“Current Archaeological Research in Spain”, conferences organized by the National Archaeological Museum in collaboration with the Palarq Foundation.
Next Tuesday October 8 at 18h in National Archaeological Museum of Madrid, the attendance is free
Bone, horn and ivory: marginal crafts? is the talk given by Lucía Soria Combadiera (UCLM), Consuelo Mata Parreño (UV) and Marta Blasco Martín (UV), on Tuesday October 8 at 6 pm, in the conference room of the National Archaeological Museum (MAN)
The Wood, Bone, Ivory, Horn and Shell Project – Marginal crafts? (HAR2013-45770-P) (2014-2017) was initiated as a continuation of the research projects developed on the Flora and Fauna of the Iberians (2004-2012). Through them we realized that some of the organic remains of flora and fauna not only serve to reconstruct the landscape and learn about the diet of the ancient Iberians, but they were also used as raw materials to produce tools and different objects. Tools and objects that are hardly included in publications under headings such as Otros, Varia or “Les Petits Objets” in the French bibliography. With this observation it was clear that they have been objects marginalised from preferential lines of research. But, is it a “deserved” marginalization due to its scarce presence in the life of the Iberians and in the archaeological record?
Thus, the objective and basis of our work was based on this question, to which we had to give an answer by analyzing the pieces elaborated on these raw materials, looking for the people behind the objects. External circumstances, such as the scarce financing received, forced us to select some raw materials and “marginalize” others. For this reason, we focused on bone, horn and ivory craftsmanship. In this way, we have been able to catalogue some 40 objects made of shells and 200 of wood and vegetable fibres.
Ivory horn bone: A set of the significant pieces from different origins ©.
To find out if it was a marginal craft, we set out to answer other questions:
What? That is to say, to collect the objects, paying attention to their most outstanding features as raw material, form or decoration.
In other words, the operative chain, from the selection of the raw material to its treatment and manipulation until the desired object is obtained.
Where? Recognizing work spaces through raw material waste and identifying the tools used. As well as analyzing the contexts of discovery, both domestic and funerary spaces.
Who? Whether or not they are specialized Iberian artisans. Or if, on the contrary, the objects come from commerce.
What for? Try an approach to the use, function and symbolism of objects and tools, as well as to the people who use these objects.
In this way we have revised and inventoried almost 700 finished pieces, catalogued in 35 different types, identifying that the main raw material is the meso bone and macromammals (livestock and hunting), followed by horn and ivory. Exceptionally there are horns, fish vertebrae and bird bones. Among the objects worth highlighting for their volume or exceptionality are pins, needles and punches, handles, hinges and boxes, decorative appliqués, combs, and perforated plates.
Technological analysis, in a macro and microscopic way, complemented with chemical analysis on some pieces and experimental recreations, have allowed us to understand the technical actions necessary for the elaboration of these objects, as well as the tools used: small saws, knives, axes and adzes, punches, drills and abrasive materials such as stones, plants and sands.
The review of fauna collections with the aim of finding work marks and not butchery or consumption, has served to identify matrices, supports and discarded pieces. The distribution of these remains indicates that in most of the settlements the bone and horn were worked, but there are no spaces dedicated exclusively to this task.
Puntal and Kelin combs: Upper part, ivory combs from Puntal dels Llops (Olocau, Valencia) with incised wild boars. Lower part, ivory comb of Kelin (Caudete de las Fuentes, Valencia) with incised decoration of two birds (left) and two dogs in heraldic position (right).©
We have also been able to determine that there were different levels of craftsmanship: from those simple pieces that anyone with everyday tools could make (such as a punch or a simple pin) to those that were more complex either because of the decoration or because of the need to use more sophisticated tools, such as pins with decorative heads, plates, horn boxes, etc. The most complex level would be that of specialized craftsmanship that would require learned knowledge, delicate working tools and even access to raw materials that would not be within everyone’s reach, as we have documented in the handles made on ivory and decorated with amber incrustations adhered with tin. This type of pieces was made by expert craftsmen who were able to carry out other tasks such as cabinetmaking or goldsmithing.
With this project we have put in value some marginalized crafts, but not at all marginalized. Through the study of handles of tools and weapons, the tools for spinning and weaving (fusayolas, spindles, looms, punches and needles), the parts of furniture (plates, hinges), the objects of cleanliness and personal adornment (combs, pins and beads of necklace), of the games (dice, cards, tabs)… that is to say, of the small objects made on bone, horn and ivory, we approach every day, cultural, economic, social, identitarian and symbolic aspects of the Iberian world that cannot be marginalized by research.
La Fundación Palarq es una entidad privada y sin ánimo de lucro que se crea con la finalidad de apoyar las Misiones Arqueológicas Españolas, dentro de una perspectiva que abarca desde la etapa paleontológica a las épocas prehistóricas y las históricas en interés monumental.