Past Event

Maikel Kuijpers - Why Skill Matters: From Bronze Age Metalworking to the Future of Crafts

November 7, 2019
4:15 PM - 6:00 PM
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Fayerweather Hall (Room 513), Columbia University, 1180 Amsterdam Avenue, New York

Event Description:

What do we consider valuable knowledge, and why? In this presentation, Professor Kujipers intends to explore the connections between craft, science, and technology through the notion of skill.

In the history of science and technology the question of how practice and knowledge are related is an interesting theoretical and analytical issue. In archaeology, it is also a very practical problem, because it is through science that knowledge about prehistoric crafts is generated. The talk starts by introducing the methodology of perceptive categories through which an empirical analysis of skill is achievable, taking European Bronze Age metalworking as a case study. Based on scientific data provided by the material sciences (in this case compositional and metallographic analyses of Early Bronze Age axes) the thresholds to categorize and interpret these data, and organize them in a chaîne opératoire, are centered on the human senses—and thus on metalworking as a craft. The subsequent detailed study of Early Bronze Age axes shows a remarkable variation of skill, forcing us to reconsider particular entrenched views on the Bronze Age economy and the role of metalworkers therein.

Having explored the relevance of skill in the past – or what craft was – Professor Kujipers jumps to the present in the last part of the presentation. Via his documentary The Future is Handmade we get an idea of what craft is, today. He ends with a provocative idea about what craft can be, in light of a more sustainable future.

Event Speaker: 

Maikel H. G. Kuijpers is Assistant Professor of European prehistory at Leiden University. He holds a Ph.D. in archaeology and anthropology from Cambridge University. Specializing in the Bronze Age, his work concerns the formulation of knowledge over time, cognitive archaeology, craftsmanship, and skill.

Event Information: 

Free and open to the public. Please email [email protected] with any questions. 

This event is co-sponsored with the Columbia Center for Archaeology