1 Exploring the Contemporary in Old Places

Evan Taylor, Elena Sesma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This chapter opens an analytic space to consider the resonance of “old places” in the contemporary moment through the lens of archaeology. Borrowing the term used by some of our interlocutors, old places are places that bear memory, that have accrued emotional attachment, and that intervene in the present as reminders of things that have happened before. Through these qualities, old places sustain life and relations. We adopt an expansive view of site formation processes that extends into the present and future and argue that studying contemporary site formation can unleash insights into the multi-temporal constitution of the world we inhabit. We do not insist on a single approach to studying these processes, but rather suggest that the methodological and theoretical diversity that archaeologists and local communities bring together is key to studying and knowing old places in the present. We draw connections between a contemporary archaeology of old places and the emergent fields of contemporary archaeology and critical heritage studies, but also argue for retaining and fully incorporating the political and activist orientations of historical, feminist, African Diaspora, and Indigenous archaeologies—fields that have long centered the knowledge and concerns of contemporary communities—into this work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-23
Number of pages19
JournalArcheological Papers of the American Anthropological Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the American Anthropological Association.


  • contemporary archaeology
  • critical archaeology
  • historical archaeology
  • materiality
  • old places

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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