Objects : Reluctant Witnesses to the Past book cover
1st Edition

Reluctant Witnesses to the Past

ISBN 9780415305891
Published August 17, 2006 by Routledge
288 Pages

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Book Description

An invaluable field textbook, Objects examines detailed case studies to provide a brilliantly clear and comprehensible guide to the different methods and approaches (cultural, forensic, and technical) which can and have been used to study ancient artefacts.

From the Bayeux Tapestry to small medieval brass pins, medieval wooden doors to Saxon jewellery, Chris Caple’s integral text deals with a full range of materials and clearly and simply explains key scientific techniques, technology, anthropological jargon and historical approaches.

Key demonstrations include:

  • how information from objects builds into a picture of the ancient society that made and used it
  • the commonly used scientific techniques for object analysis
  • how and why object typologies work
  • how cultural and economic factors as well as the material properties influences what objects are made of
  • how simple observation of an object can build its biography.

Revealing answers to crucial questions – such as: Can DNA be obtained from objects? Why do people x-ray ancient artefacts? Can you determine the source of metal objects from their trace elements? – Objects is an absolutely essential text for students of archaeology, museum studies, and conservation.

Table of Contents

1. Investigating Objects: Theories and Approaches  2. Objects as Social Indicators (Form, Decoration and Depiction)  3. Objects as Products (Manufacture)  4. Objects and Materials as Trade Goods (Provenance)  5. Objects as Functional Implements  6. Objects as Record (Information and Education)

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Chris Caple is Senior Lecturer in archaeological science and conservation at the University of Durham and author of Conservation Skills: Judgement, Method and Decision Making.


'Chris Caple's contribution ... bridges neatly the gap between theoretical thinking and technology ... I would certainly recommend this book; not only to students but to anyone interested in how rich object biographies are constructed.' - Antiquity