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Archaeometry 45, 1 (2003) 163183.

Printed in Great Britain Strength, toughness and

thermal shock resistance of ceramics


This series of comments on Tite et al. was initiated by J. K. Feathers. Subsequently, M. B. Schiffer commented on both Tite et al. and Feathers, and B. Sillar commented on Tite et al., on Feathers and on Schiffer.


University of Washington, Department of Anthropology, PO Box 353100, Seattle, Washington 98195-3100, USA

The recent review of strength, toughness and thermal shock resistance of ancient ceramics by Tite et al. is a welcome addition to studies of ceramic change in the archaeological record. The authors question the degree to which these properties may have inuenced changes of temper evident in the record. They contrast, on the one hand, those who have correlated changes in temper with changes in these properties and assumed a causal relationship (e.g., Neupert 1994) with, on the other hand, those who dismiss such correlations as incidental (e.g., Woods 1986). Trying to maintain some middle ground, the authors call for an increased understanding of how different tempers affect such properties, to provide a baseline for explanations of technological change that may include many other factors. While not disagreeing with this latter point, I wish to expand on how one might build an argument showing whether or not these properties are determining factors. I phrase my comments in the language of evolutionary theory, which I have found useful for understanding ceramic changes (Feathers 1990, 2002; Dunnell and Feathers 1991: see also Neff 1992; Teltser 1993; OBrien et al. 1994; Pierce 1999; Pool and Britt 2000). I use as an exampleone cited extensively by Tite et al.the increase to high frequency of shell temper that swept across eastern North America during the later prehistoric period. This was not a localized change, but one that affected a large territory, spreading from Midwestern river valleys along the Gulf and Atlantic seaboards, and on to the Great Plains. Only in the extreme south-east (peninsular Florida, parts of Georgia and also parts of Louisiana) and the north (Great Lakes region, northern New England and Canada) did shell-tempered pottery not appear, or did so only in small quantities. While the timing of the change is not well dated, shell-tempered pottery did occur, with one minor exception (Gleach 1988), late in prehistory and was the pottery in use at the time of European contact. The change to shell temper is a phenomenon that has puzzled archaeologists for at least a century (e.g., Holmes 1903). Availability was not a problem, at least along the coasts, where
University of Oxford, 2003


J. K. Feathers

various marine shellsh are common, and in the interior Southeast and Midwest, where river mussels were abundant. This raises the question of why shell was not utilized in any appreciable amount earlier, because the replacement by shell of earlier tempers, when it did happen, was nearly complete, covering the entire range of pottery forms and uses. Other tempers, such as sand and grog, were mixed with shell to varying degrees in different places, but these were seldom predominant. A distinction has often been made between ne- and coarse-grained shell temper, this often being assumed to represent functional differences between serving and more display-oriented uses on the one hand and storage and cooking uses on the other, but the relationship between temper size and other functional variables has been shown to be more complex than a simple dichotomy (Teltser 1993). The change to shell tempering occurred in some places at a time when there was little else that changed in the record, including settlement and subsistence (e.g., Dunnell and Feathers 1991), although some correlation can be drawn between shell-tempered pottery and maize agriculture. While Tite et al. are certainly correct in calling for more systematic measurements of strength, toughness and thermal shock resistance for various tempered pottery, the evidence that has been collected so far (Steponaitis 1983, 1984; Feathers 1989, 1990; Feathers and Scott 1989; West 1992) suggests that shell temper increased both pottery toughness and thermal shock resistance over earlier temper types. Making that assumption, the question remains whether the temper change can be accounted for by this improvement in mechanical and thermal properties. The rst concern is whether the change is even functional, in the sense of affecting the tness of the ceramic and therefore the probability of selection (Dunnell 1978), and not stylistic. Style in the evolutionary literature refers to neutral traits, or those with equivalent selective value, whose distribution is affected entirely by transmission mechanisms. This is a concept with a long intuitive history in American archaeology (e.g., Kidder 1915; Ford 1938; Krieger 1944) and developed formally by Dunnell (1970, 1978, 1980, 1986). Some have questioned whether any trait is completely stylistic in this sense (e.g., Shennan and Wilkinson 2001), but studies of the distributions of some, mainly decorative, traits have shown some resemblance to the stochastic distributions that neutral traits ought to follow, and thus these traits can effectively be considered style (Neiman 1995; Lipo 2001). The rise in frequency of shell tempering, on the other hand, has a distinctively different distribution in most parts of eastern North America: a long period of low frequencies, a sudden increase to high frequencies and then maintenance of the high frequencies. Figure 1 shows this distribution from different parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley. This certainly appears to be a functional rather than stylistic change, as these terms are dened in evolutionary archaeology. Unlike many denitions of style, style as neutrality has empirical implications that can be tested. Tite et al. dene style more in terms of the technological style of Lechtman (1977), or a way of doing things that culturally structures the kinds of changes that can occur. Rindos (1985) referred to something similar as cultural selection of the second kindas opposed to cultural selection of the rst kind, which is an analogue to biological natural selection. Such a distinction may not be necessary. Evolutionary theory in biology has long recognized that selection is conditioned by historical and architectural constraints (Gould and Lewontin 1979). Such cultural constraints might be what archaeologists commonly think of as tradition (Neff 1992). But even if the change to shell tempering was functional, was it the properties of the temper itself that caused this rise? And if it was the properties, was it strength, toughness or thermal shock resistance? In other words, was the increase in these properties merely incidental to

