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The First Archaeological Conference at the University of Antioquia

Carlos Armando Rodríguez


On September 17 and 18, 1998, the First Archaeological Conference of the University of Antioquia was held at the University Museum of the University of Antioquia in Medellín, Colombia. It was organized by the university's Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, the Department of Anthropology, the Center of Social and Human Investigations, and museum, and was supported by the Colombian Society of Archaeology and the Association of Graduate Anthropologists of the University of Antioquia.

The event was attended by 105 people, including students from several Colombian universities (Antioquia, Nacional de Colombia, del Valle), national professional archaeologists/anthropologists, and foreign nationals working in different regions of the country.

Among the 10 papers presented were discussions of the results of early archaeological projects undertaken in the 1980s, under the auspices of the Caribbean Archaeological Project as well as the 1990s rescue projects conducted by oil exploration companies. The first day was devoted to the presentation of reports on preceramic societies while the second day was concerned with presentations on complex societies. Over 10,000 years of prehistory were covered.

A number of papers (by Cristóbal Gnecco, Carlos Armando Rodríguez, Carlos Alberto López, Gustavo Santos, Emilio Piazzini, and José Manuel Rozo) examined the balance between regional archaeological research and theoretical-methodological approaches, with strong emphasis on the need to study sociocultural processes so as to overcome the current traditional focus of Colombian archaeology--technological and ecological reductionism. .

Omar Ortíz-Troncoso, Willy H. Metz, and Bernhard L. Van Beek described the archaeology of historic salt exploitation (A.D. 1521) in Venezuela, while anthropologists Marcela Duque and Ivan Espinoza spoke about the relationship between archaeology and ethnohistory and the need for interdisciplinary methods in the formulation of explanatory models of contact period and early colonial (16th century) sociocultural processes. Gustavo Santos reported on the Caribbean Archaeological Project, directed by archaeologists from the Department of Anthropology of the University of Antioquia and the Institute of Pre- and Protohistory of the University of Amsterdam.

Carlos Alberto López and Carlos Armando Rodríguez introduced the Colombian Society of Archaeology (SCA), explaining its antecedents, objectives, plans, and the importance of this entity for Colombian archaeology. Participants were invited to register in the SCA and actively participate in all the organization's events.

The conference organization, the number and topical range of reports, and the numerous and qualified participants all contributed to the well-balanced success of the conference. It succeeded in no small part due to the hard work of coordinators Gustavo Santos Vecino and Omar Ortíz Troncoso, moderators Carlos Alberto López and Carlos Armando Rodríguez, and those people and institutions that assumed the responsibility of updating the Colombian archaeological community of the country's most recent archaeological results.

The presentations faithfully reflected the two principal scientific paradigms of current Colombian archaeology: The emphasis in the descriptive, empirical approach that predominates archaeological work, and the growing interest in formulating new theoretical-methodological approaches that try to explain the dynamics of the sociocultural processes, frequently appealing to interdisciplinary studies.

There was a general consensus concerning the importance of providing an anual forum for such discussions in northern Colombia, including site visits and seminars in other regions of the country, such as the highland Cundinamarca-Boyaca, the Southwest, and Amazonia. Organizing a conference on the Colombian Preceramic, which would bring the SCA together with other entities with similar interests, also was discussed as a high priority. These conferences could become preparatory to a planned Colombian Congress of Archaeology, which could be cycled to meet every two or three years.

The implementation of undergraduate academic archaeological programs in Colombia to train professional archaeologists according to the needs and problems that the developing archaeology and prehispanic history of Colombia require was identified by participants as an urgent necessity. These programs should be articulated with the graduate degree programs that exist in the country (e.g., specialization in forensic anthropology at the National University of Colombia) and those that will be developed in the near future (e.g., M.A. in Archaeology at the University of Antioquia and M.A. in Funerary Archaeology at the National University of Colombia).

Carlos Armando Rodríguez is director of the Archaeological Museum at the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia.

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