An Archaeology of Skill
Metalworking Skill and Material Specialization in Early Bronze Age Central Europe
Material is the mother of innovation and it is through skill that innovations are brought about.
This core thesis that is developed in this book identifies skill as the linchpin of – and missing link between – studies on craft, creativity, innovation, and material culture. Through a detailed study of early bronze age axes the question is tackled of what it involves to be skilled, providing an evidence based argument about levels of skill.
The unique contribution of this work is that it lays out a theoretical framework and methodology through which an empirical analysis of skill is achievable. A specific chaîne opératoire for metal axes is used that compares not only what techniques were used, but also how they were applied. A large corpus of axes is compared in terms of what skills and attention were given at the different stages of their production.
The ideas developed in this book are of interest to the emerging trend of ‘material thinking’ in the human and social sciences. At the same time, it looks towards and augments the development in craft-studies, recognising the many different aspects of craft in contemporary and past societies, and the particular relationship that craftspeople have with their material. Drawing together these two distinct fields of research will stimulate (re)thinking of how to integrate production with discussions of other aspects of object biographies, and how we link arguments about value to social models.
Table of Contents
A MATTER OF SKILL
1.2 The current perception of metalworking skill
1.3 Why study skill?
1.4 Research aims and setting the scene
1.5 Metalworking through a craft perspective
1.6 A brief exploration of the data used for this study
HARD AND SOFT APPROACHES TO ANCIENT METALLURGY; TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN
2.2 The hard approach
2.3 The soft approach
2.4 Discussion; what should archaeometallurgy be about?
3.1 A framework for the study of skill
3.2 Craft and the crafts
3.3 A return to the physical
3.4 Skill as a tripartite concept
3.5 The inner workings of technical skill
PERCEPTIVE CATEGORIES AND THE STANDARD OF THE TIME
4.2 The three frameworks of prehistoric craftsmanship
4.3 Psychophysics and Weber fractions: a quantitative phenomenology
4.4 Perceptive categories
4.5 Chaîne opératoire
4.6 The standard of the time
4.7 Drawing the arguments together: a method to analyse skill
METAL AXES AND METALLOGRAPHIC SAMPLES
5.2 Data collection
5.3 Chronological distribution and context
5.4 Metallographic samples; possibilities and limitations
5.5 Technological and cognitive aspects of prehistoric metalworking
APPROACHING THE DATA FROM A CRAFTSPERSON’S PERSPECTIVE
6.1 Combining disparate views
6.2 Metallic elements and their effect on the properties of copper
6.3 From individual elements and properties to metalleity and qualities
6.4 Perceptive categories for copper-compositions
6.5 Perceptive categories for casting quality
6.6 Perceptive categories for hardness
6.7 Perceptive categories for hammering
6.8 Perceptive categories for annealing
6.9 Perceptive categories for morphology
LATE COPPER AGE AXES
7.1 Introduction to the data chapters
7.2 The Late Copper Age standard of the time
7.3 Axes corresponding to the Late Copper Age standard
7.4 Superior technical skill
7.5 Inferior technical skill and flawed axes
7.6 Failed and unfinished axes
7.7 Exceptional axes
7.7 Recognition of and response to different material behaviour
7.8 Summarising analyses
EARLY BRONZE AGE PERIOD I AXES
8.2 The Early Bronze Age I standard of the time
8.3 Axes corresponding to the Early Bronze Age I standard
8.4 Superior technical skill
8.5 Inferior technical skill and flawed axes
8.6 Failed and unfinished axes
8.7 Exceptional axes
8.8 The recognition of different material behaviour
8.9 Summarising analysis
EARLY BRONZE AGE PERIOD II AXES
9.2 The Early Bronze Age II standard of the time
9.3 Axes corresponding to the Early Bronze Age II standard
9.4 Superior technical skill
9.5 Inferior technical skill and flawed axes
9.6 Failed and unfinished axes
9.7 Exceptional axes
9.8 The recognition of different material behaviour
9.9 Summarising analyses
MATERIAL SPECIALISATION AND SKILL
10.2 material specialisation
10.3 The political economy and material specialisation
THE RIGHT BEGINNING; INTENTIONALITY AND AXE-RECIPES
11.3 Axe-making recipes
11.4 Abstract versus applied function as a delimiting factor in technological recipes
FINAL REFLECTIONS: WHAT IS SKILL AND WHAT DOES IT BRING ABOUT?
12.2 What is skill?
12.3 The development of skill through time
12.5 What does skill bring about?
12.6 What does metal do?
Appendix 1 General information on the axes
Appendix 2 Morphological, metallographic, and compositional information on the axes
Appendix 3 Chaîne opératoires of the axes
Maikel Kuijpers holds a PhD from Cambridge university and is currently a lecturer in European Prehistory at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University. His main research topics are technology, craftsmanship, and skill which he explores both in archaeology as well as contemporary society.
"An archaeology of skill will foster a new consideration of archaeological objects from the perspective of the objects’ making and provide new insights into objects beyond usual data points of metal content and find context, which reflect only one moment in an object’s life. A focus on skill also allows new conclusions about makers’ intentions, object purpose and use, change over time, and may provide insight into technological innovation. Scholars from many disciplines, including the history of craft, anthropology, and material culture, will appreciate this book because it enables the assessment and discussion of skill in an empirical manner." - Pamela H. Smith, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute