Tracing Networks

Craft Traditions in the Ancient Mediterranean and Beyond

Tracing Networks:
Craft Traditions in the Ancient Mediterranean and Beyond

Research Team | Projects | News

Nature and emphases

This research programme investigates the network of contacts across and beyond the Mediterranean region, between the late Bronze Age and the late classical period (1500-200 BCE). It focuses on networks of crafts-people and craft traditions, asking how and why traditions, techniques and technologies change and cross cultural boundaries, and exploring the impact of this phenomenon. This long time-span is characterised by widespread changes involving many societies, and unified by the emergence of state-societies involving new ways of organising production and consumption. The programme will set technological networks in their larger social, economic and political contexts to expand our understanding of wider cultural developments. We actively combine expertise in archaeology, archaeological science and computer science in seven closely linked sub-projects. Outcomes from the overall project will include at least one co-authored book, a session at a major international conference resulting in an edited volume, and monographs and specialist studies generated by and between sub-projects. Material culture is the primary evidence for cultural contact. While local factors contribute to broad cultural developments, extensive contacts between different groups across the Mediterranean are manifested in the regular exchange of ideas, objects, materials and techniques constitutive of individual and group identities. Studying a wide range of material objects at every stage of their production, distribution, use, and consumption across a large geographical region, over a long time period, will allow us to capture the meanings and variety of the intricate socio-political, economic and cultural networks that people built and destroyed.

Research methods and sources

The concepts of the chaîne opératoire and Cross-Craft Interaction offer a systematic theoretical framework which allows us to develop comparisons across cultural contexts and diachronically. Both concepts allow us to interweave technologies and their social meanings in studying networks of crafts-people in the past and in proposing new methodologies for developing production-aware service networks in global computing. Methodological rigor will be enhanced by the computer science project, which will allows us to analyse and compare data on a larger scale and more systematically.

The chaîne opératoire considers all technological and social elements of the production, distribution and consumption of a specific commodity from the procurement of raw materials to the finished item, and extends further into its distribution and subsequent socio-cultural biography. Cross Craft Interaction can best be understood as the ways in which multiple crafts studied together have a technological and social impact on each other via human interaction. Where people and objects meet, complex social identities can be constructed and communicated.

presentation slides(pdf)