Fire! Fire! – Or why archaeologists investigate ancient firing technologies

TwoRains Blog

Hi again – it is Alessandro, your friendly neighbourhood ceramic specialist.

In the last few weeks, I have been busy re-firing some archaeological ceramics in a furnace at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge. You might ask “Why do you put ancient pottery in an oven?” Although it is a relatively relaxing activity, there are reasons why we undertake the study of ancient pyro-technologies (from Greek πυρ, pyr, fire).

In the process of producing pottery, the firing stage – and in particular temperatures and structures used – give us important insights into technologies and manufacturing techniques. The sequence of actions that transform clay objects into durable ceramics is one of the crucial stages of ceramic production, and it is possibly the most dramatic. There are a number of approaches that can be used to understand ancient pyro-technologies, ranging from experimental archaeology to analytical techniques. In the photos below, you…

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Introducing the APT Petro-Lab

TwoRains Blog

Affordable, Practical and Transportable Petrographic Laboratory

Hi again – it is Alessandro, your neighbourhood ceramic specialist. In a previous post on Indus Ceramics (link here) I mentioned some of my daily tasks as part of the TwoRains research project in Cambridge: amongst them, ceramic thin-section petrography, which I am using to study aspects of ancient Indus societies, crafts and technologies.

Between excavations in the field and laboratory analysis, there is an intermediate stage where I identify the most suitable vessels for further study and collect samples, including thin-sections and powder from ceramic vessels. This can be quite an engaging and complex task, particularly if you are not allowed to move antiquities out of a country and bring them to your laboratory. With this in mind, we asked how would we go about producing 30 microns’ thick sections of ceramic vessel fragments in the field? Well, I have developed…

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Beyond Indus Ceramics: Exploring the British Museum Collections

TwoRains Blog

Greetings! – this is Alessandro and I am one of the ceramics specialists for the ERC TwoRains project. For my PhD research, I am pursuing a holistic approach to the study of archaeological ceramic materials from Indus urban and post-urban sites being excavated by the project to trace social continuity and transformations within the production systems of rural communities.

Long story short: I spend a lot of time looking at fragments of pottery, thin-sections and ceramic powder samples. I am combining technological and compositional methods to study ceramic industries, including thin-section petrography, XRD, FTIR, WD-XRF and pXRF. Combining these methods with traditional morpho-stylistic analysis, I am investigating the production (chaîne opératoire) of artefacts to understand synchronic and diachronic cultural behaviour.

Storage jar Indus Storage Jar from Mohenjo-daro. © The Trustees of the British Museum

In the last 6 months, I have been taking short breaks from microscopes and databases in Cambridge to…

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The Indus Civilisation in Athens, Greece

Ancient South Asian crafts and technologies meet ancient and modern Greece Find the original post on the Fitch Blog, BSA, British School at Athens. You might wonder why an Italian researcher from Rome, PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, went to Athens to work on archaeological materials from Ancient India. Well, the reason is… Continue reading The Indus Civilisation in Athens, Greece

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Ethnoarchaeology of crafts in villages in north-west India

Original post on the TwoRains Blog. Hi again – Alessandro here.  After spending 4 months in India, studying ancient ceramic artefacts and working on the excavation at Lohari Ragho (link), Haryana, I am finally back in Cambridge, with plenty of samples. As mentioned in a previous blogpost (link), I spent several weeks at Banaras Hindu… Continue reading Ethnoarchaeology of crafts in villages in north-west India