Reverse Engineering Ancient Pyrotechnologies

Author(s): Pamela. Vandiver

Year: 2015


Technological change is driven by social context and perceived needs, but technological changes are also driven by seven other factors: materials constraints, especially composition and microstructure and availability and ease of processing raw materials, as well as the properties of the materials and the finished products, the nature and complexity of the materials transformations, the methods and sequences of processing, and the suitability to use and performance. Examples will be drawn from some extreme cases of unusual processes and properties that required development of an intimate knowledge of the possibilities and constraints of unusual materials and processes: ceramic farming tools from Iraq, Tibetan braziers, Kazakh drinking cups, decorative Corinthian Greek slips. Variability in the practice of a technology that is available for study on an archaeological site involves observing and reasoning through the errors in manipulation, transformation and use, much as a consultant would find, define and assess problems in a modern factory. To establish and develop an understanding of the behavior represented in craft and workshop evidence, the pace of excavation should slow to allow consideration of the microscopic evidence as intensively as the artifactual, contextual and stratigraphic evidence.

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Cite this Record

Reverse Engineering Ancient Pyrotechnologies. Pamela. Vandiver. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396407)