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Mutable objects, places and chronologies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 January 2021

Victoria A. Sainsbury*
School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, UK
Peter Bray
Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, UK
Chris Gosden
School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, UK
A. Mark Pollard
School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, UK
*Author for correspondence: ✉


Mutability—the ability to change form and substance—is a key feature of glass and metals. This quality, however, has proven frustrating for archaeological and archaeometric research. This article assesses the typological, chemical and theoretical elements of material reuse and recycling, reframing these practices as an opportunity to understand past behaviour, rather than as an obstacle to understanding. Using diverse archaeological data, the authors present case studies to illustrate the potential for documenting mutability in the past, and to demonstrate what this can reveal about the movement, social context and meaning of archaeological material culture. They hope that through such examples archaeologists will consider and integrate mutability as a formative part of chaînes opératoires.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Antiquity Publications Ltd

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