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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: May 2020

Chapter 4 - The Language of Mobile Craftsmen in the Western Mediterranean


Artisans and craftsmen in Southern Italy participated in complex networks of interactions which are not yet fully understood. Although we know the broad outlines of the kind of mobility driven by trade, the movements of individual artists or artefacts are much harder to track and, unlike the careers of elite men or soldiers, craftsmen’s lives are rarely memorialised in literature or outlined on gravestones. Instead, their work provides our main insight into how artisans lived, worked and travelled. The style, function and decoration of paintings, ceramics and other products provides some clues, but text is also used for decorative and practical purposes on a wide range of different objects. Many of these inscriptions show the writer’s familiarity with multiple languages, alphabets or dialects and, in some cases, may show evidence for movement across language or dialect boundaries.