ResourceCultures. Reflections and New Perspectives

Sonderforschungsbereich 1070 RessourcenKulturen, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
12.02.2020 - 14.02.2020
Sandra Teuber, Geographisches Institut, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen,

Resources are often discussed from an economic angle. Within the SFB 1070, resources are analysed using a social and cultural perspective, which adds new dimensions to the discussions about resources, resource depletion and resource development. The international conference started with a public lecture by DIRK KRAUSSE (Esslingen), who talked about the archaeological excavations of the Celtic settlement Heuneburg that had a trans-regional importance in the Iron Age.

Eight sessions addressed topics of interest for the SFB 1070. The first session began with a talk of the two speakers of the SFB 1070. Prehistoric archaeologist MARTIN BARTELHEIM and soil scientist THOMAS SCHOLTEN (both Tübingen) introduced the resource concept of the SFB 1070. While Bartelheim provided the theoretical background, Scholten illustrated it using the example soil. Both stressed that resources are constructed through social and cultural practices and valuations. Resources, then, affect identities of individuals and groups, and sustain social relations. In turn, these social and cultural processes affect resources. However, resources cannot be viewed in isolation from other elements. Thus, resource complexes and resource assemblages are used within the SFB 1070 to understand interactions between a resource, social and cultural practices, knowledge, individuals and/or groups. These ideas were also present in the case study of cultural anthropologist ROLAND HARDENBERG (Frankfurt am Main), who explained that both millet and rice are used and valued in present day India. He addressed the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous, as the traditionally important millet is valued and used at the same time as rice, which has become increasingly important in modern times. Thus, different social groups within one region value different resources. CHRISTOPH ANTWEILER (Bonn), also cultural anthropologist, expanded the topic of resources to the concept of the Anthropocene and, thus, moved from the level of case studies to the global scale. He emphasised the important position of the social sciences, cultural studies and arts for research on the Anthropocene and pointed out the various perspectives, e.g. anthropocentric vs biocentric, that could be adopted in this context. In the final discussion of the session, the resource concept of the SFB 1070 and its possible contributions to different scientific disciplines were examined critically.

Session II began with prehistoric archaeologist PHILIPPE DELLA CASA (Zürich), who presented his work on the adaptive cycles of development in the Alpine Area. He showed that the adaptive cycle approach [1] can be useful to understand settlement processes in prehistory. However, limited data availability for prehistoric times remains a problem. Prehistorian JOSÉ FARRUJIA DE LA ROSA (La Laguna, Spain) talked about death as a cultural resource. He pointed out that museums on the Canary Islands exhibit human remains. However, a discrepancy exists between the perception of the dead as "the others" and the fact that they are distant ancestors of today's living inhabitants of the Canary Islands. This originates from the replacement not so much of the indigenous people but of their culture by European settlers. Following this, classical philologist GYBURG UHLMANN (Berlin) gave insights into Aristotle’s biology. According to her understanding of Aristotle, knowledge about animals should be classified and not animals themselves. This could provide a link to current developments in the field of ethical treatment of animals. All three talks showed that developments are neither only spatial, material or theoretical, but have cultural, linguistic, material, spatial, and symbolic dimensions that can be found in spoken or written words, in objects, laws and regulations, and in the landscape itself.

Prehistoric archaeologist PHILIPP STOCKHAMMER (Munich/Jena) opened session III presenting a study on Bronze Age burials from the Lech river valley that were investigated using archaeological, anthropological, DNA and isotope analyses. The results point to spatial mobility of the women buried in the valley, while the men lived their lives there. A further interesting result was that women who came from distant places did not have own offspring buried in the valley. This suggests complex social systems that enabled spatial mobility. DÖBEREINER CHALA-ALDANA (Tübingen) asked how people perceive landscapes and suggested that landscapes and the perception of them change in time. He criticised the representation of maps – especially the ones representing past “cultures” – that often attribute specific regions to specific “cultures” and show movements with large arrows without considering the actual landscape. He suggested that people in the past might not have represented themselves on maps in this way and that the actual relief and other features in the landscapes led to the establishments of routes in prehistory that are not present in today’s maps, which display the respective past epoch. The following discussion revolved around migration as a resource and the question if there are things that cannot be a resource.

