Multidisciplinary Approaches to Ceramic Analyses
University of Cambridge, 30 June 2017

Free registration:
We will be able to host a maximum of 60 guests. The event is free, but in order to secure your place, we recommend to register by visiting following link: REGISTRATION. You can also send an email to: Alessandro Ceccarelli ac2045@cam.ac.uk

Download the conference booklet here: it includes location, abstracts and conference program.

Speakers:

  • Peter Day, Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffiel
    LESSONS FROM A CAUSE CÉLÉBRE: CHEMIS
    TRY, PETROGRAPHY, TYPOLOGY AND EPIGRAPHY IN THE STUDY OF TRANSPORT STIRRUP JARS.
  • Carl Heron, Director of Scientific Research, British Museum, London
    PLANTS AND POTS: RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN ORGANIC RESIDUE ANALYSIS
  • Patrick S. Quinn, Shangxin Zhang, Yin Xia, Xiuzhen Li, UCL Institute of Archaeology
    BUILDING THE TERRACOTTA ARMY: CERAMIC CRAFT TECHNOLOGY AND ORGANISATION OF PRODUCTION AT EMPEROR QIN SHIHUANGS MAUSOLEUM COMPLEX, CHINA
  • Michela Spataro, Conservation and Scientific Research, British Museum, London
    TECHNOLOGICAL TAKE-OFF AND INNOVATIONS IN THE VINČA CULTURE (5500-4500 CAL BC)
  • Matthew Brudenell* & Kate Beats**, *Senior Project Manager, Oxford Archaeology East; **Ceramics Specialist, CAU Cambridge Archaeological Unit
    ‘LIFE ASSEMBLAGE’: LATE BRONZE AGE POTTERY AT MUST FARM
  • Daniel Albero Santacreu, Material Culture and Archaeological Heritage, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain
    THEORY AND METHOD IN THE ANALYSIS OF CLAY PROCUREMENT: A CASE STUDY FROM THE BRONZE AND IRON AGE POTTERY PRODUCTION OF MALLORCA (SPAIN)
  •  Massimo Vidale, Ester Lunardon, Giovanni Leonardi, Michele Cupitò, Giuseppe Puilitani, Department of Cultural Heritage, University of Padua, Italy
    DIFFERENT AND UNEXPECTED. A NEW LOOK TO THE CERAMIC TECHNOLOGY IN IRON AGE VENETO (NORTH-EASTERN ITALY), AND ITS SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS
  • Sébastien Manem, UCL Institute of Archaeology
    CULTURAL EVOLUTION BY CERAMIC CHAÎNE OPÉRATOIRE APPROACHABSTRACTS:

    Lessons from a Cause Célébre: chemistry, petrography, typology and epigraphy in the study of transport stirrup jars.

    Peter M. Day

    Since Catling and Millett’s seminal chemical provenance study published in 1965, the characteristic Bronze Age amphorae, the Transport Stirrup Jars have taken centre stage in reflecting the potentials and foibles of ceramic analysis. Originally attracting attention on account of their Linear B inscriptions, the provenance of these containers was expected to reveal much about the power relations between the Minoan and Mycenaean worlds.

    While much was expected from initial studies in offering an objective approach to provenance, the assumptions behind the chemical analysis were heavily reliant on archaeological opinion and expectation which turned out to be misleading. Epigraphy has often been pitted against ‘science’ and there has been a lack of understanding as to how integrated ceramic studies should operate.

    Relating new work which highlights the production of these jars as much on the Greek mainland and islands as on the island of Crete, these jars are also seen in a changing historical context, revealing a history of their use that spans the whole Bronze Age. It is contended that we need to make fully integrated studies of these vessels, which acknowledge the importance of contextual, comparative archaeological material in analytical characterisation, in a similar way to that required in typological and epigraphical studies.

    Plants and Pots: Recent developments in organic residue analysis

    Carl Heron.

