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Archaeologies of Gender and Childhood in South Asia  

Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon

While some studies have been undertaken on childhood in South Asia, there is no focused archaeological study on any aspect of gender in this region. Hence, information has been culled from work that only tangentially refers to aspects of gender. Within the constraints at hand, themes of gender and childhood in South Asia can be explored from studies on representation, production, toys, and skeletal remains. For instance, age, gender, masculinity, identity, and status have been deciphered through anthropomorphic representations. Similarly, can women’s work be discerned by looking at the locations of production, or the presence of children through toys? Skeletal data have pointed the way toward an understanding of matrilocality, migration, stress, and trauma that may have impacted women and children. In South Asian archaeology, there has been a focus on artifacts and their production and on classification and typology, often at times to the exclusion of the people who would have been associated with these objects. If people are at all considered, it is always with the assumption that men were the active agents in production, with women undertaking primarily domestic chores, like cooking. The bulk of craft production appears to have taken place in household contexts, where women and children, as also the aged, would equally have been active producers. There are tantalizing glimpses of what can be archaeologies of gender and childhood in South Asia, where certain social groups experienced more stress and trauma than other groups, pointing toward social stratification in the Indus period. Similarly, in the medieval period, differential representations can give hints for gender and status relations among communities. However, much more work focusing on these themes needs to be done in this region. To get more nuanced and deeper insights into gender and childhood, questions around these themes need to be formulated and integrated into archaeological projects.


Temples of Sant’Omobono  

Nicola Terrenato

Fieldwork around the church of Sant’Omobono in the Forum Boarium has produced some of the most remarkable discoveries illustrating the early phases of the city of Rome. Archaeological remains were accidentally exposed in 1937 during the Fascist overhaul of the neighborhood, when the old buildings surrounding the church were demolished. In the process of reinforcing the foundations of Sant’Omobono, the corner of an Archaic temple podium was exposed, together with remarkable architectural terracottas. Rescue excavations showed the presence of a much larger temple site, so the area was spared and left open for future investigations. Excavations at Sant’Omobono were conducted in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2010s by a variety of archaeologists, employing different methodologies and approaches. None of these investigations had been published in full by 2015, although a multitude of conflicting articles appeared. As a result, understanding of the sequence has always remained problematic and hotly debated. The main phases, as they can be reconstructed on the basis of recent work, are summarized in chronological order in the following sections.


polychromy, sculptural, Greek and Roman  

Jan Stubbe Østergaard

The term “polychromy” has been in use since the early 19th century to denote the presence of any element of colour in Greek and Roman sculpture. The evidence for such polychromy is literary, epigraphical, archaeological, and archeometric; research on the subject therefore requires collaboration between the humanities, conservation science, and natural science. Such research should go hand in hand with the investigation of the polychromy of Greek and Roman architecture, since it is symbiotically related to sculpture, technically as well as visually.

Knowledge of Greek and Roman sculptural polychromy is still very uneven. Scholars have focused on stone sculpture, and most research has been directed towards the Archaic, Early Classical, Hellenistic, and Imperial Roman periods. For terracottas, the Hellenistic period has enjoyed the most research, while investigation of the polychromy of bronze sculpture has only recently begun.

The scientific research methodology applied concerns the materials and techniques employed. The main colouring agents are paints, metals, and coloured marbles. Pigments are based on inorganic and organic materials applied with proteins, wax, or plant gums as binding media. Metals used are bronze, copper, silver, and gold. A range of coloured marbles came into use in the Roman Imperial period, but in all periods, assorted materials such as semi-precious stones and metals were used for inlaid details and attached objects like jewelry and weapons.


The Archaeology of Nok Culture in Nigeria (2nd/1st Millennium BCE)  

Gabriele Franke

The elaborate terracotta figurines of central Nigerian Nok culture date back to the early 1st millennium bce and represent the earliest large-size sculptural tradition in sub-Saharan Africa. Archaeological finds from the mid-20th century suggested that they appeared together with iron production and pointed to an early complex society preceding later Nigerian societies, such as Ile-Ife and Benin, which feature evidence for social differentiation and political organization. Fieldwork in the last fifteen years has yielded signs of specialization in terracotta and iron production, but no evidence for social or political complexity. Nok people were small-scale farmers living in dispersed homesteads from the mid-2nd millennium bce, when they arrived in the region from the north, and sharing the same lifeways, the same ceramic style, and, from 900 bce onward, the widely distributed use of highly standardized terracotta figurines. The earliest evidence for iron production is found at least one hundred years after the appearance of the first terracotta figurines, so that no link between the figurines and the presence of iron can be established. Excavations in 2016 have proven the spatial and temporal connection between terracotta figurine depositions and stone-pot arrangements interpreted as graves, indicating an ancestral belief system further revealed by evidence of feasting and mortuary rituals recurring over time. Thus, while no social or political complexity can be postulated for Nok culture based on the current evidence, the terracotta figurines and their use in mortuary rituals point to a complex ritual system spread over a large area in central Nigeria. Nok culture with its characteristic figurines and pottery disappears in the last centuries bce and is succeeded by people with new crops and different pottery in the early 1st millennium ce.