93143 - Archaeology of Production in the Ancient and Medieval World (LM)

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Andrea Gaucci

  • Credits 6

  • SSD L-ANT/06

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language English

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Archaeology and Cultures of the Ancient World (cod. 8855)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Gender equality Life on land

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will know the material sources available for reconstructing the production processes and the function of objects and structures found in the archaeology of the ancient and medieval worlds, coping with the technical and anthropological aspects. They will recognize and critically examine the archaeological documentation relating to production sites and places of consumption in ancient and medieval finds; they will also know how to identify the diagnostic elements of material culture and have the tools to frame information in its correct chronological, historical, political and social context.

Course contents

The course deals with Archaeology of Production in both theoretical and practical perspectives, with particular attention to the most updated analysis models and with a multi-disciplinary approach. A diachronic overview from Protohistory to Medieval Age is offered, focusing the examples on the Mediterranean and European areas.

The course is broadly divided in three blocks of lessons:

1. Theoretical and methodological issues;

2. Craft processes;

3. Thematic studies related to the discipline.

During each block, frontal lectures on specific topics and several activities are scheduled (readings and discussions; visits to Museums and Laboratories; seminars).

1. Theoretical and methodological issues

The first block of 3 lessons are dedicated to theoretical and methodological issues. The first lesson introduces students to the main sources to reconstruct production processes and related issues in Ancient and Medieval world. During the following lessons, most relevant theoretical approaches and the main analytical tools at the base of the discipline are discussed. The main focuses are:

- the different conceptions of ethnoarchaeology and how this can help the study of past production processes.

- classification systems and chrono-morphological seriations within the study of archaeological finds;

- the basic knowledge of archaeometry, i.e. the scientific methods for the study of the archaeological contexts and the analyses of the materials, in order to deepen issues as origin, raw materials, production processes.

The lesson on archaeometry is held at the Laboratories of Department of Biological, Geological, and Environmental Sciences (BiGeA). Proff. Roberto Braga and Giorgio Gasparotto take part to the lesson.

A student discussion on readings given during the first lesson is scheduled.

2. Craft processes

After the introductory block, craft processes are deepened. This second block of 5 lessons deal with crafts employing mechanical modification of the raw materials (i.e. stone, fabrics, bone, wood) and crafts employing transformative processes (i.e. metals, pottery, glass). Besides, the articulation of the productive contexts is investigated through examples amongst archaeological excavations in a diachronic perspective. In particular, the variety of internal organization is analysed on the base of the related landscape and the supply of raw materials.

One of the lessons is held at the Etruscan Museum “P. Aria” of Marzabotto. After the Lesson, there will be a visit of the deposits of the Museum and archaeological area of the Etruscan city of Kainua, a productive urban settlement in the Apennines.

A student discussion on readings given during the first lesson of the block is scheduled.

3. Thematic studies related to the discipline

The third block of 6 lessons deal with thematic studies:

- Cross-craft studies, whichapproach to the reconstruction of knowledge networks by integrating two or more craft traditions, that is flows and transfers among crafts that deal with different materials.

- Skeuomorphism, the process of mimesis between objects made with different materials.

- Post-colonialist studies between production and consumption, which investigate the role of the different cultural models resulting from post-colonial reflection (arising from contemporary history and anthropology) in understanding the genesis of objects and related production and use is analysed.

- Organisation of Labour within the different production contexts in a diachronic perspective. The methodologies applied to investigate the issue are analysed; special attention is given to the different social roles emerging from the archaeological evidence: the development of the artisan figure as an individual aware of his work and role and the activity and life of slaves. A seminar on the quasi industrial production of glass, bronze and weapons at Pi-Ramesse in Late Bronze Age Egypt is held by Prof. H.Franzmeier.

- Writing within production (marks, signatures, stamps, lists). The evidence is analysed in its whole, from the management of batches, which is an integral part of the production process, to the signatures and stamps of artisans and owners, which show the development of the role of craftsmen and workshops in the society and broader production and trade activities.

- The sacred in production processes. The role of religion and the supernatural within the production processes is analysed, deepening the relationship between the productive and the sacred act, and between the craftsman and the divinity. Also, the production of objects intended for sacred practices are dealt with according to the different interpretative models.

A student discussion on readings given during the lessons is scheduled at the end of the block.

During the final lesson, the selection of the topics for the two-phase work valid for the evaluation is discussed with the teacher.


Attending students

During the course discussions on readings are scheduled at the end of each block of lessons. Readings will be available in PDF format in VIRTUALE, i.e. the mutual web space of the course only accessible to Unibo students with institutional credentials.

