Changing Taste and Technology in Iron Age Satricum

Changing Taste and Technology in Iron Age Satricum.

Jelsje Stobbe | Supervisors Marijke Gnade and Sebastian Abrahamsson | University of Amsterdam 2009-2013

My PhD research is part of both an excavation project, the Satricum Project, and a pottery studies project, New Perspectives on Ancient Pottery (NPAP). Their joint aim is to set new standards for research on archaeological pottery by exploring two themes in pottery studies: context related design and provenance issues. In addressing these themes, an important role is attributed to scientific research. Trying to develop a sensitivity for the hard sciences has brought me on the path of Science, Technology and Society Studies, often referred to as ‘STS’. Within STS there has been an ongoing discussion on the division between descriptions of practices and the actually ‘constructed fact’, which reminds of the division within archaeology between the ethnography of archaeological practices on the one hand and the facts as a result (or effect) of those practices onthe other hand. In the past 15 years or so several appeals have been made for studying archaeological practices in relation to the facts that archaeologists produce, but examples are still few; possibly because of the ongoing struggle with distant pasts next to reflexive presents, or maybe even because of the archaeologists’ embarassment to talk about their own practices. A way out of the practices/facts divide might be an approach based on realities-in-practice (Mol 2002). Realities-in-practice would be a move away from talking about or above archaeology, and towards situating facts within archaeology. Away from isolated objects that are decorated with many meanings, and towards the multiplicity of objects. Away from purely anthropocentrism, and towards relational thinking which includes the object as well. Realities-in-practice studies from the discipline of STS will thus serve as travelling cases to explore both the combined research topics of the Satricum Project and NPAP, and my concerns in archaeology.

The PhD research will focus on three topics: the classifying archaeologist, the orientalising revolution, and the entangled concepts of scale, resolution and context. Each topic will consist of an overview of the relevant literature followed by a contrasting casestudy of practices. The first topic (‘The classifying archaeologist’) concerns the difference between static classifications in literature and dynamic classifications in practice. The study of practices will include sites such as the excavation, the finds processing, the storeroom and the database in order to stress the politics involved in finding similarities and differences between pottery sherds. This topic is evoked in order to add to the recently emerging reflection on the classificatory imperative within archaeology. The second topic (‘From sherd to revolution’) contrasts the use of the concept of the orientalising revolution in archaeological literature with how it is done in practice. In order to be able to gobeyond deconstruction of both orientalism and revolution in literature, the borrowed concept of multiplicity will be introduced in order to make a case for a multiple oriental revolution and nonrevolution in practice. The third topic (‘Talking scales, doing topics’) addresses the omnipresent perspective of scale and resolution in archaeological literature. By studying two important spaces in archaeology, the excavation context as a starting point for scale and the pottery sherd as a starting point for resolution, I hope to show that in practice archaeologists do topics instead of scales, resolutions and contexts.