Advances in the Method and Application of Ceramic Petrography: international perspectives on key archaeological questions, Part I

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Over the last 30 years the archaeological application of petrographic analysis has gained methodological and theoretical traction. Ceramic petrography, in particular, has emerged as a key methodological tool because it provides insights into technological practice, the choice and manipulation of raw materials by ancient potters, and methods of forming and firing conditions. Petrography has the advantage of being a visual technique whose observations are easily combined with macroscopic study of fabric, form, and decoration. A holistic approach that combines such observation with chemical (e.g. INAA, ICP-MS, XRF), mineralogical (especially XRD), and microstructural (SEM) data, in addition to geological information provides a powerful analytical strategy for understanding the social, political, economic, and environmental contexts of ceramic production, distribution, and consumption. Such information is vital for developing robust interpretations of ancient social organization and change. We have invited a group of scholars whose work highlights advances in ceramic petrography for understanding, technological traditions and change, identity, ceramic production and exchange, migration, and the social context of consumption. Many of the papers highlight new methods for combining petrography with other analytical strategies to address social process. As such, the session provides an analytical exchange among researchers with diverse intellectual backgrounds and research interests.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-14 of 14)

  • Documents (14)

  • The Analytical Nexus: Multi-Technique Approaches to Ceramic Composition (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Wesley Stoner.

    Archaeologists have employed many different approaches to characterize the composition of ceramic pastes, but until recently only a minority of studies have used multiple analytical techniques to examine the same sample. An "analytical technique" is used here to mean a single perspective that characterizes an aspect of a ceramic paste. Since humans created pottery using different processes and recipes, it follows that each perspective teaches us about a unique aspect of the potter's behavior...

  • Assessing Ceramic Production and Exchange in the Early Monte Albán State (Oaxaca, Mexico) (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jason Sherman. Leah Minc.

    In this paper we present the results of an ongoing study of ceramic production and exchange in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico, during the Late to Terminal Formative (500 BC–AD 200)—the period when the Monte Albán state formed and consolidated control over its hinterland and surrounding regions. We have found that adopting a multifaceted approach that combines chemical (INAA) data with detailed qualitative and quantitative mineralogical (petrographic) data enables us to differentiate cultural from...

  • A characterization study of some of the earliest ceramic building materials from sites in Rome and its surrounding area (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ioannis Iliopoulos. Albert J. Ammerman.

    Roman roof tiles and architectural terracottas constitute an important resource for the study of the architectural development of early Rome, through the detection of different sources and perhaps workshops in the region of the Roman capital. Unfortunately, the location of possible clay sources available to the Roman tile-makers has been obscured due to the city’s extensive urbanization. However, a drilling project in the area of the Roman Forum and other sites offers important evidence of...

  • Expanding the (Micro)Scope: Exploring the technological and provenance characteristics of Inuit pottery containing atypical, animal-deriving organic paste ingredients (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only John Moody. Linda Howie. Lisa Hodgetts.

    The extensive research on pottery manufacture in past and contemporary societies suggests that the pallet of tempering materials potters select from includes a relatively limited range of options deriving from the geological landscape, plants (e.g. chaff) and animals (e.g. bone). This tendency is significant considering that almost any material or substance can be incorporated into a paste mixture; what is included in any specific instance is a matter of choice, shaped by the potter’s learned...

  • Fabrics of space and time: Multiscalar analytical approaches to social process in the Middle Bronze Age Aegean (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jill Hilditch.

    Acknowledging analytical scale, or emphasizing the importance of moving coherently from macro to micro to elemental, is not a new concept within ceramic analysis. The work of David Peacock since the 1970s has demonstrated the necessity of a multiscalar approach, yet our attempts to combine techniques that bridge these various scales of analysis have met with mixed success, particularly when confronted by assemblages that include a spectrum of fine to coarse wares. This paper highlights recent...

  • Function-based Processing Decisions in the Middle Balsas Region of Guerrero, Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jennifer Meanwell.

    Petrography has long been recognized as a powerful way to understand pottery provenience and production decisions. Despite this, few studies focus on production decisions made by potters working in a single community, especially potters who practice household-level production. In this paper, I investigate decisions made by potters at the site of La Queseria, Guerrero, Mexico during the Classic Period (AD 200-900). Petrographic analysis of their vessels suggests that two major clay sources were...

