Grasping Technology, Assessing Craft. Developing a Research Method for the Study of Craft-Tradition
Abstract: This thesis is concerned with the subject of craft and technology and the intricate connection between man, his objects and society. When archaeologists study social and cultural structures and phenomena, it is understood that the objects have been created and crafted by people, but the weight of this fact is not always recognized. Acknowledging that we are always studying the material expression of past productions, leads us to the question of how and to what degree craft and technology can be said to be inherently human and to what degree they shape and mirror societies. If we accept archaeological material culture as being a creation, then the artefact, or a structure, becomes not only form but also contains the idea of the form, the choices that were made and the ideas about the function in the mind’s eye, as well as the social relations and interaction of the craftsmen all culminating in the artefact that is the artefact we see today. The production and objects of human beings will also be what shape the societies, minds and bodies of the people involved. In short the aim of this thesis is to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the inherently social phenomena of craft and technology, and to understand to what degree we can answer questions concerning the technological choices of the past through the limited empirical record of archaeological material. The study propose a research method that puts attention on craft-tradition, understood to mean the comprehensive complex of manufacture, the social relations and context, actants, and habitus of the craftsman. The research method is general in its design as it outlines the different levels of study necessary when studying a craft-tradition. The research method is tested on a case-study that is concerned with the introduction of the sail in textile and maritime craft-tradition. During 500-800 AD it would seem a change took place that eventually changed and combined the longstanding tradition of oar-driven boats with the blossoming of a skilled use of rig and sail. This is indicated in the depictions on Gotlantic picture stones and the remains of a developed rig found in the Oseberg ship and later finds. Exploring this claim the textile craft-tradition from the Swedish region of Scania is outlined and the context of manufacture and the craftsman’s habitus of the Late Migration and Vendel Period Scania are analysed. A final aim has been to further develop the research model so that it might allow us to understand both the patterns that might be said to belong to the human condition as well as the ones specific to a given social and cultural context.
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