Nobody is perfect: contrasts in craft

In light of recent debates on specialists it is interesting to highlight the contrast between the sublime and the imperfect and turn our attention to the artefactual diversity of the Bronze Age. In ceramics and metalworking, and from the magnificent lurs to mundane axes, where things are made mistakes will happen. In this session we would like to explore the analytical value of mistakes and failures that can be observed on archaeological material, and the associated topics of repair, reuse, and recycling. Studying mistakes holds great potential as they carry information about technical problems, the skill of the craftsperson, the adoption of new technologies and possibly even learning strategies. New materials need to be explored, new techniques adopted, learned, and mastered. Learning, taking risk, and failure are thus closely intertwined. Failed and semi-finished objects give us insight in production sequences that a finished object cannot. Furthermore, the allowance for mistakes may give insight into what was regarded well enough made to be accepted by society. Associated with failure is repair, another fundamental feature of craftsmanship. A mistake during the production of a flint dagger asks for a different kind of repair (reuse) than a mistake in bronze, which can be recycled. Does this effect learning strategies? Is there a greater allowance for mistakes in certain materials, and does this effect how they are valued? The aim of the session is to leave behind conventional craft categories and move away from contrasts created by the specialist debate through a focus on these alternative topics in craft research. They force us to return to the material and ask ourselves: what do we observe and why do we observe it?

We welcome presentations from all crafts that aim to understand failure, mistakes, imperfection and/or repair, reuse, and recycling; both in terms of material studies or theoretical papers.


Session organisers:

Heide Wrobel Nørgaard

Department of Archaeology, School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University


Maikel Kuijpers

Faculty of Archaeology, University of Leiden

Published Oct. 10, 2016 9:44 PM - Last modified Oct. 17, 2016 5:37 PM