Centre for Advanced Study

at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

Mats Burström

Title Professor
Academic Institution Stockholm University
Academic department Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies
Country Sweden
Disciplines Archaeology
Area(s) of Expertise Archaeology of the contemporary past, Ideology of cultural heritage management

About fellow

Mats Burström is an archaeologist with a special interest in the archaeology of the contemporary past and the interplay between material culture and memory. Within this field of research he has studied material remains from the 20th century and the way in which they may offer a different understanding of this historically well-documented period of time. This is a topic with implications for the ideology and practice of culture heritage management. His current research project deals with ballast as a concrete material necessary to keep ships stable on one hand, while on the other also being a metaphor for the way in which the past influences us in different ways. The study draws together explorations of different archaeological contexts – reaching from the 16th to the 20th century – where ballast has been found and interpreted, and historical-philosophical arguments about the past as a resource or a burden for the living. While not being artefacts in the common sense of the word, the enormous amounts of stones that have been transported all over the globe as ballast is a clear statement of past human-environment interaction. Recognizing ballast stones as an archaeological material destabilizes the standard division between artefacts and natural objects.
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