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The Sainsbury Institute Abroad

The Centre for Archaeology and Heritage at the Eighth World Archaeological Congress, Kyoto

Simon Kaner together (Head of Sainsbury Institute Centre for Archaeology and Heritage) with Negita Yoshio (Chief Archaeologist at Agency for Cultural Affairs) at WAC

Simon Kaner together (Head of Sainsbury Institute Centre for Archaeology and Heritage) with Negita Yoshio (Chief Archaeologist at Agency for Cultural Affairs) at WACThis summer (28th Aug. – 8th Sept.) the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage attended the World Archaeological Congress in Kyoto. The World Archaeological Congress (WAC) is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation and is the only archaeological organisation with elected global representation. In addition to its global role in championing archaeology and heritage, WAC plays a major role in bringing together scholars, heritage professionals, students and members of the public in a series of World Archaeological Congresses held at different locations around the world. This year’s WAC Congress came to Kyoto, excitingly the first time it has been held in East Asia. This represented a wonderful opportunity to publicise the work of the Sainsbury Institute’s Centre for Archaeology and Heritage and to generate further interest in Japanese archaeology amongst the wider archaeological community.

As a crucial part of our promotion the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage had a dedicated exhibition space at the Congress where we exhibited educational, research and publicity materials related to our various activities and projects, including our research projects, our collaborative teaching programs and online resources, as well as publications. This provided an excellent forum for engaging with a wide range of the Congress attendees and delegates to explain the work we do and to publicise the wider activities of the Sainsbury Institute. There was a tremendous amount of interest in our activities, both amongst those already interested in Japanese archaeology and those who had previously had little knowledge of the field.

Importantly, timed to coincide with WAC-8 was the publication of a major archaeological publication on Japanese archaeology which was officially launched at the Congress, An Illustrated Companion to Japanese Archaeology, edited by Werner Steinhaus and Simon Kaner (published by Archaeopress). This publication provides for the first time a comprehensive visual introduction to a wide range of sites and finds from the earliest occupation of the Japanese archipelago prior to 35,000 years ago to the early historical periods. The book was extremely well-received, clearly reflecting the important role it will play in filling-in what has long been a major gap in the scholarly literature.

World Archaeological Congress opening address by Professor Koji Mizoguchi, President of WAC
World Archaeological Congress opening address by Professor Koji Mizoguchi, President of WAC

The Congress was an ideal forum for our wider promotion of Japanese archaeology and heritage thanks to the presence there of archaeologists from all over the world. Through our extensive heritage and archaeology networks we were also able to provide significant support to WAC-8 Kyoto as a forum for establishing links between international researchers. In particular this was a great opportunity to link British archaeologists and heritage professionals with their counterparts in Japan. To aid this we sponsored a special session at the Congress highlighting some of the key recent archaeological projects in Britain, with the aim of introducing Japanese archaeologists to current British archaeological practice and some of the key figures involved. The Sainsbury Institute supported a number of British archaeologists to take part in this session and we also organised some visits either side of the Congress to help link up British colleagues with colleagues in Japan and to introduce them to some of the exciting archaeology to be found there. Developing and maintaining such relationships between Japan and Britain is a major part of the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage’s activity (see a new video which we have recently released on this element of our work, hosted on Youtube and this was an opportunity not to be missed to set up some new and hopefully lasting connections.

At the Congress we also organised a session looking at ‘Global Perspectives on Religious Heritage’, focused around the sacred island site of Okinoshima , for which a bid for UNESCO World Heritage status is currently in progress. An accessible introductory volume Okinoshima: the outstanding value of Japan’s sacred heritage – a World Heritage nomination by Simon Kaner, Natasha Hutcheson and Nishitani Tadashi will be published by Springer Briefs in 2017. Another session we were involved in was co-organised by our Handa Archaeology Fellow, Yoshida Yasuyuki, entitled ‘Beads and Jade: Transnational Archaeology in Asia’.

Conference attendees at the Sainsbury Institute display area
Conference attendees at the Sainsbury Institute display area

Already we have seen some positive results from our activities at the Congress, as during a recent visit to Britain by a group of Japanese archaeologists one of our British colleagues who took part in the WAC Congress was delighted to be able to welcome them to the sites he is excavating in the Orkney islands! We look forward to many future such productive results of the various relationships developed at WAC.

Sam Nixon
Senior Research Associate
Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures

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