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CODE 108637
SEMESTER 1° Semester


The general - historical, archaeological and anthropological - theme of the course is that of the construction of the material world: the relationships between people and things (knowledge, practices, ritual, ceremonial, ...) and between things and things (new materialisms); the processes that produce things; what the study of objects tells us (life cycle and biographies of objects, objects in history, history of objects). The concept of the object will be explored in a broad and wide sense (artefacts, ecofacts, spaces and landscapes).




Starting from the concept of the history of material culture as an interdisciplinary area of research that tackles, through different disciplinary and conceptual paths, the study of the production, circulation and consumption of artefacts, the course has three main objectives.

- to build the critical tools to explore different approaches to the historical and archaeological study of the world of objects and the relationships between people and things and between things and things

- to acquire the theoretical-methodological tools to identify, analyse and understand the processes that produce things

- to critically investigate the evolution of the concept of material culture in history, archaeology, anthropology

Students will learn to understand the processes that produce things, through the analysis of objects' economic, social and cultural history (and thus also to use things as indicators and traces of processes). They will also learn a method for critical analysis of historiographical literature and material and written sources, for critical reading of texts or documents and for communicating research results at a scientific level. Upon completion of the course, students will be introduced to the subject of material culture analysis. They will acquire knowledge of historiographical theories, concepts and methods. Students should be able to present and critically discuss the proposed and/or recommended texts for self-study.



There are no particular prerequisites.

The course is aimed at all Master students in the School of Humanities.


Teaching will be seminar-based: attendance is strongly recommended. The course structure includes reading and discussing texts and documents in class and in an online Forum . There will be ongoing tests with written exercises in class and/or at home. Based on the bibliography indicated and other texts that will be proposed during the course, students will have the opportunity to build individual study paths.

Lessons will take place in presence. Attendance, although not compulsory, is recommended. The lecturer, at the specific request of a student (by e-mail), may allow him/her to remotely follow classes via “Teams” platform.

A part of the teaching materials will be available to students through the AulaWeb.


The course programme focuses on some key contents: the concept of the history of material culture; the biography and life cycles of objects; objects as historical sources and the patrimonialisation of objects. They will be presented with the paths and discussions built around the concepts of material culture and history of material culture (with a particular focus on the 70’s) and it will be explored in depth how these concepts have been used inside different disciplines. In particular, the following themes will be explored:

- the different approaches to the historical and historical-archaeological study of the world of objects and the relations between people and things, starting from the discussions that led to the affirmation in Italy of the concept of the history of material culture

- a discussion and in-depth study of the processes that produce things, investigating through texts and readings the following themes: the history of objects and objects in history, the biography of objects, life cycles of objects, patrimonialisation of objects (and spaces)

- a critical investigation of the evolution of the concept of material culture in history, archaeology and anthropology, with a particular reference to the increasing weight that things and materiality have in historical, archaeological and anthropological research (materialistic turn, global history of objects, new materialisms).

During the course, and based on in-class discussions, a specific theme may be chosen to be explored in a monographic manner (e.g. uses, re-uses and re-functionalisation: the waste cycle in history; objects in motion: the paths of animals and things; ritualization and patrimonialisation, etc.).

The programme for attending and non-attending students is the same. For non-attending students, a specific path will be created through readings and texts of their choice.


The recommended texts will be made available to students (available in the library or in pdf format on Aulaweb).

The list of texts may be subject to change. Therefore, it's strongly recommended to delay their purchase or loan until after the start of the lectures and the presentation of the programme by the lecturer.

During the introductory lessons, the texts to be read and commented on and the topics explored in depth during the year will be discussed and agreed upon, and then chosen among the ones listed below.

History of Material Culture

Quaini M., Moreno D. (eds.) 1973, Archeologia e Geografia del Popolamento, «Quaderni Storici», 24.

Archeologia Medievale 1974, Editoriale, «Archeologia Medievale», I, pp. 3-5.

Archeologia Medievale 1975, Cinque punti per un dibattito, «Archeologia Medievale», II, pp. 5-7.

Carandini A. 1975, Archeologia e cultura materiale. Lavori senza gloria nell’antichità classica, Bari.

