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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Is (still) history of archaeology useful? (2019, Rome)

The “Is (still) history of archaeology useful?” meeting, organized by Alessandro Guidi and Sébastien Plutniak, was held in Rome, 10-11 September 2019, thanks to the support of the Roma 3 University, the Muciv – Museo delle Civiltà, and the École française de Rome.


Click on the picture to access the program in pdf version.
  • Laura Coltofean-Arizancu, The status of the history of archaeology in Romania and Hungary.
  • Marzena Woźny, New branch of science or just subsidiary discipline? History of archaeology in Poland.
  • Alessandro Guidi & Federico Nomi, For an history of Italian archaeological historiography.
  • Sébastien Plutniak, Historian of archaeology embedded: some considerations from three recent research projects integrating archaeological research and history of archaeology.
  • Géraldine Delley, History of archaeology in museums.
  • Daniele Aureli & Roxane Rocca, The Lower Palaeolithic site of Cimitero di Atella : between past and present.
  • Bettina Arnold, New perspectives in the history of European archaeology in the US: Old World/New World comparative analyses then and now.
  • Ana Cristina Martins, History of archaeology and local development: heritage, memory, territory.
  • Margarita Díaz-Andreu & Ulf R. Hansson, General discussion.

History of archaeology @ 17th IUPPS World Congress (Burgos)

3 sessions were held at the 17th IUPPS World Congress, Burgos, Spain, 1-7 September 2014:

International relations in the history of archaeology

The Revolution of the Sixties in Prehistory and Protohistory

Organized by: Colin Renfrew, François Djindjian, Alessandro Guidi
The post second war period (1955-1975) has been a revolution in the history of Prehistory and Protohistory : new paradigms (“new archaeology”), advanced field techniques, new disciplines (Archeometry, Geoarchaeology, etc.) and major methodological and technical advances, which have diffused in the whole archaeological field. The colloquium has the purpose to remember this golden age and to replace it in the general context of the progress of Sciences.

Lobbying for Archaeology (18th-21st centuries). Innovative alliances in the establishment of the archaeological discipline

Organized by: Marc-Antoine Kaeser, Géraldine Delley
For several decades, historians of archaeology have demonstrated how this discipline was involved in the construction of colonial empires as well as in legitimating the main ideological and nationalistic trends of the 19th and 20th centuries. Nowadays however historians of archaeology should concentrate their attention on other forms of lobbying, more strictly economic and technical. It has been observed indeed that since the creation of modern states, archaeologists sometimes managed to gain the interest of non archaeological organs or institutions in order to establish flourishing alliances and to reinforce their own scientific practices – especially in the context of economical and structural upheavals.
Amongst varied cases of such “innovative alliances” we find for example:

  • archaeological excavations conducted by the Ponts et Chaussées engineers during the 18th Century, where the documentation of roman buildings was expected to improve the technique of the contemporary civil engineering sector;
  • the archaeology of the New Deal during the 1930’s in the USA, where archaeological (prospection and research) took advantage of unemployment programs;
  • the development of the radiocarbon dating method after WWII, when nuclear research tried to extend the scope of its civilian potential.

The session “Lobbying for archaeology” will focus on alliances concluded between archaeologists and powerful allies (state apparatus or well established institutions) or on cases where the mobilisation of such allies relies on practical motives (scientific skills, technical infrastructures or economic supports) to the exclusion of ideological motives. A particular interest will be given to examples of international relevance where such alliances authorised a structural and sustainable reinforcing of the discipline. Facing the new liberal order, in the present context of global economic crisis, we expect the historiographical analysis of such “innovative alliances” to contribute to the reflection on present and future modes of financing archaeological research.