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Insight from innovation


Abstracts are listed according to running order.


A Personal Appreciation of a Unique Archaeologist

Simon Keay (University of Southampton)

In this contribution I will review Professor David Peacock's career focusing upon his unique and significant contribution to archaeological science and to the archaeology of the Roman world. I will review his personal works with a short personal appreciation.


DPSP: from Britain to the Mediterranean and Carthage

Michael Fulford (University of Reading)

My paper will review some of David's key contributions to British and
European archaeology between the 1960s and 1980s: to ceramic and lithic petrology from the 1960s in Britain through to his growing interest in provenancing Roman pottery, notably transport amphorae, imported into Britain, and his involvement in the UNESCO 'Save Carthage' campaign of the 1970s and 80s. This was a period which also saw major, influential publications, such as Pottery and Early Commerce (1977) and Pottery in the Roman world: an ethnoarchaeological approach (1982). The breadth and depth of his interests is also reflected in the accomplishments of his PhD students during this period.


David Peacock's exploration and impact through pottery, porphyry, and ports

Roberta Tomber (British Museum)

Best known for his major studies on pottery and stone, David Peacock’s work spans a much broader spectrum of survey and excavation. This contribution will focus on various projects undertaken since the 1980s that have been particularly ground-breaking. I will focus on those projects in which I have been involved: -the Tunisian kilns project and in Egypt the excavations at the quarries of Mons Claudianus and Mons Porphyrites and the port of Quseir al-Qadim. I will also outline his creative application of scientific techniques throughout these projects, and the far-reaching impact of his methods and conclusions.


The Compleat Ceramicist: David Peacock and the defeat of the "Numerous Minor Clouds of Mutual Incomprehension"

Peter M. Day (University of Sheffield) and Ian K. Whitbread (University of Leicester)

When tracing the legacy of David Peacock in pottery studies, the Aegean might not be the first place which comes to mind. After all, little if any of David's fieldwork took place in that part of the Mediterranean and much of the work has been avowedly prehistoric in orientation. Nevertheless, the impact of his work in the Aegean has been deep and long-lasting. This strong regional tradition of ceramic analysis has its roots in David's understanding and advocacy of thin section petrography, in his conviction of the key role of ethnography and especially in his model of Production Modes, which has informed work for the last 30 years. In other words it has grown to emulate David's idea of a holistic ceramic study.

Peacock's approach and pioneering work by co-workers John Riley and David Williams made sure that the University of Southampton was central to many developments of ceramic analysis in the Aegean. As former students of David, who have applied his petrographic and ethnographic approach, we assess his strong influence on an area which continues to innovate and develop ceramic methodology. We demonstrate that current research by a younger generation of scholars still builds on his vision of pottery studies, challenging our assumptions concerning the choices potters make, the extent of pottery exchange and the implications for our understanding of production and consumption.


1. CERAMICS IN THE MAKING (chair: Sandy Budden)

Prehistoric Calabrian Clay Taskscapes Through Time

Kostalena Michelaki (Arizona State University)

My presentation will use archaeological ceramics and geological clays from the comune di Bova Marina in southwestern Calabria, Italy, to explore how the local potters oriented themselves in their landscape from the Early Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age. Ethnoarchaeological research has shown that small scale producers often do not prospect for clays, but instead happen upon them while performing other daily tasks that make them focus on soil (e.g. digging in their gardens). If we explore the distribution of local clays systematically and compare it to the choices ancient potters made, we could get a glimpse into what those ancient taskscapes might have been, moving beyond a typical and homogenizing characterization of production as simply ‘local'.

