- Show more
The discipline of the archeology of the productive cycle
The archeology of production is a discipline that arises from the study of material culture with the objective of unraveling the productive cycle, production structures, and the socio-economic context based on the processes that resulted in a certain artifact found In a site. Therefore, we could affirm that the archeology of production includes the idea of reverse engineering and extends it to insert it into a social and economic context that explains both the cycle of a certain material object of the past, as well as its possible social, economic and economic impact environmental. In these lines, we will raise a reflection on the importance of production to know past societies and the problems of the proposals of the archeology of production. To do this, we will use as an example the case of ceramic production.
In ancient times, ceramics were a good good to all classes and social conditions, so it is not surprising that it is one of the most abundant preserved material objects in all archaeological sites. Ceramic containers were essential for food storage and transportation, an aspect of great relevance with the expansion of commercial routes throughout the Mediterranean. In addition, they were essential objects on a day -to -day for the transport, storage and preparation of food. However, it was not a merely utilitarian object; On the contrary, the typological variety suggests that it could also be an object of social prestige and even symbolic. That is why we can affirm that ceramics in antiquity becomes an important industry and, consequently, a good example with which to address the aforementioned questions.
The first question we raised was: what does the archeology of production contribute to know the past societies? First, at the time of the high social demand of the products derived from ceramics in antiquity, we can say that the archeology of production allows us to know how social and economic mechanisms are articulated to meet the needs and demands of the population Regarding a certain product. In this way, knowing ceramic production centers, for example, we could know if there was a monopoly or, on the contrary, production was carried out in different centers, diversified. In the same way, depending on the technical requirements of production, we could know if it is a specialized or general production. Along these lines, production archeology puts production centers and techniques used with places for consumption, analyzing both production costs and the possible benefits of its commercialization. Therefore, we can affirm that this perspective adds new information to the studies of material culture, while it allows to know how the productive structures of the past were articulated.
The archeology of production expands the traditional perspectives of analysis of material culture, emphasizing both the processes that resulted in the creation of an object, and in its useful and subsequent waste or reuse. So, another relevant aspect of production archeology is diachronic evolution in productive techniques and processes. This approach allows to analyze the operating chain, and, therefore, the knowledge and technical limitations that gave rise to the artifacts preserved in the archaeological registry. In the case of ceramics, this "reverse engineering" exercise depends, to a large extent, on archeometry. Thus, mineralogical and chemical analyzes allow to know the sources of obtaining raw material to make ceramics. Therefore, these multidisciplinary works are necessary to know the first steps of the operating chain: obtaining mud or clay. This information is essential to learn about the strategies of spatial territory and management. Thus, if the production centers were more or less close to the sources of supply of raw materials we could provide a more complete interpretation on the settlement patterns and space management and resources of the territory.
The second step consists in the transformation of said raw material, which is highly informative about the technology used. In this regard, archeology shows the great diversity of techniques and procedures that have existed in ceramic production during antiquity. Normally, clay requires some type of water treatment to remove larger sandy particles; Once it was refined, it used to be left outdoors to cause its oxidation and increase its plasticity; Finally, speakers were added to be able to start with turning or molding. To know all this, the archeology of production needs, to a large extent, of experimental archeology and ethnographic records, since this first phase of clay processing does not leave direct evidence. On the contrary, the buriles, molds, straighteners, punches, and a whole series of artifacts that are used in the following phases of production, do report on the molding and decoration process of ceramics. The use of the lathe, for example, suggests the need to make a rapid and standardized production that begins with the body of the glass, to end the portals of the handles and necks. The systematization and chain production of a certain product is also usually informative about the type and amount of demand that is exercised on this.
The third step in the operating chain of ceramic production is decoration. The use of molds, or certain decorative motifs, usually inform about the exclusivity or generality of the clothing. In some cases, these decorations can even inform about their function, symbology or tastes of the recipient. In the same way, the varnish not only prevented the appearance of cracks, but also contributed a characteristic finish (for example, with the sigillata terra through ferric compounds) that normally helped identify the geographical origin of production and even, even , the workshop. On the other hand, the cooking of ceramics also leaves numerous direct evidence, such as the furnaces. This phase is the most complex and normally required previous experience, since a small error could spoil a batch of vessels. Today, thanks to experimental archeology, we can know if oxidizing cooking or reducing atmosphere was used in the past, an aspect that informs us of the preferences and demands from different areas.
At this point, it is evident that the archeology of production provides very valuable information about the tastes, aesthetic preferences, social and economic organization, trade routes, and even about the demand in the past on a certain product. However, this may be precisely one of the limitations of production archeology. Any research carried out from this approach will necessarily have to address many other aspects of the society that produced ceramics: its capacity and technical development, social and economic organization, the social consideration of artisans, the objects and symbols of social prestige, etc. In short, the archeology of production is essential to know many aspects of past societies, but it is not enough to fully address their ways of life and social and economic organization. Any analysis of the communities of the past must make a broader reading in which, although the archeology of production has much to contribute, it cannot be the only approach used.
To this difficulty we must add that, as is currently happening, in the past there was no single method or end of the production of a certain object. Thus, the different elements that configure the attributes of ceramic production varied largely depending on the type of object that was manufactured, its recipient and its function. In this way, table or kitchen dishes had very different attributes to ceramic products for storage or transportation. And in addition, the table or kitchen dishes could also vary depending on the social class or economic power of its owners.
During the Romanization, a large number of indigenous peoples maintained their methods and motifs of ceramic production for some time independent of that carried out by Rome; In other cases, there was a kind of mixing in techniques and reasons, which is normally interpreted as a reflection of cultural syncretization processes. Therefore, research on production archeology should always focus on particular cases, since it is the socio-cultural synergy of a community or region that will greatly affect the attributes of production.
That said, and as a final balance, we can affirm that the archeology of production can provide many keys for the interpretation of the archaeological registry, although the study of past societies must seek a much broader reading. Today, there are numerous publications on the archeology of ceramic production at different times. All these investigations show the potential of the archeology of production to understand a large number of aspects of past societies, although it must be borne in mind that for these readings to be carried out correctly, multidisciplinary research will always be necessary.