Session: #440

Theme & Session Format

6. Material culture studies and societies
Session format:
Discussion session (with formal abstracts)

Title & Content

‘Touching Objects, Feeling Materials’: Material Transformations, Technology and Sensoriality in Ancient Material Culture
Material culture studies have progressively become immaterial. Matter is the core of material culture and by neglecting artefacts’ constituent materials, the gap between these, the material world and, eventually, the human component risks being amplified. We aim to fill this gap by putting forward an interdisciplinary debate which starting from objects’ materials seeks to combine the latest analytical methods with socio-anthropological and experimental approaches to understand how materials were ‘transformed’ into artefacts in the past and the effects these had on people – makers, users and alike.
Broadly inspired by Ingold’s idea that materials ‘flow mix and mutate’ (2007:14), this session seeks to explore ancient artefacts from the perspective of their material properties, qualities and possibilities (Ingold 2013) to better understand objects’ uses and productions through their affordances (Gibson 1976) and ‘sensorial assemblages’ (Hamilakis 2017). Papers will address research and scientific (e.g. archaeometric, experimental) analyses on object materials by considering one or more of the following aspects: material properties, origins, sourcing and environmental impact (e.g. from access and procurement to pollution); the technical expertise and technological innovation behind the transformation and manipulation of the materials (including reuse and recycling or by-products) and value attribution; conservation and reception in later periods; sensoriality or sensory awareness: how materials were sensed (colour, texture, feel, smell) by people and how this impacted artefact creation, design and meaning especially in relation to intended use, contexts or landscapes. We intend to cover multiple media and forms of material culture from the Greco-Roman world, although earlier or later periods are welcome.
Analysing material culture from its ‘inside’ has the potential to provide deeper insight into objects’ affordances and people responses. With such a perspective, our aim is to widen the horizon of material culture studies by bringing the material component back into it.
archaeometry, sensory studies, materiality, technology, environment, heritage
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Main organiser:
Simona Perna (Spain) 1
Roberta Di Febo (Italy) 2,1
Lluis Casas (Spain) 3
1. Institut Català d'Arqueologia Clàssica (ICAC)
2. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)
3. Department de Geologia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)