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Typology and technology of Roman bone object manufacture in the Lower Pannonia area based on Mursa findings


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Kovač, Marina. (2017). Typology and technology of Roman bone object manufacture in the Lower Pannonia area based on Mursa findings. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Archaeology.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij arheologije) [mentor Sanader, Mirjana].

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Analysis of Roman bone finds, regardless of whether they were discovered during old or more recent research, is categorised as a more complex type of analysis of archaeological finds. Due to the lack of relevant literature and the inability to differentiate between raw material before processing, half-products and workshop waste in our area, not a single bone processing workshop has been confirmed with certainty in the Croatian part of the Lower Pannonia province. The situation is not drastically different in the rest of the province, so an inconsiderable number of bone workshops has been determined in Lower Pannonia province – in Gorsium (Tác), Intercisa (Dunapentele) and Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica). This doctoral thesis deals with Roman bone objects from Mursa (present-day Osijek). It includes the analysis of 1222 objects made of bone material from actual or supposed Mursa sites. All the bone finds are kept at the Collection of Roman Bone Objects of the Museum of Slavonia in Osijek. The Collection is mostly composed of hairpins and different types of sewing, knitting and embroidery needles, as is the case with most Roman sites. Then, there are tokens, spatulas and sticks, knife handles and other house utensils, weaving utensils, parts of furniture, combs, half-products, workshop waste, etc. There is a considerable amount of objects of undeterminable typology due to fractures at the head, which belong to hairpins and textile needles. These objects were used as a statistical indicator of considerable bone production in Mursa. The finds were brought into the Museum of Slavonia in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century as purchases, random finds, donations, while a smaller number was discovered during rescue archaeological excavations in the second half of the 20th century. These are mostly older excavations which do not provide elaborate information about the context of the finds. It has to be said that this is not unusual when it comes to analysis of individual bone objects and museum collections, on the contrary, this happens rather often, but this does not undermine neither the relevance nor the need for a detailed scientific analysis of these types of finds. However, this certainly poses a challenge for the scientist to find other ways of gathering data about the objects. While studying non-contextual finds, the first attempt is to determine the typology of the finds, and then the production technology. This typological determinations of the finds is quite demanding because it relies upon the general chronological framework of a certain type. This implies comprehensive and in-depth research into a variety of published literature, but it also presents itself as the only solution in such a case. This dissertation had two main objectives and a secondary objective. The first main objective was to determine the typology of the aforementioned Roman bone finds from Mursa on the basis of a comparative method which is successfully used in archaeology. After a detailed overview, we divided the material into 11 groups according to function, and then subdivided the objects according to type (e.g., group: Jewellery, category: Hairpins and type: Type 1 – 19 plus Typologically undetermined hairpins). After cataloguing and statistical analysis, the results showed that the most numerous group of finds is Jewellery, a total of 52.54% of analysed Mursa finds, followed by Objects for textile processing with 20.05%, while the third largest group is Typologically undetermined needles and hairpins (12.52%), which is actually a combination of the first and second group, but the objects cannot be attributed to any type due to breakage at the head or the needle's eye. This data completely correlates with the data from other Roman sites, not only in Lower Pannonia, but in other provinces as well, where hairpins and needles are usually the most numerous finds in the Roman horizon. Apart from that, the largest presence at the sites is for tokens, which can be found in our Objects for fun and games group (6.79%), as the most frequent objects of the group with 78 finds. If we consider all four major groups, we can see they include 91.9% of the objects in the Collection, with 79.38% of objects whose typology can be determined. All the groups and types are described in detail in the chapter Typology of Bone Objects of the Collection of Roman Bone Objects of the Museum o Slavonia, catalogued and statistically analysed. The second main objective of this dissertation was the analysis of production technology, more specifically, the production process. The study of production technology has become increasingly relevant in recent years, which is a significant change in relation to before when this aspect of studying archaeological material had been overlooked. A growing importance has been assigned to the analytical method of