In session IV, cultural anthropologist REGINA F. BENDIX (Göttingen) talked about the dualism between “good” and “inferior” culture. In part, this dualism goes back to cultural anthropology and the foregrounding of ideational dimensions in combination with the view of certain parts of culture as an economic resource. This problem has been addressed in the past decades by among others heritage conventions. Today’s discussions, thus, address culture as an important factor in the daily life of people. Following this, archaeologist JAN J. MIERA (Leipzig) presented a study of the Iron Age settlement of the Heuberg in southwestern Germany. There, a landscape of the living with settlements and burial mounds existed next to a landscape of the ancestors where only burial mounds were located. A third area was not used, except for the Heidentor, where several objects were found that suggest a ceremonial use of this space. Thus, the Heidentor might have been used for transition rites, which would make it a liminal place. Classical philologist IRMGARD MÄNNLEIN-ROBERT (Tübingen) talked about Atlantis and vividly explained that the myth of Atlantis, which can be found in both Plato's Timaeus and his Critias, is a fictional story that is supposed to describe the ideal state. She also showed how the transmission of the Atlantis story worked within Plato’s texts. Plato used a literary method to construct a historic tradition. Thus, the search for Atlantis should end, as it is only a story. Session IV illustrated that valuation processes take place at various levels, globally and locally. They are expressed in texts, in language, in political programmes, but also materialise in the landscape. However, valuations and values themselves are subject to processes of change in space and time.

Session V started with archaeologist BARBARA HOREJS (Vienna) who presented transformation processes in Anatolia during the Neolithic. She explained how seafaring communities provided the new settlers of the region not only with maritime food such as fish but also with nautical knowledge as well as with raw materials from different locations of the Mediterranean. Archaeologist TAMAR HODOS (Bristol) also showed the importance of transportation for decorated ostrich eggs during Antiquity. According to her, the knowledge about ostriches, the material of the eggs and carving techniques must have been extensive. Near Eastern archaeologist VIRGINIA HERRMANN (Tübingen) then used the resource concept of the SFB 1070 to explain the appearance of the "Flame and Frond" style on a stone statuette in the form of a couchant lion found in Zincirli (modern Turkey). Using the finds, the archaeological record, art historical approaches and literary sources from the Iron Age, she constructed two resource complexes that had several overlaps. This could indicate complex social relationships in Iron Age Zincirli. Although the three speakers analysed very different materials, they all stressed the importance of knowledge for the access to and the processing of the material. Besides this specific knowledge, transportation over great distances as well as the highly skilled artisans indicate that complex societies existed throughout time.

Session VI addressed knowledge as a resource. JOHN FROW (Sydney), who works at the boundary of literary and cultural studies, talked about the status of knowledge in our so-called knowledge economy. He illustrated the different ways in which knowledge creates value. It is processed as intellectual property in machines and as raw material in the digital knowledge societies. Knowledge, further, is expressed in various marketing strategies. As a public or private good, knowledge generates new knowledge and new social relations, and as reflexive action, knowledge controls or produces the future. Subsequently, SHYAMA VERMEERSCH (Tübingen) showed the importance of knowledge for animal husbandry. Using her case study in Tell el-Burak, she indicated changes occurring between the Bronze and Iron Age that led to new resources being used. Historian LAURA DIERKSMEIER (Tübingen) then analysed how a Mexican historian and priest investigated the effects of cannabis in 1772 using self-experiments and indigenous as well as scientific knowledge. Thereby, the priest subtly challenged the view of the Catholic Church during the inquisition. While John Frow dealt with different forms of knowledge and their value in a theoretical way, the two case studies illustrated how knowledge can be the subject of historical and archaeological research. The discussion showed the links between the different forms of knowledge and the importance of knowledge for different societies throughout time.

Session VII started with contemporary archaeologist DAN HICKS (Oxford) who covered the topic on how the spoils of wars end up in museums. He emphasised the importance of dealing with this past and put forward the thesis that imperialist behaviour is still present in the global North and should be addressed. Classical archaeologist FRERICH SCHÖN (Tübingen) illustrated how the aqueducts of Carthage (modern Tunesia) were built and maintained by the Romans and later preserved or restored by Byzantine people. Both lectures showed that the preservation of things is important. While the preservation of a functioning water supply seems to be vital, a discussion is needed for keeping looted objects in western museums.

In the last session, ANSGAR NÜNNING (Gießen) illustrated the importance of fiction in everyday life, as fiction and stories affect cultures on different levels. He argued that this perspective could be an enrichment for the work of the SFB 1070. Ecological anthropologist SEAN DOWNEY (Columbus) provided a case study from Belize that combines ethnological fieldwork with natural scientific analyses. He pointed out that interdisciplinary work is essential for the understanding of Q'eqchi' Maya slash-and-burn management. THOMAS THIEMEYER (Tübingen), who focusses on museum studies, presented directions in which the SFB 1070 could develop in the future. He suggested the idea of infrastructure [2] as a connecting element between the archaeologies and cultural anthropology, which could strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration in the future. All three speakers of the last session emphasised the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and provided new perspectives that could add to the analysis of resources as culturally or socially constructed means that affect identity formation on individual and group levels.

Overall, the conference addressed several aspects connected to resource use. The talks showed how resources are connected to the development of social relations, to migration and mobility, and how valuation processes are needed for resource use. Further, knowledge was identified as an essential commodity for past and present societies and their access to use and valuation of resource.

