Reconstructing technological trajectories in the Bronze Age Aegean

Introduction

Drawing on Jill Hilditch‘s extensive experience, this component of the Tracing the Potter’s Wheel project focuses on compositional and technological analysis to determine the provenance of wheelmade vessels within key diachronic ceramic assemblages of the Bronze Age Aegean, allowing trajectories of technological knowledge transmission to be mapped through time and the relationship with broader cultural encounters within this arena to be assessed. It is important to establish whether wheelmade vessels, those produced using any technique or combination of techniques that includes rotational kinetic energy (RKE), within an assemblage are locally produced or imported. This is because local wheelmade vessels (using locally available/compatible raw materials) are tangible indicators of the social interactions across which technical knowledge was transmitted, through the learning and adoption of that knowledge by a local potting community of practice. In contrast, an import, a vessel defined as produced beyond the vicinity of the site under study and often using non-locally compatible raw materials, even if wheelmade, can only indicate the exchange and distribution of the finished vessels, not the transmission of technical knowledge or know-how needed to operate the potter’s wheel. A clear understanding of local production sequences for local ceramic products, and their respective communities of practice, as well as distribution networks and consumption choices are crucial for reconstructing the interaction pathways through which the potter’s wheel spread.

Methodology

Using a combination of new, forthcoming and published ceramic fabric studies, the local ceramic production sequences at selected diachronic sites within the Bronze Age Aegean will be assessed. In collaboration with the experimental subproject, the wheelmade vessels identified by Caroline Jeffra can be assessed within their site context, using macroscopic and petrographic analysis to determine local compatibility and technological choices. The spatial and chronological parallels for these wheelmade vessels will then be established at the regional scale to trace the potter’s wheel as a technological innovation within potting communities of the Aegean.