  • Integrating Petrographic and INAA Compositional Data: Chupadero Black-on-white Ceramic Production and Distribution in the Salinas and Sierra Blanca regions of New Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Tiffany Clark. Suzanne Eckert.

    Ceramic research in the American Southwest is increasingly relying on both mineralogical and chemical compositional data to answer questions regarding pottery production and exchange. Due to differences in the structure and nature of these datasets, integrative studies that attempt to incorporate information on both types of compositional data often produce confusing and sometimes seemingly contradictory results. This paper explores the recently developed ‘mixed-mode’ method of data analysis,...

    DOCUMENT Citation Only Daniel Albero Santacreu.

    Potters can exploit certain clay resources for long periods of time due to several reasons of different nature. In this presentation I will address how raw material procurement can be made according to ecological, economic and functional concerns, but also considering social and symbolic phenomena. In order to test these different theoretical perspectives and promote more holistic positions in the interpretation of the raw material procurement I will present a case study focused on the Late...

  • Microfossils and Micro-XRF: sourcing raw materials for Iron Age to Romano-British pottery production at Burrough Hill hillfort, UK (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ian Whitbread. Jeremy Taylor. Mark Williams. Ian Wilkinson. Ian Boomer.

    Burrough Hill hillfort, east Leicestershire, United Kingdom, is an example of an Iron Age settlement of the Corieltauvi people who occupied the East Midlands in the millennium prior to the Roman occupation of Britain in AD 43. The hillfort is set in a sedimentary landscape with few distinctive rock types. Objectives of the current study are to determine signatures of the local sedimentary deposits, building materials and pottery using ceramic petrography, micropalaeontology, WDXRF and micro-XRF....

  • New Faces, New Pressures, New Pots: Collective identities in action in the ceramic record at Lamanai, Belize (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Linda Howie.

    For the ancient Maya residing at the urban center of Lamanai, the period encompassing the Maya Collapse and its aftermath (A.D. 750-1150) was a time of significant changes in the fabric of day-to-day life. Widespread economic and political instability across the Lowland region seriously impacted both community and extra-local affairs. Networks of socio-economic interaction and affiliation were disrupted and people were on the move, seeking to relocate to more stable environs. The strong evidence...

  • Petrography and chemistry live together in perfect harmony (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Vassilis Kilikoglou. Anno Hein.

    Historically, pottery provenance studies in the Aegean were conducted by the application of chemical techniques for element determination. The underlying principle was that ceramics made with the same clay paste should exhibit lower chemical variability than those with different pastes. Although this principle has not changed over the years, pottery studies have undergone serious analytical and most importantly, methodological developments. The main reason for the methodological developments...

  • The Social Dimensions of Complex Industries: Insights from a Thin Section Microscopy Study of Aztec Salt-Making Pottery (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only John Millhauser.

    In this paper, I show how thin section microscopy enhances our understanding of the social relations and technological sequences of production in the Late Postclassic (1350-1520 AD) salt industry of the northern Basin of Mexico. Aztec salt-making sites have dense concentrations of "fabric-marked" pottery, which is a light, friable ware distinguished by impressions of textiles on its exterior surface. Fabric-marked pottery was probably used to mold blocks of salt for sale in the market. Because...

  • Transport jars at the Mycenaean Citadel of Tiryns, Greece: new evidence from petrographic analysis of trade in the Late Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marta Tenconi. Peter Day. Elina Kardamaki. Joseph Maran. Alkestis Papadimitriou.

    The analysis of Transport Stirrup Jars in the Aegean world has been seen as a test-case for the relative effectiveness and reliability of chemical and petrographic analysis in terms of provenance. These jars are important as they moved in large quantities between the ‘Minoan’ and ‘Mycenaean’ worlds and because they sometimes feature inscriptions in Linear B, reflecting elite control of production and consumption in Crete, as well as in a variety of mainland ‘palaces’. This makes the vessels key...

  • Using Natural Breaks to Work Together: Compositional Analysis of Archaeological Ceramics using Petrography and NAA (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lane Fargher. Marc N. Levine. Flor Arcega-Cabrera.

    Historically, the application of petrographic techniques and NAA to the compositional analysis of archaeological ceramics in the New World emerged from two very distinct intellectual foundations. Initially, petrographers focused on studying temper to characterize the types of materials used, their geological sources, and their coarseness in an effort to reconstruct the cultural development of potting traditions and interaction among cultures. NAA, on the other hand, was originally used to...