Ceramic Analysis for Archaeologists  (Anthropology 36200)

 

This course is designed to expose students to the theories and methods that enable archaeologists to use ancient ceramics to make inferences about the people who originally made and used them.  World wide, ceramic materials constitute the overwhelming bulk of evidence preserved in the archaeological record of human societies since the end of the Ice Ages.  This fact has ensured that ceramics have attracted a great deal of archaeological research attention. Moreover, it makes it imperative that all archaeologists have at least a working knowledge of ceramic analysis, whether or not they become ceramic specialists: we need to know what ceramics can realistically tell us and how to make them talk.  However, it is important to remember that, as anthropologists, our primary interest is not really pots, but people. It follows, therefore, that this course is not intended as a narrow "cookbook" approach to technical virtuosity in the laboratory, nor is it geared toward an aesthetic appreciation of pottery.  Rather, an attempt is made to arrive at some reasonable understanding of the kinds of information about ancient society, economy, and culture that can be derived plausibly from pottery and to assess which tech­niques and strategies may best help us obtain that information.

 

The class is intended as both a seminar and laboratory course, and the approach to ceramic analysis followed in the course will be an integrated mixture of theoretical discussion and practical application.  Class sessions will be of two types.  Tuesdays are devoted to seminar discussions and occasional lectures (beginning in week 4; the first three sessions will be primarily lectures).  Thursdays are spent in the ceramic laboratory and devoted to demonstrations of laboratory techniques and actual analysis of ceramics (each student will be provided with a small collection of sherds from Mediterranean France to be analyzed during the quarter).  Readings include ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological studies of potters and pot users in their social contexts, discussions of the nature of style and systems of classification, discussions of the physical properties of clays and ceramic fabrics, and examples of techniques of analysis of pots and ceramic assemblages.

 

Prerequisites:  Some prior knowledge of anthropology and archaeology is very helpful.  Course enrollment is limited by the facilities of the Ceramics Laboratory, and Anthropology graduate students have priority.

Syllabus

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