My sample consists of ceramics from four archaeological sites located less than 1km away from each other, on the same geological environment: Umbro Neolithic (5700-2900 cal. BC), Penitenzeria (5500-5000 cal. BC), Umbro Bronze (1865-1520 cal. BC), and Sant' Aniceto (1260-910 cal. BC). This is coupled with geological clays collected systematically from a radius of 4km around the sites. All materials were characterized using firing tests, x-Ray diffraction, petrography, and instrumental neutron activation. The results of these analyses will be used to show that despite major differences in the form of ceramics, raw material selection (and the taskscapes it involved) remained consistent from the Early Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age, changing significantly only in the Late Bronze Age, when differences in vessel form from the earlier Bronze Age where not major.


X-radiography of ceramic artefacts: pitfalls and challenges

Ina Berg (University of Manchester)

X-radiography can be used to identify past forming techniques and fabric groupings for any clay object – whether they be pots, figurines or bricks. While basic knowledge of the method is relatively easy to acquire, there are a number of small and greater pitfalls that the researcher must be aware of before they can be confident in their conclusions. Among the parameters that require careful attention are: thickness of the fragment, quantity of inclusions, atomic density of the clay body vs inclusions, quality of X-ray equipment and X-ray scanner, skill of the ancient potter, and our skills as interpreters. The best strategy is always to follow a scientific methodology and compare the ancient objects to a control group (e.g. derived from modern replica experiments).


Fired Fingers. The study of finger imprints on pottery as a new method to investigate pottery production in archaeology. With a case study of finger imprints on (post-)medieval stoneware from Siegburg (Germany)

Yvonne J.W.R. de Rue (Studiebureau Archeologie)

Many ceramic pots bear finger imprints where the potter pressed his fingers in the clay before the pot was fired. This study investigates whether the study of such finger imprints could be useful within archaeological pottery research.

To be able to use pottery as a proxy for human behaviour, a framework is built that defines the relationships between pottery characteristics and pottery production. The necessary theoretical basis for such a framework was found in anthropological and ethno-archaeological research. It starts from defining style, communities of practice, and motor habits.

To test whether finger imprint analysis could actually be put in practice, a case study was carried out on an assemblage from the (post-)medieval stoneware production centre of Siegburg (Germany). A methodology for the study of finger imprints on the bases of Siegburg vessels was developed. It turned out that finger imprints can be recorded relatively easily.

The results suggest that finger imprint analysis can be used to divide an assemblage into meaningful groups that can provide new information on personal style, teaching methods and communities of practice. It can be used to identify communities in which a potter was originally trained. As thin section analysis normally identifies the community in which a potter works, combining the two can provide interesting insights in the education of potters and their movements between workshops.


The Resonance of Gabbroic Clay in Contemporary Ceramic Works

Helen Marton (University College Falmouth)

This presentation aims to reveal an on-going investigation into the use of Gabbroic clay in contemporary ceramic works. It was Professor Peacock’s research during the 60’s, which first confirmed that Gabbroic clay from the Lizard peninsula was used in the production of pottery in Cornwall from the start of the Neolithic period and lasting roughly 5000 years. This wonderfully versatile material was utilised by many early makers across Cornwall and beyond. 

This investigation highlights experiential engagement with the raw material, firing techniques and selective exploration of the archaeology. The subsequent results show interesting hybrid composites with the addition of spectacular inclusions. 

The nature of the contemporary maker’s journey may be illustrated through discussion of the marriage of concept, context and technical investigation. This exploration also highlights the importance to the maker of material selection in conceptual expression. The emergence of narrative is something that can be located through practical engagement with and observations of material, location and environment.


2. SOCIAL LIVES OF POTS (chair: Elaine Morris)

And some loquacious vessels were...  Investigating the role of hunter-gatherers in the origins of pottery and the role of pottery in the lives of hunter-gatherers

Peter Hommel (University of Oxford), Peter M. Day (University of Sheffield), Peter Jordan (University of Aberdeen) and V.M. Vetrov (Irkutsk State Pedagogical University)

Until recently discussion of the origins of pottery technology has centred upon sedentary agricultural communities of the Near East. Simple hunters and gatherers were allotted no more than a passive role the history of ceramic technology. Even the astonishing antiquity of pottery production among hunter-gatherers in Japan, now recognized for almost 50 years, has usually been treated as exceptional. In spite of the fact that more recent discoveries of early pottery across Eastern Asia and Northern Africa have consistently produced dates far older than the either the earliest ‘agriculturalist' pottery or agriculture in Western Asia many scholars seem reluctant to abandon traditional explanations for the emergence and spread of ceramic vessel technology.

