Politics of migration

Room:    Teaching room 1
Time:      09:00–12:30
Format: Standard paper session
Organisers: Martin Furholt (Kiel University) – Daniela Hofmann (University of Bergen)

Love it or loathe it, migration is back on the archaeological agenda. To name but a few examples, Neolithic specialists appear to have rediscovered their long-lost love of “massive migrations”, Bronze Age specialists devote a lot of interest to identifying foreign women, and in the Viking Age we are finding, to great amazement, that not everyone was blond and some people may have come to Scandinavia from elsewhere.

Of course, it is all for more complicated than that, but many migration scenarios currently on offer either lack any explicit categorisation of political backgrounds and implications  – i.e. who moves, who decides, what incentives there are, how migrants and already resident populations interact etc. – or they simply re-assert the 19th-century fantasy of patriarchal, top-down leadership and organised colonisation. In addition, we are in a situation in which much of the debate about migration takes place in a context of fast-paced scientific research, filtered through the popular press.

In this session, we are primarily interested in the power relationships that govern migration, as well as migration research in the archaeology of all periods. This can be from one of three main angles:

  • Migration politics in the past. How are power relationships, structures of decision making and social structures bound up with migrations? How do household and kinship politics or gender roles inform migration events? Is migration linked to social status of individuals or groups? What about the interaction between newcomers and locals?
  • Migration politics in the present. How are our institutional, funding and publication structures contributing to driving particular narratives? Whose voices are (not) heard?
  • Politics and the public. How are our narratives perceived and used in wider public debates? Is this something we should keep track of, or can we not really influence this?

1. Politics of migration – potentials and pitfalls

Author(s): Daniela Hofmann (UiB) – Martin Furholt (Kiel University)

Archaeology is an inherently political pursuit, and this is certainly also the case for the archaeology of migration. Dragged back to the forefront of everyone’s attention, largely thanks to the application of bioarchaeological techniques, the field has since been characterised by spectacular headlines, acerbic debates and a lot of ruffled feathers. In this brief introduction to the session, we will put the session’s papers into context by running through relevant concepts and establishing some key themes around which debate has crystallised, for instance:

  • How contemporary views of migration more or less explicitly colour reconstruction of past ones
  • How migration is bound up with identity politics
  • How different kinds of research are funded and published
  • How should we communicate our research to different audiences

These will be illustrated with case studies.

2. Lured by fish? Neolithic women, men and children at Mesolithic Lepenski Vir

Author(s): Maxime N. Brami (Palaeogenetics Group, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)

Lepenski Vir in today’s Serbia provides an ideal case study for examining interactions between newcomers and locals at the outset of agriculture, the site currently being interpreted as a fishing village that welcomed a few non-native women. Incidentally, latest ancient DNA results suggest that women are unlikely to have arrived alone at Lepenski Vir, men and children from the site also tracing their ancestry back to farming communities from the Aegean Basin. If whole families moved to the site, as opposed to individual women, what does that tell us about migration politics in the past? How to conceptualize newcomers’ interactions with locals, when near equal ratios of males and females from both populations engaged in mating?

3. A network of girls – migrating women in the Early Iron Age

Author(s): Lisbeth Skogstrand (University of Oslo)

Ever since Claude Levi-Strauss introduced women as the “supreme gift”, marriage has been considered as an important means to establish and maintain alliances in prehistoric societies. Several studies have suggested that the occurrence of non-local personal items in female burials may indicate women who migrated over long distances in connection with marriages and that these were arranged to create and sustain networks of alliances between families. The extent or character of such migrations, or their implications for individuals and societies, have been explored to a lesser degree. In this paper, I will discuss how marriage might be applied as a diplomatic strategy in prehistoric societies and how long-distance individual migrations might be identified in burials. Based on network analysis of burials in Southern Norway, I will explore the scale and routes of women’s individual long-distance migrations in Scandinavia in the Roman Period (1-400 AD) and discuss how these might reflect changing power relations, social hierarchies, and kinship structures.

4. Social aspect of migrations of population of Yamna / Bugeac culture of North-Western Pontic region

Author(s): Svitlana Ivanova (Institute of archaeology of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine)

Migrations in the shape of slow and phased settlement along the trade routes were the defining factor in the cultural and historical development of the North-Western Pontic area in the Chalcolithic and Bronze age. These had different vectors and direction, different character and chronology. However, the establishment of trade-exchange operations was crucial for the development of historical distinctiveness of the region, being a stimulus of cultural genesis and social progress.

