Economic Archaeology & History 5

09-05-2019 van 14:30 tot 17:00
Ghent University, Campus Ufo, Ufo building (1st floor), Lecture Room Henri Pirenne (Department of Archaeology, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 35, 9000, Ghent)
Door wie
Dr. Dimitri Van Limbergen, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy – Department of Archaeology
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Specialist Course - Economic Archaeology & History. Comparative approaches for determining economic performance in archaeological and historical research from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

The next session of the Economic Archaeology & History Spring seminar series, organized by the departments of Archaeology and Ancient History at Ghent University, will take place on Thursday May 9, with a lecture by Timothy Anderson on Turning stones to bread: millstone making in the past.

Timothy has kindly shared the following abstract with us:

Among the many aspects of economic archaeology is that of the production of stones destined to grind cereals into meal for human consumption. The earliest manifestations of this type of production date to the Neolithic, coinciding with the expansion of sedentary societies and agriculture. These tools called querns facilitated the making of the "daily bread" and many other products. Petrographic analyses clearly indicate that the ancient millstone makers preferred certain types of rocks bearing specific properties (hardness, abrasion, availability).  The earliest Neolithic and Bronze Age querns were small and saddle-shaped, driven with a to-and-fro movement. The introduction in the Iron Age of the rotary motion for milling, coinciding with new agricultural techniques and the use of iron to manufacture tools, represented a technological leap forward, greatly reducing the amount of time invested in grinding. This type of circular hand-driven stone (with an origin in the north-east of the Iberian peninsula) would later evolve into the more sophisticated Roman mills driven by man and animal, and the geared mills driven by water. The windmill was a later medieval invention.

This lecture will focus mostly on the question of the classification of quern and millstone quarries from Antiquity to contemporary times, as these sites allowed for a larger scale and more standardised production. Their typological classification is based on the type of rock exploited; that is, whether it was a loose surface block or a bedrock outcrop. Many examples are taken from the southern part of the Iberian peninsula. Others come from research carried out in France, Switzerland and Norway. The first part of the lecture deals with the characteristics of the two major types of millstone quarry and their subdivisions (MQ-1a-b; MQ-2a-b). The talk then moves on to a descriptive vocabulary of quern and millstone quarries based on their nature, geographical position and their progression of extraction. The aim is to offer a coherent terminology to this growing field of research. Finally, the lecture will conclude with a few notions as to the transport and distribution of these often bulky products. Three types of distribution (local, regional and long-distance) are identified. These are often linked to the the means of transport available (land, fluvial, maritime) and the demand of a specific millstone type. In Roman times, certain types, notably those hewn from volcanic rocks, are known to have travelled hundreds of kilometres from their sources. In contemporary times, millstones assembled from a sort of flint from the Parisian Basin (French Burrs), known for yielding a very fine white flour, are also spread throughout Europe and reach as far as the USA and New Zealand.

Timothy Anderson's lecture will be followed - after a 10-min break - by a presentation by UGent PhD candidate Sophie Duchène, who will present her work on Provenancing the grinding stones of Thorikos (Attica, Greece): a contribution to trade within the Aegean.

Sophie has kindly shared the following abstract with us:

In Antiquity, grinding stones made of volcanic rock were transported over long distances from their places of production to their users. Determining their provenances provides data for the reconstruction of trade routes and may contribute to a better understanding of ancient economic choices. Recent provenance studies of grinding stones in the Aegean, however, are scarce and the current state of knowledge relies heavily upon few older studies. In Thorikos, a silver-mining town in south-east Attica, the regular occurrence of grinding stones made of non-local, volcanic rocks offers the opportunity to expand on these older studies, both with regard to the trade of grinding stones in the Aegean and the economic choices made by their users. In the framework of my PhD I combine a diachronic typological study with a functional study and a provenance study based on petrographic and geochemical analyses.

This presentation gives an overview of the preliminary results of a macroscopic study of 116 stone implements found in Thorikos. It stresses the important role played by the Saronic Gulf in the exportation of grinding stones to the neighbouring regions and discusses the contribution of other possible provenances like Nisyros or Santorini.

As usual, the session will open with coffee & biscuits around 2.30 pm. The lecture by Timothy Anderson starts around 2.45 pm. Sophie’s talk will be followed by a general discussion.

Please join us for this fifth session of our specialist course on Thursday May 9 at 2.30 pm in the Lecture Room Henri Pirenne (Department of Archaeology, Ufo building – 1st floor), Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 35, 9000 Ghent).

For practical reasons, we ask non-UGent attendees to RSVP to prior to the start of the seminar.

Feel free to forward this message to anyone who may be interested.