Bell Beakers at WAC8 in Kyoto
Hello everyone! I'm sorry for the silence, and probably no-one will read this any longer, since I haven't posted anything since September last year... Research has taken up most of my time here in Kiel since that moment, so much that I could not even share my adventures with you all, I'm so sorry :(
But, now I'm back! Probably in again a one-off-post, as workload keeps building up, but who knows..
I want to talk to you all about the most recent adventure, the 8th World Archaeological Congress in Kyoto, Japan. This congress took place between 28th August and 2nd September 2016. I presented two papers there, firstly about Bell Beaker innovation (after a nice invitation by the session co-organiser Catherine Frieman). My second presentation was about Bell Beaker migration/mobility, a topic at the heart of ideas and interpretations concerning Bell Beaker diffusion.
I flew from Amsterdam, as I was in the Netherlands anyway because of a small holiday (a full week of table tennis training!). At Schiphol I met with fellow GS members Artur and Asli, who already took a flight from Hamburg to get to Amsterdam.
I booked a direct 11 hour flight with KLM in a Boeing 777. This assured me of good food, enough leg-space and great movies (I even watched Game of Thrones, something I'd not trusted myself to do before with this whole PhD thing going on..), however only 2 hours of sleep as I have never been able to sleep on a flight..
At Osaka Kansai Airport (the one on the island) we took the Haruka train to Kyoto and went our ways to different hotels and AirBnBs. The subway in Kyoto is remarkable for its tidiness and organisation. Separate lanes for walking, standing queues and zones were you're not allowed to stand as leaving passengers were supposed to take this route. Special officers guiding people on the platforms. Everything was neatly organised! However I didn't see any of the famous 'pushers'.
My hotel, the Ark Hotel, situated at Omiya station, was large, nice, clean, cheap and quiet. Only minor detail was the meagre continental breakfast. Japanese people apparently like their breakfast as their lunch, and their lunch as their dinner, everything savoury..
On the first day, after 11 hours of flight and 2 hours of sleep, we registered and listened to some interesting talks about "disasters and archaeology" and "indigenous archaeology", two topics at the heart of the WAC and the Japanese archaeological practice. After that we met up with GS members Natalia, Milinda and Gustav who were already in Kyoto for a few days. At the ice-breaker party (no alcohol!) I also ran into some old friends and former colleagues.
The second day, Monday, also meant my first presentation in the "Innovation and Conservatism" session, organised by Frieman and Shoda (20-25 people attended). This session was really nice, with a lot of interesting talks by Shoda, Radivojevic, Scharl, Shirai, Fajardo, Okomura, Frieman and Paterson. Especially the talks about European and Eurasian Neolithic and Bronze Age were inspiring. Points of discussion included the visibility of innovation, invention and conservatism (people who did not adopt a certain innovation), defining different stages within the famous S-curve, and more importantly, looking beyond the S-curve itself in understanding the processes that lead to the patterns we see in the archaeological record. Also flint technologies and settlement patterns that proved to be very conservative and stable over thousands of years and vast areas of land were interesting contrasts to the fast innovations of metallurgy and pottery technologies. At this session it struck me that we all used the same concepts (adopted from Everett Rogers 1962 classic 'Diffusion of Innovations'), came up with similar topics for the future (like the relationship between innovation and population growth) and had different interesting ways and methods to tackle these problems.
Also important for this discussion was the very nice social event, organised by our great session conveners, of dining in a traditional Japanese restaurant. The way towards the restaurant proved to be memorable for Miljana and me, during the typhoon with only one umbrella and impeccable local hospitality ("Is it there?", "Yes", "No it isn't...", "And why is this Palace garden so huge? If it weren't so large we wouldn't be so wet!"). In the end, we dined at a very low table, with our legs crossed, using chopsticks and we ate lots of (raw) fish... The conversations were very nice and many plans for the future were made that night :)
The third day I was already feeling the tiredness creep up. Sleeping was difficult (jetlag), and I still had my general lack of sleep from the flight.. But I also had my second presentation this day in the session about Mobility and Migration (12 persons attended). The papers by Debowska-Ludwin, Wexler and Blank focused on European and African (Egyptian) mobility patterns, found in pottery distributions, island communities and natural scientific studies (isotopic/aDNA/14C comparison on single individuals!). Also here we had very interesting discussions. My talk, a critial approach towards popular use of aDNA and isotopes, was very well received. Especially my introduction of the concept of 'itchy feet' from the mathematical model of A.L. Barabasi about mobility, gave rise to a nice discussion. I think this is really something that should be pursued further! This evening we ate together with several GS people and French friend Ségolène on a well-known Kyoto road near the riverbank.
The fourth day, Wednesday, was a day off and I can say that I used it well, because this is the first night that I slept through and woke up at 9:30 after breakfast. I spent the day exploring parts of the city, mainly the Gijon area where the famous temples, nice gardens and beautiful buildings are. I visited the Kyomisudera temple, the Ryosokuin gardens and..., the Ghibli shop!
At the end of the day I also found a record store that had some very obscure progressive rock vinyl and cds in their collection (Yes, Jan Akkerman, Kayak...). Some deliberating with my father back home led to two Kevin Ayers cds on which apparently a very young Mike Oldfield could be heard! This day we ended up in a sushi 'turning tables' restaurant. A nice and cheap concept if you're not really that hungry or not interested in raw fish (like me) and just pick all the cooked and baked stuff.
The conference continued on the fifth and sixth day with some interesting sessions. As for me the pressure of presenting was no longer there, I could go wherever I want. With this new skill, I attended sessions about computer methods (interesting paper by again Radivojevic about metallurgical networks on the Balkans in the 5th and 4th millennium BC), Eurasian steppe Bronze Age archaeology. On the final day I went to see a presentation about Celtic Art in Eurasia (a new database at Oxford Uni), a session about obtaining high resolution knowledge about human activities in early prehistory (with great talk by Ségolène Vandevelde about soot concretions in caves and microchronology..). In the meantime I already met a lot of people whom I already followed on Twitter, so that was a nice 'person-behind-the-tweets' situation all the time :) Talking about archaeogaming ethics, Anglo-Saxon isotopes, Neolithic variscite beads, the WAC-student committee and many things more...
On the final day there was also the farewell party (on the fifth day we also had the conference dinner, but I didn't go there, too expensive!), where we celebrated and congratulated the organisation of the WAC with their very well organised and fun conference! Next time will be in Prague in 2020. All in all, Kyoto was nice, a lot less strange or quirky than I imagined Japan to be, it was hot and humid (28 degrees at night!) and certainly a place I would like to visit again in the future (with a little more time on my hand)..
I probably forgot a lot of things. My FB friends can see all the photo's I made and I just put online. I went back to the Netherlands on Saturday (woke up in Kyoto at 4 am, which is 9 pm on Friday evening, again did not sleep on my flight, and fell asleep at 9 pm on Saturday...). On Monday I drove back to Kiel, and it is there that I'm now ending this blog post to you all :)