Ceramology: Getting Closer to the Potters and their World.

Past and Present in Andean Prehistory and Early History.

By Ole Stilborg


Pottery is, because of its versatility as utensil and its durability as sherds, an important material in archaeological investigations in most parts of the world. In many areas the great variations in shapes and ornamentation's further increases their importance by augmenting their potential for chronological and cultural studies. Traditional typology may go a long way to establish chronologies and delineate culture groups, but in order to probe deeper into contacts and relations between cultures, places, people and even between chronological phases, knowledge about the material composition of the ceramics and the craft traditions behind the pottery is necessary. In South American archaeology there is a tradition of using thin section analysis and other ceramological methods primarily for characterising the wares and establishing their provenance. Ethnographic studies and descriptions of modern pottery making is another large and rich research area with old traditions in this part of the world. However, in my opinion, ceramology has even more to offer. In Northern Europe ceramology has been adapted to a physical environment with a very mixed and often non-distinctive mineralogy, which has turned the emphasis of the analyses more towards the craft technology and the choices made by the potter. In other words the way the raw materials were used - the quality of the raw clay and the type, amount and grain size of tempering material in relation to the type, size and function of the ceramic product - became just as important as the provenance of the raw materials themselves. Non-local products are identified by the "finger marks" left in the composition of their ware signalling other traditions. In this way attempts at copying foreign vessel shapes also stand out from the material even from minor technological details, which can be shown to belong to the local tradition. With a few examples from two limited pilot studies on material from the district of Chuquibamba,Peru (Chachapoyas and Inka pottery) and from El Pichao,Tucumán,Argentine (1300-1500 AD), I will try to show the possibilities in a closer look into the craft traditions of the potters of the past.

Cerámica es un complejo material arqueológico, que exige diveras aproximaciones analíticas. Juzgando desde la literatura, el estudio de la cerámica sudamericana podría beneficiar desde estudios mas integrandos incorporando tanto una selección mas amplia de los análisis de masteriales como también del conocimiento etnoarqueológico en producción, distribución y uso. Dos limitados estudios pilotos de cerámica de los períodos pre-inca e inca de Perú y Argentina son persentados como un ejemplo de lo que puede ser realizado reconstruyendo la artesanía de los alfareros perhistóricos.


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