The Ancient Craft Internet

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The University of Leicester has just announced a research project titled ‘Tracing Networks: Craft Traditions in the Ancient Mediterranean and Beyond.’ The project involves a study of craft practices for the purposes of developing ‘global ubiquitous computing’. The interest is in part how techniques were distributed over time. According the principal investigator, Professor Lin Foxhall, Deputy Head of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at Leicester:

We look at objects ranging from cooking wares and coins to wall paintings and loom weights. We trace the links between the people who made, used, and taught others to make them.

By investigating many crafts, we explore the impact different technologies had on each other. For example, making a cooking pot isn’t so easy – how do craft workers come up with good ‘recipes’, shapes, and firing techniques for making convenient heat-resistant pottery.

Where do they source their materials and sell their wares; and how do the recipes themselves travel, change, and improve?

The link between craft archeology and the Internet is not immediately obvious. But it is interesting that ancient craft is being mined for metaphors that can be useful for thinking of new possibilities in a totally different field. Is the lost past now the future for craft?

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