Giorgos Vavouranakis

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Giorgos Vavouranakis


Giorgos Vavouranakis, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece), was born in Athens in 1972. He holds a 4-year BA in Archaeology and History of Art from  the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens (1994), an  M.A. and a Ph.D. in Prehistoric Archaeology from the University of Sheffield (1998, 2002). He has worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens (2003- 2005);  as adjunct faculty at the Universities of Crete (2004-2005) and the Peloponnese (2007- 2009) and at the Hellenic Open University (2007-today); and as a contract archaeologist at the Hellenic Ministry of Culture (2007-2008, 2011). He was appointed Lecturer in «Prehistoric Aegean: Theoretical Archaeology» at the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens in 2012 and  was promoted to Associate Professor in 2019. His research interests include Minoan Crete, Cypriot Prehistory, archaeological theory and the history of archaeological research.


Old dogs and new tricks: paradigmatic continuity and change in Aegean prehistoric archaeology

Aegean Prehistory was established a distinct field of archaeological research in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century, when a series of important sites were excavated, such as Knossos, Mycenae, Phylakopi, Tiryns and others. Ever since it has been quick to receive the latest paradigmatic developments of the archaeological discipline. Thus, the early researchers attempted to break away from the tyranny of the ancient texts, adopted cultural evolutionism and produced ethnocentric culture-historical interpretative narratives. The shift from culture history to new or processual archaeology was immediately felt in the study of Aegean Prehistory, especially through the work of Colin Renfrew, one of the very founders of the new paradigm. Post-processualism was introduced relatively late, but related research contributions became more numerous in the 1990s. The latest post-humanist tendencies have been spearheaded by Aegeanists. At the same time, Aegean prehistoric archaeology features a long-standing tradition of paradigmatic conservatism. The connection to “Altertumswissenschaft” and to 19th century practices was maintained at least until the 1970s. Nationalist narratives were retained for a long period of time after World War II. The culture-historical paradigm has remained relatively popular until today. The merits of processual archaeology started to become widely accepted only in the 1980s and afterwards. The contribution of post-processual and post-humanist approaches has remained tangential. As a result, the current state of Aegean research may be understood as “traditional plus”. This characterisation denotes an empiricist version of processualism with occasional overtones from other paradigms. The present paper argues that the above epistemological tendencies are related to several parameters. One of them is the complex nature of the archaeological record, especially when it comes to extensively excavated urban settlements, citadels and palaces with stratigraphic sequences spanning over millennia. Another reason is the sensitive place of archaeology within Greek national identity and the strengthening of the latter through the instrumental employment of antiquities from the establishment of the Greek state in the 1830s until today. A third parameter is the academic orientation and institutional infrastructure of many of the so-called “foreign schools of archaeology”. These are research institutes or -more rarely- cultural branches of embassies, responsible for the archaeological research traffic coming from their respective home academic departments in Greece.


Hooked on Classics? Ethnocentrism and the methodology of prehistoric research in Greece

Aegean archaeology, a term denoting the study of prehistoric Greece and its immediate adjacent areas, has been quick to embrace most of the major paradigmatic shifts of the archaeological discipline. Research related to new or processual archaeology appeared in the early 1960s, post-processual writings were published by the late 1980s and post-humanist approaches were applied to the prehistoric record of Greece in the early 2000s. Nevertheless, several traditional methods are still employed to a significant degree in Aegean research. Indicative examples are the excavation technique of removing soil in arbitrary layers or “digging in spits”, descriptive instead of analytical approaches to architectural remains, the emphasis on artefact typology as the main method for examining and presenting field finds, and the division of the material record in archaeological cultures. The genealogy of these research tendencies may be traced to the close affiliations of many Aegeanists, both Greek and foreign, to the continental European epistemological traditions of antiquarianism and of culture history, including its abuse by Nazi archaeology. Such paradigmatic and methodological conservatism has been relatively recently coupled with a general return of empiricism. The latter is manifested in the gradual shift of Aegean archaeological publications towards final site reports and the relative lack of theory-conscious research contributions. This combined shift runs the danger of dragging research into a rejuvenation of ethnocentric – if not nationalist – understandings of the Aegean prehistoric record.

Selected publications:

  • Vavouranakis, Giorgos, Konstantinos Kopanias, and Chrysanthos Kanellopoulos, eds, 2016. Popular Religion and Ritual in Prehistoric and Ancient Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean. Oxford: Archaeopress.
  • Vavouranakis, Giorgos. 2016. A post-humanist approach to funerary ritual and its socio-historical significance: the Early and Middle Bronze tools tombs at Apesokari, Crete. In Staging Death: Funerary Performance, Architecture and Landscape in the Aegean, Anastasia Dakouri-Hild and Boyd, Michael, 253-273. Berlin: De Gruyter.
  • Vavouranakis, Giorgos. 2014. Funerary pithoi in Bronze Age Crete: their introduction and significance at the threshold of Minoan palatial society. American Journal of Archaeology 118, no. 2: 197-222.
  • Vavouranakis, Giorgos, ed. 2011. The seascape in Aegean Prehistory (Monographs of the Danish Institute at Athens 14). Athens: DIA.
  • Vavouranakis, Giorgos. 2007. Funerary landscapes east of Lasithi, Crete, in the Bronze Age (BAR IS 1606). Oxford: Archaeopress.
  • Mantzourani, Eleni, Giorgos Vavouranakis, and Chrysanthos Kanellopoulos. 2005. The Klimataria-Manares building reconsidered. American Journal of Archaeology 109: 743-776.