The Artisanal Perspective in Action : An Archaeology in Practice

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

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In what way can an artisanal perspective and artisanal knowledge contribute to current archaeology? How can theories about skill and expertise explain and affect research on artisanal issues? These are the questions that are in focus and have been explored in the four collected papers and in the concluding article in this thesis. The author proposes an artisanal perspective from an interdisciplinary viewpoint. The departure of this proposal is the author’s own position as an educated ceramist and an archaeologist.
The first paper outlines how levels of skill can be explored and used to interpret ceramic assemblages with the method ”artisanal interpretation”. The results of the artisanal interpretation show that new information and interpretations of ceramic skill in manufacturing vessels for grave contexts indicated that the ceramics in graves were made with less skill than those in settlements. The graves were dated to 300–400 AD and originated from Västergötland in Sweden.
The paper that follows focuses on one particular find from the Roman Iron Age. The exploration reveals how new ways of surveys can create knowledge about anomalies and through this reveal new find categories. Artisanal knowledge, science and archaeology worked well together in this interdisciplinary exploration. The first ancient oxide crayon found in a Swedish Roman Iron Age context was observed and identified by the method artisanal interpretation.
The third paper revisits Käringsjön tarn, first excavated in 1917 and later extensively in 1945. Several archaeologists have interpreted the site from different perspectives. The author’s strictly defined artisanal interpretations included, beside ceramic artisanal knowledge, artisanal knowledge from one professional woodworker, one textile artisan and one farmer. This was the first attempt to employ knowledge from experience-based expertise (practitioners) in the author’s own archaeological interpretation. These artisans were interviewed and presented with artefacts so that they could perform their own artisanal interpretations and were asked to evaluate the levels of skill used in manufacturing the objects. Here the author put herself in the position of the archaeologist that needs expertise to interpret ancient artisanal knowledge. The experience of this exploration was invaluable for understanding in what way conclusions can be drawn from observations from contemporary artisans and how to evaluate and work with artisanal interviews.
The fourth and final paper in the thesis takes a long-term perspective on the extensive finds from Pryssgården. The site was excavated in 1993–94 and revealed one of the largest assemblages of Bronze Age artefacts, containing c. 7 700 ceramic finds. In the traces of artisans explored through artisanal interpretations new ways of understanding artisanal matters were extracted. This paper is produced as a monograph to be able to give in-depth evaluations and interpretations of artefacts and artisanal skill in order to understand Bronze Age life (LBA) in Sweden.
In conclusion a new way of inviting expertise built on theories of knowledge, i.e. the “Third Wave of Science Studies – Studies of Experience based Expertise” (SEE) in archaeology is proposed. Explorations of how tacit knowledge, silent witnesses, visual studies of crafting and interviews can be used to widen the knowledge of ancient crafts, artisanship and technologies are presented.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Archaeology
  • Olausson, Deborah, Supervisor
  • Lindahl, Anders, Supervisor
  • Magnusson Staaf, Björn, Supervisor
Award date2016 Mar 4
ISBN (Print)978-91-87833-60-1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2016-03-04
Time: 10:15
Place: Sal C121, LUX, Helgonavägen 3, Lund.

External reviewer(s)

Name: Högberg, Anders
Title: Docent
Affiliation: Linnéuniversitetet


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Classical Archaeology and Ancient History

Free keywords

  • Archaeology
  • expertise
  • artisanal perspective
  • skill
  • artisanal interpretation
  • practice
  • craft
  • craftspersons
  • techniques
  • knowledge
  • situated learning
  • master–apprentice
  • artefacts
  • tools
  • imprints
  • fingerprints
  • colour
  • crayon
  • artist material
  • re-interpretation
  • evaluation
  • tacit knowledge
  • embodied knowledge
  • silent knowledge
  • silent studies
  • contemporary artisanship


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