    Organic residue analysis has made a significant impact on studies of pottery vessel use, resource exploitation and diet. More routine application of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and gas chromatography-combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC-C-IRMS) during the 1990s led to the identification of a wider range of foods and other organic substances in diverse archaeological contexts. This includes the detection of ruminant and non-ruminant animal carcass fats, dairy products, fats from marine and freshwater organisms and so on. Routine detection of plant products has, hitherto, not been achieved although there are some notable exceptions, including the detection of maize, wine residues, resinous substances and other occasionally-reported plant extracts. This presentation will summarise the current state-of-play in detecting residues of plant processing and consumption using molecular and isotopic analysis of organic residues in pottery vessels. In particular, I will focus on expanding the range of cereals detected, focusing on millets.

    Building the Terracotta Army: Ceramic Craft Technology and Organisation of Production at Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Complex, China

    Patrick S. Quinn, Shangxin Zhang, Yin Xia, Xiuzhen Li – Institute of Archaeology, University College London

    Despite significant research into the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s mausoleum, key questions remain about how, where and by whom the c. 7,000 life size ceramic statues were made. These have important implications for our understanding of the craft technology, logistics and labour organisation behind the construction of the enormous necropolis in Shaanxi Province, China. As part of a collaborative project between University College London, Institute of Archaeology and Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, we are tackling these issues through detailed macroscopic, compositional and spatial analysis of the terracotta statues and other ceramic artefacts excavated from the site. This paper presents the results of an initial dataset of warriors, acrobats, bronze casting material and architectural ceramics. These have been analysed by a combination of thin section petrography and instrumental geochemistry, focussing on the raw materials and manufacturing technology involved in the production of the artefacts, as well as their relationships to one another. Our findings point to a high level of control over the selection and treatment of the clay paste used to manufacture the ceramics recovered from the site, perhaps through a centralised system of raw material acquisition, processing and distribution. Compositional data has also been used to shed light on the the long-standing question of the production location of the terracotta warriors and as well as other ornate objects recovered from the mausoleum.


    Technological take-off and innovations in the Vinča culture (5500-4500 cal BC)

    Michela Spataro

    Pottery analysis has always been the backbone of archaeological research in Neolithic Europe, especially in south-eastern Europe. Archaeometric research on Neolithic pottery began surprisingly recently, however, and I undertook the first systematic surveys of pottery technology in this region from 1999 onwards.

    Archaeometric results are now available from dozens of assemblages, representing several material cultures which flourished between c.6000 and 4500 cal BC, and a coherent picture is emerging of where, when and how the pottery chaîne opératoire changed. Pottery technology was fairly basic and relatively conservative during the early Neolithic, but a number of innovations appeared in the late 6th millennium, particularly in the central Balkans, some of which were adopted or copied by neighbouring societies. These patterns may be interpreted as consequences of broader social transformations, which culminated in the development of Europe’s first complex society, the Vinča culture.

    In this paper, results from the type-site, Vinča Belo-Brdo, will be presented. The material analysed comes from the 1930s Vasić excavations and has been held by the British Museum since 1936. Optical microscopy and SEM-EDX analyses were used to compare Starčevo and Vinča pottery, coarse and fine wares, and in particular the ceramics from three Vinča phases (A, B and C). Local soil samples were also used to address provenance and technological choices. The archaeometric results show that a number of technical developments emerged during Vinča A, but only become dominant during Vinča B.

    ‘Life Assemblage’: Late Bronze Age Pottery at Must Farm

    Matthew Brudenell, Senior Project Manager, Oxford Archaeology East; Kate Beats, Ceramics Specialist, Cambridge Archaeological Unit

    Must Farm is a Late Bronze Age pile-dwelling site of unparalleled preservation in Britain. This pile-built settlement, comprising of a palisade encircling at least five roundhouses, was constructed over a small palaeochannel. Potentially only months after it was built, the structures and their entire contents were dramatically destroyed by fire, bringing them down into the silts below resulting in their preservation. This included, amongst other things, a truly remarkable group of Late Bronze Age ceramics.

    The unique combination of this event and depositional context has ensured the preservation of a closed and coherent ‘life assemblage’ of ninth century BC pottery, complete with charred contents. As such, it offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine the scale, structure and use of a ceramic repertoire believed to reflect the range and composition of vessels deployed in everyday mealtimes in this setting.

