History, archaeology and archaeometry of the production of brass, bronze and other copper alloy objects in medieval Europe (12th‐16th centuries)
15-17 May 2014, Dinant and Namur (Belgium)
Presentation Copper and its alloys, bronze and brass with varying concentrations of lead, have been used for a long time for making useful and decorative objects. The steep economic and demographic growth of the Middle Ages however abruptly changed the copper‐based industries and the market for their products. On the raw materials side, the search for ores intensified. Metals such as copper, tin and
lead became more accessible and more affordable. Both the labour force and a strong demand for manufactured goods were concentrated in towns where guilds were being set up and trades were becoming organised. Workshops adapted to a rapidly growing market through specialisation, division of work and rationalisation of techniques, as well as offering cheaper goods. There was a gradual increase in the use of copper and its alloys for making everyday objects – examples include candlesticks, dress accessories such as sequins, decorative studs and belt buckles, but also domestic vessels such as, cauldrons, skillets, ewers, basins and other pots and pans for the kitchen or the dining table. In addition to these common objects, more exceptional ones testify to the diversity of the use of copper and its alloys for high class objects, both secular and liturgical. Made‐to‐order masterpieces included aquamanilia, candelabra for churches, lecterns or even more colossal works of art such as columns, gates, baptisteries, fountains, funeral monuments and, of course, bells. Copper is equally sought after for hand‐crafted products such as boilers for baths or dyers, weighing scales and other measuring instruments. Later in the Middle Ages copper alloys were used for artillery, clock making, and also as brass wire in the paper industry. Finally, copper is a component of the main alloys used in early medieval coinage.
This symposium is organised in a town whose main medieval activity was focused on the metallurgy of copper and brass. Its aim is to present current knowledge of not only the medieval products, techniques, workshops and labour force, but also of the market and trade in these products. This symposium will present the research carried out in history and archaeology of materials and processes with, in some cases, the support of scientific studies.
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