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Nona Palincaş


Nona Palincaş is a senior researcher with the Vasile Pârvan Institute of Archaeology of the Romanian Academy in Bucharest. Her research interests include both social archaeology (particularly gender, body practices, power, knowledge, agency and creativity in south-eastern European Bronze and Iron Ages and in contemporary archaeology) and archaeometry (primarily radiocarbon dating, stable isotopes for paleo-diet reconstruction and analysis of archaeological ceramics). She is a member and a former co-chair of the Archaeology and Gender in Europe (AGE) working community of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA). She conducts excavations in the pre- and protohistoric settlement at Popeşti (Romania), the Late Iron Age habitation of which was identified with Argedaon/Argedava – a proto-urban settlement linked to the political activity of the famous North-Thracian king Burebistas. In various publications she argued for the need of a profound reformation of Romanian archaeology, particularly for the stronger development of archaeological theory and archaeometry and the closer integration of these two domains.


Approximately 25 years ago, a small group of archaeologists started writing about the need for a deep reform in Romanian archaeology. They basically insisted that archaeology should be updated in theory and methods and made relevant for contemporary society as opposed to the dominant, but theoretically outdated cultural historical archaeology, which only benefited archaeologists due to the ratio of effort invested/outcome (number of publications). The discussion continued intermittently to the present day, with this Spring school included. Yet the reformers remained small in number and widely ignored by archaeologists in leading positions – whose career is based precisely on the advantages of perpetuating the old archaeological stereotypes – as well as, more recently, by younger colleagues, less interested in a meaningful archaeology than in the good money they can make from the ever-increasing number of preventive excavations.

Recently, acknowledging the poor performances of Romanian research in general, the Romanian government sought aid at the European Commission and initiated measures for improvement. While it is too early to know the full extent of these measures, it is clear that they include scientometrics and that the promotors of the innovation are supposed to be the heads of archaeological institutions – i.e. precisely those who benefited from the ‘Old archaeology’ and fought for decades against reformers. And this, in a country where complying at the level of paperwork with the requests of the political leadership while avoiding any change of substance has a tradition that goes back at least as far as the Communist regime.

This paper looks at these new research politics and the chances of avoiding yet another faking of innovation – i.e. the perpetuation of the ‘Balkan disease’. It also raises the question of ‘Who cares about our debates?’