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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

All Research Projects

Publication details

Caple, C. (2006). Objects: Reluctant Witnesses to the Past. London: Routledge.

Author(s) from Durham


An invaluable field textbook, Objects examines nine detailed case studies to provide a brilliantly clear and comprehensible guide to the different methods and approaches (cultural, forensic, and technical) which can and have been used to study ancient artefacts.

From the Bayeux Tapestry to small medieval brass pins, medieval wooden doors to Saxon jewellery, Chris Caple’s integral text deals with a full range of materials and clearly and simply explains key scientific techniques, technology, anthropological jargon and historical approaches.

Key demonstrations include:

how information from objects builds into a picture of the ancient society that made and used it
the commonly used scientific techniques for object analysis
how and why object typologies work
how cultural and economic factors as well as the material properties influences what objects are made of
how simple observation of an object can build its biography.

Revealing answers to crucial questions – such as: Can DNA be obtained from objects? Why do people x-ray ancient artefacts? Can you determine the source of metal objects from their trace elements? – Objects is an absolutely essential text for students of archaeology, museum studies, and conservation.

Department of Archaeology

Scottish Soldiers Project

Cooperating with the Palace Museum in China