Archaeological Semblance and the Remaking of Roman Pottery Practice

Marzuolo Archaeology Project, Cinigiano, Italy, 2017.

For my masters thesis in cultural anthropology, I conducted fieldwork with the Marzuolo Archaeology Project (MAP), a multi-year excavation of a rural Roman craft production complex dating to the first century CE. The project's principal investigators have been working at the site to uncover evidence of early experimental pottery-making practices that challenge archaeological assumptions about terra sigillata, a ubiquitous form of pottery that is used to produce knowledge about the Roman economy. 

Through an ethnographic analysis of the dig, my thesis demonstrates how MAP's investigators are using concepts drawn from science and technology studies to revise historical narratives about Roman pottery and its production. I also address a ubiquitous, yet overlooked aspect of archaeological excavation — aesthetic appearing. Functioning like a theatrical stage, the archaeological site is shaped by semblance, where affective scenarios and conceptual blends of different realities are used to produce historical knowledge.