The Archaeology of Social Inequality: On the Eve of the Great Famine

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The rise of archaeology as a profession has done much to enrich our understanding of prehistoric eras, which had been a long misunderstood chapter in the human story.  But what can the pursuit of archaeology contribute to our knowledge of more recent historical time periods, which already provide textual clues about the way people lived?  It turns out that archaeological research often reveals quite a different story than the one passed down to us by the written word.  Join our guest Dr. Charles Orser, Jr., who will be discussing his research on the daily life of the rural Irish on the eve of and during the Great Famine of 1845-50.  From 1994-2007, Dr. Orser excavated at 6 house sites in counties Roscommon, Sligo, and Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. This was the first sustained archaeological effort to investigate the lives of the common families who suffered through the Famine and who eventually came to the United States (as well as to Canada and Australia) as a result.  His research there has documented that the people were not “peasants” but were tied into the British market as much as anyone else at the time.

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Dr. Orser is an anthropological historical archaeologist who investigates the modern world as it was created after about 1492.  He is the founder and continuing editor of the International Journal of Historical Archaeology, and his research interests include historical archaeology and anthropology; post-Columbian archaeology; practice, network, and sociospatial theory; globalization and consumerism; and social inequality, discrimination, and poverty.

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