Universiteit Leiden

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Archaeological Heritage and Society

The researchers and students at the Department of Archaeological Heritage and Society at the Faculty of Archaeology study the role of the past in modern societies. They want to find out more about the relationships between the past and the present, and the role that heritage plays.

The archaeologists from the Department work together with Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam in the joint Centre for Global Heritage and Development. This interdisciplinary centre can answer questions that the researchers from Leiden would not be able to answer alone. The focus is on three themes: Heritage & Environment, Identity, and Heritage under Threat.

Reflecting on the past

The research at this department is unique to the Netherlands and the rest of the world. Using methods verging on anthropology and sociology, the archaeologists consider the relevance of the past to the present. They reflect on ideas and customs from the past and the application and interpretation of these in the present.

They share the knowledge that they acquire not only in academic publications but also in exhibitions, TV, radio and newspaper interviews and a free MOOC.

Four lines of research

There are four lines of research at the Department of Archaeological Heritage and Society:

  • Archaeological Heritage Management
  • The Heritage and Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Landscape, Heritage and Governance
  • Museum Studies

Rather than sticking to one line, the Department’s researchers switch between them.

Within Archaeological Heritage Management, the researchers study the identification, protection, management and preservation of archaeological locations and sources around the world. They seek out optimal forms of management by identifying different interest groups, generating mutual understanding and trying to balance different interests. They answer questions such as who our heritage belongs to and whether everyone can use and enjoy it.

Local communities

The Heritage and Rights of Indigenous Peoples group focuses on the living heritage of indigenous peoples and its preservation. The past and the present are thus connected in local communities. The research is conducted together with indigenous peoples. One researcher, for instance, attempted to revitalise indigenous languages in Mexico, the Mayan language in particular, through films, books and other expressions.

Historical land use

Landscape, Heritage and Governance is an interdisciplinary research area that includes the fields of archaeology, cultural geography and environmental science. The research here focuses on processes that span centuries as the physical landscape develops. The researchers also look at the landscape as a concept and the change that it has undergone in the past.

The relevance of museums

The researchers in the Museum Studies group study museum practices from an archaeological, historical and anthropological perspective. They look at such matters as collecting and the history and relevance of museum collections.

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