By guest blogger, on 16 January 2012
Professor Andrew Reynolds, Professor of Medieval Archaeology, UCL Institute of Archaeology
Monday 9 January saw the opening event of the Institute of Archaeology’s 75th Anniversary programme with an engaging tour de force from Cyprian Broodbank, Professor of Mediterranean Archaeology, who delivered his inaugural lecture to a packed house.
An audience of almost 200 filled the Institute’s main lecture theatre to capacity – with standing room only – shortly before Cyprian’s lecture was introduced by Professor Stephen Shennan, Director of the Institute, with Professor Stephen Smith, UCL’s Dean of Social and Historical Sciences, in the Chair.
At the core of his lecture lay the notion that a focus on the Classical period in the Mediterranean region has obscured from view much earlier social and economic reactions to the ‘Middle Sea’.
Escaping the traditional bounds of period- and regionally-based archaeology, Cyprian drew widely on the archaeology of human societies from the later palaeolithic (later stone age) onwards, incorporating recent ethnographic material, and ranged in equal measure across this vast and varied cultural melting pot – a maritime region that links the Iberian peninsula, with its distinctive (but less well-known) prehistoric archaeology, in the west with the eastern Mediterranean and the so-called ‘cradle of civilisation’.
Geographically much closer connections between north Africa and southern Europe, of course, also loom large in the overall picture of Mediterranean culture across the periods. Cyprian’s agile traverse across such complex physical and intellectual territory provided a refreshing perspective that encouraged his audience to think in a critical comparative mode.
Although relieved of questions from his audience immediately following his presentation – as is traditional for an inaugural lecture – Cyprian proceeded to a warm and lively reception in the Institute’s AG Leventis Gallery of Cypriot and Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology, a wonderful display of material from the Mediterranean world in which he played a key part in bringing to public accessibility.
Overall, Cyprian’s lecture encapsulated the spirit of the Institute: busy, intellectually penetrating and wide-ranging and socially alive.
Professor Broodbank’s lecture is one of a series of 75th anniversary inaugural lectures being held in 2012 to mark the Institute’s 75 years leading global archaeology. Further details of all anniversary events are available on the Institute’s dedicated 75th anniversary webpages.