2nd Experimental Archaeology Conference Abstract – Elizabeth Cory-Lopez

From the 2nd Experimental Archaeology Conference, Exeter, 2007.

Analytical and Experimental Approaches to Carving Technology during the Cypriot Middle Chalcolithic

This paper has since been published in the Cunningham, P., Heeb, J. & Paardekooper, R. eds., 2008. Experiencing Archaeology by Experiment, Oxford: Oxbow.

Elizabeth Cory-Lopez MA,

University of Edinburgh, Archaeology, Edinburgh, Scotland

The study of prehistoric technology and technological systems has been greatly enhanced by the work of the anthropologist Pierre Lemonnier (1992).  He provided the beginnings of a methodology by which the functions of technological systems could be linked contextually into social systems.  Inspired by the work of Leroi-Gourhan, Lemonnier further developed the concept of the Chaîne Opératoire to unlock and understand the sequences of actions that the human agent uses to act on the material world.

This concept, I propose, will be of great use in helping to understand technological systems that might have been used to carve the stone, picrolite during the Middle Chalcolithic period of Cyprus(c3200-2700 BC) and thereby providing a new contextual tool in the greater understanding of the society of the time.  To approach this it will be necessary to analyse the original artefacts, and attempt reproduce the tool markings experimentally, to provide insights into the potential tool suites and techniques used in the carving process.

In similar studies in experimental tool mark replication, such as Gwinnet and Gorelick (1979), the analytical procedure has been carried out using the high magnification Scanning Electron Microscopy.  Whilst very successful in providing detailed images of very fine striations, the technique involves making replicas of the original artefacts using a silicon-based moulding material.  I have found that such replication material can be damaging to picrolite.  Considering the artefacts, which number into the hundreds, are held in disparate district museums and localised collections throughout Cyprus, a less invasive, but portable method of analysis is required.

By using 2 low-level binocular microscopes, combined with a digital SLR camera and a digital imagiser I have studied the perforations made in five picrolite pendants. Experiments were then conducted in an effort to reproduce these marks. From this I have begun to hypothesise about the perforating tools and techniques that could have been used in the construction of the original artefacts, and thus begin to understand the Chaîne Opératoire.


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