Strength, toughness and thermal shock resistance of ceramics


Figure 1 Frequencies of shell-tempered pottery for assemblages from different portions of the Lower Mississippi Valley (shown as lines connecting data points). The data are drawn from surveys by Phillips, Ford and Grifn (1951) and by Ford (1952), from various references listed in OBrien and Wood (1998) and from Feathers (1990). The assemblages from these surveys cover a large portion of the valley, are reasonably placed in time by seriations, and are quantied by ceramic type. Additional discussion of this data can be found in Feathers (2001), a copy of which can be obtained electronically from the author. Note that the rise in frequency of shell tempering occurred earliest in the northern part of the valley (SE Missouri, Malden Plain, Memphis, St Francis), later in the central part (Upper and Lower Yazoo, Lower Arkansas) and not at all in portions of southern Louisiana (Lower Red River).

changes that were occurring for other reasons, the point made by Woods (1986)? Several possibilities can be imagined for how high frequencies of shell-tempered pottery could have been selected, without mechanical and thermal properties being the causal factors: (1) Shell-tempered pottery was not selected for, but rose in frequency because of higher-level processes. Evolutionary theory in archaeology has long recognized that selection can happen on different levels (Neff 1992). Changes at higher levels can affect traits at lower levels. For example, shell-tempered pottery is no longer made in eastern North America. This is not because of anything to do with the properties of the pottery, but because the people who made the pottery were largely driven into extinction by the introduction of European contagious diseases. (Other, lower-level processes may have been involved as well. Any surviving potters faced completely new selective pressures brought about by cultural reorganization and exposure to European goods.) Similarly, as mentioned before, a high correlation between shelltempered pottery and maize agriculture has often been noticed (Osborn 1988; Feathers 2001). Perhaps pressure for available farming land forced maize farmers to expand at the expense of their neighbours. In this case there may have been no selection for shell-tempered pottery, but shell-tempered pottery was selected because of the selection of maize-growing groups who just happened to make such pottery. Such migration is a traditional explanation in American archaeology for the rise of shell tempering and one that could well be true in some places, but lacks much empirical evidence as a regional explanation. The shell-tempered pottery that rose in frequency often resembles more the local pottery it replaced than any possible external source (Feathers 2002). [The distinction between selection for and selection of is often made in evolutionary theory (e.g., Sober 1984). How can one show selection for shell tempering? One


J. K. Feathers

clue may be other changes in the ceramics. Early shell tempering in southeastern Missouri, for example, was accompanied by an increase in porosity (Feathers 2002). The early shelltempered pottery was also heavily slipped. This has not been thoroughly investigated, but it is possible that the slips counteracted the high porosity. If so, the high cost of slips would not have been tolerated had not the advantages of shell tempering far outweighed the disadvantages. Porosity in later shell-tempered pottery is reduced and, interestingly enough, slips drop in frequency to low levels.] (2) Shell tempering was selected for, but for reasons unrelated to pottery use. This might encompass some of the socio-politico-ideological factors to which Tite et al. refer. Evolutionists in archaeology have referred to non-subsistence-related attributes as waste, a term that should not be confused with its common English connotation of worthlessness. Explanations for the selection of waste have included bet-hedging under conditions of environmental uncertainty (Dunnell 1989; Madsen et al. 1999) or costly advertising under conditions of economic competition (Neiman 1997). By contrast, the Late Woodland period in eastern North America, when shell tempering rose in frequency, is generally regarded as a time of economic and population expansion because of the increased productivity of maize agriculture (Steponaitis 1986; Bense 1994). This was not a time of economic stress, and in fact not much waste is evident, unlike the Middle Woodland period that preceded it or the Mississippian period that followed it. In many locales pottery as well as other artefacts had few decorative features, and other evidence for wasteful behaviour, such as building mounds, is absent. Utilitarian concerns seem to have driven most activity during this time. (3) Shell tempering was selected for because of ceramic properties it imparted, but not because of mechanical or thermal properties. For example, Osborn (1988), noting the correlation with maize, suggests that the carbonate in the shell provided lime that increased the nutritional value of maize. While this is perhaps true, he does not demonstrate that shell temper provides the lime slaking necessary for the desired effects or, even if it does, that this played a role in the rise of shell tempering. His hypothesis remains speculation, because he did not provide any empirical implications that can be tested. As another possibility, I have demonstrated that shell tempering increases the workability of the raw clay (at least of that collected from southeastern Missouri). But I have found no evidence that this played a causal role either (Feathers 2002). An advantage of increased workability would be wider morphological possibilities. However, at least in southeastern Missouri, the early shell-tempered pottery does not differ greatly in morphology from the sand-tempered pottery that it replaced (Feathers 2002). More varied morphology does occur later on, suggesting that improved workability, once present, was eventually taken advantage ofa process called exaptation in evolution (Gould and Vrba 1982). How does one actually show that mechanical and thermal properties were causal in the selection of shell tempering? I have concluded this for southeastern Missouri only by a process of eliminating other possibilities. If other factors can be ruled out, then stronger pottery will be selected if for no other reason than lower replacement costs. Granted I may have not thought of all possibilities, but for now the hypothesis that mechanical and thermal properties were the causal factors has not been disproved. Tite et al.s (2001) criticism of Neupert (1994) needs to be considered in this light. Neupert maintains that the reason for a change from sand to grog temper among Cibola white wares in the southwestern United States was increased strength. The criticism that Neupert has not considered other possibilities is fair but, again, if such possibilities can be ruled out, the strength hypothesis cannot be disproved.

