While a doctoral student, she spent time as a fellow at the Department of Anthropology of Harvard University, and later at the Research Center for Anatolian Studies (ANAMED) of Koç University in Istanbul. For her dissertation (2023, Sidestone Press), Vera used a thirdspace approach to explore the relationship between Assyria and Urartu (1st mill. BCE). Vera received one of the prestigious travel grants awarded by the German Archaeological Institute in 2021. Since January of 2020, she has worked as a post-doc within the DFG Research Training Group 1913, where she researches Turkey in the Republic period.