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Victor Klinkenberg’s Leiden Experience: “I like to bring experts and ideas together”

Dr Victor Klinkenberg calls himself a generalist pur sang. As an expert on digital archaeology he has worked on nearly all the regions the Faculty of Archaeology focuses on. “All I need to do is travel to the Caribbean once, and then I have done everything we do in Leiden.” We asked him about his background, activities and ambitions.

Archaeologists in the basement

While being into archaeology as a child, it was only after an encounter with a bunch of archaeologists who were working in the basement of his parents, that Victor decided to make it his vocation. Victor started his archaeological career in the town of Deventer. Here he actually worked at the local municipal archaeology service for some years, before starting his studies in archaeology at Leiden University.

He has stayed here ever since.

Generalist tendencies

At first, he planned to go back to Deventer after finishing his studies in Archaeology of European Prehistory, but his generalist tendencies got the better of him. After finishing his bachelor’s he decided to go for a master’s in Palaeolithic Archaeology.

With his master’s degree in the pocket he went for a PhD with a research subject with a third focus: Archaeology of the Near East. “For my PhD research I investigated the activities at the site of Tell Sabi Abyad, which was a late bronze age fortress in northern Syria, built and used by the Assyrians who occupied the area.” Victor used 3D GIS techniques to get a good understanding of the changing use of the rooms inside the buildings.

Victor Klinkenberg working on the Palloures site, Cyprus. Photo by Ian J. Cohn: www.diversity-nyc.com.

Nomadic archaeologist

Victor lists off his focus topics over time. “I started with prehistory, then Palaeolithic archaeology, and digital archaeology. Methodology in archaeology became my biggest fascination. Digital archaeology, GIS, 3D GIS came after that. Now I am focusing on geoarchaeology, especially micromorphology.” “They are running themes in my career. I can apply these methods everywhere:  Eastern Netherlands, European Prehistory, Palaeolithic, Near Eastern Archaeology, working in Cyprus and Greece.” He appears to be a nomadic archaeologist, while staying put Leiden.

Methodological bridges

Focusing on methods and techniques, Victor is able to connect all the different areas. “Things I learn in Palaeolithic archaeology, I apply in the study of the near east, from which I draw methods to explore burial mounds in Netherlands.” The methodologies and digital techniques function as bridges.

At the moment, Victor works as a postdoc for prof.dr. Ann Brysbaert’s SETinSTONE project. “I investigate settlement patterns in Mycenaean Greece.” At the same time, he is running an excavation with Dr Bleda Düring in Palloures, Cyprus. “Here I add the geoarchaeology methods to the theme from my PhD research. I am exploring whether we can see any residues of activities in, for example, house floors.”

Victor Klinkenberg working on the Palloures site, Cyprus. Photo by Ian J. Cohn: www.diversity-nyc.com.


Primarily, Victor wants to continue the Palloures excavation and gaining an in-depth understanding of how the ancient Cypriots lived. But his ambitions for the future go further. “I hope to  contribute to the field of archaeology and the faculty. By really trying to develop an integrated archaeological approach in which all the techniques are understood and used in a such a way that we can transpose them from one field to another.”

His ultimate aim is to bring people and thoughts together. “It sounds a bit corny perhaps, but I find it fantastic to give the spark to interdisciplinary collaboration.”

Pass on the trowel

In this series we ask a staff member to pick a colleague of whom they would like to know more. Victor Klinkenberg passed on the proverbial trowel to Valentina Azzarà. She will be interviewed for the newsletter of February 2019.

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