Strength, toughness and thermal shock resistance of ceramics


I rush to add that the explanation of shell tempering that I have constructed for southeastern Missouri cannot be extrapolated to the rest of eastern North America. Because of the historical contingency of evolution, one cannot generalize from place to place. The rise in frequency of shell tempering may have been for different reasons elsewhere. But what could explain the rise in frequency in so many different places across the East at roughly the same time? I am not convinced that thermal and mechanical properties are the full answer. Strength and related properties can be increased in a lot of different ways, as Tite et al. point out. Why shell? Why during the Late Woodland? I have suggestedand it is no more than a suggestion at this pointthat the unusual ring requirements of calcium carbonate based temper may provide an answer (Feathers 2002). To prevent lime spalling, ring temperatures cannot exceed a certain threshold. [While other means to prevent lime spalling, such as the addition of salt, are possible, little evidence has been presented that these practices were employed in prehistoric North America. Possible evidence of salt addition in the Upper Mississippi Valley (Stimmel et al. 1982) has not been found elsewhere (OBrien et al. 1994).] Prior to the rise of frequency of shell tempering, ring was perhaps not so controlled that using shell entailed a large, intolerable risk of vessel failure. Change in ring practices during the Late Woodland may have reduced this risk and allowed shell-tempered pottery to be produced in large numbers where it was only a minor variant before. Then, whatever advantages shell-tempered pottery had from place to placegreater strength in southeastern Missouriallowed the sharp increase. The analysis of colour, ring temperatures and ring atmospheres has demonstrated an increase in reduction, which will delay carbonate decomposition, in southeastern Missouri just prior to the rise in frequency of shell-tempered pottery (Feathers et al. 1998). This change in ring practices may have occurred because of change in fuel. Widespread clearing due to the spread of maize agriculture altered the kinds of fuel used in the St Louis area at this time (Johannessen 1984; Rindos and Johannessen 1991). This is a hypothesis that does have empirical implications that can be tested (Feathers 2002). Did ring practices and fuel use change in other parts of the East at this time, when clearing for agriculture must also have been occurring? If not, other reasons must account for the rise in frequency of shell-tempered pottery in these areas. I have taken pains to show that whether or not changes in temper can be attributed to changes in mechanical and thermal properties of the pottery is strictly an empirical matter. Few generalizations about shell temper or any temper apply everywhere at every time. In this regard, Woods (1986) observations about the relationship between temper and these properties in Britain are largely irrelevant to the North American case. She argues that selection of temper in Britain reected geological availability more than concern with mechanical or thermal properties. All this means is that the selective pressures governing availability were stronger than those governing performance in Britain. As long as minimum performance requirements are met, pottery is free to vary according to other selective pressures and random processes. Where these pressures are relatively weak, performance requirements will carry a stronger causal role. Ethnographic evidence (e.g., Miller 1985) that pottery does not correspond to functional performance criteria is only recognition of such variable selective pressures. Pottery is often a compromise to meet competing pressures and, again, sorting out the different possibilities is an empirical matter. Woods (1986) ends her argument with a call for a more emic approach, but motivations of prehistoric potters are not possible to verify. What is needed is to structure a series of hypotheses so that empirical implications can be drawn and tested, such as I have tried to demonstrate for North American shell tempering. Otherwise, we abandon science in favour of speculation.


J. K. Feathers

This contribution beneted from comments by Robert Dunnell.

