Representations of Technical Processes

Roger B. Ulrich

in The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Classical World

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199734856
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Representations of Technical Processes

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  • Classical Studies
  • Greek and Roman Archaeology
  • Historical Archaeology


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This article provides some general comment as to the nature of representations of technical processes, their intent, and how they may be categorized over the period of their use. The most apparent value of ancient depictions of technical processes is the recovery of images of tools, machines, or applications for which no physical traces or literary descriptions survive. The range of depictions of these representations is reported. Additionally, the tools depicted in isolation, single operators with a tool or machine, and depictions of complex operations are considered. The technologies represented in mythological or fantastic settings are then described. The clothing and special equipment worn by the ancient operator is not only an indicator of social status. Working conditions, and issues of utility and even of safety, can be surmised from the pictorial evidence. The cultures of both Greece and Rome fostered an enduring tradition in the figural arts.

Keywords: technical processes; representations; tool; machine; complex operations; clothing; Greece; Rome; figural arts

Article.  9575 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Greek and Roman Archaeology ; Historical Archaeology

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