CinBA session focuses on creativity in the European Bronze Age. Studies of creativity frequently focus on the modern era, yet creativity has always been part of human history. The European Bronze Age is an extremely dynamic period. This session explores the ways in which the notion of creativity may be useful in unpacking the technological and stylistic underpinnings of Bronze Age material culture by investigating the relationship between creativity, material properties and change. There has been a trend within Bronze Age archaeology to discuss change and developments from a top-down perspective, for instance in terms of long‐distance exchange, settlement patterns and large‐scale technological trends. The macro‐analytical level implicated in using such a perspective has, however, tended to detract attention from the idiosyncrasies, affordances and potentiality of material culture itself; the objects that people made and used in their everyday lives.
Recent bottom‐up approaches have begun to focus on Bronze Age craftspeople, and a discussion of shifts in material culture through the lens of creativity encourages investigation of their decision making processes and how these contribute to change and developments in material style. Placing the spotlight on creativity within craft illuminates how people were exploiting the potentials of materials and developing new ways of designing objects. It further directs archaeological narratives to incorporate discussions of how people were interacting with each other and developing the ideas that are encapsulated in their material culture.
This session is organised by the HERA‐funded project Creativity and Craft Production in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe (CinBA) . Bringing together partners from the Universities of Southampton, Cambridge and Trondheim, the National Museum of Denmark, the Natural History Museum of Vienna, Zagreb Archaeological Museum, Lejre Archaeological Park (Sagnlandet) and the Crafts Council, the project investigates creativity in the Bronze Age through pottery, textiles and metal. We welcome speakers from both inside and outside of the project working with these materials and others to present and participate in discussions of creativity, craft and developments in Bronze Age material culture.
Session C3 – Creativity in the Bronze Age
Friday 31 August, 2012
8.30 am – 5.10 pm
8.40–9.00 Measuring the Creativity of Metal Artefact Technology during the Early Bronze Age Florica Matau (Alexandru Ioan Cuza University; Romania)
9.00–9.20 The Small Margin of Creativity Stefan Wirth (Université de Bourgogne; France)
9.20–9.40 Chaîne Reaction: A Closer Look at Belegiš Ceramic Technology through the Eyes of Creativity Sarah Coxon (University of Southampton; United Kingdom)
9.40–10.00 Late Bronze Age Bone Crafting in the Eastern Baltic: Individual Ingenuity vs Standardization of Artefact Types Heidi Luik (Tallinn University; Estonia)
10.00–10.20 Skill and Creativity in Scandinavian Bronze Age Textiles Sølvi Helene Fossøy (Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Norway)
11.00–11.20 Twisting the Bronze Age Lise Bender Jørgensen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Norway)
11.20–11.40 Birds Make the World Go Round: Approaching Creativity in Late Bronze and Early Iron Age Bird Symbolism Sebastian N. Becker (University of Cambridge; United Kingdom)
11.40–12.00 Moulding Practices and ‘Mutations’ in Late Bronze Age Metalwork: On Creativity, Coincidence and the Darwinian Analogy Lene Melheim (University of Gothenburg; Sweden)
12.00–12.20 Creativity in Clay: Bird-Shaped and Bird-Ornamented Ceramic Objects in the Middle and Late Bronze Age in the Middle and Lower Danube Regions Darko Maričević and Joanna Sofaer (University of Southampton; United Kingdom)
14.00–14.20 New Pottery for New Communities: the Appearance of Fine Gray Ware in Early Bronze Age Crete Emily Miller Bonney (California State University Fullerton; USA)
14.20–14.40 A Tailor’s Look at Bronze Age Garments Helga Rösel-Mautendorfer (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien; Austria)
14.40–15.00 The Must Farm Log Boats: Design and Creativity on a Bronze Age River Iona Robinson (University of Cambridge; United Kingdom)
15.50–16.10 Encrusted Pottery as Source of Material Interaction – The Case of a Middle Bronze Age Settlement, Tószeg-Laposhalom (Hungary) Csaba Bodnár (Eötvös Loránd University; Hungary)