REFERENCES Bense, J., 1994, Archaeology of the southeastern United States: Paleoindian to World War I, Academic Press, San Diego. Dunnell, R. C., 1970, Seriation method and its evaluation, American Antiquity, 35, 30519. Dunnell, R. C., 1978, Style and function: a fundamental dichotomy, American Antiquity, 43, 192202. Dunnell, R. C., 1980, Evolutionary theory and archaeology, Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, 3, 3599. Dunnell, R. C., 1986, Methodological issues in Americanist artifact classication, in Advances in archaeological method and theory, vol. 9 (ed. M. B. Schiffer), 149207, Academic Press, New York. Dunnell, R. C., 1989, Aspects of the application of evolutionary theory in archaeology, in Archaeological thought in America (ed. C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky), 3549, Cambridge University Press, New York. Dunnell, R. C., and Feathers, J. K., 1991, Late Woodland manifestations of the Malden Plain, southeast Missouri, in Stability, transformation, and variation: the Late Woodland Southeast (eds. M. S. Nassaney and C. R. Cobb), 21 45, Plenum Press, New York. Feathers, J. K., 1989, Effects of temper on strength of ceramics: response to Bronitsky and Hamer, American Antiquity 54, 57988. Feathers, J. K., 1990, Explaining the evolution of prehistoric ceramics in southeastern Missouri, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, Seattle. Feathers, J. K., 2001, An evolutionary perspective of functional change in Lower Mississippi valley ceramics, paper presented at the 66th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, New Orleans. Feathers, J. K., 2002, Explaining shell-tempered pottery in prehistoric eastern North America, in Explanations of change: case studies in evolutionary archaeology (eds. R. C. Dunnell and R. D. Leonard), University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, in press. Feathers, J. K., and Scott, W. D., 1989, A prehistoric ceramic composite from the Mississippi Valley, American Ceramic Society Bulletin, 68, 5547. Feathers, J. K., Berhane, M., and May, L., 1998, Firing analysis of south-eastern Missouri Indian pottery using iron Mssbauer spectroscopy, Archaeometry, 40, 5970. Ford, J. A., 1938, A chronological method applicable to the Southeast, American Antiquity, 3, 2604. Ford, J. A., 1952, Measurements of some prehistoric design developments in the southeastern states, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, 44(3), New York. Gleach, F. W., 1988, A rose by any other name: questions on Mockley chronology, Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology, 4, 8598. Gould, S. J., and Lewontin, R. C., 1979, The spandrels of San Marcos and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme, Proceedings of the Royal Society, London B, 205, 58198. Gould, S. J., and Vrba, E. S., 1982, Exaptationa missing term in the science of form, Paleobiology, 8, 415. Holmes, W. H., 1903, Aboriginal pottery of the eastern United States, Twentieth annual report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 18981899, 1201, Washington, DC. Johannessen, S., 1984, Paleoethnobotany, in American Bottom archaeology (eds. C. J. Bereis and J. W. Potter), 197 214, University of Illinois Press, Urbana. Kidder, A. V., 1915, Pottery of the Pajarito Plateau and some adjacent regions in New Mexico, American Anthropological Association Memoir, 2, 40762. Krieger, A. D., 1944, The typological concept, American Antiquity, 9, 27188. Lechtman, H., 1977, Style in technologysome early thoughts, in Material culture: styles, organization and dynamics of technology (eds. H. Lechtman and R. S. Merrill), 320, West Publishing Company, St Paul, Minnesota. Lipo, C., 2001, Science, style and the study of community structure: an example from the central Mississippi River valley, British Archaeological Reports S918, Archaeopress, Oxford. Madsen, M. E., Lipo, C. P., and Cannon, M. D., 1999, Fitness and reproductive trade-offs in uncertain environments: explaining the evolution of cultural elaboration, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 18, 25181. Miller, D., 1985, Artefacts as categories: a study of ceramic variability in central India, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Neff, H., 1992, Ceramics and evolution, Archaeological Method and Theory, 4, 14194. Neiman, F., 1995, Stylistic variation in evolutionary perspective: inferences from decorative diversity and interassemblage distance in Illinois Woodland Ceramic assemblages, American Antiquity, 60, 736.

