Thinking through making

This year’s seminar is a one day event and shall take place in the Museum of Cultural History on November 27th 2019. Registration will only be available for the seminar as a whole.

Bildet kan inneholde: font, tekst, gul.

See the presentations

We recorded the whole event for you to watch. Go to the recordings.


In his book Making. Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture Tim Ingold has argued for the value of thinking and learning about the world through making or creating. Rather than thinking about and understanding the world in terms of describing and representing it he argues for the value of thinking about it through proactive creative engagements with its components. In particular he argues that such an approach tends to breach disciplinary barriers and may thus create common grounds for mutual multidisciplinary benefit between such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. The Museum's Research Council has been charged with trying to make steps towards tearing down or at least breaching the barriers between our diverse disciplines ranging from anthropology, archeology, art history, conservation and chemistry. We thus try to use our annual research council seminars to search for commonalities within this diversity and to stimulate interests in common grounds and mutual benefits from working in a multidisciplinary environment.

For this year’s seminar Professor Tim Ingold has accepted our invitation to be keynote speaker and to share his experiences and perspectives on the methodological and theoretical potentials of thinking through making in a multidisciplinary environment of knowledge production and exhibition making. The rest of the seminar program is still in the making and shall consist of presentations by internal colleagues as well as external scholars giving papers of various lengths on thinking through making and/or challenges and potentials for multidisciplinary understandings of the world, humans or society.


Please see below for abstracts.

0830: Doors open, coffee

0900: Welcome, by museum director Håkon Glørstad

0910: Keynote

Tim Ingold, Emeritus Professor, University of Aberdeen:

1015: short coffee break


Jan Apel,Department of Archaeology and Classical Classical Studies, Stockholm University: Nodes and tokens in traditional tool making

Kaja Kollandsrud, KHM:
Beyond the surface: Exploring meaning through the materiality of church art perceived in its medieval context

1145: Lunch


Marianne Vedeler, KHM:
Stories between Art and Archaeology

Jon Kyllingstad,Museum of University and Science History, SENKU, KHM:
Ethnic groups and disciplinary boundaries:On Cavalli-Sforza , Sami prehistory, multidisciplinarity, and human population history

1345: short coffee break


Þóra Pétursdóttir, Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, Faculty of Humanities, UiO:
Nearing through writing

Arne A. Perminow, KHM:
The headrest and the hidden boat. A hands on perspective on suitability, quality and difference in Tonga.

1515: short coffee break

Panel conversation on Thinking through making
Moderator: Anne Lene Melheim

1630 Programme ends



Tim Ingold, Emeritus Professor, University of Aberdeen

For some years, I taught a course at the University of Aberdeen entitled The 4As. It explored the common ground between the disciplines of anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture, focusing on the themes of design and making, materials, form and function, movement and gesture, the senses in perception, craft and skill, lines, drawing and notation. Responding to the theme of this seminar, however, I wonder whether we need a different 4 A’s, this time combining anthropology and archaeology with art history and alchemy. Here, drawing on my experience with the original course, I will suggest what the common themes of such a ‘new’ 4 A’s might be.  

Invited presentations (45 min including questions):

Jan Apel

Department of Archaeology and Classical Classical Studies, Stockholm University

Nodes and tokens in traditional tool making

Modern humans cannot be distinguished from other species by their ability to make tools or communicate with speech or sign language, but by the complex ways in which their technology and language are constructed and executed. Human tool production and generative language exemplifies a capacity for intentional multi-level action sequencing that characterize human cognition and this mental flexibility can produce complex artefacts, music and stories etc. While this flexibility allows for fast adaptation and development it also requires the investment in costly pedagogical milieus where technological knowledge and know-how can be transmitted. Such milieus can be studied archaeologically. In this presentation I will use some archaeological examples to discuss the importance of nodes and tokens in the production process and how they might simplify the reproduction of complex traditional techniques.

Þóra Pétursdóttir (IAKH)

Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, Faculty of Humanities, UiO

"Nearing through writing"

Writing and language are often seen as a distancing from things and matter. Telling of this, the recent turn to things - the ontological turn - is equally referred to as a turn away from discourse. While acknowledging the significance of the critique of language and the priority of the cognitive, this paper will question the reduction of language to representation. Readdressing  the dichotomy between words and things, between language and the real, this paper will discuss how writing as method may also be seen as a means of nearing, addressing and bringing forth of the significance of things.

