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Q: anthropological approach to ceramics ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: anthropological approach to ceramics
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Visual Arts
Asked by: narnia-ga
List Price: $65.00
Posted: 07 Nov 2003 04:59 PST
Expires: 07 Dec 2003 04:59 PST
Question ID: 273517
anthropological approach to ceramics.
i am preparing a paper on this.
i need any paper that has to do with the above
Subject: Re: anthropological approach to ceramics
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 07 Nov 2003 08:29 PST
Hello Narnia-ga, 

Nice to see you again, and thanks for an interesting question.

Scientists who study bygone cultures and civilizations love ceramic
materials because they are so wonderfully durable.  Objects made of
wood, leather, reeds, papyrus or other animal/vegetable matter tend to
deteriorate over time, but pottery/ceramics have a staying power that
makes them wonderful objects of anthropological and archaeological

There is a good deal of information on this topic strewn about the
web.  I've extracted here what looks to be the best and most concise
information, from research projects from all over the world.  But if
you need anything beyond what I've posted here, just let me know, and
I'll be happy to assist you further.



This site from the University of Oregon includes a reading list, along
with a brief overview of anthropological ceramics, and the enormous
logistical issues involved in collecting and analyzing ceramic shards:

"A critical feature of any analysis of potsherds and ceramic artifacts
in archaeology is how it is integrated into a larger research design. 
Research designs are based ultimately on anthropological questions
about past human behavior and address basic issues in archaeology. 
Our fundamental understanding of early human behavior is based on
conclusions drawn from cultural anthropology, including the
ethnological record and ethnographic case studies, as well as
archaeology; however, hypothesis testing in archaeology must be based
in the end on the actual archaeological data."

"Ceramic evidence from sites offers many opportunities to explore
technological and social behavior of earlier peoples, but recording
and managing this information is a significant problem for the
archaeologist because of the large numbers of ceramic artifacts and
potsherds typically recovered.  Sites associated with early
civilizations, for example, might provide a couple hundred thousand
sherds from an excavation project.  Some method of computer management
of ceramic databases has become standard..."


This University of Illinois site from the program on ANCIENT TECHNOLOGIES

is titled "WHY STUDY CERAMICS?" and includes links to four specific
anthropological/archaeological projects, each of which is briefly






From Arizona State University there is this site:

"Photographic Guide to Decorated Ceramics of the Malpaso Valley",
which contains numerous detailed photgraphs of ceramic finds from
several might be useful to help gain a context of the types
of things researches are dealing with in this field.


Here's a fascinating site on the history of Persian ceramics from the
California Academy of Science:

that details how historical influences of trade, invasion, technology
and so on had strong impacts on ceramic processes and design:

"...The 11th century brought dramatic changes to the ceramic industry,
influenced by Chinese porcelain ware. For a time Persian potters had
tried to imitate the Chinese potter's porcelain ware, but they were
unsuccessful because they lacked kaolin, a fine clay used for the
production of porcelain. With the introduction of the Frit Ware,
however, Persian potters were able to produce the smooth surface they
sought. This new clay body was composed of white clay, powdered glass
and quartz. Its soft consistency facilitated the use of new techniques
such as engraving, piercing and molding...By the 12th century, Persian
ceramic styles were well established and they set the standards for
further innovations and conventions. In the 13th century, however,
ceramics took an abrupt turn with the Mongol conquest, and for a time,
pottery production halted. Wares made during the Mongol occupation are
called Il Kanid wares, referring to the ruling dynasty. In the 14th
century the arts revived again, with the invasion of the Timur, under
whose rule new centers of pottery production appeared. Kirman became
one of the main centers (see map above)."


Here's a full-fledged decription from California State University,
Long Beach of a technical analysis of the chemistry of ceramic pieces
from a native American site:

Chemical Analysis Through the Use of Laser Ablation Inductively
Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS): A Provenance Study of
Virgin Branch Anasazi Ceramics
in the American Southwest 

"Early ceramic analysis from the 1930's through the 1950's was
primarily based on speculation, intuitive assumption, and comparison
without quantification (Zedeño 1994). In the 1970's this typological
method drew much skepticism as the method was rather unscientific
(Bishop and Neff 1989)...Recently, more scientific applications, such
as chemical analysis, have been used in provenance studies. Within the
past decade, the more popular methods of chemical analysis have been
through Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA), and various
forms of Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS), such
as Microwave Digestion (MD-ICP-MS) and Laser Ablation (LA-ICP-MS)
(Speakman and Neff 2002; Kennett et al. 2002)."


This page from Albany College:

is titled "Postclassic Ceramics of the Toluca Valley" and has a very
straightforward description of ceramic finds from this well-known
anthropological site in Mexico.


Here is a pretty good reading list on anthropology and ceramics from
the University of New Mexico:

The papers are not accessible on-line, but I wanted to make you aware
of this reading material just the same.


For some on-line reading from UNM, though, you can look at the
summaries of this special issue of the Journal of Anthropological

which focuses on "Anthropological Interpretations from Archaeological
Ceramic Studies in the
U. S. Southwest."

