Micro-worlds, materiality and human behaviour: Magnifying material science in explanations of technology

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

Studies of innovation and cultural transmission in material culture are scholarly obsessions as well as fundamental building blocks for regional and global archaeological narratives. The traditional emphasis on macroscopic artefact traits to explore shifting patterns of cultural variation remains dominant whilst the use of material science data to examine these questions, particularly in the context of production technology, has been slow to develop. Traits that define style and form take precedent over composition and texture.This session explores how we can better utilise material science data in building explanatory models for the evolution of technologies worldwide. It brings together a range of cross-disciplinary research projects that span different materials and continents, yet all using elemental and microscopic analyses to investigate variability in artefact production processes. Participants will demonstrate the utility of micro-scale characterizations for exploring themes ranging from purely aesthetical and sensorial to environmental and mechanical stimulants of change. Seeing no fundamental difference in the abilities of micro- and macro-scale artefact traits to address archaeological problems, we wish to probe the extent to which materials science data can generate new insights on patterns of technological behaviour.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-12 of 12)

  • Documents (12)

  • Archaeometric Analysis of Hunter-Gatherer Pottery from Northeast Asia (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Erik Gjesfjeld.

    Traditional archaeological analysis of pottery remains in East Asia has often emphasized macroscopic features of pottery including decoration, vessel form and paste composition. While these features are important in characterizing the cultural and technological aspects of pottery, microscopic and archaeometric analyses have the potential for enhancing traditional pottery research in this region by developing novel insights into social processes such as the transmission of information and...

  • Behavioral Metallurgy of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Neo-Punic Peoples (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Brett Kaufman.

    Some cultures do not just adopt or develop innovative technologies, but actually define themselves based on their technological acumen. The Phoenicians were such a culture, whose economic reliance on metallurgical and maritime knowledge went further in defining their long-term communal cohesion than did other factors. Lacking historical texts written by Phoenicians, it is only through archaeology and archaeometric analyses that such a resource-based ideology can be reconstructed. Compositional...

  • Chemical analyses and copy-errors: technological control and artistic behaviour in the making of China’s Terracotta Army (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marcos Martinon-Torres. Andrew Bevan. Xiuzhen Janice Li. Yin Xia. Kun Zhao.

    Built in the 3rd century BC, the Terracotta Army constitutes an unprecedented investment of technological resources as well as a huge work of art. An icon of a much larger mausoleum, the army of thousands of heavily armed warriors materialised in just a few decades under the command of the man who would become China’s first emperor. This paper presents some aspects of an ongoing project that investigates this logistical feat, paying particular attention to craft organisation, quality control and...

  • Does practice make perfect? Is it possible to read technological development in the actions and outputs of individual or group practitioners (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gillian Juleff.

    No smelter of iron, industrial or pre-industrial, expends energy in gathering raw materials, designing, building and running a furnace without the intention of producing useable metallic iron at the end of the process. Therefore their work is ultimately driven by a success imperative. At a macro, cultural-scale technological development may be readily discernable through indicators such as material/alloy properties, artefact traits and production levels. However, change is brought about by...

  • Immanence, configuration and the bloomery ironmaking process: identifying behavioural opportunities from physical constraints (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael Charlton.

    All metallurgical systems conform to the scientific laws defined for chemical, physical and thermodynamic interactions. These laws place clear limitations on the range of technological possibility, but, more importantly, create technological opportunity. Some metallurgical opportunities will be better suited to particular socioeconomic and natural environments than others. Models derived jointly from Materials science and Geology on one hand and evolutionary sciences on the other can offer...

  • Inclusions and Innovations in Late Neolithic Pottery from the Southern Levant (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kevin Gibbs.

    Discussions of variation over time in early Near Eastern pottery production often focus on linking changes in form or surface treatment to shifts in how pots were being used, either as a functional cooking or storage container or, in some cases, as a symbolic object. More rarely, compositional characteristics (clay, temper) are examined and these too have been considered in terms of vessel use. Some tempers, for example, are thought to be beneficial for the production of cooking pots because of...

  • Microanalytical Perspectives on the Evolution of Glass-making Technologies (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ian Freestone.

    Glass has a number of distinct chemical types which are restricted in space and time and reflect several processes including (1) the spread of a dominant glass-making technology from an inferred single place of invention by the transfer knowledge and skill through the movement of people; (2) modification of the parent technology due to restricted availability of materials or selective improvement; (3) the re-invention of glass making due to stimulus diffusion in the form of exposure to imported...

  • Non-ferrous casting molds and technical logic: What can the technical differences between the Bronze Age and Iron Age molds tell us about the technological development of metalworking? (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Daniel Sahlen.

    Studies of technological changes in non-ferrous casting during the shift between the Bronze and the Iron Age in Europe have particularly looked at changes of crucible manufacture or the use of different alloys, while technology of the casting mold has not been studied to the same extent. Mainly three types of molds were used during the prehistoric period – single piece, two-piece, and investment. The first two types were made in clay, stone and occasionally metal, while investment molds were...

  • On the transmission of pottery recipes at the dawn of the Metal Age: a case study from Pločnik and Belovode (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Silvia Amicone. Patrick Quinn. Miljana Radivojevic. Thilo Rehren.

    This paper focuses on the reconstruction of pottery recipes and their transmission in the Neolithic/Chalcolithic sites of Belovode and Pločnik (c. 5350-4650 BC; c. 5200-4650 BC). These two Vinča culture sites, located respectively in north-east and south Serbia, have recently yielded some of the earliest known copper artefacts in Eurasia. The rich material culture of these two sites, therefore, offers a unique opportunity for the study of the evolution of pottery craft technology during the...

  • Paint It Black: the rise of metallurgy in the Balkans (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Miljana Radivojevic.

    This study integrates archaeological, microstructural and compositional data of c. 7000 years old metallurgical production evidence with an aim to address the how and why of the world’s earliest metallurgy. The main focus is set on copper ores and metal production debris coming from four Vinča culture settlements in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, all dated between c. 5400 – 4400 BC. Chemical study of copper minerals throughout all sites points at striking uniformity in selecting black and...

  • Techniques, senses and emotions: polishing in the Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Haris Procopiou. Roberto Vargiolu. Hassan Zahouani.

    An archaeological object: raw material, volume, form, but also texture, temperature, sensation. It is the intention of the craftsman that we tried to attend, by studying Bronze Age polished objects of the Eastern Mediterranean (Crete, Egypt, Near East; 3000-1000 BC). By applying an interdisciplinary approach that combines ethnography, archaeology and tribology (science of wear, friction and lubrication), we studied traditional stone polishing at Mahabalipuram (India, Tamil Nadu) and Tenos...

  • Teeth as tools: Paramasticatory dental modifications reflecting habitual behavior in the Danube Gorges, Serbia (9500 - 5500 B.C.) (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marija Radovic. Kevan Edinborough.

    Technological knowledge and task-related activities of past populations are known mostly by analyses of material culture remains. Here we use a new line of evidence for reconstructing habitual behavior by investigating paramasticatory use of human teeth. Paramasticatory dental modifications (chipping, notching, occlusal and interproximal grooving) are examined on 89 individuals' dentitions (1308 teeth) from three sites of the Lepenski Vir culture: Vlasac, Lepenski Vir and Padina in the Danube...