The concern of this research programme is to provide knowledge of the long-term process that creates heritage – an intriguing category that unites materials with culture in a processual and still uncharted manner. Using archaeological, historical and anthropological perspectives, the fulfilment of this objective heeds a broad explorative approach to the ways individuals, groups and societies have engaged culturally with materials in the past and in the present, examining specific situations as well as longer term trends of what has broadly been called Deep History with archaeology as core subject.
We pay attention to the strategies that underpin human interaction with the tactile and visible world of materials resulting in their incorporation or rejection and their interpretation or dissemination. This will moreover imply tracking cultural particularities as well as universalities in an effort to identify what is unique and what is shared.
Such a material cultural perspective invites interdisciplinary collaborations, across the humanities and integrating the natural sciences, to explore how different material forms become charged with cultural properties. A central question to cope with is why some engagements with materials become crossculturally shared and inclusive whilst others are claimed as culturally unique and in effect become exclusive and even provoke tensions, conflicts, and wars.
Thematic investigations will scrutinise material cultural variability, but also the human activities, encounters and emotions underpinning it. This will necessitate research into single and serial events of human-material engagements in past and present settings. It will also require studies of material transculturalism and of long-term cultural trends and social transformations reflected in material breaks and continuities, thereby allowing glimpses into the future.
The research programme encourages its researchers to utilise materials, culture and heritage as entries for their thematic research teamwork, thereby promoting studies of the processes that transform materials into culture and ultimately into the sometimes canonised category of heritage. There are thematic, theoretical, methodological and participatory overlaps between the research units, which mean that as whole they form a coherent research cluster.
The research programme examines and explains long-term cultural transformations, material cultural heritage and the interplay between materials and humans, human evolution from a combined cultural and biological perspective, and specific archaeological and culture-historical problems and contexts from prehistory to modern times. It also sets out to develop methods of examining past material worlds, formal and digital representation of material culture and its interpretation, and integrating cultural, biological and material histories.