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Joint Interdisciplinary international conference on Island Identities 28-30 March 2023

Joint Interdisciplinary international conference on Island Identities 28-30 March 2023
View of the A. G. Leventis Gallery of Ancient Cyprus at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Copyright Fitzwilliam Museum 2021.

The Fitzwilliam Museum and the Ashmolean Museum are pleased to announce an interdisciplinary conference to be held March 28–30, 2023 in Cambridge, London and Oxford. The first day (28 March 2023) will take place in Cambridge, the second at the British Academy in London (29 March 2023) and the third in Oxford (30 March 2023).

The conference will accompany the two major exhibitions planned to open in February 2023 in Cambridge (as part of the Being an Islander project) in Oxford (Labyrinth: Knossos, myth and reality) on the theme of the Mediterranean islands, exploring research questions which are complementary between the two exhibitions.

The conference will include keynote lectures from leading researchers in the fields of Mediterranean archaeology, island archaeology, and the archaeology of Crete and Knossos, as well as neighbouring scientific fields (archaeobotany, archaeometallurgy and ceramic studies) in dialogue with the broader disciplines mentioned above.

Throughout history, islands have been treated as distinct places, unlike mainland and continental masses. In geographic terms, islands are merely pieces of land surrounded by water, but the perception of island life has never been neutral. Rather, the term ‘insularity’ – belonging to/being of an island – has been romanticised and associated with otherness. Islands have often been deemed to have different histories from the mainland and with more readily isolated socio-political, cultural and economic characteristics. Yet connectivity has also been an important feature of island life as the sea can be a linking rather than just a dividing body, motivating and maintaining informal and formal connections. This has been made evident by the flourishing studies of the archaeology, art and history of the Mediterranean islands.

‘Being an Islander: Art and Identity of the Large Mediterranean Islands’ research project addresses the above questions under a broad diachronic scope and applies integrative analytical approach to our exhibits. The associated exhibition will also engage works of contemporary artists whose creations contemplate what belonging to an island means. Papers presented in this joint conference by the Being an Islander research consortium (Fitzwilliam Museum, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, The Cyprus Institute, Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, Greek Ministry of Culture, National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari) will present the project’s findings on topics of insularity, mobility and migration in the Mediterranean diachronically.

The second theme of our conference, centred on the Ashmolean’s Labyrinth exhibition, will focus on the archaeological site of Knossos. For many, Knossos was the Labyrinth, the mythical home of the Minotaur, while others know it as the centre of the Bronze Age Minoan civilisation and the home of the earliest farmers in Europe. Using objects excavated over the course of over nearly 150 years, archival documents and digital technology, the Ashmolean will reveal the history of this world-famous archaeological site. Collaborating with the Greek Ministry of Culture, the British School at Athens and Oxford’s School of Archaeology, this will be UK’s first major exhibition focussing on Knossos, including many significant loans from Greece. Papers presented in the joint conference will bring together speakers from these partner organisations and the excavators responsible for new discoveries in and around Knossos. The conference’s preliminary programme, will be published here and on the Ashmolean Museum’s website soon.

View of the entrance hall of the Ashmolean Museum. The Antiquities Department of the Ashmolean Museum is a partner of the a joint conference, planned for Spring 2023. Copyright Ashmolean Museum 2020.
View of the entrance hall of the Ashmolean Museum. The Antiquities Department of the Ashmolean Museum is a partner of the a joint conference, planned for Spring 2023. Copyright Ashmolean Museum 2020.
The second day of the conference (29 March 2023) will be hosted at the British Academy, London
The second day of the conference (29 March 2023) will be hosted at the British Academy, London
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