Event: Chris Buckley Talks about the Evolution of an Ancient Technology

Chris Buckley - Evolution of an Ancient Technology

Event date: Tuesday 16 February 2016, 4pm

This talk by OATG member, Chris Buckley, will discuss two studies of contemporary East Asian weaving cultures: one is a micro-level study of how weaving culture is transmitted and sustained, the other a macro-level study of technologies and techniques used across the region. The talk will compare the two and show how macro-level patterns arise from micro-level processes, and discuss the wider implications, particularly for how technology evolves in traditional societies.

Much of what we call ‘culture’ is ephemeral. For example, it is unlikely that many of us could recall in detail the conversations we had with colleagues and family a month ago, let alone a year ago. We may have skills that have been hard-won, such as driving a car or playing a musical instrument, but few of us will play any role in passing those skills on to another generation. If we forget something important we pay it no heed, since we can probably find it again in a book, a document or an email.

With these things in mind, it is striking how pre-literate societies, possessing few of the tools that we have to hand, have managed to create and maintain cultural traditions that have lasted millenia. This includes craft traditions, of which weaving is one example. The loom designs and techniques involved with these traditions are amongst the most complex devices created in pre-modern times. How is this feat accomplished?

Chris will look at this question and others using examples from weaving traditions in Asia. Many of these traditions are very old, but are still active today (albeit under threat). In particular he will share new data from two studies, one semi-quantitiative, ‘micro’ study of how weaving traditions are passed between generations, and one ‘macro’ study of weaving technologies (looms) and techniques across the East Asia region. The macro study is probably the largest purpose-built database on material culture in general (and traditional technology in particular) assembled to date. Viewed together, the studies contain important insights into the processes by which cultural traditions are maintained, and the consequences of these processes. This includes phenomena that have been predicted, but never previously observed ‘in the field’.

Please feel free to pass this invitation along to other interested people. The UCL seminar series is open to the public (and free of charge).

This talk will take place in Room 209, UCL Institute of Archaeology, 31–34 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PY.

For more information, visit the website of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, London.