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by Archaeology Newsroom

Theophilos’ De Diversis Artibus and its Importance for the Diachrony of Gold- and Silversmithing Techniques

In Western Europe the break from the past as regards the conception of natural environment, the machine technology and the new labor approach has laid the foundations of the technological tradition, already since the early twelfth century. These principles are expressed by the Presbyter Theophilos, a German monk of the Benedictine order, in his work De Diversis Artibus, a manual in three books, the first of its kind treatise on painting, glass-making and metalwork, written between 1122 and 1123. The third book of this work of diachronic importance is dedicated to metalwork and supplies the basis on which the evolution over the centuries of gold-m and silversmithing techniques can be followed, particularly in our country, where the pre-industrial period has lasted until about the middle of the twentieth century. From the twelfth century to the recent past or even to date Theophilos’ descriptions, the relevant references to modern technical manuals and our oral tradition verify each other continuously. In this article the references to workshops, tool equipments and, indicatively, to certain techniques of manufacturing and decorating objects are aiming to locate the continuities and breaks and to stress any retardation observed in comparison to the technological tradition of the west. Finally, the review of the Greek literary sources concerning metalwork confirms that basic reference texts are lacking and that the gap between science and technology, theory and praxis has never been bridged.