Laboratoire méditerranéen de préhistoire Europe Afrique (LAMPEA) — UMR 7269 — Université d’Aix-Marseille, CNRS, INRAP

Accueil > Bibliothèque > Lampea-Doc > Lampea-Doc > Congrès, colloques, réunions

When the potters make the story : what can pottery tell us about the people who made and used it ?

[Congrès, colloques, réunions]

4 - 8 septembre 2013
Pilsen (République tchèque)

A session of the 19th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists

A joint initiative of the Société Préhistorique Française and the Prehistoric Society.

 Laure Salanova (CNRS, France)
 Alison Sheridan (National Museums Scotland, UK)

Pottery is the main component of many archaeological assemblages and, for over a century, it has been one of the principal tools used to define cultural identity and to characterize culture change. But the simplistic equation of ‘Pots = people’ has rightly been challenged, and in the meantime a huge ethnohistoric literature has grown up around the question of what technical and stylistic traditions actually mean to the people who make and use pots. Such studies indicate that several different aspects of identity can indeed be conveyed through the design and manufacture of pottery – and that there is also much more that pottery can tell us about society (e.g. through examining its uses, the organization of its production, its symbolism, its movement, etc.). These studies also make it clear that choices in the chaîne opératoire of pottery manufacture are not all, or always, determined by the function of the end product – something that was illustrated during the 17th Annual Meeting of the EEA in Oslo, in a session that focused on the link between function and ceramic technology.
Pottery clearly does have a role to play in helping us to understand the nature of prehistoric society. This session poses the question : are we, as archaeologists, making the most of what pottery can tell us about its makers and users ? Are we asking the right questions and using the correct approaches when we study it ? Can we enhance its heuristic value ? What kind of history does the study of pottery reveal to us ? Examples of informative approaches will be presented, extending from prehistory to the present to offer a longue durée perspective.