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Neiman, F., 1997, Conspicuous consumption as wasteful advertising: a Darwinian perspective on spatial patterns in classic Maya terminal monument dates, in Rediscovering Darwin: evolutionary theory and archaeological explanation (eds. C. M. Barton and G. A. Clark), 26790, Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, No. 7. Neupert, M. A., 1994, Strength testing archaeological ceramics: a new perspective, American Antiquity, 59, 70923. OBrien, M. J., and Wood, W. R., 1998, The prehistory of Missouri, University of Missouri Press, Columbia. OBrien, M. J., Holland, T. D., Hoard, R. J., and Fox, G. L., 1994, Evolutionary implications of design and performance characteristics of prehistoric pottery, Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 1, 259304. Osborn, A. J., 1988, Limitations of the diffusionist approach, in The transfer and transformation of ideas and material culture (eds. P. J. Hugill and D. B. Dickson), 2344, Texas A & M University Press, College Station. Phillips, P., Ford, J. A., and Grifn, J. B., 1951, Archaeological survey in the lower Mississippi alluvial valley, 1940 47, Harvard University, Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Papers 25. Pierce, C., 1999, Explaining corrugated pottery in the American Southwest: an evolutionary approach, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington. Pool, C. A., and Britt, G. M., 2000, A ceramic perspective on the Formative to Classic transition in southern Veracruz, Mexico, Latin American Antiquity, 11, 13961. Rindos, D., 1985, Darwinian selection, symbolic variation, and the evolution of culture, Current Anthropology, 26, 65 88. Rindos, D., and Johannessen, S., 1991, Humanplant interactions and cultural change in the American Bottom, in Cahokia and the hinterlands (eds. T. E. Emerson and R. B. Lewis), 3545, University of Illinois Press, Urbana. Shennan, S. J., and Wilkinson, J. R., 2001, Ceramic style change and neutral evolution: a case study from Neolithic Europe, American Antiquity, 66, 57793. Sober, E. R., 1984, The nature of selection: evolutionary theory in philosophical focus, The MIT Press, Bradford, Massachusetts. Steponaitis, V. P., 1983, Ceramics, chronology and community patterns: an archaeological study of Moundville, Academic Press, New York. Steponaitis, V. P., 1984, Technological studies of prehistoric pottery from Alabama: physical properties and vessel function, in The many dimensions of pottery (eds. S. E. van der Leeuw and A. C. Pritchard), 79127, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam. Steponaitis, V. P., 1986, Prehistoric archaeology of the southeastern United States, 19701985, Annual Review of Anthropology, 15, 363 404. Stimmell, C., Heimann, R. B., and Hancock, R. G. V., 1982, Indian pottery from the Mississippi Valley: coping with bad raw materials, in Archaeological ceramics (eds. J. S. Olin and A. D. Franklin), 21928, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. Teltser, P. A., 1993, An analytical strategy for studying assemblage scale ceramic variation: a case study from southeast Missouri, American Antiquity, 58, 53043. West, S. M., 1992, Temper, thermal shock and cooking pots: a study of tempering materials and their physical signicance in prehistoric and traditional cooking pottery, Unpublished M.Sc. thesis, University of Arizona, Tucson. Woods, A. J., 1986, Form, fabric and function: some observations on the cooking pot in antiquity, in Technology and style (ed. W. D. Kingery), 15772, Ceramics and civilization, vol. 2, American Ceramic Society, Columbus, Ohio.

Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson Arizona 85721, USA

Papers that advance our understanding of ceramic technology, such as those by Tite et al. and Feathers, are increasingly welcome in an archaeology attuned to the importance of archaeometric


J. K. Feathers M. B. Schiffer

research. I have a few comments to add, mostly by way of clarifying important concepts, particularly properties and performance characteristics. I also discuss the relevance of behavioural theory for explaining technological change. Before the term technological choice becomes fully entrenched in archaeology, I suggest that we become aware of its appreciable ambiguities. In their use of the term, Tite et al. denote a clay artisans choice among available alternatives, such as type of temper or surface treatment. Schiffer and Skibo (1987, 1997) have previously called attention to this kind of choice as the central explanatory problem when we address variability in artefact design; we labelled it technical choice. In contrast to the narrow and well-established meaning in archaeology of technical choice, technological choice is a term with many meanings. For example, some writers use technological choice to designate choices made by the consumers or adopters of products such as nished pots (for examples, see Lemonnier 1993). Thus, people select at a market among the products of different artisans. Because of its polyvalency, I believe that the term technological choice should be avoided, at least when the intended meaning is the behaviour of the artisan. In these papersand a great many othersthere is a tendency to conate the concepts of material property and performance characteristic. A scientic explanation of artefact design requires that we keep these distinct. Let me now present a simple framework that can help to illustrate the difference (see Schiffer and Skibo 1997; Kingery 2001; Skibo and Schiffer 2001). The technical choices executed by an artisan impart to an object certain properties, which in principle could be measuredqualitatively or quantitativelyin a laboratory setting. Indeed, these properties pertain to the materials from which the object was made, and so could in many instances be measured on samples of the material itself; and some can only be assessed in this manner. Tite et al. discuss relationships among several strength and thermal properties of ceramics. These discussions concern material properties, a product of technical choices, which can be dened and measured without reference to post-manufacture activities. In addition to directly affecting material properties, technical choices also determine such measurable attributes of an artefact as shape, size, weight and so forth. Formal property is usually the term that archaeologists apply to such measurable quantities and qualities of objects (although sometimes both material and formal properties are lumped together as formal properties e.g., Rathje and Schiffer 1982, ch. 4; Schiffer 1996a, ch. 2). Material properties can inuence formal properties, as is obvious for weight, but measuring a formal property generally requires operations on objects. Needless to say, measurements of formal properties can often be conducted outside the laboratory, as in ethnoarchaeological settings. Like material properties, the formal properties imparted by the artisan can be measured without reference to post-manufacture activities. Clearly, an appreciation for material properties and formal properties helps us to frame questions about the effects of technical choices on the materiality of nished products. But it does not enable us to answer all our questions about technical choices, artefact design and other technological processes. To take that next step requires that we consider the interactions among the artefact of interest with people and other artefacts, particularly in post-manufacture activities. The concept of performance characteristic enables us to make assessments of an artefacts suitability for taking part, appropriately, in given interactions. A performance characteristic, then, is an interaction and/or activity-specic behavioural capability (see Schiffer and Miller 1999, ch. 2). Performance characteristics, which presume the materiality of an object as manifest in material properties and formal properties, must be dened in relation to given interactions

