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Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 193–211 | Cite as

What Do Objects Want?

  • Chris Gosden
Article

Abstract

This paper develops an argument for the agency of objects, looking at the effects objects have on people. Groups of related objects, such as pots or metal ornaments, create stylistic universes which affect producers and users of new objects, bound by the canons of style. For an object to be socially powerful in a recognized manner, the form of the object lays down certain rules of use which influence the sensory and emotional impacts of the object. Formal properties of artifacts are influenced by the genealogy of the object class, including historical continuities and changes, and also its perceived source. The forms of objects, the historical trajectories of the class of objects and their perceived sources combine to have social effects on people, shaping people as socially effective entities. Britain’s incorporation into the Roman Empire between 150 BC and AD 200 provides an excellent case study through which to look at the changing corpora of objects, which had continuities and changes in form, a set of subtle attributions of sources and a complex range of social effects.

Keywords

effects form Roman Britain 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Archaeology and Pitt Rivers MuseumUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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