Social Sciences

Archaeology matters. Historical archaeology is relevant to the challenges facing our contemporary world.

Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference

Positioning Archaeology for the Future

October 3-5, 2019

15th Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference
Location: Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI
Hosts: Department of Social Sciences | Great Lakes Research Center

Can historical archaeology help people imagine a sustainable world? Sustainable Archaeology highlights the critical juncture that human societies face at this moment. How are historical, industrial, and contemporary archaeologies relevant? How do they contribute to evolving dialogues about sustainable interactions among communities, societies, and environments? Can archaeology inform discussions regarding mitigation, adaptation,  and resiliency? Archaeology illuminates patterns of human behavior in time and over space, examining the complex, and sometimes confounding, nature of change and risk. Like any community, archaeologists work with different methodological modes, from scientific to humanistic, ecological to aesthetic. Such eclectic perspectives, requiring movement between different domains of understanding, become a wellspring of creativity. If future communities are going to value archaeology, however, those who do it must not pretend to study only the past or do too much navel gazing. Practitioners must engage with the present and work to inform the future, blending the boundaries between academic and applied work.

Humanity faces acute questions related to social and environmental sustainability. Archaeologists often engage these issues while thinking about global forces such as capitalism and colonialism, but also (and more critically) within communities, examining the articulation between the local and the global. But are we as critical of the sustainability of our own field? Our own communities of practice? We must build projects with diverse stakeholder participation, ranging from outreach to collaboration, if we will productively engage societal issues. If we fail to do this, archaeology will not matter to communities of the future. 

At this conference, we will position archaeology as a sustainability science, a systematic examination of the sustainability of interactions among different social and natural systems. The theme of sustainability underscores the relevancy of the discipline and contributes to contemporary discussions about the future in creating a just and sustainable world. MHAC15 participants will bring their own experiences and perspectives to explore the issue of sustainability and archaeology. We invite presentations by archaeologists and their allies that share intellectual concerns for the past five centuries and the century to come.

The MHAC is a meeting that emphasizes non-traditional interactions. While there will be a small number of slots for traditional slide-based presentations, the majority of conference time will be spent in community and site visits, walking engagements with post-industrial landscapes, roundtable discussions, workshops, and facilitated and informal discussions. Posters, Performance, and Petcha Kutcha-style speed talks are also welcome. Some structured interactions will lead archaeologists to expand their perspective of sustainability by engaging with non-archaeological and non-academic provocateurs working in heritage and sustainability issues. 

The conference committee notes that the 2019 MHAC will meet in Ojibwa (Chippewa) homelands and ceded-territory established by the Treaty of 1842. The Keweenaw and larger Upper Peninsula are the territory of Native American nations in Gakiiwe’onaning (Keweenaw Bay), Gete-gitgaaning (Lac Vieux Desert), Mashkii-ziibing (Bad River),  Odaawaa-zaaga’iganing (Lac Courte Oreilles), Waaswaaganing (Lac Du Flambeau), Miskwaabikong (Red Cliff), Wezaawaagami-ziibiing (St. Croix), and Zaka’aaganing (Sokaogon Mole Lake). 

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Hotel and Travel


There a number of hotels in the area of Houghton and Hancock. In early October, the areas around Houghton and Hancock are wonderful landscapes for commuting on foot or bike. There are many other options for places to stay, from Bed and Breakfasts to campgrounds to full service hotels. The Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau keeps a database.

While October is between the peaks of tourism seasons in the Copper Country, our mid-70s summers and 180"-220" snowy winters, the meeting will occur during the peak of color season in the Upper Peninsula. Leaf Peepers might be out in full force, so book your rooms and plane tickets now!

Hotels offering a limited number of discount rooms:

Super 8 by Wyndham Houghton

1200 East Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, Michigan 49931-1300

Magnuson Franklin Square Inn

820 Shelden Avenue
Houghton Michigan 49931
888.487.1700 [Toll Free]
906-487-1700 [Phone]
906-487-9432 [Fax]


By car, Houghton is four hours from Green Bay or Duluth; six from Milwaukee, Madison, or Minneapolis; eight hours from Chicago; and nine from Detroit. Please be sure that your GPS is navigating to Houghton (49931) and not Houghton Lake (48629). Seriously. It happens.

Our small airport is the Houghton County Memorial Airport (Code: CMX). This airport is 15 minutes from Michigan Tech, but gets only two flights per day. It is serviced by United Express. The next closest airport is Marquette’s Sawyer International Airport (MQT), which is a two-hour drive from Houghton.


In coming weeks, we will post other updates about #MHAC15 that will include things to do before or after the conference, as well as cultural, historical, and natural events for those travelers that will not be attending the conference.

There will be many sites and events listed, including activities from diving to driving, waterfalls to cemeteries, and of course, breweries and local foodways! Take a look at what our area has to offer.

Concurrent with MHAC15, faculty from Finlandia University and Michigan Tech’s Department of Social Sciences will also be running a living history fair about Viking life and culture in Finland. (The neighboring town of Hancock features strong Finnish cultural connections, down to dual named streets.) One highlight of this event will be an experimental archaeology project, firing an iron-age bloomery furnace that will reduce iron from ore. Conference attendees are welcome to drop in at any time during the day’s events.

About the Copper Country

The first weekend in October is generally the peak of the color foliage season in Michigan’s “Copper Country,” when ski mountains like Mont Ripley and Mount Bohemia offer cheap lift rides to leaf-peeping hikers. The Keweenaw Peninsula enjoys unrivaled outdoor recreation and cultural/geological heritage opportunities, from world class off-road mountain biking, trail running, and road biking; hiking and camping; paddling, diving, and fishing; heritage foodways; and a local music and brewery scene. Lake Superior acts in our world, creating a microclimate of mild fall weather. The world’s largest lake (by some measures) contains enough volume, if you could empty it out onto the flat ground, it would cover all of North, Central, and South America with eleven inches of potable water. The Mid-Continental Rift and Lake Superior are not like “your” Midwest. The Keweenaw’s billion-year-old landscape and one of the world’s largest lakes has inspired a geoheritage movement.

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