41st Association for Environmental Archaeology Fall Meeting

05.11 - 07.11.2020  
Groningen, The Netherlands
Contact person:
Organizing Committee, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The 41st Association for Environmental Archaeology Fall Meeting will be held from 4-7 November 2020 in Groningen, The Netherlands.

The theme of the meeting is "Sustainability in Environmental Archaeology".


The University of Groningen.

Important dates

Reception and registration: Wednesday 4 November
Sessions: 5-6 November
Excursion to megalithic tombs, salt marshes and terp mounds: 7 November


The goal of this conference is to address sustainability in the field of environmental archaeology. Sustainability is a key issue in societal, political, and scientific debate.

The pressing need to create a more sustainable future is reflected in the United Nations' 'urgent call to action' detailed in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This raises the question of how the issue of "sustainability" is or should be incorporated into archaeological research, practice, and discourse.

Sessions and themes

The 17 goals and the concept of sustainability will be central to the AEA annual conference in Groningen. They are addressed and explored through four themes:

1. Sustainability in the Past: Sustainability is not only a topic of concern for societies today. In the past, communities were also challenged by issues such as climate fluctuations, environmental and landscape change, and the cultivation and maintenance of healthy, sustainable human, animal, and plant populations. The archaeological record can inform us on how people dealt with these issues and what it reflects about the interactions between humans and their living and non-living environment. This may be visible and studied at different scales, from local hunter-gatherer communities that practiced selective hunting and foraging strategies to long duréé changes in the landscape due to human intervention and their socio-economic practices. Reflecting on sustainability in the past can contribute to both a broader understanding of the past and new perspectives on the future.

2. Social Sustainability: Social archaeology examines the social dimensions of human life in the past through the interpretation of archaeological remains, informing us about expressions of ethnicity, race, age, status, class, and gender. It provides insights into the social sustainability of past societies. Through, for example, the investigation of the unequal distribution of power, wealth, and resources, social archaeology can reveal patterns regarding social practices and how communities and societies were shaped and developed through time. Interpretations of the past are also influenced by social issues in the present. Increasingly, archaeological studies advocate for more agency for groups traditionally under-represented in research. Here environmental archaeology also plays an important role in lending more agency to non-human species, for example in social zooarchaeological and multi-special approaches.

3. Sustainability and the Environment: Throughout history, humans have been exploiting a wide variety of environmental resources and have been niche-constructing both the biotic and the abiotic environments. This impact on our surroundings has in some instances led to environmental degradation, climate change, and the introduction, endangerment, alternation, extirpation, or even extinction of animal and plant species. Environmental archaeology offers the possibility to assess the status of environmental factors in the past, and can provide modern sustainability studies and approaches with a baseline or data that can benefit attempts to protect our environment.

4. Sustainability of the Profession: Environmental archaeology as a discipline is in constant motion. New methods, practices, and research ideas are constantly being developed and excavations revealing new information regarding the past. It may be argued, however, that the discipline of archaeology itself is struggling with several sustainability issues. New methods often require destructive sampling, exhausting available resources. Furthermore, the sustainability of archaeology as a profession is affected by aspects such as the number of students taking a degree course in archaeology, limited financial sources, and fast-paced advancements made in scientific methods. This justifies the need for archaeology to continuously develop new methods, carry out outreach activities, engage in new partnerships with various fields, and improve heritage management. This all contributes to the potential impact of environmental archaeology on our understanding of a sustainable environment.

Call for papers

Through these themes, the 41st AEA conference will revolve around the concept of sustainable environmental archaeology, exploring it from different perspectives and topics. Speakers are invited to submit papers to one of the four themes and to reflect upon the relevance and implications of the SDGs in their research.

If you are interested in presenting your research (either an oral presentation or a poster presentation), please download the form from the webpage (see below) and email the completed form to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The deadline for the call for papers is 1 June 2020.

Meeting organizers

Nathalie Brusgaard, Canan Çakirlar, Merit Hondelink, Youri van den Hurk, Arnaud Mauer, Mans Schepers, Taravat Talebi Seyyedsaran, and Francesca Slim.

Further information

Go to the official website, and access the form:

The conference organizers are closely monitoring the developments of COVID-19. At present, as the conference is in November, they are going ahead with the organization of the conference. They will provide updates closer to the actual meeting time.