The application of natural sciences data in the archaeological context permits to interpret the movement of Yamna tribes to the west (in Central and South-Eastern Europe) not as an aggressive migration, leading to death of old cultures and appearance of the new cultures, but rather as a trade colonization with slow integration into the cultural and historical landscape of the new territories.

Colonization of Balkan-Carpathian Basin should be understood through the lens of social organisation of the Yamna (Bugeac) culture population. It is well-established that the metal items were used mostly in prestige sphere in Chalcolithic and Bronze age. The subsistence tasks (as well as a military effort) were executed by chipped and polished stone tools. That’s why the movement to the metal ores’ outcrops was inspired not by economical necessity but rather by needs of social development of the society.

5. The European Corded Ware and the politics of adaptation and resistance

Author(s): Martin Furholt (Kiel University)

In the last years, archaeologists have published work that allows us to look at the politics of migration, and identity formation in the 3rd millennium BCE from the perspective of individual practices and choices in different regions. Rather than a sudden and complete replacement of local traditions by the new, transregional objects, practices and values represented by Corded Ware, what we often can see is a complex picture of piecemeal, selective adaptation of some novel elements, in combination with a rejection of others, and a re-affirmation of local traditions and objects. This will be contextualised with earlier periods, such as the 4th millennium BCE, arguing for a wider relevance of political negotiations between layers of local and regional practices and identities and transregional trends and transformative changes. Some cases can even be discussed as constituting conscious rejections of, or resistance to new ideological and social innovations, such as the re-definitions of burial rituals and the de-contextualisation of prestige objects. I want to discuss the implications of these patterns for our overall understanding of 3rd millennium BCE migration processes.

6. Logistic support for early farming migrations: lithic procurement systems on the move in the Neolithic – Eneolithic of the south-western Ukraine

Author(s): Dmytro Kiosak (Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellow, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice)

After the arrival of the early farmers to a new region, their lithic industries often differ from the expected “standard” of the early farming lithic complex. This expected pattern will usually be regained in the course of the next few centuries. Similar observations were made in Central Europe, Italy, southern France, along the coasts of Iberia etc. The explanation of this pattern is often sought in the supposed contacts with resident hunter-gatherers.

On the other hand, there is a handful of examples when the earliest sites of a certain Neolithic cultural aspect show a very homogeneous lithic complex from a point of view of raw material as well as lithic technology. The raw material is often transported from far away and represents the best quality silicite available in the region. Such cases are recorded in Early Neolithic Dalmatia, during the First Temperate Neolithic expansion in the inner Balkans, the establishment of Gumelniţa-Karanovo VI complex etc.

Are we dealing with two different types of migration? What are the social mechanisms behind these two different logistic organizations of chipped stone tools production?

Here we try to answer the posed question by referring to the expansions of the early farmers in the marginal region of their distribution: south-west Ukraine and adjacent territories. Systematic combination of raw material provenance and operative chain approaches are used to address flint acquisition and different technological approaches. This variability has a spatial dimension (because certain stages of technological process were separated spatially and conducted on specialized sites and/or within specialized spaces on residential settlements) and can be interpreted in terms of social networks, thus providing an interpretation of the observed pattern in terms of social organization of prehistoric societies, kinship relations and the establishment of prestige sphere of economy.

7. Remembering by making: An archaeological approach to creative knowledge after uproot and expulsion

Author(s): Per Ditlef Fredriksen (University of Oslo)

What happens to the creative knowledge and daily practices of material culture in the aftermath of expulsion? To what extent do contexts of turbulence, stress and extraordinary mobility, in which violent social factors set people, knowledges, objects and materials in motion, challenge or nourish artisans’ creativity and connectivity? Seeking to answer these questions through a temporally layered approach, this paper draws on ethnographic and archaeological examples of practical problem-solving in the aftermath of involuntary uproot and relocation in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The combination of contemporary and deeper-time cases offers several lenses through which to view ways of knowing and engaging with new social and material landscapes after arrival in a new political environment. This focus brings together two knowledge domains that are often kept separate: artisans’ intimate engagements with their surroundings and the social and political relevance of ancestral spirits. By these empirical and theoretical means, I outline an archaeological approach to knowledge that centres on the creativity of ceramic learning networks, the vulnerability of homes and households as arenas for knowledge transmission, and craftwork as memory-making.