This paper presents a survey of chronological evidence for an intercontinental phenomenon of pottery use among hunter-gatherers and considers briefly some of the theoretical models that are being applied to make sense of the emergence of ceramic technology in this new context. Various potential problems with these models are identified and the importance of studying the ceramic material itself, directly and in detail, is emphasised. The results of a case-study analysis from the Upper Vitim Basin in the Transbaikal Region of Siberia are also presented. Building on an existing body of macroscopic descriptive work, this study used petrography to identify changing patterns of technological choice over the course of the Neolithic and provides some new insight into the possible significance of these changes.  Further work is clearly necessary and various possible lines for future investigation are suggested.


Pots and Stories

Joanna Sofaer (University of Southampton)

The bowl is a common vessel type in the European Bronze Age found in both settlement and cemetery contexts. This paper explores how some types of bowls may have been used to tell stories (more specifically cosmological myths) from the Early Bronze Age to the Late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age in the Pannonian region (modern day Hungary and northern Croatia).

Over this period, changes in the relationship between the shape and decoration of bowls show a shift in emphasis from two-dimensional to three-dimensional use of the vessel surface. These innovations can be understood in terms of the development of design principles that allowed the presentation of common Bronze Age motifs, such as the sun and the wheel, through vessel form as well as surface decoration. It also created possibilities for the display and performance of stories in new and overt ways.


Pots and pies: adventures in the archaeology of eating habits

Joanita Vroom (Leiden University)

This paper sets out to discuss the archaeology of eating habits in the eastern Mediterranean during Byzantine times (ca. 7th-15th centuries AD). Questions related to what was eaten and how this was eaten are approached from a ceramic perspective. The aim of this survey is to clarify how pottery finds in combination with pictorial and written sources can contribute to the understanding of Byzantine eating habits, of their changes over time, and, consequently, of the changes in form and function of vessels, dishes and other utensils used on the table and in the kitchen. The objective of this paper is not to strive for any form of completeness, but rather to establish whether a more or less statistical study of ceramic forms is a fruitful line of approach to explain the relation between long-term changes in pottery finds and eating habits.


3. CHALLENGING CHRONOLOGY (chair: Fraser Sturt)

Rehydroxylation (RHX) dating, perhaps the technique archaeology has been waiting for?

Moira Wilson (University of Manchester)

Rehydroxylation is the super-slow, progressive chemical recombination of environmental moisture with fired-clay material. All fired clay - bricks, tiles, pottery - expand on aging due to the update of moisture. Rehydroxylation dating (RHX) can provide a date of manufacture for archaeological ceramics by measuring the lifetime mass gain.

The long-term moisture expansion of bricks has been known to structural engineers for some time, as it is the cause of cracking in brick masonry due to expansive stresses. Research at The Universities of Manchester and Edinburgh over the past decade has shown for the first time that this process happens at a constant, but diminishing, rate over thousands of years. This research to predict expansion in structural masonry became the precursor to a new method of dating archaeological ceramics. RHX is self calibrating, so the reaction rate adjusts according to differences in firing temperature, mineralogy and microstructure. This nascent dating technique has proven to be effective for dating historical and archaeological building materials, and focus is now turning towards other types of ceramics, particularly domestic assemblages.

Research into RHX has now progressed to a validation stage and through collaboration with the Universities of Bradford and Edinburgh is currently moving towards applying RHX to archaeological ceramics. This paper will describe how RHX dating works via archaeological case studies and outline the methodology that is being applied in the current validation project. In order to demonstrate the potential of this dating technique, some of the results obtained so far in the validation project will be presented.


