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The Archaeology of Seasonality

Organised by Rubina Raja (Aarhus University) and Achim Lichtenberger (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster)

Co-funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation; Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster and Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet), Aarhus University.

Date: 17-18 October 2019

Time:  9:15-16:30

Venue: The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Copenhagen


Seasonality is a crucial topic of study when addressing the ways in which past societies organised themselves throughout a year. However, seasonality remains a neglected aspect of human-nature relationships. Many activities would in past societies only have taken place at certain times of the year, mainly reflecting changing agricultural patterns and the activities undertaken, for example, when fields could not be cultivated and animals could not graze. It is assumed that indoor activities to a larger degree would have taken place in the winter than in the summer, for example, and that certain activities might even have been kept for the winter periods, such as indoor repair of houses and textile production and the like. Studying seasonality offers the opportunity to understand the temporal dimension of human activities over the year, and it opens up new perspectives on space and spatial practices in the ancient world.

Studies of seasonality through archaeological and historical evidence are rarely undertaken. Firstly because archaeological evidence does not often provide possibilities for studying such details, since contexts have often been disturbed over time, and seasonality cannot be studied in disturbed contexts. However, often undisturbed contexts are not approached with seasonality in mind. Such undisturbed contexts – which are often products of natural disasters such as earthquakes or landslides or man-spurred catastrophes such as wars and fires and consequently sudden abandonment – are usually analysed in order to understand the overall contexts and situations but not the time of year at which these might have taken place. The contexts are usually only taken as a terminus post quem or ad quem, which they present to the archaeologist or historian – but not in an absolute “high-definition” perspective, which they, however, also offer – namely the possibility to get closer to the exact time of year during which the event took place.

Although rare, some archaeological situations present us with evidence that allow us insight into the exact day and year of an event. This is the case at Jerash in Jordan where the earthquake of 18th January 749 CE, which shook parts of the Southern Levant, left Jerash devastated and in some parts never touched again. Since 2011, the Danish-German Jerash Northwest Quarter Project has worked in the Northwest Quarter of Jerash. This work has yielded evidence of domestic constructions that were spoiled on 18th January in the morning and never revisited until they were excavated during campaigns in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The excavations and their results have given us the impulse to host this conference and together with colleagues explore in more detail the full potential of how to study seasonality through archaeological evidence and a methodological framework that is yet to be fully developed.

Therefore, we invite a set of scholars who, in one way or the other, have concerned themselves with issues of seasonality. These are intended for publication in a collective volume on the Archaeology of Seasonality. The contributions will be published in the peer-reviewed series “Studies in Classical Archaeology” edited by Achim Lichtenberger and Rubina Raja.

The aim of the conference is to lay open and discuss evidence that gives indications of archaeological context, like the ones in Jerash, but we are also interested in learning about archaeological situations in which aspects of seasonality have only come to the forefront through the archaeological work undertaken. The intention is to discuss the potential and challenges presented to us by such evidence and discuss how we may optimise both what we can get out of the evidence itself and the methods used.

Papers of 8,000-10,000 words will be pre-circulated three weeks in advance of the conference in order to allow ample time at the conference for discussion of the archaeological evidence and methods applied. Each presenter will give a summary of the paper in 15 minutes, and thereafter 30 minutes are dedicated to discussion of the paper. The contributions will be published in the peer-reviewed series “Studies in Classical Archaeology” edited by Achim Lichtenberger and Rubina Raja.

The conference will take place on 17th and 18th October 2019, and speakers are obliged to stay for the duration of the conference, since the discussion forum is a crucial part of the conference. We will cover economy travel (reimbursed after the event) as well as three nights of accommodation (booked and paid by us in advance). Furthermore, we will cater for speakers during the conference, and we will host a conference dinner on the evening of 17th October.

Confirmed speakers

  • Allison, Penelope (University of Leicester)
  • Blömer, Michael (Aarhus University)
  • Höflmayer, Felix (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschafte)
  • Jacobsen, Jan Kindberg (The Danish Academy in Rome)
  • Lichtenberger, Achim (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster) - organiser
  • Nevett, Lisa (University of Michigan)
  • Olsen, Jesper (Aarhus University)
  • Osanna, Massimo (Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II)
  • Raja, Rubina (Aarhus University) - organiser
  • Rosen, Steve (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)
  • Rowan, Erica (Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • Tietz, Werner (Universität zu Köln)
  • Anke Walter (Newcastle University)
  • Wootton, Will (King's College London) - discussant

Practical information for speakers


Please make your own travel arrangements to/from Copenhagen, and we will reimburse you after the conference.

To claim back conference-related travel expenses, please

  1. fill out this travel reimbursement form (disregard the bottom part - it is for internal use).
  2. Forward the Excel file (no need to sign) and scanned copies of your receipts to Christina Levisen: levisen@cas.au.dk.

Please note that it can take a couple of weeks for Aarhus University’s finance dept. to process your claim, especially when international transfers are involved.   

NOTE: As soon as you have booked your flight, please forward your itinerary to Christina Levisen (levisen@cas.au.dk), so that the hotel booking can be finalised.


Hotel Danmark
Vester Voldgade 89
1552 København

Tel.: +45 33 11 48 06
Email: info@hotel-danmark.dk­

Dinner and diet

A speakers’ dinner will be held 17 October, and we will of course cater for you during the conference. 

If you have any dietary restrictions (incl. allergies), please let Christina Levisen (levisen@cas.au.dk) know no later than 1 October, so that she can notify the restaurant/caterers.