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Zenta Broka-Lāce


Zenta Broka-Lāce got her BA, MA and PhD from the Faculty of History and Philosophy, University of Latvia. Her scientific interest in archaeology started during the first year of BA studies (2010-2013) where all course works were on archaeology. Zenta’s first excavation experience dates from 2011. Almost each year she has participated in archaeological excavations in various archaeological sites in Latvia. Since her MA (2013-2015) studies she has focused more on theory and history of archaeology. After graduating MA (2015) she started working as Chief Specialist at the Ģederts Eliass History and Art Museum of Jelgava. In 2016 she got accepted in PhD program, but at the end of 2016 was elected as a Scientific Assistant at the Institute of Latvian History at the University of Latvia, where she worked until 2022. Currently Zenta is still working on her PhD project: ,,The Development of Archaeological Thought in Latvia from 19th – 21st Century’’.


Latvian archaeology has witnessed waves of culture-historical paradigm rooted in the German antiquarian tradition. Initially, local archaeological heritage was seen as imports from Scandinavia due to perceived barbarism. Collectors pillaged burials, amassing personal collections, and some artifacts were even sold to the British Museum. Latvians began exploring their own heritage only in the early 20th century. In the 1930s, exaggerated nationalism celebrated ancient history, Latvian archaeological heritage, and Indo-European origins as superior. During the Soviet occupation, local achievements were attributed to Slavic peoples. Post-liberation, archaeologists were expected to align with a pro-Western stance.

Understanding the trajectory of Latvian archaeology is challenging. Researchers prioritize new methods over theory. Presently, Latvian archaeology shows interest in natural sciences, investigating ancient DNA, ethnic and social processes, with a culture-historical theoretical approach. A scarcity of archaeologists and limited resources hinders theoretical innovations.

The Soviet occupation had a lasting impact, prompting a postcolonial interpretation. Engagement in archaeology offers emancipation from centuries of marginalization. With over 30 years of independence, younger generations are shedding apprehensions. However, integration into the international academic environment poses challenges. The complex history of the Baltic states defies the neat “good” versus “bad” division of the post-war world order. Aversion to leftist ideas excludes the Baltic states from many academic discussions. The conflict in Ukraine exemplifies Europe’s divided memory, with deliberate destruction of cultural heritage echoing attempts to erase national existence. This paper addresses the ideological challenges of archaeological theory advocating for the continued relevance of the culture-historical tradition in academia.