    This paper provides an overview of the ongoing analysis of the pottery, and the patterns beginning to emerge from their study. It offers a flavour of the scientific work being undertaken in tandem with traditional attribute analysis of the pottery. Discussion will summarise some of the preliminary results and highlight the extraordinary potential of this exciting assemblage. This will be followed by an opportunity to handle pottery from this site.

    THEORY AND METHOD IN THE ANALYSIS OF CLAY PROCUREMENT: A CASE STUDY FROM THE BRONZE AND IRON AGE POTTERY PRODUCTION OF MALLORCA (SPAIN)

    Daniel Albero Santacreu, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain. ArqueoUIB – Research Group in Material Culture and Archaeological Heritage

    The study of raw materials procurement is a complex issue that entails diverse theoretical and methodological concerns. The aim of this presentation is to address several aspects that are crucial to approach this phase of the chaîne opératoire in pottery production by means of a case study focused on the prehistory of the Balearic Islands. On the one hand, I am going to explain the methodological strategy used to characterise both, the ceramic record and the clay deposits present in the area under study. The methodology  applied combines a wide diversity of techniques (e.g. petrology, X-ray fluorescence, X-ray powder diffraction, Laser grain-size analysis, micropaleontological studies) with the aim to establish links between the archaeological materials and the potential sources of raw material used by ancient potters. On the other hand, I will interpret the exploitation of the clay resources by means of different theoretical perspectives that include ecological, functional, social and symbolic aspects. Such holistic viewpoint involves approaching a wide diversity of factors that range from the characteristics of the natural environment and the physical properties of the raw materials to the practices carried out by the prehistoric communities for shaping their landscape and social environment.

    DIFFERENT AND UNEXPECTED. A NEW LOOK TO THE CERAMIC TECHNOLOGY IN IRON AGE VENETO (NORTH-EASTERN ITALY), AND ITS SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS

    MASSIMO VIDALE, ESTER LUNARDON, GIOVANNI LEONARDI, MICHELE CUPITÒ, GIUSEPPE PUILITANI Department of Cultural Heritage, University of Padua, Italy

    Current analytical and experimental studies on the development of ceramic manufacturing techniques in proto-historic Veneto (north-eastern Italy, IXth- IVth century BC) challenge many of the simplistic assumptions so far given for granted by many authors. Slab construction, coil-building, and beating of the pots in leather-like state of hardness by the means of paddle-and-anvil techniques appear to have been variously combined while affected by a gradual introduction of wheel-throwing. Both forming techniques and surface treatments (pattern burnishing, tin foil decoration, application of bronze studs to the unfired vessels) witness a close interaction with the dominion of metallurgy. Black bands alternating with red ones were obtained by the means of organic paints which in firing turned into carbon, an indigenous technique without known parallels in the Mediterranean world. On the whole, we witness growing aesthetic concern and work investments in the production of labour-intensive vessels for the purpose of ceremonial and status display. In turn, such developments may be linked to the expanding political and administrative ranks of the early city states of Veneto through the central centuries of the 1st millennium BC.

    CULTURAL EVOLUTION BY CERAMIC CHAÎNE OPÉRATOIRE APPROACH

    Sébastien Manem

    Abstract: Chaînes opératoires, here defined following Creswell as a series of operations that transform raw material into finished product, are, par excellence, inherited ways of doing, technical traditions transmitted through successive generations. Changes within chaînes opératoires thus express cultures’ histories and are potentially informative of the factors affecting them. In the latter case, the evolution of technological behaviours can be generated through branching processes resulting in innovation(s) or copy with error within the social group, or through blending processes, taking place beyond the usual learning network and across social boundaries. The notion of evolution is a challenge in the domain of the anthropology of techniques. The evolution of the chaînes opératoires is complex to model, because each technical sequence (or organised set of operations) can potentially be subject to change. Evolution remains thus difficult to perceive across time and space. This requires to identify and follow (1) how a given innovation occurs or is adopted by a society or part of it, and (2) how this innovation is transmitted, with or without further transformation. In this sense, I would like to show as part of this talk how cultural evolution theory is compatible with the methodological and theoretical points underlying the French chaîne opératoire approach.

     

     

     

     


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