The project’s core research questions, offering a critical re-examination of the concept of island life, are explored in a distinct sub-project which investigates the materials, methods of production and use of metal objects from Cyprus, Crete and Sardinia, dating from the Early Bronze Age to the beginning of the Classical period (ca 2000-500 BCE). As materials from Cyprus are particularly well represented in the collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum, conservation and scientific research has focused primarily on metalware from this particular island.
Both Fitzwilliam’s metal objects included in this research programme, as well as those objects on loan from Greece, Cyprus and Italy, respond to fundamental questions about connections between island identities, ways of making (in the form of metallurgical practices), and the use of metals in everyday life, in elite exchange or as part of funerary rites. In our research, we try to establish whether it is possible to detect different island identities through the study of the ways of making and engaging with metal objects and metallurgical practices from the three islands. For example, what types of metal artefact are common in different contexts or how these artefacts were used in the different contexts? Finally, we consider how such evidence of change in production methodologies, or the introduction of new techniques introduced across islands, is indicative of mobility of people and objects.
Research on Mediterranean metallurgy for the Being an Islander project also focuses on typological groups of objects found on Cyprus, Sardinia and Crete, such as weaponry, pins and figurines. These have been investigated specifically in relation to the relationship between technologies and the mobility and interaction of people. A variety of scientific methods have been employed in studying metal objects from the Fitzwilliam’s collection. These include macro- and microscopic examination, computed tomography, XRF and, for study of an exceptional Archaic period (600-480 BCE) iron sword, microCT and SEM analyses. These investigations, which have provided information about the materials and technologies used in the manufacture of metal objects, as well as the use and reuse of objects in ancient times, have been carried out the project’s dedicated research conservator, scientific analyst and research associate (Susi Pancaldo, Dr Ema Bauzyte and Dr Jana Mokrišová, during 2019-2022).
Crete, Cyprus and Sardinia each have important metallurgical histories, and the study of metallurgy and trade in metals associated with the three islands has often been framed with an emphasis on the abundance and provenance of metal sources and finished objects. Objects forged from various metals (primarily bronze, copper, iron, gold and silver) and in various forms (vessels, weapons, tools, symbolic and cultic objects, jewellery and coins) presented an important part of life of ancient communities on all three islands. However, a focus on geographic parameters and the provenance of materials and objects can be limiting. A more meaningful understanding of the relationships of people across islands also takes into consideration the choices made in the selection of raw materials, in deployment of technological methods of manufacture and in the consumption of objects, made locally or imported.