Musings on the European Archaeology Association Congress and Brexit

The European Archaeology Association 24th congress was in Barcelona. It is the first time I have attended and I spoke to a canonical European theme, the Pirenne thesis, along with two Danes, an Austrian, a Belgian, a French, and a German archaeologists. Much of the lively (and welcome) discussion featured a distinguished Dutch professor. It was all quite amazing, especially as we lectured and conversed in English. It is not overstating matters to say that this conference has a strong Anglo-Saxon organizational character and consequently has attracted over 3,000 presentations. The dozens of parallel (259) sessions run like clockwork…..on time.

The weighty EAA Programme Book

Real concerns lurk in every angle. Everyone is deeply disturbed by Brexit and its likely impact upon extraordinary events like this.

Talking to an editor from one of Britain’s largest and best known presses – and almost all the publishers were British – there is real dismay about what will happen if no agreement is reached with the EU about Brexit. Publishing will suffer and as libraries cut back, publications will inevitably be cut.

I often used to say in my more bombastic days that archaeology put the great into Britain. Our charmed lives as British archaeologists are now imperilled and, everyone I spoke to, felt genuinely fearful and wretched about British prospects.

The University of Barcelona rooms packed with parallel sessions

As for the substance of the conference, hundreds of papers were devoted to exciting scientific discoveries made by European partnerships of scientific archaeologists (like the one I participated in). Never has this collaborative discipline so much to offer, and this makes European populist movements of our time seem especially anachronistic.

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