Cooking residues and C14: using Bayesian Modelling to improve ceramic chronologies

Alistair J. Barclay (Wessex Archaeology)

Charred food residues adhering to pottery are by their nature the remains of cooked meals directly associated with individual vessels. Cooking pots too encrusted with food were probably soon discarded as food no doubt became spoiled and tasted bad. Within the array of food residues identified those that are the product of charred food have so far been most useful for radiocarbon dating with many laboratories routinely accepting residue samples for dating. Such dates can provide a direct and precise date for individual vessels.

Taken in isolation any radiocarbon date provides a simple date range for a particular sample in which an event took place. In contrast Bayesian modelling provides a powerful tool to combine not only multiple radiocarbon dates but also other archaeological information (eg, site stratigraphy). The result is a more precise chronology and one that can move us from the scale of archaeological period or sub-period (200 years plus) to within human life spans (up to 75 years). Bayesian modelling is a technique that can provide date estimates for a series of parameters (eg, when did a ceramic tradition start, how long did it last and when did it end?). Using this technique it is possible to model such events to within a century and often less. And once individual events have been modelled they can be compared and contrasted to build new and potentially more precise chronologies.

This paper will present the results from a recent project to re-date the earliest Neolithic ceramics from Wessex, funded by English Heritage. It will also draw upon recent work on prehistoric sites from southern England.


The chronology of Saxon Stafford Ware: multi-technique Bayesian chronological modelling compared with historically attested events

Seren Griffiths (Cardiff University)

This paper presents the results of commercial excavation on kilns from Saxon Stafford. It incorporates a review of the available chronological evidence from the late Saxon town, and other data estimating the currency of late Saxon Stafford Ware.  Multiple, independent radiocarbon likelihoods and recalibrated archaeomagentic dates associated with the use of pottery kilns and the production of Stafford Ware, are modelled to provide a reevaluation of the start of late Saxon activity, and to compare this estimate with historically attested events such as the foundation of the burgh in AD 913. 

The results of the modelling demonstrate that utility of applying Bayesian modelling in order to question the assumed association of historic events and archaeological evidence.  This work also demonstrates the value of commercial excavation in contributing data to challenging or a least question existing understanding.


4. TAKING THE PULSE OF POTTERY STUDIES (chair: Alison Gascoigne)

‘Hold your beliefs lightly’: innovation in prehistoric, Roman and post-Roman pottery studies

Duncan Brown (Medieval Pottery Research Group), Jane Evans (Study Group for Roman Pottery) and David Knight (Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group)

The approach to fabric analysis presented by David Peacock in his 1977 paper on ‘Ceramics in Roman and medieval archaeology’ forms the foundation for British pottery studies of all periods. His other publications, from petrological studies of individual wares to ethnoarchaeological studies of pottery production, remain standard texts. Yet British archaeology has changed enormously in the intervening years. It is easy to overlook some of the innovations that have revolutionised the way we now work: word processors, databases, emails and the internet. These make it easier to share and compare data, but also highlight the different approaches used by specialists, particularly those studying different periods. Yet there are also many common themes and issues. The three pottery research groups, covering prehistoric (PCRG), Roman (SGRP) and medieval and later pottery (MPRG) have recently defined, or are in the processes of defining, their strategic aims. This conference has provided an opportunity for our first collaborative paper, drawing on these. The aims of the paper will be: to illustrate some of the innovative work taking place, to highlight some of the common issues and, most importantly, to act as a springboard for future collaborative work to review methods, standards and research frameworks. A major innovation in itself!



