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Between a Rock and a Hard Place: context, function and choice of early metalworking tools on Europe’s Atlantic façade


The aim of this project is to achieve a better understanding of both the technological and the social dimensions of early metalworking in Western Europe, through a systematic study of the toolkit employed by Chalcolithic and Bronze Age craftspeople. The study will consider both physical (tool morphology, use wear, material properties) and contextual data (site type, chronology, association with other items), with the primary objectives of reconstructing the respective chaînes opératoires and of identifying inherent constraints and determinants in metalworkers’ technical decision making. The latter will also involve a systematic comparison between the types of rock chosen as raw material for lithic metalworking tools and raw-material selection for other lithic implements within their respective communities, to gain insights into the structure of metalworkers’ social networks.
The corpus of material to be included in this study comprises the vast majority of known percussive metalworking tools (hammers and anvils) from Western Europe, manufactured both from lithic materials (c 330 objects) and from copper-base alloys (c 180 objects). The study area includes the British Isles, France, the Iberian Peninsula, and the Benelux countries, with chronological coverage extending to the onset of the Iron Age in the early 1st millennium BC.
The project’s methodology builds on a novel approach developed by the fellow as part of her PhD work on lithic metalworking tools from France, but will also introduce a number of new approaches (lithics provenancing, network analysis), considerably expanding and diversifying the fellow’s skill base (artefact petrology, 3D scanning, database design), to ultimately allow her to attain a position of professional maturity at an international level. Planned project outcomes include a number of conference papers and a peer-reviewed journal paper, as well as an open-access database making the project data available to the wider scientific community

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University Road Lanyon Building
BT7 1NN Belfast
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 221 606,40
Administrative Contact
Aveen Lavery (Ms.)