Strength, toughness and thermal shock resistance of ceramics


in real-world, not laboratory, activities. In short, performance characteristics are underdetermined by material properties and formal properties. Heating effectiveness is an example of a performance characteristic that can highlight the difference between performance characteristics, on the one hand, and material properties and formal properties, on the other. Heating effectiveness has been dened as the rate at which a vessel heats its contents (Schiffer 1990, 374), a performance characteristic believed to be relevant to determinations of a vessels fuel efciency. As such, heating effectiveness can only be measured in a real-world settingthat is, people cooking with the potor in a laboratory experiment that mimics relevant interactors and interactions. I chose the latter strategy in experiments that sought to ascertain the effects of traditional surface treatments on heating effectiveness. In the laboratory, I measured the time required to heat water to 90oC in miniature vessels held over a tiny Bunsen burner. In making the pots, all technical choices (except surface treatment) were held constant. Thus, only material properties and formal properties relating to surface treatments varied among the vessels. The results furnished a relative measure of the heating effectiveness of varying interior and exterior surface treatments. It was found that values of heating effectiveness were strongly affected by two material properties: the permeabilities of the interior and exterior surfaces. By changing the experimental conditions (technical choices of pottery manufacture, nature of the heat source, kind of contents, juxtaposition of pot and heat source), one could have discerned effects on heating effectiveness of other material properties (e.g., thermal diffusivity) and formal properties (e.g., vessel thickness and shape). However, knowledge of all material and formal properties alone could never allow determination of heating effectiveness values; one must also know something about the interactors and interactions of actual pot use. Sometimes it seems that a performance characteristic is uniquely determined by one material or formal property. For example, the liquid-holding capacity of a vessel would appear to be equivalent to its total volume. However, if that vessel is used to transport water on a daily basis, the liquid-holding capacity, as a behaviourally relevant performance characteristic in that activity, would always be less than the vessels total capacity. In every such case, a consideration of other interactors and interactions in post-manufacture activities can lead to the specication of performance characteristics. The need to distinguish among material properties, formal properties and performance characteristics only became clear to us after many years of effort to understand technological variability. Indeed, when trying to employ our ndings in explanations of artefact design and adoption processes, we came to appreciate that the explanatorily relevant factors were performance characteristics (e.g., Schiffer 1995; Schiffer and Skibo 1997). We hope that this clarication will enable other investigators to more nely hone their questions about technological change. Feathers proposes that an appropriate framework for explaining technological change is Darwinian evolutionary theory, as construed by Robert C. Dunnell and his followers. Investigators who maintain this perspective are known as selectionists, because they usually invoke some kind of natural selection to explain the differential persistence of discrete variants of traitsattributes or artefact types. [In a previous paper, I assessed in some detail the strengths and weaknesses of the selectionist programme from the perspective of a behavioural archaeologist; see Schiffer (1996b).] Selectionists have appreciated the profound difculties of demonstrating how specic trait variants affected the biological tness of the human populations that adopted them (in relation to other variants). That is why many selectionists today, such as


J. K. Feathers M. B. Schiffer

Feathers, advocate a more modest agenda: studying the replicative success of specic traits. When framed in this way, the programme still appears evolutionary, but it is an evolution of artefacts, not of human populations. If we want to conceive of technological change in terms of competitions among artefact types, then we already have in archaeology a programme that has been very successful in addressing such research questions. It is known as behavioural archaeology (for a general introduction to the programme, see LaMotta and Schiffer 2001). In this limited space I cannot begin to lay out the many principles and strategies of behavioural approaches to technology. However, I do want to emphasize that behaviouralists, who in all of their studies focus initially on the concrete interactions among people and artefacts, recognize the need for developing many kinds of theory for tackling questions of technological change. For example, we have developed theories (and methods) for explaining artefact design (e.g., Schiffer and Skibo 1997; Skibo and Schiffer 2001), adoption patterns (e.g., Schiffer 1995), and even large-scale processes such as competitions among aggregate technologies (Schiffer 2001) and technological differentiation (Schiffer 2002). Not surprisingly, in many behavioural theories performance characteristics are important variables. A recent paper by Schiffer et al. (2001) is a reference-rich summary of behavioural approaches to studying technology. In behavioural archaeology, I believe, one can nd an array of conceptual tools that enables investigators to bridge the sometimes considerable gaps between archaeometric analyses and considerations of human behaviour in its varied contextssocial, political, religious and so on.