1. Theoretical and methodological issues

Two readings from the following papers:

- R. B. Salisbury, K. Rebay-Salisbury, Processes of theory: from production sequences and process to chaînes opératoires and object biographies, in A. Gorgues, K. Rebay-Salisbury, R.B. Salisbury (eds.), Material Chains in late Prehistoric Europe and the Mediterranean. Time, Space and Technologies of Production, Bordeaux 2017, pp. 15-29.

- T. Mannoni, The Transmission of Craft Techniques according to the Principles of Material Culture: Continuity and Rupture, in L. Lavan, E. Zanini, A. Sarantis, Technology in Transition A.D. 300-650, Leiden - Boston 2007, pp. xli-lx.

- M. Vidale, J.M. Kenoyer, K.K. Bhan, A discussion of the concept of "chaine opératoire" in the study of stratified societies: evidence from ethnoarchaeology and archaeology, in Ethnoarchéologie. Justification, problèmes, limites, XII Rencontres lnternationales d'Archéologie et d'Histoire d'Amibes, Juan-les-Pins 1992, pp. 181-194.

2. Craft processes

Two readings on crafts employing mechanical modification of the raw materials:

- N. Schlanger, Mindful technology: Unleashing the chaîne opératoire for an archaeology of mind, in C. Renfrew, E.B.W. Zubrow (eds.), The ancient mind. Elements of cognitive archaeology, Cambridge 1994, pp. 143-151.

- M. Gleba, U. Mannering (eds.), Textiles and textile production in Europe. From Prehistory to AD 400, Oxford 2012: one chapter.

Two readings from the following papers on pottery:

- V. Roux, C. Jeffra, The Spreading of the Potter’s Wheel in the Ancient Mediterranean. A Social Context-Dependent Phenomenon, in W. Gauss, G. Klebinder-Gauss, C. von Rüden (eds.), The Transmission of Technical Knowledge in the Production of Ancient Mediterranean Pottery (Proceedings of the International Conference, Athens 2012), Wien 2015, pp. 165-182.

- E. Borgna, S.T. Levi, The Italo-Mycenaen Connection. Some Considerations on the Technological Transfer in the Field of Pottery Production, in W. Gauss, G. Klebinder-Gauss, C. von Rüden (eds.), The Transmission of Technical Knowledge in the Production of Ancient Mediterranean Pottery (Proceedings of the International Conference, Athens 2012), Wien 2015, pp. 115-138.

- A.-M. Curé, Wheelmade Pottery and Socioeconomic Changes in Indigenous Mediterranean Gaul Societies during the Early Iron Age, pp. 239-255.

- P. Arthur, Form, Function and Technology in Pottery Production from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages, in L. Lavan, E. Zanini, A. Sarantis, Technology in Transition A.D. 300-650, Leiden - Boston 2007, pp. 159-186.

One reading from the following papers on metals:

- A. J. Nijboer, Across cultures: The introduction of iron in the western Mediterranean, 10th and 9th centuries BC, pp. 61-81.

- E. Giannicchedda, Metal Production in Late Antiquity: From Continuity of Knowledge to Changes in Consumption, in L. Lavan, E. Zanini, A. Sarantis, Technology in Transition A.D. 300-650, Leiden - Boston 2007, pp. 187-210.

3. Thematic studies

Cross-craft studies:

- A. Brysbaert, Cross-craft and cross-cultural interactions during the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean Late Bronze Age, in S. Antoniadou, A. Pace (eds.), Mediterranean Crossroads, Athens 2007, pp. 325-359.

Post-colonialist studies:

- P.W. Stockhammer, Conceptualizing Cultural Hybridization in Archaeology, in P.W. Stockhammer (ed.), Conceptualizing Cultural Hybridization: A Transdisciplinary Approach (Berlin & Heidelberg 2012), pp. 43-56.

Organisation of the Labour:

Th. Rehren, E.B. Pusch, A. Herold, Qantir-Piramesses and the organisation of the Egyptian glass industry, in A. Shortland (ed.), The Social Context of Technological Change: Egypt and the Near East, 1650-1550 BC (Proceedings of a Conference, Oxford 2000), Oxford 2001, pp. 223-238.

and one of the following readings on slavery:

- I. Morris, Archaeology and Greek Slavery, in K. Bradley, P. Cartledge (eds.), The Cambridge World History of Slavery, 1, Cambridge 2011, pp. 176-193.

