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L’artisanat de l’os à l’époque Gallo-Romaine
De l’ostéologie à l’archéologie expérimentale by Marc Barbier. ii+ 140 pages; highly illustrated throughout with 57 plates in colour. French text. 263 2016 Archaeopress Roman Archaeology 16. Available both in printed and e-versions. Printed ISBN 9781784914219. Epublication ISBN 9781784914226.
Book contents page
The transfer, in 1981, of the town Museum collections in Sens (Yonne) to the old Archbishop’s palace required great discretion and an underground passage was planned between the two buildings. Preventive archaeological excavations unearthed 22 Gallo-Roman bone combs, as well as a further 17 pieces when the excavation area was expanded.

This exceptional concentration of bone artefacts incited the author to start on an experimental search at a time when bone artefacts were not finding much interest among specialists. However, it was extremely adventurous to piece together a bone-worker production line and create a never before archaeologically discovered appliance used in Roman times.

Obviously, the first reproductions have been directed towards combs. Those replicas pointed towards the material constraints, but also defined the constructions of necessary tools to take slabs off and conceive objects.

Moreover, matrix origin – small sized compact bone – explained why bone workers used to juxtapose elements to get suitable surfaces. Various complications during free hand denture sawing led them to perfect another operating system, plausible and more reliable.

Logical follow up would have been to extend experimental investigations, perhaps not to all the bone artefacts, but to a typical class of them, in order to complete the reconstructions of the equipment and suggest a general bone worker’s workshop arrangement.

French Description:
Le transfert, en 1981, des collections du Musée municipal de Sens (Yonne) dans l’ancien palais des Archevêques a nécessité le terrassement d’une jonction souterraine entre deux des bâtiments. Des fouilles archéologiques préventives ont notamment permis de découvrir 22 peignes en os d’époque gallo-romaine, puis 17 autres lors de l’extension du secteur.

Cette exceptionnelle concentration a incité l’auteur à entreprendre une démarche expérimentale à une époque où l’on n’accordait que peu d’intérêt au mobilier osseux. On comprendra qu’il était alors aventureux de vouloir reconstituer la chaîne opératoire d’un tabletier et matérialiser l’appareillage dont on n’a aucun témoignage archéologique.

C’est évidemment sur la mise en œuvre de peignes qu’ont porté les premières reproductions. Ces répliques montraient déjà certaines contraintes liées à la matière elle-même, mais permettaient également de cerner les outils nécessaires au prélèvement des plaquettes et à la conception de l’objet.

Par ailleurs, l’origine des matrices - os compact dimensionnellement limité - expliquait pourquoi les tabletiers juxtaposaient les éléments pour obtenir la surface adéquate. Diverses complications, lors du sciage à main levée de la denture, ont amené à mettre au point un autre mode opératoire plausible et plus assuré.

La suite logique voulait que les recherches expérimentales s’étendent sinon à l’ensemble du mobilier osseux, du moins à des catégories d’objets d’une même typologie permettant de compléter l’outillage et suggérer l’agencement de l’atelier d’un tabletier généraliste.




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