S20
Going underground: caves, science and theory

Convenors:
Chris Kerns (University of Bristol)
Ruth Briggs
Discussant:
Stephanie Koerner
Location:
Wills 3.30
Start time:
19 December, 2010 at 9:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

Sponsored by the University of Bristol Archaeology and Anthropology Society and the University of Bristol Speleological Society, this session aims to explore both the theoretical and the scientific boundaries encountered in cave archaeology.

Long abstract:

In the past caves have acted as a powerful cultural threshold, however today they can act as a threshold for both archaeological science and theory. Caves and similar natural and man-made environments such as rock shelters, mines and catacombs, present unique challenges for archaeologists both methodologically and theoretically. Understanding the material recovered from them can be a daunting task, not least because we are often confronted with the remains of practices that defy obvious analogy (e.g. European Palaeolithic cave art). However caves often have high levels of preservation and present a rare opportunity for understanding past cultural practices not evident in other environments. Caves should push the limits of and encourage the development of new theoretical approaches and scientific techniques. This session aims to explore both the theoretical and the scientific boundaries encountered in cave archaeology. Topics which are likely to be explored during this session include caves and interpretive analogy, a consideration of how caves may have engendered unique forms of practice, mythology, ritual practice, cave art, settlement, human development, deposition, methodology and the scientific techniques that can shed new light on these themes.