Present in every strata of human activity – from fashion, art and literature to religion, ritual and earliest science – colour was clearly a significant material and conceptual element of life in the ancient world. This appears to us entirely normal and yet the concept must have some kind of origin. Today, we take the ubiquity of colours for granted and try to understand its history in terms of our modern semantic and physical categories. While this approach is useful in comprehending some aspects of the development of colours, it founders as we go further back. In the Bronze Age, many striking colourful substances, such as textiles, glass, stones and paint, are present in the material record, but the verbal categories of contemporary languages do not yet clearly demarcate these domains as we would recognize them. How did our modern conceptual categories emerge? In this workshop, we aim to explore the social and cultural “meanings” of colour by concentrating on the economic sphere. What was the value of colourful stones and why was coloured glass allowed to substitute them? How and why were glass and faience produced? What was the difference between artificially manufactured colours and the raw materials (dyes, pigments and mineral ores) that served to produce them? These are questions that are fundamental to understanding not only human values, but also cognitive history. In this sense, taking a slice of the story of colour opens up a window into the history of the human mind. It is these issues of this kind that we will address in this workshop, via presentations of material and discussions of concepts.


David Warburton and Shiyanthi Thavapalan (Eds.), Value of Colour. Material and Economic Aspects in the Ancient World, Berlin: Edition Topoi, 2020


14:30 - 15:00
15:00 - 15:15
Greetings and Introduction
Michael Meyer
Shiyanthi Thavapalan
David Alan Warburton
15:15 - 15:45
The Color of Ornaments in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic of the Levant: Their Symbolic Meaning and Economic Value
Daniella Bar-Yosef
15:45 - 16:05
Colours in Early Balkan Metallurgy
David Alan Warburton
16:05 - 16:35
On the Importance of Different Coat Colours in Regard to Ancient Near Eastern Cattle: Economic Texts versus Religio-cultural Texts of the 3rd and 2nd mill. BC
Rosel Pientka-Hinz
16:35 - 17:00
Move to HU (Oranienburger Tor to Universitätsstr.)
HU Main Building, Veranstaltungsraum 2095A
17:00 - 18:30
Die Farben aus der Sicht der Alten Ägypter und die Erklärung dieser Sicht aus der Sicht der Farbforscher
Wolfgang Schenkel
18:30 - 19:30
19:30 - 20:00
Foyer in front of Raum 2070A
09:00 - 09:30
The Glass Industries of Amarna: The institutionalised and domestic manufacture of colourful glass items in the Egyptian New Kingdom
Anna Hodgkinson
09:30 - 10:05
Manufacturing Vitreous Colors: Frit, Faience and Glass Production in the Second Millennium BC Tell Atchana, Alalakh (Turkey)
Gonca Dardeniz
10:05 - 10:35
Stones from the Mountain, Stones from the Kiln: Color in the Glass Texts from Ancient Mesopotamia
Shiyanthi Thavapalan
10:35 - 11:05
Colored Fragments from a Dark Age
Cinzia Pappi
11:05 - 11:15
Coffee Break
11:15 - 12:45
12:45 - 14:00
14:10 - 14:40
Lapis lazuli, amethyst and other precious materials in the Neolithic and Bronze Age with special reference to the Aegean
David Alan Warburton
14:40 - 15:10
Multicoloured Textiles in Babylonia During the First Millennium BC
Louise Quillien
15:10 - 15:25
Coffee Break
15:25 - 16:30
09:30 - 10:00
Ground Iron Oxide Rock Pigments in the Ancient Near East
Martine Melein
10:00 - 10:30
Pigments and Painting Techniques in the Book of the Dead of Amenemhet
Robert Fuchs
10:30 - 11:00
Die Farben Altägyptens - Überlieferung, Vorkommen und Anwendung in Zeit und Raum anhand von ca. 1,380 Proben in 145 Monumenten
Ingrid Blom-Böer
11:00 - 11:15
Coffee Break
11:15 - 12:45
12:45 - 14:00
14:00 - 14:30
The Language of Colour and Material: Were Architectural Façades in the Aegean Bronze Age Brightly Painted?
Fritz Blakolmer
14:30 - 15:00
The Terminology of Painting Materials in Greek and Roman Texts. A report of the Research Group ‘Ancient Pigments’
Doris Oltrogge
15:00 - 15:30
From Homer to Ovid: How Precious Dyes Become Precious Words
Lydia Pelletier-Michaud
15:30 - 15:45
Coffee Break
15:45 - 16:30
19:00 - 20:30
09:30 - 10:00
Closing Note
Shiyanthi Thavapalan
David Alan Warburton
10:00 - 12:30
Roundtable Discussion