Conference overview:

Evening lecture

Dirk Krausse (Landesamt für Denkmalpflege in Baden-Württemberg, Esslingen): First Town North of the Alps: Revisiting the Heuneburg after 15 Years of Modern Field Research

Session I: ResourceCultures
Chair: Gabriele Alex (SFB 1070, Tübingen)

Martin Bartelheim / Thomas Scholten (SFB 1070, Tübingen): ResourceCultures – a New Concept to Analyse Socio-Cultural Development

Roland Hardenberg (SFB 1070, Tübingen): The Rise of a New Millet Assemblage in India

Christoph Antweiler (University of Bonn): Anthropocene – the Age of Humans? Diachronic and Global Perspectives on our Planet as a Resource

Session II: Developments – Resources and Processes of Social Change
Chair: Bruce James (University of Maryland)

Philippe Della Casa (University of Zürich): From Colonization to Control and Creation of Value: a Diachronic View on Prehistoric Cycles of Development in the Alpine Area

A. José Farrujia de la Rosa (University of La Laguna, Spain): Death as a Cultural Resource? Indigenous Remains and Colonialism in the Canary Islands

Gyburg Uhlmann (Freie Universität Berlin): Animals as Resources? – Considerations concerning Aristotle’s Biology

Session III: Movements – Resources and Spatial Development
Chair: Marta Díaz-Zorita Bonilla (SFB 1070, Tübingen)

Philipp Stockhammer (Ludwig Maximilians Universität, Munich / Max-Planck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte, Jena): Mobility and Social Inequality in Bronze Age Europe

Chala-Aldana Döbereiner (SFB 1070, Tübingen): The Interaction of Nature, Landscape and Culture: Spatial Analysis and Use of Resources in Southern Iberia during the Late Prehistory

Session IV: Valuations – Resources and the Symbolic Dimension
Chair: Frances Pinnock (Sapienza University of Rome)

Regina F. Bendix (University of Göttingen): Culture and Value: A Cultural Anthropological Perspective

Jan Miera (University of Leipzig): The Construction of Liminality in the pre-Roman Iron Age: a Case Study from the Swabian Jura, SW Germany

Irmgard Männlein-Robert (SFB 1070, Tübingen): Forget about Atlantis: Plato’s Invention of Tradition or Symbolic Dimensions of Knowledge as Resource Complex

Session V: Materiality of Resources
Chair: Keiko Kitagawa (SFB 1070, Tübingen)

Barbara Horejs (Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology, Vienna): Maritime Resources and the Neolithisation in Aegean Anatolia

Tamar Hodos (University of Bristol): Eggstraordinary Objects: New Understandings of the Production Biography of Decorated Ostrich Eggs in Antiquity

Virginia Herrmann (SFB 1070, Tübingen): Style, Materiality, and the “Resource Turn”: The Cross-Media Application of the ‘Flame and Frond’ Style on a Lion Statuette from Zincirli, Turkey

Session VI: Knowledge as a Resource
Chair: Sandra Teuber (SFB 1070, Tübingen)

John Frow (University of Sydney): Value in the Knowledge Economy

Shyama Vermeersch / Jens Kamlah / Britt M. Starkovich (SFB 1070, Tübingen): Developments in Animal Husbandry as a Resource from the Early Bronze Age to the Late Iron Age in Lebanon

Laura Dierksmeier (SFB 1070, Tübingen): Indigenous Knowledge as Enlightened Knowledge? Medicinal Cannabis use in Colonial Mexico

Session VII: Preservation and Destruction of Resources
Chair: Norman Yoffee (University of Michigan)

Dan Hicks (University of Oxford): Museums and the Spoils of Imperial War

Frerich Schön (SFB 1070, Tübingen): Gods and Warriors. The Protection of Water Resources in Roman and Byzantine North Africa

Session VIII: Reflections and New Perspectives on ResourceCultures
Chair: Martin Bartelheim / Thomas Scholten (SFB 1070, Tübingen)

Ansgar Nünning (University of Gießen): Fictions Cultures Live by: Metaphors, Narratives and Values as Cultural Resources

Sean Downey (Ohio State University): Analysing the Emergence of a Complex Swidden Management System in the Toledo District, Belize

Thomas Thiemeyer (SFB 1070, Tübingen): ResourceCultures: Prospects and Potentials

[1] See Lance H. Gunderson / C. S. Holling, Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems, Washington 2002.
[2] See Jörg Niewöhner, Infrastrukturen der Nachhaltigkeit, in: K. Braun / C.-M. Dieterich / A. Treiber (Hrsg.), Materialisierung von Kultur: Diskurse, Dinge, Praktiken, Würzburg 2015, 490–493.

Tagungsbericht: ResourceCultures. Reflections and New Perspectives, 12.02.2020 – 14.02.2020 Tübingen, in: H-Soz-Kult, 01.04.2020, <>.
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