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Interested in the roles of metals in societies, particularly the Aegean Middle/Late Bronze Age

Stephanie Aulsebrook

Main Interests

  • Aegean Middle/Late Bronze Age
  • Mycenae
  • The roles of metal in societies
  • Object biographies

Although I’m happy to acknowledge the enormous contribution that other forms of archaeological evidence have made on our understanding of the past, it has always objects, particularly metalwork, that has held the greatest fascination for me. By the time I chose my PhD topic I was very disappointed with the general interpretations being applied to the archaeological category of ‘prestige goods’, that is to say objects used by elite members of society to symbolise their status and differentiate themselves. These objects seemed to be considered fundamentally interchangeable all sharing, at a practical level, the same function (visual wealth display) with their cultural meanings drawn from a shortlist of well-rehearsed arguments, such as the use of exotic materials to emphasise external contacts and facilitate control over access. To me, it just didn’t do justice to the astonishing complexity and diversity in past material culture, especially metalwork. Although I first intended to right this small part of the world through the study of weapons (a subject that I had long been interested in and which are an essential part of the Mycenaean warrior ideology) this ended up morphing into metalware. Since then I have continued to concentrate on understanding the various roles that metals fulfilled in Aegean Bronze Age societies with a bottom-up approach that focuses on the biography of objects, from their ‘birth’ or manufacture through to their exit from the human world. What really interests me is the way that past people interacted with metalwork and what it meant to them. When studying objects myself I rely mainly on traditional artefact analysis skills to which I’ve recently started to add modern techniques of use wear analysis. Along the way I’ve had the opportunity to handle some rather amazing ancient metal objects and have fun making a replica Bronze Age sword.

Research project page

My favorite HMS journals/articles

Volume 45.1

The colour of copper alloys. J-L Fang and G McDonnell

I love reading HMS studies like this that demonstrate the often really surprising degree of complexity in past metal crafting, and its sometimes overlooked consequences.

Volume 36.2

A practical treatise on the smelting and smithing of bloomery iron. L Sauder and S Williams

The dedication and attention to detail in this report really opened my eyes to the potential of experimental archaeology.

A few of my publications

  • Aulsebrook, S. 2016. Placed with care: interaction with decorated Mycenaean metal vessels, in M. Mina, Y. Papadatos, and S. Triantafyllou (eds.) An Archaeology of Prehistoric Bodies and Embodied Identities in the Eastern Mediterranean. Proceedings of a conference held 10-12 April 2012, Nicosia, Cyprus. Oxford: Oxbow Books: 71-77.
  • Aulsebrook, S. 2017. Late Bronze Age manipulation of light and colour in metal, in C. Duckworth and A. Sassin (eds.) Colour and Light in Ancient and Medieval Art. London: Routledge: 35-45.
  • Aulsebrook, S. 2017. Repair, recycle or modify? The response to damage and/or obsolescence in Mycenaean metal vessels during the Prepalatial and Palatial Periods and its implications for understanding metal recycling. Studi Micenei ed Egeo-Anatolici NS 3: 7-26.
  • Aulsebrook, S. 2018. Chicken or egg? Rethinking the relationship between the silver and tinned ceramic vessel assemblages. Annual of the British School at Athens 113: 75-118.
  • Aulsebrook, S. 2019. Materialising Mythology: the Cup of Nestor from Shaft Grave IV at Mycenae, in K. Żebrowska, A. Ulanowska and K. Lewartowski (eds.) Sympozjum Egejskie. Papers in Aegean Archaeology 4 and 5. Warsaw: University of Warsaw Press: 79-89.


Project Website

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