Archeologia Medievale 1976, Una rifondazione dell’archeologia post-classica: la storia della cultura materiale, «Archeologia Medievale», III, 1976 pp. 7-24

D. Moreno, M. Quaini (eds.), Cultura materiale, «Quaderni Storici», 31, 1973, pp. 5-201.

Wickham C. 2002, Edoardo Grendi e la cultura materiale, «Quaderni Storici», 110, pp. 323-332.

Gilchrist R. 2009, Medieval archaeology and theory: a disciplinary leap of faith, in R. Gilchrist, A. Reynolds (eds.), Reflections: 50 Years of Medieval Archaeology, 1957-2007, Society for Medieval Archaeology Monographs 30, Leeds, pp. 385-408.

Moreno D. 2012, Alle origini geografiche dell’archeologia medievale in Italia: ovvero la costruzione dell’Editoriale di «Archeologia Medievale. Cultura materiale. Insediamenti. Territorio», in Geografie in gioco. Massimo Quaini: pagine scelte e bibliografia, Genova, pp. 65-68.

Moreno D., Stagno A. M. 2021, Storia della cultura materiale e risorse ambientali. Percorsi e incontri, in ISCUM (eds.), Tiziano Mannoni: attualità e sviluppi di metodi e idee, Firenze, pp. 74-81.

Biography of objects, history of objects and objects in history

Kopytoff I. 1988, The cultural biography of things: commodization as process, in A. Appadurai, The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, London, pp. 64-91.

Gilchrist R. 1994, Gender and Material Culture. The Archaeology of Religious Women, London-New York.

Gosden Ch., Marshall Y 1999., The cultural biography of objects, in "World Archaeology", 31, pp. 169-178.

Gilchrist R. 2000, Archaeological Biographies: Realizing Human Lifecycles, -Courses and–Histories, in “Human Lifecycles”, «World Archaeology», Vol. 31, N. 3, pp. 325-328.

Ago R. 2006, Il gusto delle cose. Una storia degli oggetti nella Roma del Seicento, Roma.

Appadurai A. 2006, The Thing Itself, in "Public Culture", 18, pp. 15-21. 

Hodder I. 2014, The Entanglements of Humans and Things: A Long-Term View, in «New Literary History», Volume 45, Number 1, Winter, pp. 19-36.

Raggio O. 2018, Oggetti nella storia. Perché la storiografia è importante (tra storia e archeologia), in "Quaderni storici", 159, pp. 863-78.

Raggio O., Stagno A.M. (eds.) 2020, Storia della cultura materiale in tempo di COVID-19, Firenze, All'Insegna del Giglio.

Heritagisation of objects (and spaces)

Smith L. 2006, Uses of Heritage, New York e London, Routledge.

Moneta V., Parola C. (eds.), 2014, Oltre la rinaturalizzacione. Studi di ecologia storica per la riqualificazione dei paesaggi rurali, Sestri Levante.

Harrison R. et al (eds.) 2020, Heritage futures: Comparative approaches to natural and cultural heritage practices, London.

New materialisms

Moreland J. 2001, Archaeology and text, London.

González Ruibal A. 2008, Time to destroy. An archaeology of supermodernity, «Current Anthropology», 49(2), pp. 247-279.

Auslander L. et al. 2009, AHR conversation: Historians and the study of material culture, in "The American Historical Review", Vol.114(5), pp.1355-1404.

Witmore C. (ed.) 2014, Archaeology and the New Materialisms, «Journal of Contemporary Archaeology», 1.2, pp. 203-246.

Further bibliographical indications and materials relating to the research and cases discussed will be provided in class and, when possible, uploaded to the Aulaweb.


Exam Board





Lessons will begin on Friday, 7 October 2022

Class schedule

The timetable for this course is available here: Portale EasyAcademy



The course is seminar-based. There will be in-progress exercises on individual case studies and readings that will be discussed and will contribute to the final assessment. The assessment of the written exercises will be part of the final assessment with an oral assessment. Written exercises are valid for the academic year of the course


The oral examination and the discussion of the in-progress written exercises will verify the achievement of the learning outcomes. The main assessment parameters are the mastery of the topics covered, the quality of the exposition and vocabulary used, both in the oral communication and in the written tests, and the capacity for critical and comparative reasoning.