Use of automated scanning electron microscopy (QEMSCAN®) to characterise the texture and mineralogy of medieval and post-medieval pottery from Somerset

Jens Andersen (University of Exeter), Gavyn Rollinson (University of Exeter) and David Dawson (Vicky & David Dawson Partnership)

The QEMSCAN® is an automated scanning electron microscope that uses energy dispersive x-ray analysis to collect detailed spatially resolved mineralogical information on microscope sections of materials. A typical analysis involves the collection of more than 500,000 individual points on a sample surface. For ceramic materials, the method offers an attractive visual representation of the texture and mineralogical components. The components of the matrix and temper are commonly immediately recognisable, and the analysis can reveal fine structures that are not visible by the naked eye. The images are backed up with quantitative information on relative mineral abundances, associations and particle size distributions, and this information can be used to identify the individual components that have been used in the manufacture in areas with known geology. A successful pilot study used this technique to differentiate and source Late Bronze Age pottery from the Aegean (Knappett et al., 2011, J. Archaeol. Sci., 38, 219-232). Somerset with its diverse geology and wide range of known production centres is an ideal area to test this technique in order to aid the identification, characterisation and provenancing of different types of wares from Medieval and Post medieval contexts in Britain.


Analytical Developments in the Study of Islamic Glazes

Michael Tite (University of Oxford)

The study of ancient ceramics was transformed during the 1970s by the increasing availability of Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM) with attached analytical facilities. In the context of the ceramic bodies, the SEM provided images of the clay component in addition to the inclusions which had previously been studied using optical microscopy. In the context of the applied glazes and slips, these could be analysed for the first time without any interference from the underlying body by using cross-sections through the ceramic. As a result our understanding of the different glaze types used in antiquity has been transformed.

To illustrate something of what has been learnt from the application of the analytical SEM to the study of ancient glazed ceramics, this paper will review the glaze types (i.e., alkali-lime, high lead, tin-opacified lead-alkali) and the decoration (i.e., cobalt blue, lustre) of Islamic ceramics produced during the 9th and 10th centuries AD. The emphasis will be on tin-opacified lead-alkali glazes, and consideration will be given to the origin and development of this new glaze technology, the reasons for its adoption and for the choice of glaze composition, and the interaction in terms of ceramic technology between the Islamic world and China at that period. Finally, the more recent use of Transmission Electron Microscopy, Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, and various analytical methods linked to Synchrotron Radiation Sources in the study of Islamic glazes will be briefly summarised.


Phytolith analysis of ceramic thin section. Experimental and technological contributions: phytolith visibility and firing temperatures

Akos Peto (Hungarian National Museum) and Luc Vrydaghs (Research Team in Archaeo- and PalaeoEnvironmental Sciences)

Phytoliths enter the ceramic fabric with the plant material used for tempering. A previous contribution elaborates on a standard description system to elucidate the archaeological significance of phytolith within ceramic thin sections. It relies on four indices, including a conservation index (C). The latter considers their visibility (V) and preservation (P) (Vrydaghs and Peto submitted).

In a fresh or air-dried state, phytoliths only become visible when the ceramic fabric is fired to an oxidized state at which plant organic matter is completely burnt out of the fabric. As such, the visibility of phytolith is highly dependent on the firing process. The conservation index (C) reported in terms of visibility (V) and preservation (P) should be indicative of temperatures reached during the making of the pottery. While thin phytoliths might start melting at 600°C (Brochier 2002), phytoliths seem to be not affected by heating till 800°C (Runge 1998). Siliceous glasses will start forming between 900°C and 1000°C (Brochier 2002). A priori, (partially) molten phytoliths as well as droplets or silica grass should also be recorded. In other contexts, phytoliths show autofluorescence possibly due to the formation of a chemical weathering ring of wavelite during the heating of the opal (Gebhardt and Langohr 1999).

Through the elaboration of an experimental protocol, present contribution intends to explore temperature issues in relation with the conservation index of phytoliths within ceramic thin sections. More specifically; how far the record of phytoliths deriving from the by product of cereal processing might be indicative of temperatures reached during the firing process?


Brochier, J.É. 2002.- Les sédiments anthropiques. Méthodes d'étude et perspectives. in Miskovsky J.-C. (dir): Géologie de la Préhistoire: méthodes, techniques, applications. Paris. Géopré éditions, 453-477.

