Yiannis Papadatos

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Yiannis Papadatos


Yiannis Papadatos is Associate Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the Department of History and Archaeology, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA, Greece). He received his degree on Archaeology and History of Art from NKUA (1994), and his PhD on Prehistoric Archaeology from the University of Sheffield (1999). He worked as Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield (2001-2002) and as contract archaeologist for the Greek Archaeological Service (2002-2007). He is also teaching at the Hellenic Open University, since 2002. He has directed several field work projects, carrying out excavations and survey surveys in Siteia and Ierapetra (East Crete) and Marathon (Attica). His main research interests comprise Bronze Age Aegean, Funerary Archaeology and Ancient Technology.

Opening Conference

Regional surface surveys as a step forward: some thoughts on the basis of the Greek case study

Due to sharp differences in their political and cultural history, the countries of Southwestern Europe cannot be regarded as a single entity concerning the development of archaeological theory and practice. However, it is possible to pinpoint some interesting similarities, especially in comparison with the situation in other western countries. These similarities include (a) the lack of a local tradition of archaeological theory among archaeologists working both in state and academic institutions, (b) the appropriation of specific periods of their past by western academic discourse, (c) the colonial character of their interaction with the western academia, particularly in the earlier years, and (d) the strong influence by nationalist political agendas, especially in the first decades after national liberation from imperial or colonial powers. The above similarities may explain not only the resilience of the culture-historical paradigm but also the fact that archaeology in Southeastern Europe did not follow the western path of theoretical developments. This applies not only to the new countries that emerged in the 20th century, but also to countries with longer history of existence, like Greece. In that sense, Greece as a case study is particularly indicative of regional archaeological developments not only because it is the first national state founded in the area, but also because, due to the appropriation of Greek classical antiquity by the west, it became a real archaeological laboratory for the application of all recent trends in archaeological theory and practice by western archaeologists. The above is best evidenced and exemplified in the application of systematic regional surface surveys, an archaeological method that developed in the 1960s in parallel with the emergence of New Archaeology and the weakening of the culture-historical thinking in western academia. In this paper we present a retrospective review of regional surface surveys in Greece in an effort to (a) study the impact of these research projects on national archaeology, (b) examine the diffusion of the relevant theoretical trends and (c) assess the degree to which they turned the theoretical agenda of Greek archaeology away from the culture-historical thinking. Furthermore, recent advances in regional surface survey over the last two decades, such as the abandonment of the concept of “site”, the use of GIS applications, the development of phenomenological approaches and the reconstruction of mindscapes, constitute important steps towards post-modern thinking, but their impact on Greek archaeology remains to be seen and evaluated.