16.10–16.30 Cross-Craft Interaction Between Pot-Making and Cordage Karina Grömer (Natural History Museum Vienna; Austria) and Sanjin Mihelić (Zagreb Archaeological Museum; Croatia)
16.30–16.50 Can Bone be Beautiful? Crafting in Osseous Materials in MBA Pannonia Selena Vitezović (Archaeological Institute, Belgrade; Serbia)
Posters (During the Session in Porthania III)
Hoards of the Bronze Age from Romania Rodica Ursu Naniu (Spiru Haret University; Romania) and Alexandra Comşa (V. Pârvan Institute of Archaeology; Romania)
Combs of the European Bronze and Iron Age Corina Wetschei (Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg; Germany)
Studies of Gilded Grave Goods in the Nordic Bronze Age Nikolas Schnabel (Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg; Germany
“CinBA Drawing Table” (Porthania III)
Measuring the Creativity of Metal Artefact Technology during the Early Bronze Age
Florica Matau (Alexandru Ioan Cuza University; Romania)
What does it mean to create? Who or what could be said to create? Do things “just happen” and, if so, is that a kind of creativity? How does culture influence technological innovation – and how does technological innovation influence culture? Taking metal artefact technology as its point of reference, this paper considers the notion of creativity as it applies both to the production of objects and to the relationship between technological development and cultural change. If the technological shifts from arsenic to tin bronze are not the linchpins of human adaptation, as is often surmised, then radical redefinitions are in order. From this perspective, we could broaden the definition of technology in order to include the social dimension. We can assume that during the Early Bronze Age technology plays second fiddle to the human capacity to invent and deploy fabulously complex and variable social arrangements.
The Small Margin of Creativity
Stefan Wirth (Université de Bourgogne; France)
Amongst other things, Montelius’s typological studies still have a lot to tell us about how new solutions find their place in Bronze Age material production. Technical improvements are often introduced in disguise, copying older shapes sometimes in a way that resembles mimicry. The well-known way in which socketed axes tend to adopt the characteristic elements of winged axes features a most striking example for what has been called the ”typological rudiment”. Modern equivalents, such as for instance the long life of the typewriter keyboard, are clearly linked to the mimicry in consumer behaviour. In order to better understand the morphology of Bronze Age metalwork, we will take into account such mechanisms and stress the role of conformism in the process of shaping new solutions. Ironically, there seems to be only a very small margin of creativity in the case of the most successful products.
Chaîne Reaction: A Closer Look at Belegiš Ceramic Technology through the Eyes of Creativity
Sarah Coxon (University of Southampton; United Kingdom)
This paper discusses creativity and the chaîne opératoire using Middle and Late Bronze Age Belegiš urns as a case study. The chaîne opératoire is both a conceptual framework and methodology. It focusses on the technological traces left by the individual and provides the analytical means by which technological decisions throughout the crafting of an object can be detailed. Such analysis has been used to delineate technological style and traditions in order to explore past social dynamics. Although change within the production sequence has been detailed in such studies, the role of creativity has not been systematically explored nor integrated into discussions. This paper argues that creativity within Belegiš urn manufacture manifests as both subtle and prominent shifts in technological practice. Creativity signalled by subtle shifts in ceramic craft in the Middle Bronze Age suggest practice at this time was fluid yet also structured; individuals were simultaneously maintaining yet also pushing the boundaries of their craft. Prominent technical shifts in ceramic craft occurred during the Late Bronze Age, and, although there was continuity between Middle and Late Bronze Age ceramic practice, these later technical shifts coincide with wider material and social shifts in this period of prehistory.
