Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Reconstructing Object Biographies

We live in a world of things and people in the past must have been as closely entangled with their material surroundings as we are now. In the Laboratory for Artefact Studies Van Gijn takes a close look at the biographies of objects: what kind of raw material an object is made off and what is its provenience, how is the object made, how is it used and where and how is it finally abandoned?

Contact
Annelou van Gijn
Funding
NWO grant for the project Unlocking North Holland’s treasure chest NWO grant for the project Unlocking North Holland’s treasure chest
 
NWO Free Competition for project Ancestral Mounds NWO Free Competition for project Ancestral Mounds
 
ASPASIA grant from the Dutch Organization for the Advancement of Science ASPASIA grant from the Dutch Organization for the Advancement of Science
Plant processing toolkit from the Middle Neolithic site of Schipluiden in the Netherlands. The flint tools were used to cut plants, the bone awls for making the basketry-like fabric of willow bark.

Empirical observations of an object’s material properties, the traces of manufacture and use, as well as indications for ritual treatment like remnants of ochre, or evidence for intentional destruction give a clue about the role of this object in past society. It is also possible to reconstruct toolkits by linking different objects to one another through their related chaînes opératoires, thereby obtaining insight into past craft activities.

Axes, a prefab of an axe, made of Heligoland flint, and some flint nodules, deriving from the hoard of Een 1940 (Photo K. Wentink).

Within the overarching theme of Object Biographies Van Gijn closely collaborates with Leiden University chairgroups of Caribbean , and the Prehistory of. Van Gijn also participates in international projects like the Çatalhöyük Project in Turkey, led by prof. Ian Hodder, where she focuses on the bone tools and ornaments. She also carries out a microwear study of the small finds from the site of Tiryns in Greece, a project of the University of Heidelberg led by prof. Jose Maran.

Ochre seen on an axe found in a ritual deposition (Funnelbeaker period).

Connection with other research

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