The first article in the series is an introduction to the whole field of study:


Arleyn W. Simon
Archaeological Research Institute, Department of Anthropology, Arizona
State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2402

James H. Burton
Laboratory of Archaeological Chemistry, Department of Anthropology,
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706-1393

For decades, ceramic analysis has been widely used in archaeological
research of the American Southwest, but several recent ceramic studies
have gone well beyond classification and material sourcing to examine
the soicial relationships among ceramic exchange, production and
complexity.  Presented here are studies from Classic period (A.D.
1270-1450) sites of central Arizona that focus on prehistoric social
relationships among communities during times of population movement
and aggregation.  These recent research projects have made significant
interpretive strides by examining ceramic change as an indicator of
exchange pattern modifications and population shifts.  These studies
establish substantial databases of ceramic analyses and integrate
results from complementary research methods to develop and test models
of social interaction.

[The full article does not appear to be readily available on-line, but
you may want to ask a librarian to assist you in getting a copy of the
actual article.]


I like the description of this book from a professor at Oklahoma
Baptist University:

because it takes a very different tact that studying shards, and ties
together the study of ceramics to much broader social themes of
gender, capitalism and social change.  The book is called:  "The
Ceramics of Ráquira, Colombia -- Gender, Work, and Economic Change".


For the absolute latest in what's happening in this field, you can
refer to this University of Wisconsin conference site:

where abstracts of papers from a conference held in October 2003 are
presented.  Search the page for "ceramics" and you'll find numerous
projects described, including:

Thomas Emerson (University of Illinois), Amy Wilkinson, and Kjersti E.
Emerson (University of Illinois-ITARP)
A Preliminary Review of the Late Prehistoric Hoxie Farm Ceramic Assemblage

The typological, chronological, and cultural identification of late
prehistoric and protohistoric ceramics of northern Illinois has been
difficult. Many ceramic collections were recovered from excavations
conducted prior to implementation of scientific recording procedures
or in salvage situations. The large collection of ceramic materials
from the ITARP Hoxie excavations provides a unique opportunity to
examine a large body of pottery from in situ deposits associated with
the fortified village, longhouses, and midden/pit clusters. The
evidence from these materials give archaeologists an opportunity to
reflect on the Fisher-Huber ceramic sequence that has been the
prevailing model of late prehistoric ceramic evolution.

Everybody Loves Ramey: Terminal Late Woodland/Middle Mississippian
Ceramics from the Northern Hinterlands
Robert Boszhardt (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse)

This show and tell workshop will feature ceramic assemblages from
various Terminal Late Woodland/Middle Mississippian components in the
northern hinterlands. Localities/sites represented will include Apple
River (Chapman, Lundy, etc.), the American Bottom, Aztalan, Cambria,
Red Wing (Bryan, Diamond Bluff, Silvernale), the Bell Site, Fred
Edwards, Gottschall Rockshelter, Hartley Fort and other eastern Iowa
sites (Webster, Union Bench), Mill Creek and other Plains periphery
(Broken Kettle, Chan-ya-ta, Dodd, Paul Brane, etc.), northern
Wisconsin's Lakes District (Robinson), La Crosse (Iva), Stoddard
(Fisher Mounds), and Trempealeau (Stull, Squier Garden).


Donald Gaff (Michigan State University)
Not a Lot of Pot: An Exposition Concerning a Rare Pottery Type in the Midwest

Excavations at the Aztalan site (47-JE-1) in Wisconsin in 2001 and
2002 produced sherds of a unique, net-impressed ceramic. In an effort
to better understand such pottery, this paper will consider
net-impressed ceramics from a broad perspective. The literature
reveals that net-impressed pots represent a minority ware in many Late
Woodland assemblages. Interestingly, the trait of net-impressions has
a wide geographic distribution and appears to have enjoyed a limited
period of use. After a discussion of the Aztalan pot and other similar
ones, a relationship between this vessel type and maize will be


And lastly, here is a fairly extensive summary of numerous research
projects and emerging trends in the field of archaeological and
anthropological ceramics from The Society for
Archaeological Sciences:

It includes summaries of such works as:

--Pottery Ethnoarchaeology in the Central Maya Highlands 

--Pottery in Rajasthan

--Ceramic Production in the Andes: Technology, Organization, and Approaches

and many more.


I have extracted what seemed to me to be the most valuable and salient
materials to respond to your question.  But as I said above, if you
find you need additional information, just let me know by posting a
Request for Clarification, and I'll be happy to assist you further.

Best of luck with your project.


search strategy:  Google search on:  (anthropological OR anthropology) ceramics

Request for Answer Clarification by narnia-ga on 11 Nov 2003 08:32 PST
thanks but can u help with more detailed paper work.
i would apprecaite it

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 11 Nov 2003 08:59 PST
Hello again, Narnia-ga,

I'm always happy to work with a client in order to clarify an answer,
or provide additional information if needed.

Your original question asked for papers pertaining to ceramics and
anthropology, and now you are asking for "more detailed paperwork".

Can you please explain what you mean by this?  Are you looking for
even more papers than the ones I cited here?  Do you need papers on
different topics than what I've covered already?  Any additional
information you can provide would be very helpful.

As I said, I'm happy to continue working with you on this...I would
just like a better understanding of what it is you need.

There are no comments at this time.

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