Accepted paper:

The archaeometry of us things: from the world, passing through the body, and becoming together


Gabriela Oppitz (Stanford)

Paper short abstract:

What if we take seriously the materiality and thingness of the atoms that dwell in our bodies? Then we realize that archaeologists are not using isotopes to assess information on mobility, diet and chronology; instead, these isotopes are expressing their own roots, bonds, becomings, and times.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I plunge myself into the isotopic world by presenting some of the attributes and propensities of strontium, nitrogen, and carbon atoms and isotopic forms, followed by a discussion on how these attributes and propensities afford the archaeometric analyses undertaken by archaeologists. The only reason why we can perform isotopic analyses is because the atoms have their own attributes and, most importantly, are alive and in constant becoming. This means that archaeometry is not performed by the archaeologist alone, but in correspondence with the things approached. Furthermore, I try to demonstrate how isotopes can provide us with some insights into our thingness as human beings. When we trail the flows of matter and energy from the world, passing through the body, and becoming together, we suddenly realize that we are not using isotopes to assess archaeological information; rather, these isotopes are expressing themselves on us. Instead of taking strontium, nitrogen, and carbon isotopes as expressions of chronology, diet, and mobility, I propose that we understand chronology, diet, mobility and even ourselves as expressions of the isotopes' own roots, bonds, becomings, and time. At the end of it, I raise the question of how we can take all this beyond the mere theoretical exercise so that we can reach methodological transformation. How to allow other things than us to participate more actively in the production of knowledge and, in this process, to transform our epistemologies or "ways of knowing"?

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