It’s Published! The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record

Inspiring action through archaeology’s emotive powers

Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 17.50.23After presenting an overview last year, I’m really excited to say that my article on “The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record” has been published in European Journal of Archaeology (EJA)The EJA has an interesting feature that allows you to access the final published version online in read-only format (not available for download). I’ve also put the accepted version of the manuscript on the usual forums, including ResearchGate, and if you want a Word version to use with document readers, please email me.

Why Enchantment?

The gist of my argument is that I believe archaeology can change the world for the better through its inherent and highly distinctive capacity to generate wonder and enchantment among human beings.

As I summarise, there is a vast amount of evidence that robustly demonstrates these transformative potentials and their specific individual, local and broader impacts. There is also ample evidence on how exactly we might create situations that prime people for enchanting experiences.

Yet for the most part we aren’t applying this knowledge – or aren’t applying it well and critically. Where it is done, it’s almost always in relation to non-specialist public engagement. This misses the point that engagement activities grow out of primary data collection and interpretation, so if these primary practices are disenchanted, disenchanting, or otherwise devoid of affect, secondary efforts to engage people are far less likely to succeed to their full potential (if at all).

How do we ‘do’ enchantment?

I believe we can deliberately weave affective practices into all aspects of our archaeological methodologies and project designs, therein offering us a more contextual and dynamic model for doing, recording, interpreting, publicising and archiving archaeology.

This is not necessarily an easy or straightforward task, but I think we’ve proven it can work in terms of:

We are now investigating how we can revise typical recording tools (e.g., context sheets, photo logs), and archiving practices/infrastructure (e.g., metadata and descriptions, thesauri, ontologies) to fuel and support these enchantment efforts. Various initiatives are planned in the upcoming year or so – please stay tuned, and if you are willing to be involved, please do let me know.


I would like to send a massive THANK YOU to the editors of this particular issue of the EJA: Marta Díaz-Guardamino, Colleen Morgan, and Cate Frieman. I have never had a more positive, constructively thought-provoking review experience. The approach that these editors took in terms of whoever they recruited for my anonymous peer reviews, led me to feel some renewed hope for a process that I otherwise find mostly broken and disenchanting. My anonymous reviewers enabled me to think differently (rather than discouraging me from thinking), and this has helped to provide further inspiration. For instance, we’re involved in a lot of exciting things right now for EMOTIVE, including a VR experience, a dialogical experience with 3d replica artefacts, a group-based audio experience, and a study of culturally-specific responses to affect. More soon – and follow some of these adventures on Twitter or Instagram.


As a closing note, there are some wonderful papers in this issue of EJA, and I feel that Katherine Cook’s piece, “EmboDIYing Disruption: Queer, Feminist and Inclusive Digital Archaeologies”, gets at the crux of one of the issues that has severely affected our efforts at enchantment; namely, risk. Setting in place the measures to care for people – to ensure that any burden of risk is distributed – and to ensure institutions themselves invest in genuine structural change to support affective and inclusive practices (rather than obliging individuals or small-scale, time-limited projects to assume total responsibility for experimenting with these practices) is crucial. Cook offers some ideas on what is at stake and how we might negotiate risk, which really resonated with me.

Anyway, I appreciate your constructive criticism on my article if you’d be willing to share it.

The full reference is: Perry, Sara (2019) The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record. European Journal of Archaeology 22(3), 354-371.

Thank you!

The enchantment of the archaeological record

A case for flipping archaeological practice around from a crisis-led model to an enchantment-led model…

I have the great fortune of presenting tomorrow at the European Association of Archaeologists’ annual conference, hosted this year in sunny Barcelona. I’m in an incredible session called Human, Posthuman, Transhuman Digital Archaeologies, featuring some of my heroes and professional inspirations (Friday 7 Sept, 14:00 – 18:30, Room: UB220, Hashtag:#S363). You can read many of their full papers online on Colleen’s website.

As it’s the culmination of many years of my thinking, I’m not able to circulate my 8000-word paper (it will hopefully be published in full very shortly). However I have tried to distil the argument into a few slides, copied below. In distilling the argument down so much, I’ve had to make a lot of generalising statements (a few of the most blatant of which are highlighted via *an asterisk). I do not claim there are no exceptions, and I am certainly not the first to put forward aspects of this argument. What I am hoping to do, however, is draw everything together into a workable model of practice that is not grounded in the discipline’s normative crisis mode of operation. This is my first attempt at articulating an enchantment model for archaeology.

While there are literally hundreds of people who have worked with me to refine these ideas, I need to explicitly acknowledge Katrina Gargett, Sierra McKinney, Sophia Mirashrafi and Angeliki Tzouganatou, whose research endeavours are allowing us to test some of this model in practice. I am indebted to you all.

I hope to see everyone in Barcelona or otherwise discuss these issues in other venues!

Sara Perry @archaeologistsp #1

Sara Perry @archaeologistsp #2

Sara Perry @archaeologistsp #3

Sara Perry @archaeologistsp #4

Sara Perry @archaeologistsp #5

Sara Perry @archaeologistsp #6

Sara Perry @archaeologistsp #7

Sara Perry @archaeologistsp #8