chaîne opératoire, i.e., the operational chain, established by André Leroi-Gourhan to reconstruct the production process from the supply of the raw material, preparation of the raw material, processing, use of the final product to discarding of the object. This analytical method will be used in our ninth chapter Technology of Bone Object Production from the Collection of Roman Bone Objects of the Museum of Slavonia, where we analysed the production steps in the processing of the objects, the tools and techniques used, as well as the decorative repertoire of Mursa finds. A detailed look into the material allowed us to determine that the tools and processing techniques applied in Mursa were the same as in other provinces in the Roman Empire. Various types of knives, saws, files, chisels, augers, burins and mechanised devices, such as, lathes were used to process raw bone material. Among 1222 items in the Collection of Roman Bone Objects we did not observe any deviations from the regular applications of tools and techniques used to process raw bone material. The raw material exhibits the usual traces of knife and saw cutting, half-products have visible kife cuts and traces of filing, and production waste reveals repetitive tool markings at the same spots and visible breaks and blows in certain places, which ultimately resulted in discarding of these objects. Traces of filing, i.e., finishing touches are visible on particular finds, but it is important to point out that most objects are very well polished in the finishing phase, so these objects provide very little information about the processing methods in the operational chain. Mursa finds are particularly interesting because of the finishing traces on the objects, that is, the decorative repertoire which is executed with hand tools and machines. Out of 1222 objects, 184 of them feature some form of decoration. These bone finds were divided in three major groups according to the type of decoration. First, there are objects with geometric decoration, either made with hand tools, such as, knives and augers or a machine, such as a lathe. This is the largest group of objects, representing 90.74% of all decorated finds in the Collection. Then, there are objects with figurative representations, divided into zoomorphic and anthropomorphic motives, a total of 4.89% of decorated finds, while the last group are objects with vegetative decoration, with the smallest number of only 2 finds, that is, 1.09% of the total decorated Collection. After reaching these two primary goals, we were able to also achieve the secondary objective, which was the chronological determination of the majority of the objects. There is only a small number of objects from closed units, such as, graves, attributed via coins or other materials and previously published. Other objects were dated using a comparative method on the basis of the above mentioned relevant literature. Most of the types date back to the 1st century, and continue to the 5th century, with the exception of combs, whose typology persists all the way to the Middle Ages. To a lesser extent, there are types which appear in the 2nd and 3rd century until the 5th century, with the exception of hairpins Type 4, 5 and 6, which disappeared from use in the 3rd century. The implementation of the aforementioned objectives enabled the putting forward of a hypothesis regarding the existence of workshop/s for processing bone material in Mursa. The numerous Mursa finds are not enough to determine a workshop at a particular spot in Mursa, because not all half-products were found at the same location. Moreover, no archaeological evidence has been determined about the location of the Mursa workshop/s in the form of building remains. Nevertheless, even though no tools, hearth or waste pits with workshop waste have been found next to the raw material and half-products, the impressive number of finds alone implies the existence of a local bone processing workshop. Moreover, on the basis of our research, we believe that the objects analysed in this dissertation were made in the Roman colony of Mursa to meet the demand of the local population. Additionally, the variety of types and the number of finds, as well as evidence that a certain number of objects were made and decorated by a lathe, all point strongly towards the conclusion that at least one specialised workshop for processing bone objects in a Roman colony of that size and rank more than likely existed. Having said that, this paper also aims to contribute to a more careful and dedicated collection of bone finds, not only of finished products, but also of raw bone materials, halfproducts and workshop waste. We also hope that this dissertation will draw attention to raw bone material as something extremely interesting and valuable, something which opens up new possibilities for scientific interpretation and breaks new ground for systematic study of Roman bone finds in Croatian museums.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: raw materials, bone, horn, antler, ivory, bone workshops, technology, chaîne opératoire, typology, Lower Pannonia
Subjects: Archaeology
Departments: Department of Archaeology
Supervisor: Sanader, Mirjana
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij arheologije
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2017 12:56
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2017 12:56

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