Late Bronze Age Bone Crafting in the Eastern Baltic: Individual Ingenuity vs Standardization of Artefact Types
Heidi Luik (Tallinn University; Estonia)
The aim of the paper is to discuss some exceptional finds among Late Bronze Age bone and antler artefacts in the eastern Baltic. A certain standardization of selected material and shape is characteristic to many bone tool types of the period under discussion. Some foreign bronze artefacts have been replicated in more easily available local materials – bone and antler. But sometimes an ancient craftsman has tried to make a local standardized artefact from some other available substance. Spearheads made from goat/sheep tibiae constitute a very standardized tool type in eastern Lithuania. From Narkūnai, a spearhead has been found copying the shape of these spearheads but made from elk antler. Bone pins with a round head are a characteristic pin type in Ķivutkalns, Latvia. Almost all such pins were made from the diaphysis of long bones, but for one pin with a similar shape a rib has been chosen. Scapular tools with a notched edge are known from Estonian fortified settlements; only one notched-edged tool from Iru has been carved from a rib. Perhaps the required bone was not available, or an unskilled bone-carver picked the other material which was easier to carve. Although such examples are quite few, they still attest to the ingenuity of the individuals who made them.
Skill and Creativity in Scandinavian Bronze Age Textiles
Sølvi Helene Fossøy (Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Norway)
This paper deals with the transmission of textile craft knowledge and skill during the Scandinavian Bronze Age, 1700–500 BC. We have an unusually large amount of preserved textiles from this period in Southern Scandinavia. Results based on new investigations of yarn diameter and twist angle will be presented here. The textile material appears rather uniform, however, variation, creativity and different levels of skill can be found through analyses of different parameters. The main purpose of the paper is to show how the changes in the textiles might be due to changing teaching and learning practices within the textile craft. Furthermore, it will examine how different types of textiles, general textiles and specialized textiles, might have evolved from different contemporary ways of teaching. The room for variation and creativity in the handcraft seems to be controlled by the education process. The specialized textile seems to have been taught in a way that allowed innovation and variation, while the general textiles were probably transmitted through a more cultural conservative education process.
Twisting the Bronze Age
Lise Bender Jørgensen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Norway)
Spirals were beloved in the Scandinavian Bronze Age, especially as a motif but also as a form and a structure. Arm rings, finger rings, and ear- or hair-rings are three-dimensional spirals – forms and sometimes structures. Yarns for textiles are structurally constructed as spirals. Two-dimensional, ornamental spirals tend to twisting clockwise; arm rings and finger rings seem mainly to be twisted anti-clockwise, although pairs of rings are sometimes twisted in opposite directions and regional differences can be observed. Warp yarns are usually twisted anti-clockwise, weft yarns are twisted clockwise. In the Late Bronze Age, almost all yarns are twisted anti-clockwise. The paper explores movements and work procedures of spinners in Bronze Age Scandinavia and discusses how they, and relationships between the twisting of yarns and the twisting of bronze rings, reflect responses to the inherent properties of raw materials and responses to new techniques or technology, and to what degree the choice of twist may be grounded in Bronze Age cosmology.
Birds Make the World Go Round: Approaching Creativity in Late Bronze and Early Iron Age Bird Symbolism
Sebastian N. Becker (University of Cambridge; United Kingdom)
Two- and three-dimensional bird representations are a common feature on Central European Late Bronze and Early Iron Age metalwork (c. 1300–500 BC). This paper takes a closer look at the creative processes involved in the design of these representations with the aim of developing a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between traditions, creativity and innovations in later European prehistory. The following topics will be addressed: first, the stylistic conventions governing the arrangement and combination of various bird motifs remained largely unchanged from the Late Bronze to the Early Iron Age, and recurrent formalised motif constellations suggest that creativity unfolded within design traditions. Second, in both periods the relationship between metal objects and bird motifs was choreographed so as to emphasise notions of movement and directionality. This design creatively materialised birds’ cosmological role as animals mediating the movement of the sun. Having reviewed these topics, the paper concludes that creativity need not necessarily be associated with innovations. In the case of Bronze and Early Iron Age iconography, it may be better envisioned as the continuous negotiation of cosmological knowledge and human agency within stylistic traditions.
