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          Our field museum studies/museology workshop is designed to offer our participants the opportunity to explore and experience aspects of the evolution of traditional crafts and technologies through their theoretical, traditional, ethnographic and practical dimensions. The integration of experimental archaeology and traditional crafts within a museum environment allows us to probe the anthropological facets of the various objects, and their socio-cultural and economic dimensions. It allows us to explore the integration of these various elements into the public sphere, with the adjacent questions of conservation, restoration, preservation and presentation. For this purpose, we will focus on two transformational pyrotechnologies, metal and ceramics, on architectural woodwork, food technologies and leatherwork. We will examine questions of materials and materiality, the philosophy and magic of transformation in traditional communities, the transference of both materials and object in terms of both identity and use, and eventually the problems of public interface and information transfer.


          Our workshop takes place in the heart of the largest open air ethnographic museum in Europe, the ASTRA National Museum in Sibiu (Transylvania, Romania). With its aim to preserve traditional, medieval houses and shops, together with all the associated ancient household and village crafts, the ASTRA Museum is uniquely qualified to experience the evolution and persistence of traditional crafts from the Late Iron Age, through the Roman conquest and occupation, all the way to the end of the Middle Ages.


            Our workshop is both a museum studies and archaeological program that is meant to be both experimental and experiential. Surrounded by the medieval houses and shops of the ASTRA Ethnographic Museum, we bring together archaeologists, museologists and craftsmen in order to recreate actual objects found in excavations, using Late Iron Age, Imperial Roman and medieval techniques and technologies. At the same time, all our participants will experience life in its traditional forms, working the ovens and the forges, building Late Iron Age workshops and houses, making ceramics using different technologies and learning all about architectural wood work. Students and participants will make the intellectual and phenomenological journey from the academic, to the experimental and to the experiential, in the fields of pyrotechnologies, domestic crafts, and finally traditional, medieval building techniques and architecture. As a result of the immersion in a museum ethnographic environment, our participants will explore as well questions of conservation, restoration and presentation of ethnographic and historical ceramic, metal and wooden artifacts and architecture.


            The pyrotechnology section of the workshop deals with technologies that employ fire as a means to transform matter. Our focus is twofold: ceramics and metal. The ceramic manufacturing aspect of the pyrotechnology section will take the participants through all the stages of pottery making. We will experiment with different types of surface treatment and various ways to apply heat. For the purpose of firing the pottery, we will experiment with three distinct environments: a ceramic firing pit, a Dacian/Roman oven and a medieval oven. By the end of the workshop, we will be eating and drinking out of our own vessels, using our own utensils, all of them Late Iron Age and medieval style!


            Concurrently, we will look at different prehistoric and medieval wood construction techniques and how they relate to the choice of wood for the various architectural elements in terms of shape, properties and optimal longevity. The Astra Ethnographic Museum has hundreds of original traditional medieval buildings reconstructed on site for us to explore and study.


          The food technologies section aims at the exploring the integration of various scales and elements of the landscape in order to generate, harvest and produce food at optimal caloric costs. We will explore seasonality, construction techniques and landscape integration, ranging from wind and water mills to fence building, soil preparation, traditional aquatic resource approaches, and harvesting and food preparation. As a parallel biotechnology module, depending on availability, we will look at various aspects of leather work, from hide preparation to shoe making, exploring both biochemical transformative techniques and socio-cultural aspects of artifact creation.


           At the same time, Sibiu – the 2007 European Cultural Capital – offers an extraordinary plethora of venues for cultural, historical and architectural adventures. The Red City, nicknamed after its massive medieval brick fortifications (that have never been conquered), is in the heart of Saxon Transylvania with its beautiful fortified churches, featuring the oldest museum in the world – the Brukenthal Museum – and its magnificent art collections, a very lively medieval downtown and easy access to many historical and natural monuments.




Archaeologic and Ethnographic Objects





Archaeologic and Ethnographic Ceramics:


The ceramic module of our workshop aims at familiarizing our participants with the various aspect of the traditional process of manufacturing ceramic objects. This includes the preparation of the clay, various techniques of object making ranging from manual modeling to slow wheel to fast wheel, firing and ulterior uses. This module addresses the evolution of ceramics from archaeological environments to ethnographic ceramic objects, looking at manufacturing techniques, decoration and uses.


People began to use ceramics first as a replacement for wood and stone vessels, basketry, etc., but also for artistic/ritual purposes (i.e. the Mesolithic Venus figurines). Burned or just dried, ceramic is mostly referred ethnographically and archaeologically as the result of the specific transformation process of clay resulting in pottery.


The technology of preparing the clay, combined with the art of shaping (and glazing) it, together with the type of firing (with or without oxygen) determine the main features of a ceramic object. Having the necessary knowledge to recognize and predict these characteristics also means being able to classify ceramics and addressing questions of conservation and restoration.