REFERENCES Kingery, W. D. 2001, The design process as a critical component of the anthropology of technology, in Anthropological perspectives on technology (ed. M. B. Schiffer), 12338, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. LaMotta, V. M., and Schiffer, M. B., 2001, Behavioral archaeology: towards a new synthesis, in Archaeological theory today (ed. I. Hodder), 1464, Polity Press, Cambridge. Lemonnier, P. (ed.), 1993, Technological choices: transformation in material cultures since the Neolithic, Routledge, London. Rathje, W. L., and Schiffer, M. B., 1982, Archaeology. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York. Schiffer, M. B., 1990, The inuence of surface treatment on heating effectiveness of ceramic vessels, Journal of Archaeological Science, 17, 37381. Schiffer, M. B., 1995, Social theory and history in behavioral archaeology, in Expanding archaeology (eds. J. M. Skibo, W. H. Walker and A. E. Nielsen), 2235, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City. Schiffer, M. B., 1996a, Formation processes of the archaeological record, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City. Schiffer, M. B., 1996b, Some relationships between behavioral and evolutionary archaeologies, American Antiquity, 61, 64362. Schiffer, M. B., 2001, The explanation of long-term technological change, in Anthropological perspectives on technology (ed. M. B. Schiffer), 21535, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. Schiffer, M. B., 2002, Studying technological differentiation: the case of 18th-century electrical technology, American Anthropologist, 104, 114861. Schiffer, M. B., and Miller, A. R., 1999, The material life of human beings, Routledge, London. Schiffer, M. B., and Skibo, J. M., 1987, Theory and experiment in the study of technological change, Current Anthropology, 28, 595622. Schiffer, M. B., and Skibo, J. M., 1997, The explanation of artifact variability, American Antiquity, 62, 2750. Schiffer, M. B., Skibo, J. M., Griftts, J. L., Hollenback, K. L., and Longacre, W. A., 2001, Behavioral archaeology and the study of technology, American Antiquity, 66, 72938. Skibo, J. M. and Schiffer, M. B., 2001, Understanding artifact variability and change: a behavioral framework, in Anthropological perspectives on technology (ed. M. B. Schiffer), 13949, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

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Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 3134 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, UK

The paper by Tite et al. was a constructive review of progress in the study of the strength, toughness and thermal shock resistance of ancient ceramics. In responding to Tite et al., and to the commentaries by Feathers and Schiffer, I wish to highlight a few concerns that may be relevant to future investigations of these material properties. I am particularly concerned to draw attention to the context of vessel use and suggest that this may mean that alternative or supplementary experiments should be considered. I also wish to highlight an issue that underlies all the papers: How can we use experimental archaeology to bridge the gap between the scientic (etic) study of universal material properties and the local (emic) rationale underlying the production and use of material culture?

I agree wholeheartedly with one aspect of the clarication in terminology suggested by Michael Schiffer. It will be of use if we can distinguish between the material properties of the ceramic fabric, the formal properties of the complete vessel and how these affected the vessels performance characteristics with respect to a specic activity. Within archaeology, this is largely a distinction between the potentially measurable material properties of the fabric and the complete vessel and our assessment of their relevance during a hypothetical activity. The performance characteristics of a cooking pot, for instance, will depend on the intensity and constancy of the heat source, as well as the conductivity of the vessel and its contents. A pot used to toast dry maize kernels by being balanced on three stones over a roaring wood re will experience different stresses to the same pot containing chicken stew and placed within a fan-assisted electric oven. Any discussion of performance characteristics should therefore require some comment about the specic activities being discussed, yet very few experimental studies have given careful consideration to specic cooking methods, or other activities, within which the vessels were expected to perform (see below). Schiffer also makes a distinction between his term technical choice, as a subset of what he refers to as Lemonniers more encompassing term technological choice. Here we have two major schools of thought trying to identify and dene differences within their shared interest in the social signicance of technology. The two schools of thought are: American Behavioural Archaeology, most cogently expressed in the work of Michael Schiffer; and French Sociology and Ethnology of Technology, originating in the work of Mauss and Leroi Gourhan, but developed and disseminated in the writings of Lemonnier and others. Schiffer is claiming both primacy and greater utility for a more restricted meaning for the term technical choice: [I]ndividual activities in material procurement and manufacture processes are known as technical choices (Schiffer and Skibo 1987, 599) (Schiffer and Skibo 1997, 29). When Lemonnier writes in English he normally uses the term technological choice, but he also uses the term technical choice synonymously; for example, the notion of technical choice becomes the focus of our research into the relationship between a society and the technical system it has