Jon Kyllingstad

Museum of University and Science History, SENKU, MCH

Ethnic groups and disciplinary boundaries:

On Cavalli-Sforza , Sami prehistory, multidisciplinarity, and human population history

L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, the main initiator of the Human Genome Diversity Project, has been described as a giant in population genetics and a founding father of “archeo-genetics”. He was the main author of the influential book The History and Geography of Human Genes (1994), in which he advocates a theory of linguistic-genetic co-evolution:  The expansion of modern humans out of African took place through the settlement of an increasing number of semi-isolated populations around the world. These populations became genetically as well as culturally and linguistically distinct. The phylogeny of genetically distinct populations therefore overlaps with the phylogeny of languages and culturally defined groups. The history of humankind could thus be unveiled by exploring contemporary genetic and linguistic variation in the light of the archaeological record.

A salient point in this approach was the definition, delineation and operationalization of a genetic concept of population, and the way that this concept was related to concepts of culture, language and ethnicity in neighboring disciplines. My presentation takes Cavalli-Sforza et al.’s account of Sami prehistory as a starting point. I will argue that the theory of linguistic-genetic co-evolution was based on a concept of population, which was more or less incompatible with the concept of ethnicity that guided contemporary archaeological research on Sami prehistory, but had important affinities to a concept of race, typical for pre-war physical anthropology and archaeology.

Shorter presentations from MCH (30 min including questions):

Kaja Kollandsrud
Beyond the surface: Exploring meaning through the materiality of church art perceived in its medieval context

Visual and analytical analyses of medieval church art and their scientifically based reconstructions have brought new knowledge to how physical object communicated meaning through visual effects of materials and colour. The perception of polychrome sculpture when seen through the period eye, makes it evident that the painterly techniques are part of a deliberate visual vocabulary that aims to visualize the holy. Furthermore, how physical objects reflect mental images created in contemporary text. Reconstructions demonstrate how objects could perform and interact with the church interior space they occupied, and thereby made the holy present, real and available for the believer.

Marianne Vedeler
Stories between Art and Archaeology

Tapestries used as collective storytellers has a long tradition in Europe. The tapestries from the Oseberg grave dates back to the early Viking Age, and consists of several different artworks. Unfortunately, they are in a state of condition that makes them hard to interpret. A reconstruction of the stories told on the tapestries is only possible through a close cooperation between archaeology, art, history and chemistry. This talk is about an attempt to make (or grow?) a new story from an old one.

Arne Perminow
The headrest and the hidden boat. A hands on perspective on suitability, quality and difference in Tonga.

The presentation aims at exploring the methodological potentials of making for the discovery of central notions related to not only craftsmanship and  creativity but also characteristic  cultural concepts of general significance in the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga. Based on a fieldwork as an apprentice with a Tongan woodcarver the  ‘master carver’s’ perspective on his own creativity is illuminated. It is shown how the master carver’s perspective involves a very strong emphasis on the authority and capacity of the master carver to subject the raw material to his will and give it the correct shape that he has in mind. It is noted that in opposition to Tim Ingold’s phenomenological perspective  on making as a co-ceative and reciprocal process among makers and environmental components and forces, the master carver insists on being a subject who materializes an idea and forms the object that he has in mind. It is argued that even though Ingold’s perspective on making as exchanges in a field of forces is convincingly true to life, the master carver’s perspective is also invaluable for the development of an ethnography which is true to local concepts of how to live.  Thus it is argued that quite central cultural evaluations and shared understandings of what goes without saying, what is beautiful and what has value may be discovered by exploring making from the master carver’s perspective while  keeping Ingold’s emphasis on the significance of practitioners’ engagements with components of the surroundings in mind.

Panel conversation

Moderator: Anne Lene Melheim

Please contact if you have any questions.


KHMs forskningsråd
Publisert 4. juni 2019 06:46 - Sist endret 27. mars 2020 13:51