Exploring the materiality of cut stone masonry in the eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age

Louvain-la-Neuve - 8-9th of March 2018 - Musée L-Auditorium du Monceau

Musée L - Place des Sciences 3 - 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve - Belgium

Cut stone masonry is one of the most prominent features that characterises monumental architecture, the appearance of which is imbued with symbolic meaning and corollary to wholesale changes in the societies of the Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean (Harmanşah 2007; Knapp 2009; Broodbank 2013; Fisher 2014). Ashlar walls and orthostat lining indeed mark a considerable increase in energy investment in architecture, as well as the mobilisation of a large and skilled workforce necessary for its construction in the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC Aegean, Anatolia, Cyprus, Egypt, Syria and Levant. Seen against the backdrop of long-distance interactions that connect these regions from the 3rd millennium onwards and which intensify throughout the Bronze Age, the extensive use of cut stone in the Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean is taken as one of the main indications of knowledge transfer within the region. The precise form of this transfer remains unclear, however. Although hints at shared building practices between different areas are suggested on the basis of similarities in the tool kits, extraction methods or general structural and formal features (Hult 1983; Wright 1985; Küpper 1996; Palyvou 2005, 2009; Seeher 2008; Shaw 2009; Bachmann 2009; Phylokyprou 2013; Blackwell 2014), no obvious filiation between cut stones building techniques can be traced. Furthermore, detailed technical case-studies, the prerequisite for any comparative study, are few. The purpose of this workshop is to explore the materiality of cut stone masonry in the different regions of the Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean, in order to provide data that will lay the foundations for a meaningful discussion on transfer of architectural knowledge.

For doing so, we welcome contributions of two types: 1. Comparative studies that focus on the following questions: When and under what form(s) did cut stone masonry appear in the different regions of the Eastern Mediterranean? What are the specific technical and formal traits of cut stone masonry, and do these remain stable or do they evolve throughout the Bronze Age within each region? What is the production process associated with cut stone masonry in each region of the Eastern Mediterranean? For what purposes were ashlars and orthostats used and is it possible to point out synchronic or diachronic differences in their cultural significance? Are there any indications that the builders tended to adopt foreign architectural traits in stone masonry, and if yes, how did they adapt them to the specificities of the building materials available locally? Or, on the contrary, does cut stone masonry in each region reflect resistance to external influences, and if so, what is the impact of tradition and physical determinism? 2. Case-driven investigations of ashlar and orthostat use. These contributions should address the stone-working technologies and construction techniques that were practiced as well as the functional, social and symbolic roles cut stone masonry played in the spaces and structures it adorned. Other topics might include, but are not limited to: the development of ashlar and orthostat use in a site over time; a comparison between the techniques used for the production of cut stone architecture and stone statuary; the assessment of the skill involved in producing cut stone architecture in regard to the use of other building materials; the impact of the development of cut stone architecture on local and long-used building materials.