Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory

BOOKS | 2008

3 March 2011

The Power of Technology in the Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean. The Case of the Painted Plaster

Ann Brysbaert

The Power of Technology in the Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean. The Case of the Painted Plaster

City: London

Year: 2008

Publisher: Equinox

Series: Monographs in Mediterranean Archaeology 12

Description: Hardback, 256 p., 9 b/w & 27 colour figures, 28 tables, 25×17 cm


In the past, Bronze Age painted plaster in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean has been studied from a range of different but isolated viewpoints. One of the current questions about this material is its direction of transfer. This volume brings both technological and iconographic (and other) approaches closer together: 1) by completing certain gaps in the literature on technology and 2) by investigating how and why technological transfer has developed and what broader impact this had on the wider social dynamics of the late Middle and Late Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean.

This study approaches the topic of painted plaster by a multidisciplinary methodology. Moreover, when human actors and their interactions are placed in the centre of the scene, it demonstrates the human forces through which transfer was enabled and how multiple social identities and the inter-relationships of these actors with each other and their material world were expressed through their craft production and organization.

The investigated data from sixteen sites has been contextualized within a wider framework of Bronze Age interconnections both in time and space because studying painted plaster in the Aegean cannot be considered separate from similar traditions both in Egypt and in the Near East.

This study makes clear that it is not possible to deduce a one-way directional transfer of this painting tradition. Furthermore, by integrating both technology and iconography with its hybrid character, a clear ‘technological style’ was defined in the predominant al fresco work found on these specific sites. The author suggests that the technological transfer most likely moved from west to east. This has important implications in the broader politico-economic and social dynamics of the eastern Mediterranean during the LBA. Since this art/craft was very much elite-owned, it shows how the smaller states in the LBA, such as the regions of the Aegean, were capable of staying within the large trade and exchange network that comprised the large powers of the East and Egypt. The painted plaster reflects a very visible presence in the archaeological record and, because it cannot be transported without its artisans, it suggests specific interactions of royal courts in the East with the Aegean peoples. The painted plaster as an immovable feature required at least temporary presence of a small team of painters and plasterers. Exactly this factor forms an argument in support of travelling artisans, who, in turn, shed light onto broader aspects of contact, trade and exchange mechanisms during the late MBA and LBA.


List of figures [vii]

List of tables [ix]

List of abbreviations [xi]

Acknowledgements [xiii]

1. (Prologue): A tale of ‘frescoes’

Introduction [1]

Analytical, technological and conservation studies [7]

Social aspects as the interface between technology, iconography and style [11]

2. The power of technology, knowledge and social agency

Introduction [15]

Painted plaster definitions [16]

Technology definitions [17]

Who were the artisans? [23]

Social identities and social organization of artisans [27]

Technology within an elite context [34]

Human action at the epicenter of technology: a labyrinth of relationships [41]

3. Technological style and the power of technology and knowledge

Introduction [45]

Iconography, technology and style [45]

Technological style [48]

4. Archaeometric approaches to technologies and materials

Introduction [52]

Instrumental analysis and sampling strategies [53]

The methodology of experimentation and replication [63]

Conclusions [76]

5. Painted plaster in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean

Introduction [77]

Cross-cultural contacts and crafts in East Mediterranean societies [77]

The role of painted plaster in East Mediterranean Societies [84]

The archaeological context and the importance of the material per site [86]

Discussion of painted plaster and its date within its context on site [107]

6. Analyzed to bits: Technological and iconographic transfer

Introduction [111]

Macroscopic study results [112]

Microscopic study results [121]

Mineralogical identification of plaster and pigments by means of XRD [128]

The blue pigment issue [134]

Non-destructive approaches 1: Instrumental analyses [139]

Non-destructive approaches 2: Experimental replication [140]

7. Considering material culture and social identities

Introduction [147]

Technology and social agency: Archaeological context [148]

Social agency and technology: Social context [165]

Conclusions [185]

8. Technology and social agency of painted plaster

Introduction [186]

Technological transfer in support of iconographic transfer? [187]

Agency in painted plaster production in the Late Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean [188]

Technology and trade in an eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age context [189]

Where to go from here? [189]

Bibliography [199]

Glossary [243]

Index [245]


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