Archeologie Covid Onderzoek Leiden

Published on april 1st, 2021 | by admin


Leiden Uni makes the jump to more relevant archaeology

After 200 years of academically highly interesting, but publicly not so relevant archaeology, Leiden University has finally made the jump to Contemporary Archaeology. In a press release of April 1, Leiden archaeologists have announced the start of a study into the covid-19 pandemic, face-mask technology and distribution patterns. Focussing primarily on the littering of face-masks, they hypothesise the potential meaning of a ‘face mask horizon’, which will inevitably show up in future archaeological research.  

Rachael Kiddey, Contemporary Archaeologist at Oxford:  “I am delighted by these new developments at the oldest university in the Netherlands! We are hopeful that this will lead to many more PhD positions in contemporary archaeology. 

Researching contemporary trash and littering has a long tradition in contemporary archaeology. In the 1970s and 1980s, the work done in the US by William Rathje of Tucson University already demonstrated that newspapers in landfills do not decompose as expected, much like the here proposed long-term decay of facial-masks. The focus on human crisis of this Leiden project, follows on from various other studies on contemporary materials, from the research done on the material culture of undocumented refugees and migration by Gabriella Soto (Arizona State University) and Jason de Leon (UCLA, California), the effects of Hurricane Katrina by Shannon Lee Dawdy (University of Chicago) or, in the UK, the work done by scholars Sarah Mallet (Oxford) and Dan Hicks (Oxford) at the Calais ‘Jungle’ refugee camp, or indeed, the work of Rachael Kiddey (Oxford) on the material culture of homelessness.

Covid-19 has certainly not escaped scholars’ attention either: the 2020 Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory Festival, presented several relevant and important projects , including the Twitter-based ‘Viral Archive Project’ (@Viral_Archive) by Rosie Everett (UK) and others, which already started the covid landscape during the first UK-lockdown.

Miriam Rothenberg (Brown University): “Knowing this project exists, now I might actually see fit to visit Leiden! 

In the Netherlands, THE KOKRA FAMILY (line kramer and marjolijn kok) considered how to research the world when confined to your home or neighbourhood, in the US Paul R. Mullins, Dana Dobbins, Shauna Keith, Abigail Ellenburg, Alisha Beard and Cory Beeles presented a series of University students’ maps of the COVID landscape.

For an overview of how US scholars are contributing to pandemic research from an anthropology and material culture studies point of view, read the blog of Bill Caraher. The vibrant world of contemporary archaeology has proven its merits for several decades now.  

Marcel Berkhoff, University of Groningen: “Jeez, I am mainly surprised the Dutch middle aged white male dominated archaeology system actually made a change.” 

From all the papers and monographs above radiates one clear message: if there is any community that is qualified to record the materiality of the pandemic, it is the archaeological community. I wish the Leiden crew much succes in this daring project.

For the full report on the Leiden’s Covid-19 research, follow this link:

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