||Archaeology has recently seen tremendous advances in techniques for chemical, isotopic, and microstructural analysis as an aid in documenting past movements of archaeological subjects and objects—be they people, animals, or artifacts. These methods have enabled researchers to track the changing locations of humans and animals during their lives (and deaths), and artifacts and materials as they were transported and exchanged within and between regions. However, the incorporation of such data in archaeological argumentation has contributed only slightly to broader anthropological discussions of the social significance and variable meaning of subject and object motion.
For archaeologists interested in the circulation of people and animals, strontium isotope analysis of osteological materials has achieved a remarkable analytical impact, making data available on mobility and interaction barely conceivable mere decades ago. The similarly revolutionary analysis of the circulation of artifacts and “raw” materials, through compositional techniques such as mass spectrometry and neutron activation analysis, has revolutionized our understandings of how materials were gathered, transported, and exchanged in the past. New applications of microstructural analysis are providing exciting insights on the artifact fabrication practices utilized by different communities and on the distirbution networks of their final products.
Nevertheless, satisfactory interpretation of the nature of the movements captured in these datasets has often lagged behind the acquisition of the data themselves, while interpretive frameworks have not always productively accommodated new methodological insights. In addressing the 2010 annual meeting theme of “Circulation,” we ask, how might anthropological archaeology more effectively marshal such powerful analytical datasets to address the implications of particular subject and object circulations? In addition, how can archaeometric techniques be more productively configured to enable an anthropological perspective of the past human activity surrounding these movements? Presentations in this session will shed new light on archaeological evidence from the lab and field for the circulation of people, animals, and material things from a variety of interpretive perspectives.
Encouraged approaches include, but are not limited to: economic (studies examining circulation within the context of holistic models of production, exchange, and consumption), biographical (life history accounts of both object and subject movements in the past), socio-technical (analyses of the complicated relationships between the technological and social goals wrapped up in circulatory activity), and biological (demographic accounts of shifting patterns in human movement).