Vijayanagara artisans manufactured an impressive array of craft products, which differed in productive technology, labor investment, and contexts of use. In this chapter, I present information on many of these craft products, and on what we know about the materials, tools, techniques, and geography of their manufacture. I also discuss evidence, derived from archaeological and textual sources, on the social composition, size, and division of labor within craft-producing units and communities. As this discussion will show, there is considerable variation in all of the above dimensions.
Within this variation, two general patterns are evident. The first is the high degree of specialization that existed in the vast majority of productive tasks. There is also evidence that this specialization increased, in at least certain crafts, throughout the Vijayanagara period. This trend is most clearly manifest in textile production, which involved technically specialized weavers, dyers, washers, starchers, cotton carders, tailors, and merchants. Such artisans were engaged in diverse and complex interactions that spanned multiple communities and broad geographic regions. The concept of a village artisan working in timeless isolation manifest in the writings of Mills, Marx, and other theorists of the Asian state discussed in chapter 3, does not hold up to scrutiny. Nor, as will become clear, do concomitant claims for despotic state authority or the dependence of artisans on royal households.
The second pattern evident in the Vijayanagara data concerns the prominence of households as the primary social units of craft production.