The Imperial Craft: Comparative Perspectives on Production and Society in Empires

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

While craft production has always been part of the discussion about the nature of empires, recent work pushes the debate in new directions. Current research emphasizes the agency of craft producers as influential in the development of overarching systems. Such research identifies variation in production technologies and labor practices. In refocusing our attention on the dynamic role of producers, previously held beliefs about the relationship between craft production and the state have been overturned. The symposium aims to create a dialogue between scholars working in different parts of the world on the intersection between craft and empire. A comparative perspective will privilege different strategies, techniques, technologies, and social practices, while advancing new perspectives on the production of empires. The diversity of the scholars committed to giving papers that span disciplinary, theoretical, chronological, and geographical, divides, will generate unique combinations of data and lead to new lines of investigation. Although seemingly divergent, these perspectives draw attention to the critical role played by materials and by production processes in imperial contexts. The session engages the issues of craft production and its relationship with political authority, the economy of states, and the role of material culture in the negotiation of power relations.

Geographic Keywords
South AmericaEuropeWest AsiaAFRICA

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-9 of 9)

  • Documents (9)

  • Craft, Industry, and Landscape, in the Roman Imperial Marble Trade (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Bradley Sekedat.

    This paper provides an introduction to the session and its associated topics, while also presenting a case study of marble quarries in the Roman empire. Long regarded as an example of imperial power shaping craft production in provincial settings, the case study presented here explores these political and social relationships as located practices that play out in a landscape context. The dynamic interplay between local environmental conditions, existing social practices, and political power...

  • Crafting Identity and Wealth on the North Coast of Peru (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Cathy Costin.

    The "organization of production" is not a monolithic, homogeneous entity in complex empires, and the production of different types of goods will be organized commensurate with the role they play in sociopolitical processes. In this paper, I investigate the ways in which craft production was reorganized after the Inka conquest of the Chimú polity of Peru to control the creation and deployment of wealth and to manipulate the construction of social identity in the changing sociopolitical landscape....

  • Crafting the Fringes of French Imperialism: Ceramic Politics in Siin, Senegal (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Johanna Pacyga. François Richard.

    In this paper, we examine aspects of craft production in west-central Senegal between the 18th and 20th century. This period encompasses turbulent political times marked, in succession, by the apogee of African centralized polities, the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, the advent of formal colonial empires, and the establishment of the postcolonial state of Senegal. Using a perspective of the long-term blending archaeological and ethnohistoric evidence, we explore the dynamics of ceramic...

  • Frontier, Inka craft production and the Kallawaya territory (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sonia Alconini.

    In this paper I will evaluate the nature of Inka specialized craft production in the province of Kallawaya, and the ways in which the manufacture and distribution of imperial pottery was an avenue to enhance status. I have two goals in this presentation. First, using archaeological and ethohistoric data, I will assess the nature of production in the ceramic workshop of Milliraya and the role of specialized mitmaqkuna colonies in such processes. Second, I will illuminate the ways in which the...

  • Going Where the Job Takes You: Itinerant Producers in the Eastern Roman Empire (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sarah Craft.

    Architectural relationships between the eastern Roman imperial capital at Constantinople and its provinces have traditionally been understood as derivative. In the province of Isauria on the southern coast of Anatolia, however, distinctive remains have led to the conceptualization of a group of native stonemasons known as ‘Isaurian builders,’ who traveled through provinces across Anatolia and northern Syria, leaving in their wake an identifiably Isaurian style of early Christian churches. At the...

  • Local Effects of Imperial Craft Production in Highland and Coastal Peru (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Amanda Aland. R. Alan Covey.

    During the Late Intermediate Period (LIP, c. AD 1000-1400), longstanding traditions of specialized craft work and distribution of wealth goods on the north coast of Peru culminated under the rule of the Chimú Empire. In contrast, the same period in the highlands shows little evidence of specialization or large-scale access to wealth goods during the advent of the Inca Empire. This paper will compare the evidence for craft production and wealth consumption at sites located in valleys near the...

  • Producing Pottery in a Province of the Hittite Empire (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Steven Karacic.

    The Hittite Empire seized control of Cilicia, corresponding with the present-day states of Mersin and Adana in the Republic of Turkey, in the latter half of the second millennium BCE. While this region was under imperial rule, Hittite-style pottery became the most common ceramic type. Geochemical analysis of the pottery from Tarsus-Gözlükule, an urban center within Hittite Cilicia, indicates that the Hittite-style pottery was locally produced. At the same time, alternative ceramic types are...

  • A Tale of Three Assemblages (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Bradley Parker.

    This paper examines ceramic production in the Upper Tigris River Valley of southeastern Anatolia before and during the incorporation of this region into the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Using manufacturing techniques and technologies as windows on the organization of ceramic production, this paper argues that imperial incorporation drastically altered the organization of labor, the distribution of ceramic type fossils and the relationship between producers and consumers. This paper also suggests that,...

  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier… Potter? Roman Legionary Ceramic Production and its Organization (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Elizabeth Murphy.

    One of the most iconic images of the Roman Empire was and is that of the Legions, citizen-warriors clad in shiny lorica segmentata and with gladius in-hand. These soldiers were however skilled not only in the art of war, but also in crafts and trades – supplying and supporting the operations of the Roman imperial military through their daily activities. One such industry about which we have relatively extensive evidence is ceramic production (of tile, brick, and pottery). While most ceramic...