Gebhardt, A. and Langohr, R. 1999. Micromorphological study of construction materials and living floors in the medieval motte of Werken (West flanders, Belgium), Geoarchaeology, 14, 7: 595-620.

Runge, F., 1998. The effect of dry oxidation temperatures (500°C - 800°C) and of natural corrosion on opal phytoliths. Deuxième congrès international de recherches sur les phytolithes, Aix-en-Provence, Résumés : 73.

Vrydaghs, L. and Peto, A. Submitted. Phytolith analysis of ceramic thin section. I. First archaeological applications of a descriptive system.


Taking the coarse with the fine: the application of automated SEM-EDS with QEMSCAN® to ceramic assemblages in the Bronze Age Aegean

Jill Hilditch (University of Amsterdam), Duncan Pirrie (Helford Geoscience LLP), Carl Knappett (University of Toronto) Nicoletta Momigliano (University of Bristol) and Gavyn Rollinson (University of Exeter)

A persistent problem within ancient ceramic analysis is the study of whole assemblages from both a compositional and technological perspective. Existing techniques, such as optical microscopy, ICP-MS and INAA, struggle to integrate compositional datasets with the textural information that is crucial for reconstructing technological choices. However, advances in automated scanning electron microscopy with linked energy dispersive spectrometers (SEM-EDS) have created the potential to offer a seamless combination of textural and mineralogical data based on the acquisition of energy dispersive spectra. The combination of mineral quantification, using QEMSCAN® technology, and compositional mapping allows the standardised comparison of diverse datasets to address wider issues of social interaction within the ancient world. Automated SEM-EDS not only refines petrographic descriptions but also provides unique insight into clay mineral composition and clay mixing, a traditionally difficult behaviour to identify analytically. To demonstrate the potential of this new application for SEM-EDS, this paper discusses the results of an integrated macroscopic, petrographic and automated SEM-EDS study of Bronze Age ceramics from Iasos in western Anatolia. This site has long been associated with the expansion of Minoan influence within the Bronze Age Aegean, though the extent of participation within regional exchange networks has only recently been addressed. In addition to characterising the local suite of fabrics for this coastal region, the analysis has shown a much higher degree of interaction with neighbouring Dodecanese island centres than previously thought, as well as offering the first evidence for the presence of non-Cretan produced Minoanized vessels within the settlement.


6. DYNAMIC ASSEMBLAGES (chair: Joshua Pollard)

Vessel volumes and visualisation: innovative computer applications for ceramicists

Matt Brudenell, Vicki Herring and Donald Horne (Cambridge Archaeological Unit)

This paper presents two new approaches to visualising ceramics and calculating vessel volumes using 3D software packages. It offers an overview of these approaches, and demonstrates their potential to benefit ceramic studies. The first involves an innovative and relatively simple method of calculating vessel capacities, employing digitised profile illustrations. Conventional volumetric measurements are often hard to perform, especially with later prehistoric pots from Britain, which are seldom found intact. For this reason, there have been few studies of the vessel capacity and their changes through time. This new method, which utilises Maya, provides fast and accurate capacity calculations, and is currently advancing discussions of vessel function and assemblage variability within an on-going study of East Anglia's Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age ceramic traditions.

The second approach involves the use photogrammetry as a tool for visualising pots three dimensionally. Traditional forms of illustration are effective at communicating certain kinds of information about pottery, particularly with regard to the form and style of decoration on vessels. As archaeologists we are adept at ‘reading' these two dimensional, diagrammatic representations. But although aesthetically pleasing, these images often fail to capture the ‘essence' of the vessels they depict. The use of photogrammetry provides a solution to this problem. It is able to create three dimensional objects that can be interrogated virtually, putting some of this ‘lost' information back. The potential of this application is explored, with examples of the some of the extraordinary Late Bronze Age vessels from Must Farm, Cambridgeshire.


