Session: #240

Theme & Session Format

Interpreting the archaeological record: artefacts, humans and landscapes
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

“Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”: Sugar Pot Production and Circulation in Europe and the Mediterranean in Medieval and Post-Medieval Times
Nowadays demonised as responsible for numerous diseases, in the past sugar was a highly valued commodity, whose production and consumption had a huge impact on our social, cultural and economic development. Sugar cane production entailed an “industrial organization” from its cultivation to processing and distribution, as well as knowledge transfer and new technological requirements linked to production. The introduction of sugar cane into the Mediterranean areas followed the Islamic expansion from the 8th cent. AD. The synergy of craftspeople, workforce, local and foreign entrepreneurs transformed sugar cane production into one of the first industries in post-Roman times. For these reasons, sugar production has become one of the most discussed topics in the literature over the last two centuries. However, the crucial role that craftspeople played in the success of the process has been only marginally tackled.
This session aims at discussing the impact that the introduction of sugar production had on communities in Europe and in the Mediterranean areas, using as a baseline one of the crafts linked with sugar production: the manufacture of sugar pots. These constitute highly specialised vessels in the cane sugar-making process: their design and characteristics are specifically developed to allow the crystallization of the sugar. Little is known whether these vessels were imported or produced locally, whether itinerant potters brought with them the know-how or local ceramists adapted their tradition to produce such specialised vessels.
More specifically, the session wants to explore the research on sugar pots from European and Mediterranean areas by addressing the following themes: 1) sugar pot manufacturing technology and its changes over time; 2) circulation of sugar pots and craftspeople across the wider Mediterranean and European areas; 3) the function of the sugar pots in the sugar-making chaîne opératoire. We welcome papers focusing on interdisciplinary approaches to the study of sugar pot function, manufacture and circulation in medieval and post-medieval times.
Ceramics, Sugar, Mediterranean, Europe, technology, provenance
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Main organiser:
Roberta Mentesana (Spain) 1
Jaume Buxeda i Garrigós (Spain) 1
Richard Jones (United Kingdom) 2
André Teixeira (Portugal) 3
1. Universitat de Barcelona
2. University of Glasgow
3. Universidade Nova de Lisboa