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Archaeological Problems with Specialization
Published in
Volume: 24
Issue: 1
Pages: 137 - 157
Archaeologists study craft production as it provides information on the ways in which artifacts were produced. Craft specialization is, however, more complicated as it involves not only techniques but also organization. In contrast to anthropology where observation can reveal the scale of production or the amount of resources or time utilized for the practise of a craft, archaeology can make only tentative interpretations. Scale of production, standardization, and levels of expertise can be understood when certain variables are known. Archaeology is a discipline that understands the past in the context of the present and thus often uses the methods of production and the function of present-day artefacts to interpret ancient artefacts. However, there is also a tendency to use present-day organizational systems to understand past production mechanisms. This may be problematic especially where past systems varied greatly from modern ones. The particular socioeconomic background of past systems must account for the forms that ancient specialization took. To explicate this, a case study of manufacture in a Harappan settlement is taken to understand the context of craft activities. The study shows that production in a large urban centre could be dispersed and episodic and yet be specialized. © 2008, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.
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