- Th.A. Singleton, The Archaeology of Slavery in North America, in AnnRevAnthr. 24, 1995, pp. 119-140.

One of the following readings on the sacred in production processes:

- M. Gošić, I. Gilead, Casting the sacred: Chalcolithic metallurgy and ritual in the southern Levant, in N. Laneri (ed.), Defining the Sacred. Approaches to the Archaeology of Religion in the Near East, Oxford 2015, pp. 161-175.

- B. d'Agostino, M.G. Palmieri, Potters, Hippeis and Gods at Penteskouphia (Corinth), in J. Bintliff, K. Rutter (eds.), The Archaeology of Greece and Rome. Studies in Honour of Anthony Snodgrass, Edinburgh 2016, pp. 155-182.

At the end of the course, attending students will tackle a two-phase work about the analysis of a production context or material class previously agreed with the teacher, employing both the readings discussed during lessons as well as a more specific set of bibliographical references that each student is required to create.

For a complete preparation, it is suggested to study the following texts:

- C. Renfrew, P. Bahn, Archaeology. Theories, Methods, and Practices, London 20167, pp. 317-356.

- C. Renfrew, P. Bahn, Archaeology. The Key Concepts, Oxon 2005 (ss.vv. The Chaîne Opératoire, Ethnoarchaeology, Experimental archaeology, Archaeological formation processes).

- H. M.-L. Miller, Archaeological Approaches to Technology, USA 2007 (or following editions), pp. 1-166, 237-245.

Non-attending students

To prepare the exam, they should contact the teacher, in order to plan a specific bibliography.

Teaching methods

Teaching method consists in frontal lectures, collective discussions on readings and visits to the Museums of Emilia Romagna and University facilities dealing with the subject of the course.

The program includes a visit to the archaeological area of the Etruscan city of Kainua after a lesson in the nearby Museum, and other visits to The International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza and to the Archaeological Park and open-air Museum of the Terramara of Montale. 

Students are strongly encouraged to actively take part in the discussions and visits.

Specialists will be involved during the course to speak about specific topics.

Assessment methods

Attending students

It is required knowledge of specified bibliography and of topics covered during lessons. Attendance to the lessons, active participation to collective discussions and visits to Museums and University facilities is very helpful to pass the final evaluation.

The evaluation will be based on a two-phase work about the analysis of a production context or class of material. The subject of the work will be agreed with the teacher during the final lesson and it will involve the topics covered in class. The work is structured in two phases, an oral presentation and an essay. The first phase includes a 15-minute presentation with slides in front of the class, in which the student will have to defend the structure of his/her own work and have opportunities for feedback before turning in the essay. The essay (16,000 characters including notes and bibliography) should be structured by presenting the topic, the aims of the work, the analysis and conclusions. Specific guidelines will be provided. If the student is found to have cheated (that is presenting the work of others as your own) or plagiarized (that is using information and quotations of others without clearly acknowledging the source), he/she won’t pass the exam.

The grade assigned to the two-phase work will be based on:

- relation of the topic with the course content;

- clarity in structure and aims;

- ability in synthetically expose the structure of the work and defend it in front of the class;

- ability to identify relevant bibliography;

- organisation of the essay;

- critical analysis;

- use of field-specific terminology and appropriate language.

Non-attending students

Students who do not attend the course will have to pass an oral exam, with questions aimed to verify the student's knowledge of the themes treated in the texts agreed with the teacher. The questions will be aimed at testing the student's ability in exposing with an appropriate language some of the topics as well as his/her skills in making connections between different texts in order to build an argument. The overall evaluation will consider the following parameters:

- an excellent knowledge of the topics, the ability to analyse themes, to refer them by using the field-specific terminology and to discuss specific issues critically, arguing their own opinion, will be rewarded with an excellent mark.

- a mnemonic knowledge of the subject with the ability to analyse, with correct, although not always field-specific command of the language will be rewarded with a 'fair' mark.

- minimal knowledge of the subject will not be enough to pass the exam.

Teaching tools

Each lesson will be accompanied by presentation slides with a wide repertoire of images and conceptual maps, subsequently accessible through VIRTUALE.

Students with special learning needs, students with disabilities will be supported during the course and in the preparation of the exam through individual interviews with the teachers, who will provide all the necessary tools (e.g. bibliography in a foreign language for foreign students; concept maps for students with learning disabilities). Please express personal needs from the beginning of the course or by contacting the teacher by e-mail.

Office hours

See the website of Andrea Gaucci