The World Archaeology Keynote Lecture Series is devoted to advancing scholarly exchange and interaction among scholars from different countries across the world by discussing innovative methods, findings and theories in the field of archaeology. Among the major themes addressed are those that have direct relevance to the issues confronting our world today and in the future.
The comparative archaeology of ancient civilizations was the primary theme for the inaugural Shanghai Archaeology Forum. As late Professor Bruce Trigger pointed out,“the most important issue confronting the social sciences is the extent to which human behavior is shaped by factors that operate cross-culturally as opposed to factors that are unique to particular cultures” (Understanding Early Civilizations, 2003). By using comparative methods, archaeologists can understand the material record of past cultures and explore variation over time and space. Comparative analysis is the best way, if not the only way, to determine commonalities and regularities in human behavior, and to identify unique features as well as variations of human societies and cultures. Many fundamental institutions of modern society are deeply rooted in ancient civilizations that emerged many millennia ago. The study of ancient civilizations has significant implications for the understanding and solution of many contemporary problems or even crises such as globalization, economic and social inequality, and long-term sustainability and resilience of human societies. The investigation and comparison of ancient civilizations have been always of primary interest in modern archaeology, and understanding the causes and consequences of the rise and fall of ancient civilizations has been of great interest to archaeologists for a long time. However, the advancement of our knowledge on the emergence of ancient civilizations and the social, economic, political, and population dynamics of early cities, states, and empires has been hampered by the relative lack of rigorous comparative studies.
Seven keynote speeches were presented in the World Archaeology Keynote Lecture Series, concerning, but not limited to, methodologies and key themes of comparative analysis in the investigation of ancient civilization through the examination of case studies, the range of temporal and spatial variation of early complex societies across different regions and within specific macro-regions, the development of social inequality, the processes of urbanization, and the importance of economy, ritual, and monumentality in early civilizations.
The Art of Urbanism: Recent Comparative Studies of the Ideological and Environmental Foundations of Highland and Lowland Mesoamerican Cities and States
William L. Fash, Jr. (Harvard University, USA)
Archaeology for Our times
Fekri Hassan (French University in Egypt)
The Comparative Archaeology of Ancient Civilizations
Charles Higham (University of Otago, New Zealand)
The Indus Civilization (2600-1900 BCE): Early Urbanism in South Asia and its Legacy
Jonathan Mark Kenoyer (University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA)
The Origins of Ritual and Monumentality in Prehistory: a Comparative Approach
Colin Renfrew (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom)
The Ritualized Economy and the Origins of Complex Society: An Archaeological Perspective
Charles Stanish (University of California, Los Angeles, USA)
The Formation of Early Chinese Civilization: An Archaeological Perspective
Wang Wei (Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)