Contemporary archaeology

The study of the contemporary world through the lens of archaeology was first established at the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s. The early debate focused on the idea that archaeology should investigate the phenomena of “our” contemporary society, taking distance from the ethnoarchaeological approach which aimed at building replicable models, useful for the interpretation and understanding of ancient societies. However, in the 2000s, the birth of the discipline was formally sanctioned: contemporary society became a valuable target for archaeological research.

In the last two decades, contemporary archaeology has constantly evolved, dealing with the metamorphoses of our societies and placing the material evidence at the centre of its own reflection, constantly debating both the chronological boundaries of the discipline and the set of thematic strands that could be addressed through archaeological methods. The international
research community has now come to a definition and a conscious planning of the discipline, while in Italy there has been no organic debate and reflection. There is rather an unconscious archaeology “of the contemporary”, understood as an occasional recording of 20th and 21st century archaeological data, and some sporadic experiments aimed at analysing the contemporary society through the archaeological (and more often still ethnoarchaeological) lens.

The MAPPA Laboratory is thus at the forefront in the archaeological study of today’s society, approaching different research axes, laying the foundations for a debate at the national level and developing a first project dedicated to the study of undocumented contemporary migrations in Italy.

Project by:
Francesca Anichini