Nona Palincaş

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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, settlement linked to the political activity of the king Burebistas. In various publications she has pleaded for stronger development of archaeological theory and archaeometry in Romania and in South-Eastern Europe in general as well as for a closer integration of the two domains.


Lecture 1: On the boundaries of archaeology in relation to interdisciplinary research

The lecture will begin by examining three case studies from the point of view of what is traditionally seen as archaeology and what is defined as interdisciplinary research: a) the analysis of a fragment from an imitation Rhodian amphora, b) 14C dating and stable isotopes for human diet reconstruction and c) body practices in Middle Bronze Age Transylvania.
It will be argued that:
A. Archaeological research must resort to knowledge produced in other domains (e.g., social sciences, art history, physics, chemistry, biology) if one is to deliver results of any relevance for archaeologists and the wider public. Consequently, the term ‘interdisciplinary research’ does not make much sense any more, as in the meanwhile this became part of ‘normal archaeology’.
B. The vast majority of the Romanian archaeologists disagree with the previous stance. They strongly believe that: a) while natural sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, geology etc.) are relevant for archaeological research, the duty of archeologists does not go beyond delivering the archaeological material for ‘interdisciplinary research’ while the professionals in those other fields should deliver the results of their research in a form intelligible and usable for archaeologist; b) reject the relevance of social sciences for archaeological research (ethnography, anthropology, social theory altogether). Thus, the results of the so defined interdisciplinary research are not integrated in the archaeological studies, but rather appear as annex and do not change the archaeological interpretations in any relevant way; or, alternatively, the archaeological data appear as annex to studies produced in other domains (see, e.g., the supplementary data for the DNA studies).

Archaeological research gradually integrates concepts and methods produced by a large number of other research field to the point where soon there will be not real justification for the use of the term ‘interdisciplinary research/approach’ in the sense we use it presently. Because for the vast majority of the Romanian archaeologists the cultural historical paradigm ‒ with its exclusively descriptive aims ‒ is tantamount to archaeology, the interdisciplinary research is not really necessary. The relatively numerous recent publications claiming interest in interdisciplinary research are mostly faking innovation for the sake of funding and academic positions rather than promoting renewal of archaeological research.

Lecture 2: Interdisciplinary research in practice: A view from Romania

The lecture analyzes how interdisciplinary research is practiced in Romanian archaeology with the aim of highlighting its main characteristics as well as the consequences for power relations in Romanian archaeology and the further development of the domain.
The following main traits of the interdisciplinary research in Romania were identified:
a) the most relevant studies are the result of individual initiatives of self-educated archaeologists, physicists, chemists etc., and only rarely of professionals with a higher education in the domain
b) it has poor institutional support
c) Romanian archaeologists are usually included in top research projects of old EU countries only with minor tasks (delivering of materials and description of archaeological contexts) and they consider beneficial this practice, which can be termed as neo-colonial
d) the beneficiaries of the aforementioned neo-colonial structure are interested in precluding the development of a local interdisciplinary research, while, at the same time, they advocate for the value of interdisciplinarity for archaeology
e) efforts towards the development of a genuine local interdisciplinary research are doomed to fail (for lack of financial and institutional support, the accepted mechanisms of faking innovation, the challenges of meeting requirements specific to different domains ‒ e.g., what counts as a well published article in archaeology does not mean much in physics or chemistry ‒, lack of capacity to cover complementary domains and, quite importantly, the slowing down of one’s career due to the time invested in self-education).

Conclusion: Whatever interdisciplinary research exists in present-day Romanian archaeology is intertwined with power relations. The interdisciplinary research better supported institutionally only marginally aims at advancing archaeological knowledge. It remains unclear how to proceed in a way that would ensure a solid and durable development of local interdisciplinary research, but any reform must start with an analysis.


Fahy, G. E., Deter, C., Pitfield, R., Miszkiewicz, J. J., & Mahoney, P. (2017). Bone deep: Variation in stable isotope ratios and histomorphometric measurements of bone remodelling within adult humans. Journal of Archaeological Science, 87, 10-16.

Lamb, A. L., Evans, J. E., Buckley, R., & Appleby, J. (2014). Multi-isotope analysis demonstrates significant lifestyle changes in King Richard III. Journal of Archaeological Science, 50, 559-565.

Palincaş, N. (2017). Radiocarbon dating in archaeology: Interdisciplinary aspects and consequences (an overview). Aip Conference Proceedings, 1852, 1.)

Rye, O. S. (1976). Keeping Your Temper under Control: Materials and the Manufacture of Papuan Pottery. Archaeology & Physical Anthropology in Oceania, 11, 2, 106-137.

Duday, H. (1990). L’Anthropologie “de terrain”: reconnaissance et interprétation des gestes funéraires. Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société D’Anthropologie de Paris 2, 3-4, 29-49.