9th Experimental Archaeology Conference abstract – Morris et al

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag: Using 3D Laser Scanning and Experimental Archaeology to Understand Cretan Bronze Age Figurines

Christine Morris (Trinity College Dublin), Alan Peatfield (University College Dublin) & Brendan O’Neill (University College Dublin)

This story began when a small ceramic cat’s head was excavated, together with hundreds of other figurines, on the Minoan peak sanctuary of Prinias over forty years ago. This material has remained largely unexamined, but for the past three years the authors have been studying it for publication. Initially, this powdery, feline image seemed unique, particularly when viewed in relation to the more typical elements of the peak sanctuary assemblage, which comprises handmade figurines, primarily anthropomorphic, animal and ‘votive limbs’ or body parts. As the research progressed, our perceptions and understanding of our cat’s head were transformed.

This Irish Research Council funded project uses a combination of traditional artefact study (cataloguing and photography) together with 3D laser scanning to study thousands of figurines from ten peak sanctuary sites in eastern Crete. This approach has enabled the project team to engage more fully with the technology of manufacture of the figurines. The creation of virtual 3D objects has also allowed the team to use innovative identification methods, to further analyse objects outside of the museum space, to create 3D prints and more.

This paper explores how experimental archaeology has played a central role in the verification of hypotheses relating to the production technology of the cat’s head. Using the cat as our example, we also address the opportunities that replication provides both for further study and for outreach projects. It will also discuss the implications of this multifaceted approach for exploring issues of production, skills and society during the Cretan Bronze Age.

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