Maintenance activities and production tasks: shared gestures and technologies
Querns and millstones are technological tools traditionally associated with food preparation. Numerous studies link grain milling in Phoenician and Punic domestic contexts with women. It has been calculated that a family of six would have needed some 3 kilos of flour a day, involving between 2 and 3 hours of milling a day. Thus, the grain grinding was a daily task in households, to the extent that some biblical texts tell us that the sound of milling was synonymous with life in the houses of these communities.
The mills found in Phoenician and Punic domestic contexts are mainly saddle querns and rotary hand querns. Saddle querns consist of a flat stone bed that normally sat on the ground and a smaller rounded stone −the handstone− that was operated manually against it. These mills worked by rocking or rolling the handstone over the “saddle”, causing a crushing action. Rotary hand querns, which appeared later in Carthaginian contexts, brought about a considerable saving in time and energy, as circular motions were used to grind the grain.
In Phoenician and Punic settlements, these querns are also found in the pottery and metallurgical workshops that are sometimes associated with domestic contexts. In those cases, the querns were used in production activities such as metallurgy and pottery for grinding metals, minerals and the temper needed for the potters’ clay. In this respect, the gestures and technologies shared in domestic and productive environments could suggest that women took part in production activities such as pottery-making and metallurgy.
Picture: Saddle querns, multipurpose objects used in production tasks. Illustrated by ªRU-MOR