Non-destructive analysis of Samian ware from Scottish military sites

Richard Jones and Louisa Campbell (University of Glasgow)

In recent years portable XRF (p-XRF) has found much effective application in the rapid, non-destructive elemental analysis of archaeological materials and artefacts for information on identity and technology.  But the role of this technique in determining origin is still at an exploratory stage.  Here we report on the p-XRF analysis of the body and slip of around eighty Samian ware sherds, currently in the Hunterian Museum collections, found at two forts on the Antonine Wall - Balmuildy and Bar Hill - and two forts of mainly earlier date south of the Antonine Wall - Castledykes and Loudon Hill.  The sherds, which included some stamped bases, were eminently suited to surface analysis, having a fine fabric and a generally flat fracture. Using a Niton XL3 instrument, multiple analyses were made of the body and slip.  On the basis of the compositions based on fourteen major, minor and trace elements, two major groups and some outliers were isolated:  one large group comprised all the Antonine Wall fort sherds as well as some from Castledykes and Loudon Hill which were typologically definable as Antonine rather than Flavian in date, whereas the remaining sherds, all of earlier date, belonged to the second group. Preliminary comparison with the published data obtained by conventional XRF for the major Samian production centres supports a central Gaul origin for the larger group. This encouraging result extends to the findings of analysis of the slip which show contrasting major element patterns in the two groups.  The paper will discuss the implications of the collective results for future work.


Microscopic sourcing of ceramic components: case studies from SouthWest England

Henrietta Quinnell (University of Exeter) and Roger Taylor (RAM Museum, Exeter)

David Peacock's work on the sourcing of ceramics from South West Britain in the 1960s had a very great impact on the understanding of both the region and the country in prehistory and our work has built on this and on subsequent work by David Williams and Michael Parker-Pearson. Our studies use detailed microscopic and thin-section examination of both ceramic matrices and inclusions to develop a diachronic view of the changes in the patterns of exchange and of the use of inclusions in prehistory. They are based on the extremely detailed knowledge of the petrology of rocks and clay sources in Devon and Cornwall that one of us (RT) acquired throughout his career with British Geological Survey.

This paper will present two case studies, on the Early Neolithic and on Bronze Age Trevisker ware. Both periods show complex patterning of sources, with many vessels found long distances away from the location of their clays and inclusions. While gabbroic Cornish clays in Cornwall were important in both periods, the other significant sources differ. The basic data from our work are factual, providing challenges for theoretical interpretations. However we are considering the ways in which the use of clay and of inclusions reflect prehistoric communities' connections with the landscapes in which they lived, through which they moved, and with which they had connections.


Islamic Ceramic Art: Contextualising Museum Collections through Archaeological Evidence

Rebecca Bridgman (University of Cambridge)

Many museum art collections of medieval Islamic ceramics were originally archaeological finds but the contexts of their recovery are often lost because of the circumstances surrounding their excavation and sale. Commonly, this occurred through commercial dealers leading to their acquisition by European collectors in the 19th or 20th centuries. As a result of gifts and purchases, those collections now form the heart of many museum displays of Islamic art. The lack of contextual information, however, means that displays are often focused on aesthetics, rather than the more engaging and valuable stories objects can tell about the places they were made and the people who owned them.

This paper will present a new methodology for the interpretation of museum collections of Islamic ceramics, employing a biographical approach that centres on recent archaeological evidence, and uses historical and archival studies, to create a form of biography of those objects. It examines a case study of a ceramic jug from the collection at The Fitzwilliam Museum; a type produced in late 13th or early 14th century Iran and commonly referred to as ‘Sultanabad' ware. By examining similar finds from published excavations, research here suggests the probable contexts where this type of pottery might have been used and, most importantly, sheds new light on its possible production location. By intertwining this evidence with our understanding of the jug's collection history in the early 20th century, a fascinating object biography is fashioned, which has both academic value and broad popular appeal.

P. Campbell
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