The late Neolithic midden in Orkney: Decay, assemblages and the efficacy of unwanted things

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Archaeology is in crisis. Spatial turns, material turns and the ontological turn have directed the discipline away from its hard-won battle to find humanity in the past. Meanwhile, popularised science, camouflaged as archaeology, produces shock headlines built on ancient DNA that reduce humanity’s most intriguing historical problems to two-dimensional caricatures. Today archaeology finds itself less able than ever to proclaim its relevance to the modern world.

This volume foregrounds the relevance of the scholarship of John Barrett to this crisis. Twenty-four writers representing three generations of archaeologists scrutinise the current turmoil in the discipline and highlight the resolutions that may be found through Barrett’s analytical framework. Topics include archaeology and the senses, the continuing problem of the archaeological record, practice, discourse, and agency, reorienting archaeological field practice, the question of different expressions of human diversity, and material ecologies. Understanding archaeology as both a universal and highly specific discipline, case-studies range from the Aegean to Orkney, and encompass Anatolia, Korea, Romania, United Kingdom and the very nature of the Universe itself. This critical examination of John Barrett’s contribution to archaeology is simultaneously a response to his urgent call to arms to reorient archaeology in the service of humanity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFar from equilibrium
Subtitle of host publicationAn archaeology of energy, life and humanity
EditorsMichael Boyd, Roger Doonan
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxbow Books
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)1789256038, 9781789256031
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021


  • Neolithic
  • Neolithic Orkney
  • Prehistory
  • Archaeology
  • John Barrett
  • midden
  • assemblage
  • decay


Dive into the research topics of 'The late Neolithic midden in Orkney: Decay, assemblages and the efficacy of unwanted things'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this