Moulding Practices and “Mutations” in Late Bronze Age Metalwork: On Creativity, Coincidence and the Darwinian Analogy
Lene Melheim (University of Gothenburg; Sweden)
Archaeologists – sentenced to materialism and retrospection – tend to seek past creativity either in the unique artefact or, more often, in stylistic change. A current trend is to locate the craftsman’s creativity in the physical engagement with materials and tools. As a consequence, the creative aspect of metalworking lies not so much in coping with the metal, as in moulding practices and the engagement with stone, clay, tree and wax. However, this process is not satisfactorily explained as skilled practice alone, as clearly, at least in the highly symbolic Bronze Age metalwork, there is a representational and discursive aspect as well, which goes beyond the engagement with materials. It is art both in the original sense of the word – skill – and in its modern adaptation – inspired representation and communication, employing symbols, pastiches, paraphrases and skeuomorphism. This paper explores the tension between materials and creativity by drawing attention to two very different examples from Late Bronze Age Scandinavia. In the first example, I use the Darwinian analogy and the concept of mutations to explain the development of an archaeological type: socketed axes with long necks. The second example discusses two unparalleled animal figurines with a unique history of production.
Creativity in Clay: Bird-Shaped and Bird-Ornamented Ceramic Objects in the Middle and Late Bronze Age in the Middle and Lower Danube Regions
Darko Maričević and Joanna Sofaer (University of Southampton; United Kingdom)
This paper explores creativity in pottery-making during the Middle and Late Bronze Age in the Middle and Lower Danube regions by investigating bird-shaped and bird-ornamented ceramic objects. The range of such objects varies both morphologically (vessels, figurines, rattles) and contextually (settlements, graves). Their wide distribution reflects shared ideas present across large areas of Europe with possible roots in the Bronze Age belief system, but the details of their production often varied in accordance with the nuances of regional ceramic styles. In creating a bird-shaped object, a potter would face a number of choices which deviate from those routinely offered by the bulk of her/his work. These include the body-shaping techniques, the degree of stylisation/naturalism in form and decoration, and the ways in which defining anatomical features were formed/depicted. This study demonstrates how the emphasis on bird forms and symbolism in their broader ceramic environment illuminates both the creative process involved and the performance-related role of the objects in their cultural contexts.
New Pottery for New Communities: The Appearance of Fine Gray Ware in Early Bronze Age Crete
Emily Miller Bonney (California State University Fullerton; USA)
Well-known for the creativity of its Late Bronze Age palatial culture, a dramatic shift in Early Bronze Age (“EBA”) (2800–1900 BCE) ceramic production in south central Crete exemplifies creativity at the local level in a somewhat surprising context. Significant remains of settlements in south central Crete during the first 400 years of the EBA (ceramic Early Minoan I) appear only at Phaistos and Hagia Triada, in the north-western sector of the region. Given the apparently otherwise transient occupation, evidence for ceramic consumption thus comes primarily from monumental circular communal stone tombs that perhaps served as centres for community, and it consists of a range of painted wares both dark on light and light on dark. Around 2400 BCE, with no significant demographic shift, potters began to produce the new Fine Gray Ware, most notably pyxides, with incised and punctuated decoration on a lightly burnished surface. Examples were exported to Knossos and as far east as Gournia. This new fabric almost certainly served to mediate evolving social relationships that resulted in the establishment of the first real settlements in the region and the construction of rectangular anterooms at the tombs not long after this ceramic innovation.
A Tailor’s Look at Bronze Age Garments
Helga Rösel-Mautendorfer (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien; Austria)
Items of clothing are basically made according to two principles: either to act as a “second skin”, adapting to the body and how it moves, or to form the body into a different shape and to emphasize specific zones of the body. In the first case, functionality is the main motivation; in the second case, the focus is on how the person is perceived by the surroundings. Studies of Bronze Age clothing have hitherto mainly focused on description and on textile craftsmanship: how the fabrics were made. From the point of view of the craftspeople, there is a connection between the cutting, the sewing and the design and the functionality of garments. In this paper, evidence of seams and hems from the rich collections of textiles from the salt mines of Hallstatt are scrutinized from a tailor’s perspective and compared with Scandinavian garments and textile finds from other parts of Europe, in order to explore how the two principles of tailoring apply, how the techniques of cutting and sewing contribute to obtain specific effects, and whether it is possible to trace transmission of ideas between different regions.
