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Smiths in Bronze Age Europe - Workshop in Modena and Montale Rangone (MO) - IT

Friday, 13 April, 2012 to Saturday, 14 April, 2012
Ilaria Pulini
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 
30/40 participants

This is the first workshop of four planned in the frame of Work Package 4 (WP 4) – Dialogue with skills of OpenArch project,dealt by Archaeological and Ethnological Museum of Modena (IT) and Archaeological-Ecological Centre Albersdorf AÖZA (DE). The four workshops are conceived for an exchange of experiences and discussion about methods, primarily for the skill specialists, with the objectives of improving their skills and their presentation techniques and didactics. This WP has in fact a tight relation with an other one, WP 5 – Dialogue with science, which is why the same museums responsible for an experiment series coordination also coordinate a craft aspect. The workshops focus on the techniques, the craftsperson himself, the reaction between crafts and the archaeological and natural environment, and also on intangible aspects of the crafts (stories, lore etc.). In cooperation with WP 3 – Dialogue with visitors, the theme of different ways of presenting history to the public also is addressed.

This workshop is set within the frame of a wider research directed by Professor Andrea Cardarelli (University La Sapienza of Rome-IT) carried out with the methods of experimental archaeology by the Modena Museum on the ground of its sound tradition in the field of Bronze Age Archaeology in connection with the Terramare culture which developed in the Po river area in Northern Italy during the II millennium B.C.

Bronze technology in the Terramare shares many features, both in techniques and range of products, with bronze productions known from a broad area in the European Continent. Therefore the aim of this project is to develop a research which  far from being just a specific case study on bronze technology  in the Terramare, can be used  as a general source of information about  metal working  in Bronze Age Europe  by a widespread European community of archaeologists, skills experts and archaeological open air museums.


The workshop was aimed to improve quality  in the presentation of bronze technology to the public.

It focused on the “productive chain”  that leads from the raw materials to the final product, from ore extraction to the manufacture of objects, with a specific focus on knowledge, tools and techniques.

The workshop has involved craftsmenwho are directly engaged with bronze technology and by museum professionals who are in charge of organizing presentation  for the public.

Quite often presentations of bronze craftsmanship in open air museums are dealing with a very short step of the productive chain, certainly the most impressive action of the whole process, that is casting. This habit easily leads to the false assumption  that producing a bronze object is something like a magical ritual which starts with smelting and ends up with the opening of the mould and the extraction of the raw object which is proudly presented to the public eventually clapping to the successful craftsman.

By this workshop we intended to provide participants with a well structured set of  information which can possibly supplement the actions most frequently carried out in public presentations in order to foster awareness into the public about the complexity of the whole process, which requires a very high level of skill and a tremendous amount of time.

In view of this, during the first day of workshop (Friday 13th) participants were introduced to the research which stands behind the experimental reproduction of bronze objects, starting from information about raw material and its circulation, all the way through the several steps involved in the production which are far more complex and time consuming than just casting.

The second day(Saturday 14th) participants have been involved into practical tests at the Montale open air museum.

At the end of the workshop, participants divided in teams of 4/5 people have been asked to work out proposals about a public presentation taking into account the information they retrieved throughout the workshop, with regard to archaeological research, to material culture technology,  as well as to the intangible data which refer to social rules in Bronze Age society.

ACTIVITIES (program of the workshop)

Friday April 13th - First day of Workshop Smiths in Bronze Age Europe (Modena – Palazzo dei Musei)

Afterthe introduction by Director of Modena Museum Ilaria Pulini, the archaeologist Cristiano Iaia  gave one hour speech on the Terramare bronze production in connection with European general archaeological contexts. He focused mainly on some typologies of results subject of a specific research carried on together with expert craftsmen Markus Binggeli and Markus Binggeli. In particular starting from the pilot object: a bronze axe.

In the afternoon, after a visit to the Terramare collection guided by the Director of the museum Ilaria Pulini with a focus on excavation of Terramare urns and their restoration, participants divided in groups and rotated at 4 workshop stations set up in the museum, interacting with experts about different steps of the production of bronze objects:

  1. Raw materials and metal circulation– dealt by experts: Milena Bertacchini (Earth Sciences Department of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia), Cristiano Iaia (archaeologist whose main area of specialization is the later prehistory of Europe Bronze and Iron Ages), Veronica Padovani (adjunct Education Research Associate in the Education and Outreach Department at the Paleontological Research Institution - Ithaca, NY, USA).
  2. Archaeometric analysis of bronze objects - dealt by experts: Maurizio Mazzucchelli (Professor of Petrology and Petrography, Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Natural Sciences of the Modena and Reggio Emilia University), Federico Scacchetti (degree in Cultural Heritage with a thesis on chemical analysis of cremated bones from the necropolis of Casinalbo).
  3. Stone moulds and tools - dealt by experts: Monia Barbieri (degree in Cultural Heritage with a thesis on stone moulds from the Terramare of Modena and Reggio Emilia areas), Cristina Lemorini (Professor at the University of Rome La Sapienza where she teaches Experimental Archaeology and Use-Wear analysis of lithic industry), Stefano Lugli (Professor of Geology at Modena and Reggio Emilia University).
  4. From casting to finished objects - dealt by experts: Markus Binggeli and markus Binggeli (Switzerland), Luca Pellegrini (degree in Cultural Heritage with a thesis on Terramare results, he’s involved in demonstrations of experimental archaeology at the Terramara Park of Montale).


Saturday April 14th - Second day of Workshop Smiths in Bronze Age Europe (Terramara Park of Montale)

After a visit to the Open Air Museum and Archaeological Park of the Terramara of Montale, participants experienced aspects of bronze casting techniques, working with skill experts Markus and Markus Binggeli and crafts people of the Terramara Park. Participants, being involved in hands-on activities, had the possibility to work in the manufacturing of objects with practical activities.

At the end of the workshop the different groups developed proposals creating the setting and the concept for a thorough presentation to the public.