Dr. Claudia Chang, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology here at Sweet Briar, attended and gave a lecture at the 2nd European Association of Archaeologists’ Annual Meeting. Set in Vilnius, Lithuania, near the border with Poland, Belarus, and Russia, this Archaeologists’ Annual Meeting lasted between August 31st and September 4th, and included archaeologists from around Europe and America.
The talks took place at Vilnius University, which was founded in 1579. Vilnius itself is a beautiful 16th century city, with cobblestoned streets and many places to go sightseeing over lunch. The meeting began with a huge ceremony at the Palace of the Grand Dukes (a reconstructed palace which is now a national museum), where such dignitaries as the mayor of Vilnius and the Head of Cultural Ministry gave a number of speeches. The conference itself consisted of three to four days of lectures on a variety of subjects, with time in between to visit the city.
The theme of the meeting was “All that Glitters is Not Gold: New Approaches to Sumptuous Burials in West Europe and the Eurasian Steppe.” Professor Chang gave a talk entitled “Commoners and Elites in Southeastern Kazakhstan: Kurgans and Settlements of Iron Age Society.” She talked about the findings from her summer archaeological digs in Kazakhstan with Professor Perry Tourtellotte. While the language of communication at the meeting was English, most of the archaeologists spoke Polish, Russian, or Lithuanian as their first language – the very few Americans attending the conference work in East Europe or the Eurasian Steppe, as Professor Chang does.
Other talks of the meeting were varied and fascinating in nature: from the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) to the Roman period to the Medieval ages, talks ranged from Minoan culture to the “Barbarians” of East Europe. Each talk lasted fifteen minutes and spoke of each archaeologist’s research into their particular area of study. Some other talks promised titles such as “Cremated Remains in Archaeology,” “Archaeology, Language, and Genetics: In Search of Indo-European Materiality,” and “Feminism and Materiality in Archaeology.”
The talks were “thoughtful and full of information,” Chang said when asked about her trip. Most of these talks consisted of PowerPoint slides with the presenter explaining his or her topic in detail within their time frame of fifteen minutes. In another part of the conference, some archaeologists with “poster sessions” did not give a talk, but presented their information on posters, and people could come up to the archaeologist and ask questions about their area of study.
Professor Chang is a well-respected member of the SBC community. Her work in Kazakhstan brings internships to the archaeology students – including this past summer with Claire Zak, Class of 2018 – and her work in archaeology provides valuable information on Iron Age sites in central Asia. Her classes here on campus bring knowledge of anthropology and archaeology to students of all majors. Next semester Chang will be teaching a class on Ritual and Worldview – ANTH 328, for anyone interested in anthropology.
By Jesse Meager