Materials have inherent physical and chemical properties that form a loose framework to how humans choose to manipulate them. Acts of conception, appreciation, production and use are affected by the raw material, but are also influenced by the social agents, other materials, historical events and physical landscape that contextualise the event (e.g. Dobres and Robb 2005).
Although in principle these ideas are no longer controversial, applying them to archaeological datasets and time periods remains a challenge. Discussions of technology and material culture often depend on outmoded, acontextual positions such as common sense, technological progress, industrial separation, diffusion and "Darwinian" selection of superior traits.
The key issue for technology studies is to apply the new theoretical toolkit pragmatically to our hard-won datasets. The possibility and practicality of archaeologists routinely engaging with modern theoretical concerns rather than being passive consumers has been debated in recent years (Ingold 2007 and comments; Jones 2004 and responses in Archaeometry 47(1)). Unsurprisingly, no clear consensus has been achieved.
This session will highlight case studies that bridge the gap between theory and data, bringing together material science, landscape studies and social archaeology. The case studies will see action, choice and context on a human scale as materialised in specific archaeological datasets.
Dobres, M.A. and Robb, J.E. (2005) "Doing Agency: Introductory remarks
on methodology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. 12: 159-166
Ingold, T. (2007) Materials against materiality. Archaeological Dialogues. 14: 1-15
Jones, A. (2004) Archaeometry and materiality: Materials-based analysis
in theory and practice. Archaeometry. 46: 327-338
17th–19th December 2010