The Study Center congratulates Evi Margaritis, Artemios Oikonomou, Efthymia Nikita and Thilo Rehren, the editors of this valuable guide which contains 23 chapters offering state-of-the-art information on the application of different types of environmental science in archaeology.
As the editors explain in the Foreword:
The application of methods from the natural and environmental sciences to archaeology has become common practice in many excavations and research projects, world-wide. Numerous research groups, both ad hoc in universities or museums and those situated in more long-term centers dedicated to one or more branches of archaeological science, devote their skill, experience and infrastructures using scientific methods to address archaeological research questions. At the same time, the number of archaeological fieldwork projects is ever-increasing, both for research and driven by ongoing development. The pressures of daily work, and the physical separation of field-based and laboratory-based archaeologists often prevent the level of communication and practical interaction that one would like to see, in order to ensure a seamless transmission of experience and skill between the field and the lab. This Handbook aims to help bridge this gap in the daily practice of archaeological fieldwork and lab-based research. There are, of course, numerous handbooks of archaeological science, of chemistry for archaeology, and even whole textbooks of specific branches within the archaeological sciences; these offer detailed explanations of how the science works, and how to do the lab work. However, we felt that few of these were addressing the daily needs of the field-based archaeologist who may be confronted with an unexpected find, and needs to brush up quickly on the practicalities of how to document and sample finds for future analysis in a lab.
And there is something else, too, to consider. So far, science-based archaeological research and postgraduate training have been heavily concentrated at museum laboratories and university departments in central and northern Europe, the US, Canada and Australia, while relatively few such research hubs exist in the EMME (Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East) region, a region of vast archaeological richness and fast-growing populations. As a result, much of the professional practice has been developed within the financial, structural, ecological and archaeological reality of these ‘global northern’ countries – relatively few archaeological sites, stable institutions, strong economic frameworks, and a deep pool of human talent with access to well-established research centers and universities. The reality in the wider EMME region is the polar opposite: the region is drowning in archaeology, has few and often fragile and permanently understaffed institutions, and generally rather stretched economies. Thus, the benchmarks of the global north are not really applicable for the daily reality here.
The research potential of the region in archaeology and cultural heritage is enormous, ranging through the full spectrum of human occupation from the Paleolithic to the recent past, while the scientific potential of such material can only be reached through the use of techniques and methodologies that require dedicated expertise. This Handbook hopes to offer an accessible and practical guide for colleagues working in the field, focusing on the practical steps that often mark the beginning of a larger journey. Steps that can be done without all the heavy kit and high-end expertise that characterizes so much of modern science – initial steps which are absolutely essential as sampling protocols and form the basis for any subsequent work!
Archaeological Science research at The Cyprus Institute is focusing on primary production activities in the widest sense, from important foodstuffs such as olive oil and wine to basic metals such as copper and iron, and ceramics, and how the production and long-distance exchange of these goods is reflected in the osteobiographies of the humans engaged in these activities. Within this broad field, we aspire to contribute to the shaping of disciplinary practice in the EMME and beyond. To do this, we joined forces with the KU Leuven and the University of Cambridge, two leaders in archaeological science, and received generous funding from the European Commission under the H2020 framework. Our project Promised – Promoting Archaeological Sciences in the Eastern Mediterranean, Grant Agreement 811068, ran from 2018 to 2022, and facilitated a large number of key activities, including supporting three international summer schools in Cyprus for emerging and mid-career researchers from the EMME region, two conferences (ICAS-EMME 2 and 3), and numerous training, mentoring and outreach activities. As part of our ambition to support the wider archaeological community in the EMME region to benefit from archaeological science, we humbly present this handbook as one of the outputs.
Evi Margaritis, Efthymia Nikita, Artemios Oikonomou and Thilo Rehren, with special thanks to Patrick Degryse and Cyprian Broodbank