The “History of archaeology” commission of the International Union for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences (IUPPS)

In 1865 the first international organization for prehistoric archaeology was founded in La Spezia (Italy) as the Congrès international d’anthropologie et d’archéologie préhistorique (CIAAP). It was active until the First World War, when it was dissolved due to the rivalries between nations. A new organization was created in 1931, in Bern, to continue this international effort, the “International Union for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences” (IUPPS). Since then, it groups together all the sciences related to prehistoric and protohistoric studies: archaeology, anthropology, palaeontology, geology, zoology, botany, environmental sciences, physics, chemistry, geography, history, numismatics, epigraphy, mathematics and other.
Research into the mechanisms of adaption and the dynamics of human societies lies at the heart of the IUPPS’s scientific interest. The IUPPS therefore periodically organises a world congress of prehistoric and protohistoric sciences and creates scientific commissions devoted to specific research issues.
One of these commissions is devoted to the History of Archaeology.

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History of archaeology sessions @ 20th IUPPS World Congress (2023, Timişoara)

The 20th Congress of the IUPPS will be held in Timişoara (Romania), from the 3th to the 10th September 2023. The “History of archaeology” commission is organising two sessions, on:

The call for papers is open until the 15th May 2023; abstracts can be sent through the conference website.

Untold stories. “Marginal” scholars and/or intellectual movements in the history of archaeology

Boucher de Perthes, Pigorini, Montelius, Childe… our histories of archaeology are dominated by this giants of the discipline and from their main intellectual affiliations (evolutionism, cultural-historical approach, New Archaeology and so on). Ezra Zubrow in a paper on the international trends of theoretical archaeology (Norwegian Archaeological Review 1980) wrote that the ship of archaeology doesn’t need only helmsmen but also good sailors. The session is devoted to the life and works of these “minor” scholars or to the less debated theoretical movements in our discipline.

History of the History of Archaeology: between Archaeologists’ and Historians’ Concerns. Figures, Trends, and Perspectives

Since several decades, historians and sociologists of science scrutinize the history of science as a practice. Loren R. Graham et al., for example, investigated the “Functions and Uses of Disciplinary Histories” in their eponymous edited book (1983). Writing the history of archaeological research, and prehistoric archaeology in particular, has a long history too. It raised the interest of several archaeologists in the early 20th century, such as James Reid Moir, in his paper about the “Position of Prehistoric Research in England” (1917), and Léon Aufrère, with his “Essay on the first discoveries by Boucher de Perthes and the origins of primitive archaeology” (1936, in French). This long-term concern of archaeologists for the writing of the history of their field has continuous occurrences until today, as illustrated by Glyn Daniels’ introduction on the “Necessity for an Historical Approach to Archaeology” (1981), Douglas R. Givens’ “Short History of the Bulletin of the History of Archaeology” (2002), and Tim Murray’s paper addressing “Why the History of Archaeology is Essential to Theoretical Archaeology” (2013).

These few references demonstrate, first, the relevance of investigating who are the writers of disciplinary histories and what are the uses of these histories and, second, archaeologists’ concern to this regard. This session is intended to strengthen these studies from the case of archaeology. Proposals may relate to, but are not limited to, these topics:

  • the status of the history of archaeology as a discipline, sub-discipline, informal network, etc.
  • publishing aspects of in the history of archaeology: bibliometrical studies, history of related publishing houses or journals, etc.;
  • biographical case-studies about prominent or poorly-known historians of archaeology;
  • tension between the global and national dimensions in the practice of history of archaeology;
  • styles and theoretical trends in the history of archaeology;
  • past and current places of the history of archaeology in university trainings in archaeology;
  • etc.

Bibliographic resources on the history of archaeology (subject authorities and catalogues)

Concepts and authorities


IUPPS “History of archaeology” commission: collective publications

The commission has published the following items.


de Beaune, S., A. Guidi, O. Moro Abadía, M. Tarantini, (eds) 2021, New Advances in the History of Archaeology, Oxford: Archaeopress, 228 p.

The book is freely accessible on the Archaeopress website.


Delley, G., Díaz-Andreu, M., Djindjian, F., Fernández, V.M., Guidi, A., Kaeser, M.-A. (eds), 2016. History of Archaeology: International Perspectives, Oxford: Archaeopress, 237 p.

The book is freely accessible on the Archaeopress website.


Babeş, M. & Kaeser, M.-A. (eds), 2009. Archaeologists without Boundaries. Towards a History of International Archaeological Congresses (1866-2006). Oxford: Archaeopress, 51 p.

Midgley, M. (ed.) 2009. Antiquarians at the Megaliths. Oxford: Archaeopress, 78 p.

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