Sensing the Past – Summary

Sensing the Past, 7-9 Oct 2021

A workshop in applied sensory archaeology and heritage assessment

Pamela Jordan and Sara Mura

***Some sessions of this workshop were recorded, please send an email to for more information***

The international workshop Sensing the Past: A workshop in applied sensory archaeology and heritage assessmentwas held in Amsterdam from October 7th-9th 2021. Organized by PhD candidates Pamela Jordan and Sara Mura (School for Heritage, Memory, and Material Culture, University of Amsterdam), the workshop brought together established scholars and early-stage researchers across disciplines who apply sensory approaches to their heritage and archaeology research. Over 140 registered participants joined to exchange theories, methodologies, and experiences regarding any sensory approach. The workshop started with two full days of online talks grouped into four themed sessions: Senses of Places, Motion and Synaesthesia, Approaching the Object, and Senses and Cognition. The fifteen presentations were anchored with a keynote address by Dr. Sue Hamilton, which generously wove themes and questions raised throughout the two days with decades of her own experience applying sensory approaches to archaeology.

After two days of sensory consideration from a distance, an in-person sensory walk was held on October 9th at the Fort bij Uithoorn to conclude the workshop. The fort was originally built as part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam and inscribed in the Stelling van Amsterdam UNESCO world heritage site. A historical presentation and guided tour were given by Mr. René Ros from the Documentation Centre Defence Line of Amsterdam, revealing how the site maintains many of its original physical features. The subsequent sensory survey offered an approach for participants to analyse historic sensory contributions to such a relatively intact historic space while the echoes of the previous two days’ talks were still resonating. A final group conversation on the potentials and challenges of such an approach pointed towards how participants could contribute to other redevelopment dialogues beyond mere material evidence.

The workshop was a collaboration of the Universiteit van Amsterdam and the Vrije Universiteit Research Institute CLUE+, made possible with the support of Prof. Dr. Gert-Jan Burgers, the ARCHON National Research School of Archaeology, the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture, and the Amsterdam Centre for Ancient Studies and Archaeology.

On behalf of ARCHON we thank Pamela Jordan and Sara Mura for this great initiative!