SMA Annual Conference. Waiting for the End of the World: The Archaeology of Risk and its Perception in the Middle Ages


2nd-4th December 2016

Rewley House, Oxford

This interdisciplinary conference will explore what happened when natural disasters affected medieval European societies (AD 500-1550). The focus is archaeological and historical but we also aim to bring together geographers, seismologists, climatologists and others to discuss the impacts of rapid onset disasters such as geophysical and hydro-meteorological hazards, among them severe weather, storm surges and flooding, drought, slope failures, volcanic eruptions, seismicity and its secondary effects such as tsunamis and seismic-induced landslides.

The roll-call of disasters during the medieval period was a lengthy one. Not only did communities respond continually to environmental hazards, their effects were also felt sometimes across the whole of Europe in a way that has not been observed in modern times. In 1258 the largest volcanic eruption of the last 7,000 years affected the entire continent, while in 1315-1321 the most serious famine in recorded European history was driven by a prolonged period of low temperatures and heavy summer rainfalls associated with abnormally warm North Atlantic sea temperatures. Other events such as the most powerful earthquake in central Europe in 1356, river floods, tsunamis in the Mediterranean and sea surges along north-western coastlines all affected specific regions so that responses by different communities can be usefully compared over a millennia. How did hazards become disasters, how did societies perceive these events and how did they react and evolve to reduce their vulnerability?

This conference will be organized around a number of sessions; some will explore the impacts and societal responses related to different categories of hazard, while others will focus on religious responses and perceptions of risk. It is the intention of the conference organizers to publish the proceedings as a monograph of the Society for Medieval Archaeology. Expressions of interest for speakers and posters are welcome. Please send these and any other queries to

Paper and poster proposals are required by June 17th 2016.

This weekend conference is the annual conference of the Society for Medieval Archaeology, but is open to all.

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