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Middle and Late Bronze Age Metal Tools from the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, and Anatolia: Implications for Cultural/Regional Interaction and Craftmanship

By Nicholas G. Blackwell


This study considers the distribution and consumption trends of metal tools from the second millennium BC over a wide geographical area including Crete, the Greek mainland, the Greek islands, Cyprus, Anatolia, and Syria-Palestine. An exhaustive database of 5300+ tools was compiled from these regions and time frame. While copper and copper-alloy implements are attested in the third millennium and earlier, the significant advancement of the metallurgical industry in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean is directly associated with the quantity and diversification of metal tools during the Middle and Late Bronze Age. The progression of craft industries is also related to the development and production of specific and sometimes specialized tool forms. The degree of pre- and proto-historic interaction among multiple regions is evaluated through the lens of metal tools, items that were neither bulk nor elite goods. The primary research questions are 1) to assess the meaning of patterns in tool consumption and 2) whether it is possible to identify traveling craftspersons in the archaeological record through such distributions. Analysis of the large database begins with a broad overview of the tool choices made in each region and time period. Implements are classified into discernible functional categories such as agricultural, metallurgical, utilitarian, tools for small crafting, and carpentry/masonry. Given the strong correlation between the evolution of metal tools and architecture, it should be no surprise that carpentry/masonry implements are the preferred tools throughout the second millennium BC, and therefore much of the study’s focus is on this category. A meticulous investigation of the carpentry/masonry tool types identifies their distribution by area and site, highlighting regional and local tool preferences. A thorough examination of tools from metal hoards and shipwrecks reveals the existence of tool kits, and this observation has important implications for reassessing how hoards are interpreted. While it is difficult to track the movement of craftspersons from tools alone, distinctive trends of selection and cross-regional comparison of tool types demonstrate identifiable links among several regions. The exact meaning of the interregional tool similarities is less clear, though one may speculate on the possibilities of deliberate craft interaction and exchange

Topics: History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology
Publisher: Scholarship, Research, and Creative Work at Bryn Mawr College
Year: 2011
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