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Making Stone Moulds at the Parco Terramare di Montale

Staff Exchange date: 
Sunday, 31 May, 2015 to Wednesday, 3 June, 2015
To visit the Archaeological Ethnological Museum of Modena and the reconstructions at Parco Terramare di Montale To study and learn the craft of designing and producing Bronze Age stone moulds To better understand the technical processes of prehistoric metal production

This visit was targeted towards seeing how the archaeological data available for the Bronze Age Terramare culture in the Po plain and specifically Montale area has been interpreted and reconstructed into a physical format to aid interpretation of the material for both academic study and public engagement. It was also a visit to learn about the benefits of experimental action to understand the technical processes of the Bronze Age in making moulds for implements (see also Experimental Action report).

The first day included a visit to the Archaeological Ethnological Museum of Modena during which there was the opportunity to handle and examine many of the artefacts defining the Terramare culture, and a sneak peek at the new exhibition in which a theorised ritual of death is embodied in animated projections and static life-sized models indicating the link between life-cycles of objects and people, by showing how objects were involved in certain rituals. This physical re-enactment of the link (e.g. the burning of a sword with an individual) is a really useful method for communicating not only to the public, but also to archaeologists, how the death rituals may have been expressed and viewed in reality, which offers a change in perspective from the typical descriptions and drawings. This visit provided a backdrop for the succeeding activities and visit to the Parco Terramare di Montale.

The park opened in 2004, following excavations from 1996-2001 of the Bronze Age Terramare village. A small section of the excavations has been preserved in a building on one side of the park where nearly 3 metres of stratigraphy and prehistoric activity at the site can be viewed. The information gained from these excavations has been used to produce a unique reconstruction of a palisade and gate and two houses of the village. Visitors are thus led from the preserved archaeology to the reconstructions to emphasise how decisions about the experimental archaeology have been made, demonstrating an excellent way for making this relatable to the public.

The park is usually pay-to-enter but on the second day (National Republic day in Italy), entry was free, which was reflected in the huge number of visitors that arrived for a tour of the park. The palisade and artificial moat are physically imposing and used to great effect when entering the open-air museum whilst also offering significant insights into potential construction techniques. The space inside is well-organised guiding visitors into the first of the two houses (the warrior’s house) and directing them into the second house (the farmer’s house), presenting two very different aspects of the Bronze Age life within domestic spaces i.e. violence and social conflict vs agriculture and economy. A whole variety of crafts and activities are presented throughout these houses.

Experimental metal castings recurred over the whole day and it was these that sat at the centre of the park, introduced with an informative introduction on the history of Bronze Age metalworking and what is known about the techniques, before a casting demonstration of swords, daggers and spearheads.

It was the purpose of the staff exchange for Matt to observe and engage with the experimental processes to contribute to his own research. Over the course of the two days he was tutored by Monia Barbieri to design and make a replica stone mould, but also took the opportunity to attempt some casting and reflect on some of the difficulties and complications of this process. A variety of tools, skills and technical processes were taught and utilised and the overall experience offered an insight into the life-cycle and use of these objects and the ways in which their lives are created and ended. The replica tools used during mould production and casting were also briefly studied for signs of wear macroscopically.

There was also the opportunity to explore the technical processes associated with fragmentation and recycling, which forms the focus of Matt’s PhD thesis. Matt is currently designing an experiment involving the use and destruction of objects for which these experimentations were of great value. The dialogue established between the staff offered a platform to exchange and convey different ideas and is a great foundation for future research and collaboration. Matt will be able to utilise the experience from this exchange and pass on skills and knowledge to the staff and students at the University of Exeter.

Special thanks are given to Dr. Linda Hurcombe, Dr. Alessia Pelillo, Monia Barbierti, Claudio Cavazzuti and the rest of the team at Parco Terramare di Montale.

Number of Participants: 
Matthew Knight


Mould making
Mould making
Mould making, the tools
Mould making with Monia Barbieri expert of...
Mould quite ready for the smelting
The day after: casting with Claudio...
Casting with my mould
The axe with my mould!
Axe and mould