Exploring identity in the ancient pastBy Janet Harron
A distinguished scholar from Sheffield University will deliver the Henrietta Harvey Lecture at Memorial University on Thursday, March 18.
Dr. Marek Zvelebil, an archaeologist who specializes in the European Stone Age, will explore the idea of ethnic, social and individual identity in the ancient past, with particular reference to Europe and the spread of Indo-European languages. He will try to explain why 19th century derived notions of nationalism mask the diversity that actually exists within communities and larger social units.
“Romantic 19th century nationalism required that people living within a nation state shared the same language, same genes, same culture. In reality, this was never the case,” said Dr. Zvelebil. “Yet archaeology has become a partner in supporting this nationalistic project, and archaeological artifacts have been often interpreted as a signature of national or racial identity – an idea that emerged within the kulturkreis theory in Central Europe.”
Dr. Zvelebil says that the core of his presentation is “to show how language, genetic inheritance (biological ancestry), and cultural knowledge, though inter-linked, come from different sources. I use the evidence from my own research in the Neolithic of Central Europe and from other related pre-historic sources to demonstrate this point. The implications of this argument have far-reaching conclusions for our understanding of ‘archaeological culture’ and for cultural transmission of knowledge, and for who we are – for our identity – in general.”
His lecture, Social Roles, Personhoods and Nationalism: Establishing Identities in Prehistory, will start at 7 p.m. in ED-3034A of the Education Building on the St. John’s campus.
In addition to the Henrietta Harvey Lecture, Dr. Zvelebil will give a talk on Friday, March 19, to the archaeology department titled Post-Glacial Recolonization of Europe: The Mergence of a Social Tradition. This is also open to the public.
“Dr. Zvelebil’s research has contributed to most of the significant debates in archaeology including the adoption of agriculture, the spread of Indo-European languages in prehistory, and human land-use and subsistence strategies in coastal and island settings,” says Dr. Lisa Rankin of the Department of Archaeology. “His recent work has been very multi-disciplinary and has made use of DNA and trace-element analysis to interpret past human behaviour throughout Europe. Given his varied background we are hoping his lecture will have wide appeal.”
Henrietta Harvey was a Nova Scotian who came to Newfoundland in 1905 to visit her aunt, Lady Whiteway, the wife of Newfoundland’s prime minister. A year later she settled in St. John’s as the wife of St. John’s businessman John Harvey. When she died, in 1964, her will directed a substantial portion of her estate to Memorial University. The Henrietta Harvey lectureship is possible in any year where there are funds left over from the funding of the Henrietta Harvey research chair, the primary purpose of the endowment fund left by Ms. Harvey.