The Must Farm Log Boats: Design and Creativity on a Bronze Age River
Iona Robinson (University of Cambridge; United Kingdom)
In the past year, excavations by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit at the Must Farm Quarry, Peterborough, have revealed eight log boats lying within the silts of a Late Bronze Age palaeochannel on the edge of the Flag Fen Basin. These unusual finds, the product of excellent preservation due to waterlogged conditions, offer a rare opportunity to explore Bronze Age creativity through the medium of woodworking. The boats, each unique in design and use-life, from ingenious problem-solving during initial carving to later intricate repair work, reveal the practical realities of the theory that rivers acted as natural conduits for travel and transport in the Bronze Age. Here, instead of relying on cross-regional analysis of traded items in order to explore the use of waterways, the evidence speaks of riverine activity as the stuff of everyday life. Numerous eel-traps and hurdle weirs were discovered within the same short span of channel as the eight log boats. The Must Farm boats represent, in their varying designs, an exploration of the form, of the possibilities, of the log boat taking place not on some theoretical plane but within the everyday, lived reality of fishing and water management on a fen-edge river.
Encrusted Pottery as Source of Material Interaction – The Case of a Middle Bronze Age Settlement, Tószeg-Laposhalom (Hungary)
Csaba Bodnár (Eötvös Loránd University; Hungary)
This paper aims to give evidence of the decision-making processes responsible for the diversity of material culture and especially the entangled pottery styles observed at many Middle Bronze Age sites along the River Tisza in the Great Hungarian Plain. Focusing on this particular region, I would like to discuss questions concerning how people were interacting with each other, how these relations manifested themselves in their material culture, and specifically how to separate the effectively foreign (“imported”) ceramic vessels from the locally-made ones and how to define the ways these foreign items were appropriated and integrated in a new cultural environment. Considering the above issues, in the first part of this paper I am going to survey the distribution of the “imported” Middle Bronze Age pottery that uses the encrusted decoration technique along the river Tisza and define – based on their contexts – possible shifts in their meaning. I will then present in a case study, the results of technological analysis of encrusted pottery from the Early and Middle Bronze Age tell settlement, Tószeg-Laposhalom. Thanks to its established stratigraphy, this site provides us with the opportunity to explore potential changes in the ways that people were creating and interacting with their objects.
Cross-craft Interaction Between Pot-Making and Cordage
Karina Grömer (Natural History Museum Vienna; Austria) and Sanjin Mihelić (Zagreb Archaeological Museum; Croatia)
The so-called “Litzenkeramik”, a pot-type used in Late Early Bronze Age (c. 17th/16th century BC) in eastern Austria and Croatia, is a good example of how different handcrafts interact. Textile decoration is made with cord imprints or even imprints of textiles (e.g. Sprang). The creation of patterns with cords pressed into the wet clay goes back to the Late Neolithic, where this special decoration gave the name to the Corded Ware Culture (2600–2200 BC). For the Bronze Age “Litzenkeramik”, that was not done by impressing patterns with, as was first imagined, woven bands (“Litzen”), but by impressing them with perfectly-arranged cords. A system for the technical description of cord imprints has been defined. SEM analysis and Experimental Archaeology were also carried out in order to obtain data about the raw materials used for such cords and the decision-making processes in production. Different questions arise: Was the cord-maker and the potter the same person? What surface quality is given by the cords? Maybe the “cord pattern” was not the intended end product (incrusting with white paste). The cord imprints may perhaps be just a technological detail in the making process, because they happen to give a structured surface within the impression (more “grip” for the inlay).
