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Seeing the forest for the trees: Assessing technological variability in ancient metallurgical crucible assemblages

Rademakers, FW; Rehren, T; (2016) Seeing the forest for the trees: Assessing technological variability in ancient metallurgical crucible assemblages. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports , 7 pp. 588-596. 10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.08.013. Green open access

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Abstract

Metallurgical crucible remains have been found in many archaeological contexts and in varying degrees of preservation. The reconstruction of metallurgical activity through the study of these remains, by means of microscopy and chemical analysis, is undertaken with the aims of understanding technological choices of ancient craftspeople, their use of different raw materials and, by extension, the organisation of production and trade. When large assemblages are available for study, an intra-site comparison of technology and material use within different contexts and throughout time offers interesting perspectives.Complete crucible examples are rarely found and it is often difficult to reconstruct full crucible profiles based on the fragmented remains. This in turn means that process variability within a single crucible can be hard to assess. Crucible slag is often highly heterogeneous, even within single fragments, enticing analysts to lose themselves in details. Furthermore, the abundance of remains is highly variable, depending on the scale of activity as well as archaeological recovery and preservation, while technological variation within an assemblage can only be detected through study of multiple samples.Drawing on the analysis of two crucible assemblages, some difficulties and opportunities for technological reconstructions are discussed. Issues related to crucible heterogeneity and inherent process variability are illustrated and a number of interpretative problems arising therefrom are examined. Following a deconstruction of these interpretative issues, some suggestions are made for how, despite methodological difficulties, archaeologically relevant results are obtained where one tries to see the forest for the trees.

Type: Article
Title: Seeing the forest for the trees: Assessing technological variability in ancient metallurgical crucible assemblages
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.08.013
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.08.013
Language: English
Additional information: © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Crucible; Metallurgy; Methodology; Egypt; Turkey
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1475229
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