The Mediterranean Archaeology Australasian Research Community (MAARC) was conceived in Auckland in February 2020 during the international conference ‘Exchanging Ideas: Trade, Technology and Connectivity and pre-Roman Italy‘ when, over a coffee, we lamented the fact that there was no regional network or annual event that really catered to Mediterranean archaeology. Given that void, we noted that many of us look predominantly towards Europe and the United States for our networks, limiting interactions between the many excellent scholars and postgraduate students working on the ancient Mediterranean from universities in Australia and New Zealand, and creating serious issues of access and equity to such overseas networks based on personal research budgets and postgraduate funding. MAARC attempts to fill this gap; it is intended to facilitate a sense of community and encourage interaction, communication, and collaboration between those researching the archaeology of the Ancient Mediterranean (intended in the broadest possible sense) in the Australasian region. It also hopes to do this in a consciously economical manner, keeping access as open and equitable as possible.
Since that conference in Auckland, now nine months ago, much has happened. A standing committee has been set up with representatives from 15 different universities in Australia and New Zealand that harbour an Ancient History and/or Mediterranean Archaeology program. These representatives will serve as a point of contact and information dissemination. At the same time, social (academic) media accounts (Twitter, Academia) were opened, an email address was created (firstname.lastname@example.org) and a dedicated website was built that, in due time, will hopefully function as the to-go-to place for news and events regarding the archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean.
A key element of our community is an annual (online) meeting that rotates around the various institutions in the region. We envisage these meetings to be low key, informal and affordable, with free registration and attendance, and no annual membership fee. The inaugural meeting will be held as a completely online event, hosted by the University of Melbourne, on January 28-30, 2021. Subsequent events will likely be at least ‘blended’ to allow online attendance and presentations from those who can’t make the trip.
We have been overwhelmed by the incredible amount of enthusiasm from colleagues and students alike for our community and the inaugural meeting. Much of this traction is of course linked to current issues and developments both on a global and on a more regional scale. The strong decline in the number of overseas students – for long an important pillar of university finances – coupled with a recent overhaul of university funding in Australia (that has been particularly punitive towards the Humanities) will undoubtedly influence research and travel budgets for Australasian academics. At the same time, the ongoing uncertainty around international travel due to the global coronavirus pandemic and the difficulties for Australasian scholars in participating in overseas e-conferences (due to time differences) make this the perfect moment to establish a regional network and conference series.
For the upcoming MAARC-conference we have received nine session proposals that elucidate the quality and the breadth of research into the ancient Mediterranean conducted from Australian and New Zealand Universities. To name just a few of them we will have a session investigating the emergence of complex societies across the Mediterranean (organised by Holly Winter, University of Sydney); a panel on the role of Australasian women in Mediterranean Studies (organised by Candance Richards, The University of Sydney and Amelia Brown, University of Queensland); a session on the study of Mediterranean Archaeological Collections in Australasia (organised by Candace Richards, University of Sydney; Joshua Emmitt, University of Auckland and Rebecca Phillipps, University of Auckland) and a panel on Ancient food production and consumption (organised by Sophia Aharonovich, Macquarie University and Emlyn Dodd, Macquarie University).
At the same time, the meeting will also incorporate a general session, as well as flash- (with 10-minute papers) and digital poster sessions. We are also thinking of organizing a number of online ‘social events’ to recreate what has always been one of the main reasons why so many of us attend in-person conferences: the opportunities in-between sessions to discuss our work and forge professional friendships and collaborations with like-minded people. Although the digital environment obviously isn’t as conducive to this as a typical conference venue, we are hoping to capture some of this aspect as well.
We are pleased to invite all those interested in the archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean to take part in the inaugural meeting. You still have three weeks to submit a proposal for a contribution to one of the general or themed sessions (deadline is the 30th of November). For an overview of all sessions and instructions on how to apply you can visit the MAARC website: https://mediterraneanarcha.wixsite.com/maarc/meeting-2021. You can of course also attend without presenting a paper – in that case it suffices to register for the meeting by sending us a mail to the above-mentioned MAARC email adress.
We hope to welcome you in great numbers!