Oct. 22 Lecture Series: Agne Civilyte

Agne Civilyte holding artifact.

“The Game of Materials: Metal vs. Amber in Bronze Age Societies”


DATE:     Friday, October 22
TIME:     12:30-1:30pm
LOCATION: 354 Academic Center

Amber was related to much more than just economics or prestige display. Beads of amber form one of the facets illustrating the increasing intensity of long distance exchange, marking important steps towards the globalization of the “Bronze Age World”. By the end of the Stone Age amber had disappeared from archaeological record in places where amber was easily accessible. It seems like it had been “blown off the map”.

Such a decrease in amber artifacts at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age is subject to new interpretations. The most popular is the theory of the amber trade, which claims that amber was being exchanged for metal. Amber and metal are essential elements, which connected Northern Europe not only with the Mediterranean, the Caucasus, and Syria, but with Egypt. We should bear in mind that amber and other commodities, like metal, were carried by human beings, who met at certain places along these trade routes, and while discussing important matters, exchanging not only objects but also ideas.

The main question of this lecture is focused on why local people did not use amber at all?  Was the actual goal to obtain metal through the amber trade? Amber collection was a simple affair in the Baltic, where it is easily recoverable along the beaches after storms. So maybe our question actually is to think about the special “game” of materials, when societies ignored the social, economic, and symbolic/magical value of amber in order to highlight the greater importance of metal?