The inorganic nature of the material makes it highly durable. However deterioration may easily occur in ceramics. Vulnerability to mechanical degradation as a result of original technological deficiencies, crystallization of soluble salts (deposited during burial in the case of archaeological artefacts) and other various physical forces can damage ceramic objects. In this instance, conservation processes would involve desalination treatments, while restoration interventions may aim at consolidation or assemblage of the broken fragments, or retouching the painted surfaces. This course aims to introduce you to the materials and techniques used for the conservation and restoration of ceramic objects.





Transformative Approaches and Socio-Cultural Artifact Integration


The discovery of metal has generated a continuous evolution of human social, cultural, economic, political and even spiritual life. The metal module of our workshop examines both archaeological and ethnographic objects and will focus on variations of blacksmithing techniques and technologies as well as the differentiation of the various objects along conceptual and presentational lines, such as tools vs. instruments, weapons or jewelry.


Metal working dates back to Prehistoric times. At the beginning, craftsmen had worked only malleable cold materials, followed by several forms of casting. It is much later that blacksmithing appeared, where metal was soften by intense heating and hammered into shape. Obtaining the wanted shape out of a durable material was a great step in the evolution of humanity. 


Modern investigation methods allow us to study the complex development of metallurgical knowledge, to determine the technologies of alloys involved, to follow the traditional craft of blacksmiths and many others. Understanding the properties of each metal compound in an alloy also gives us an overview on the behavior of the finite object.


Although it is true that metals are resistant inorganic materials, their stability in moist condition is strongly influenced according to the rate of the specific elements present in the alloy. One of the most frequent degradations which metals are susceptible to is corrosion. In many cases, conservation and restoration aim to stop this degradation process, to clean corrosion products and finally to coat the metal object with a protective layer. This course will focus on offering you the general tools to distinguish between basic alloys, the common technics of mechanical cleansing, metal stabilization methods and other techniques to further preserve the metal artefacts.





Traditional Construction Techniques and Technologies


In conjunction with clay and stone, wood has been the main material used in traditional construction. This module of the workshop explores the various ethnographic techniques of wooden house building. It will address the different qualities of various types of wood and their uses in traditional construction. We will observe the manufacture of architectural wood elements and their assemblage, looking at interlocking beams, roof building, and fences. This will provide the theoretical background to more practical, hands on applications.


Wood is one of the earliest materials used by prehistoric humans (Homo Faber) for making tools. Wood was, and still is, also used worldwide as basic support in traditional architectural structures and ethnographic objects. However, wood is an organic material, highly vulnerable to organic, chemical, physical and mechanical damage.


Preserving different wood objects requires a great amount of experience, including the capacity to distinguish different wood essences and understanding of their properties, identifying the specific agents of deterioration and wood borers, degradation mechanisms and so on. Avoiding or blocking harmful factors is then combined with the application of various conservation methods aiming at stabilizing the object (i.e. mitigating current damaging processes) and to enhance its durability. Treatments depend on the types of objects (archaeological or ethnographic, movable or immovable), and the locative aspects (indoor vs. outdoor, humid vs. dry environment, etc.).


For public access to cultural wooden goods through exhibitions, restoration and/or preservation is required. This is intended for facilitating information transfer, allowing the public easy access to the appreciation of the wooden object, its manufacture and use. Today, many techniques and restoration materials are available, but choosing the best one is not always easy, especially considering the ethical implications. This course is going to introduce you to the main aspects of this field, offering you some insights into the professional approach.





Biotechnologies, Landscape Multiscalar Integration and Caloric Capital Management


One of the main drives of “civilization” is the capacity of a society to generate food and biological byproducts such as leather and bone in large enough quantities to sustain their population while allowing the necessary time and energy for high energy/calorie draining activities such as transformative pyrotechnologies and massive wood construction.


The transition from hunter-gatherer life styles to more sedentary and stable agrarian communities is inseparable from the creation and spreading of ceramic technologies. Plant and animal domestication has provided a steady stream of easily accessible organic byproducts, allowing economic manufacture of clothes, tools and household items. Intensification of agrarian practices has resulted in the availability of large caloric surpluses which contributed to the rise of the metal ages.


All these activities implied specific perceptions of the exploited environment and its management, through dynamic integration at various levels and scales of activity. These involved landscape transformation, environmental adaptations, various rituals and ritualized practices, recycling, and difficult negotiations between resource exploitation and symbiosis.



Location: Sibiu - Astra Ethnographic Open Air Museum, Sibiu County, Transylvania, Romania


Dates: TBA


Housing: in the museum guest house, a traditional wooden building in the heart of the museum itself,  2 participants per room, shared bathrooms. Participants can upgrade to one of the museum hotels for an extra $475 - early registration in mandatory (double or triple occupancy, private bathroom, wifi)


Meals: breakfast. lunch and dinner is served Mon-Fri in the museum ethnographic restaurant; traditional country cuisine - we can accommodate vegetarian diets


Cost: US$1595 (4 weeks mandatory)


Fee includes: registration and museum fees, lectures, most gear, housing and meals as described above

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