Can Bone Be Beautiful? Crafting in Osseous Materials in MBA Pannonia
Selena Vitezović (Archaeological Institute, Belgrade; Serbia)
Most of the work related to the Bronze Age, apart from the questions related to chronology, settlement patterns or social organization, focuses on metal or ceramic artefacts. However, there was an important craft production in other raw materials as well – stone, bone and antler. This paper will focus on the use of osseous raw materials (bone, antler, teeth, mollusc) and will discuss creativity within the bone industry – from manufacturing techniques to decoration. Special emphasis will be placed on the use of bone artefacts for decorative purposes – for making jewellery, clothing pieces, horse harnesses, etc. Some of them represent cheaper copies of bronze artefacts, intended for everyday use, although some raw materials (e. g. marine shells) had a value of their own. Decorative motifs on bones were most likely the same or similar to those on the textiles. Geographically and chronologically, the paper will confine its analysis to the final Early and Middle Bronze Age sites in southern Pannonia (Vojvodina) – Mokrin, Vatin, etc.
Hoards of the Bronze Age from Romania
Rodica Ursu Naniu (Spiru Haret University; Romania) and Alexandra Comşa (V. Pârvan Institute of Archaeology; Romania)
The evolution of the Bronze Age in the Carpathian-Danubian space was marked by many cultural influences that came from the north-Pontic space and also from Central Europe. Yet, when considering the spiritual and material aspect, the most important influences were those coming from the Aegean-Anatolian region. Most of the presentation discusses prestige goods, such as bronze weapons, whose significance is mostly cultic, since they were in fact insignia of power. These are decorated with solar signs (like wheels, crosses, spirals and rays) that reflect the ascendancy of certain solar cults, namely of certain divinities to whom the weapons were dedicated offerings contained in hoards and bronze deposits discovered on the territory of Romania. Their quantity reached its maximum in the 12th–11th centuries BC. Afterwards, the cultic depositions progressively decreased, and they totally disappeared in the 8th century BC. Under such conditions, we could question the nature of the possible causes that induced such changes, as well as explanations in cultural (migration) or religious terms.
Combs of the European Bronze and Iron Age
Corina Wetschei (Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg; Germany)
Combs are a neglected category of find in studies of the material culture of the Bronze and Iron Age, even though most of them represent the same “religious” symbolism as e.g. weapons during this period. It is thus very important to take a closer look at this find category. In my Masters thesis, I have researched the various functions and meanings combs could have had in daily life and the afterlife in prehistory. Combs made of different materials along with comb pendants can be found as material artefacts in graves, settlements and hoards as well as in stray finds, but they are also represented in the form of illustrations and petroglyphs, such as on grave steles, face urns, vessels and clay statuettes. The aim of my research is to classify the different shapes and various decorations of combs, to identify the importance of combs in burial rites and to detect the use and meaning of combs in prehistory. First results are that the deposition of combs is specific neither to the burials of women nor the burials of men. Furthermore, some comb shapes are distributed across national borders whereas others are only present in a specific region.
Studies of Gilded Grave Goods in the Nordic Bronze Age
Nikolas Schnabel (Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg; Germany)
In the Nordic Bronze Age, it is possible to locate gold-plated and gold-wire-wrapped grave goods in a variety of different burials. This “tradition” has a high consistency during the Bronze Age. These gildings can be found mostly on objects like weapons or toiletry and as part of clothing, but they can also be found on buried persons themselves, in the form of spiral ornaments or jewellery. In my Masters thesis, I investigate the possible shift of the meaning of an object through gilding. I also work on the construction of an imaginable model of the meaning of “body gildings” during the Nordic Bronze Age. First results are that the gilded area is mainly the part of the object used for adornment, e.g. on hilts and on the handle of razors. In contrast to object gildings, the “gilding of the deceased” is very variable in its location, even though there are some “location centres” in the head area and close to weapons. Most of the burials have poor skeletal preservation, which makes it very difficult to locate these gold spirals. In addition, the spirals vary in size, style and number.