Accepted Paper:

Ex Oriente Lux: Central European Palaeolithic research under the Communist rule  


Izabela Romanowska (University of Southampton)

Paper short abstract:

Archaeology in Central Europe thrived under the Communist rule. Generous funding coupled with limited ideological pressure allowed archaeologists to conduct high quality field and academic research, and the introduction of the Marxist philosophy challenged the cultural-historical approach.

Paper long abstract:

The rarity of Palaeolithic sites in Central Europe has for a long time been explained away as the result of a poor history of research in the region. Archaeological research in Germany, Poland and Hungary has been regarded as delayed, less intensive and methodologically inferior compared with Western Europe. I shall challenge this notion showing that there is no substantial gap in either the quantity or the quality of research that has taken place on both sides of the Iron Curtain and that prolonged communist rule actually boosted development of field and academic archaeology in Central Europe.

Large research projects such as the millennium celebrations and the dominance of universities and academies of science has meant that field research was conducted to the highest academic standards and organized on a scale unseen within Western Europe. The generosity of communistic governments towards archaeology was largely driven by nationalistic agendas but this had little or no impact on the actual research. At the same time, the ideological pressure to introduce Marxist philosophy, although strong during the so-called Stalinist period, was in fact quite beneficial. It challenged the traditional cultural-historical (rooted in empirical - positivist approach) school of thought and enabled researchers to look at the data from a new perspective. Together, the extensive funds made available to archaeology and limited impact of the dominating ideology means that the there is no reason to overlook the vast potential that the data coming from this part of the continent can contribute to Palaeolithic studies.

Panel S22
Archaeology under communism: political dimensions of archaeology