Ancient cultures and their 'signatures'
With the support of EU funding, the project 'Egyptian periodisation - Object categories as historical signatures' (EPOCHS) linked two distinct methodologies to study material production of the Middle to Late Bronze Age (MBA-LBA) transition in Egypt (1850–1550 BC). Through a material analysis of the objects' composition and a theoretical approach to cultural patterns, it established a parallel-track categorisation and periodisation of materials and culture. The overall goal was to map primary diagnostic object-types that might be taken as period 'signatures'. EPOCHS used a signatures framework to learn more about patterns and variations of each material–cultural phase within the transition period. Research also delved into the relationships of Egyptian material production and consumption -- both internal to Egypt and in terms of relations with external groups. The goal here was to assess the societal impact at local, internal–regional and national levels. By studying the relation between archaeological context and ritual practice, problems of ideology in material–cultural products were also reconceptualised. All areas of work enabled the project team to produce a new historical synthesis. Initially, project activities concentrated on training, which included laboratory analyses and collection management. Work was then focused on a selection of museum artefacts, and a cluster of analyses was established to investigate composition, materials provenance and traces of wear. The second part of the project was devoted to the selection and study of object types identifiable as historical signatures. These were studied as a first step to development of a periodisation system. The particular focus was on faience figurines in a specific range of forms. Changes in techniques in figurine production were examined with regard to historical and archaeological development of this type of object. Project results were shared through workshops, a conference, travels and meetings. They were also presented in a comprehensive monograph due to be published later in 2014.
Archaeological, iconography, materials provenance, periodisation, historical signature, artefact, object composition