In this issue of assemblage, we are pleased to present three research papers by graduate students which we hope will provide you with many interesting points to consider. Although the authors have addressed and expressed the issues in their own unique fashion, all these papers share the common theme of social identity – in life, in death, in the past and in the present. Jan Turek takes a long, hard look at how identities of the living may be expressed in burial and both Maggie Ronayne and Adrian Chadwick argue quite passionately that social identity is thus not only a theme for the past but something that we should be thinking about in the way that we work.
Our own identities are caught up in power relationships and forged through continuous social processes, in the institutions we study and teach in as well as in the field. What emerges from these authors' engagement with this thorny issue, is that a commitment to people of both past and present should be at the forefront of our work. We encourage you to engage in debate with the authors in light of what they have written. Their email addresses can be found at the end of each of their papers.
Maggie Ronayne from the University of Southampton discusses discourses of identity, both in the way in which we reconstruct the past and in dominant identities reproduced by present power relations within archaeology. In response to postmodernist writings, she argues for a situated and reflexive response to the conflicts of contested pasts, one which draws on the politics and ethics of the individual themselves. Through a feminist lens, she champions the theorising of multiple pasts, a celebration of social difference which could enrich not only our thinking and writing but our ways of working within archaeology.
Jan Turek from the University of Sheffield, in something of a scoop for assemblage, presents an interim discussion of an unusual series of burials from the Czech Republic. Recent excavations at Slany have revealed a huge Eneolithic grave pit, in which both inhumations and later inserted cremations have been found. Arguing that social identities are often expressed in death through bodily posture, artefactual assemblages and manner of funerary rite, he analyses the differences between the individuals buried in the cemetery. In the context of a wider regional study, he raises the possibility that what we are seeing at the moment of burial are expressions of difference not only based upon status but age, gender and social role.
Adrian Chadwick from the University of Sheffield outlines a social archaeology for later prehistoric and Romano-British landscapes of South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. Rejecting the commonly-held notion that field boundaries are merely passive, functional, agricultural features, he instead suggests that these landscapes reveal aspects of a wider belief system which stressed fertility, the seasons and cycles of birth, death and renewal.
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