J. K. Feathers B. Sillar

developed (Lemonnier 1993, 8). It is confusing to nd that different people are applying slightly different signicance to the same terms, but I would like to add a word or two of caution to Schiffers proposed clarication. Schiffer identies a clear distinction between the actions of a producer as opposed to more general technical activities, including those of a consumer. To start with this distinction appears a useful corollary to his separation of the mechanical properties imposed during production and the performance characteristics that affect the vessels utility for a specic activity. However, our ability to separate out acts of production from acts of consumption depends on our analytical focus. Consumption could be characterized as the use of the product of one technical operation as a tool, or component, in the making of another, different, product or during a subsequent activity. A pick is used to excavate clay, the clay is used to make a pot, the pot is red using wheat stalks and chaff as the fuel, the pot is used as a container in which to dye wool, the wool is used to weave a sack, and the sack is used to transport ash as a fertiliser for the wheat elds. Whether a technical act is seen as one of production or as one of consumption depends on the particular focus of our analysisceramic specialists, textile analysts and archaeobotanists would each dene different steps in this process as production or consumption. Using the distinction suggested by Schiffer, I would have to separate my discussion of the potters technical choice to burnish a pot from my consideration of the consumers technological choice to use a stone as a burnishing tool, even though I am discussing the same technical act. At times we may wish to clarify whether our analytical focus relates to the behaviour of the artisan when making an object or the behaviour of the consumer when using it, but I do not think that Schiffers distinction between technical choice and technological choice is the clearest way to express this. Another issue is the need to distinguish between the material consequences of the artisans actions and our interpretation of the reasoning behind these actions. Both technical choice and technological choice address the question of choice, and suggest a willingness to try and appreciate the agency behind peoples actions, not simply the physical properties of the artefact (cf. Dobres 2000). Modern investigators are able to recognize these technological choices, because our comparative approach makes us aware of alternative materials and methods that achieve the same end (Schiffer and Skibo 1997, 29; Sillar and Tite 2000, 911). However, unless we can demonstrate one technique being substituted for another during a period of technological change, it is very difcult to use archaeological evidence to demonstrate that the artisans themselves were aware of alternative techniques. Nonetheless, even if an artisan is not aware of alternative choices, or there are no apparent functional reasons for selecting one technique as opposed to another, this does not mean that the selection was arbitrary (cf., Latour 1993; Lemonnier 1993). The use of each technique during the production of an artefact is dependent on a wide range of related technical activities and it is also affected by the historical, environmental, social, economic and ideological context of the artisan (Sillar and Tite 2000). Any analysis of the cultural context of technological choices moves well beyond the measurable properties of a specic technology, but it is a necessary step in our attempt to understand the social context of the artisans, and this includes a consideration of the perception and purpose behind their actions. In this context, I am happy to accept the wider signicance that Schiffer attributes to the term technological choice.

Problems experienced during any technical activity may be addressed through adapting the way in which a tool is used, as well as changing the material properties of the tool itself. With

Strength, toughness and thermal shock resistance of ceramics


specic reference to the use of a cooking pot, this may include the way in which the pot and its contents are prepared, the cooking techniques selected, and the choice of fuels and heating methods. Many of the technological choices that affect cooking pot performance are in relation to the cooks techniques for selecting the cooking pot, preparing the hearth, positioning the pot and tending the re. Cooks use diverse strategies to reduce the risks of acquiring and using a pot, the most common of which is to strike the rim with the nger to hear it ringa fairly accurate test of whether a vessel has been suitably red or has any major cracks. Consumers also draw upon their cultural knowledge of appropriate or effective pots when deciding what to acquire (Sillar 1997). When washing the pot, the cook frequently takes the opportunity to check the vessel, particularly the base, and, if it shows signs of cracking, another vessel may be selected rather than risk losing the contents during use (Sillar 2000, 138). The choice of pot will also relate to the intended contents and the cooking method; one pot may be preferred for leaving on the stove to simmer for several hours (a major technique in the Andes, where dung can be used as a slow-burning fuel and water boils at lower temperatures due to the high altitude) and a different vessel may be chosen when subjecting the contents to intensive speed heating using fast-burning fuels. The temperature gradient endured by a cooking pot will be affected by these culinary technologies and may need to be considered when designing our experiments. Repeatedly transferring briquettes from boiling water into icy water, or taking them from the dry heat of a furnace and quenching them in cold water, may cause them to suffer rapid temperature change, but how comparable is this to the temperature gradient experienced by the fabric of a cooking pot where the outside of the vessel is at about 300500C and the inside contents are at about 510C? One consequence of these high temper concentrations and low ring temperatures is the associated high porosity and permeability of the vessel wall, and hence the reduced heating effectiveness of the resulting cooking pot (Tite et al., p. 322). I suspect that this statement subsumes two or more factors that are at work. If a vessel is so porous that the water inside it ows freely to the exterior surface, then the continual boiling and evaporation of this surface water will effectively remove energy from the vessel contents and prevent heat transfer through the vessel. Thus, when heating water in a highly porous organic tempered bowl, it came within 12C of boiling but did not boil (Schiffer and Skibo 1987, 605). Equally, as heat does not conduct well through air, the voids inside a dry porous fabric would also reduce the conductivity of a cooking pot. However, when residues from previous activities allow the liquid held in the vessel to saturate the pores but, at the same time, do not permit the water to pass too rapidly through the fabric to the exterior surface, then, far from reducing heating effectiveness, these saturated pores may actually increase heat conductivity and help to reduce the temperature gradient through the vessel wall during use. At the same time, the liquid- and organic-impregnated pores of pottery fabrics would, like voids, help to arrest cracks prior to a fatal fracture. Many of the cooking pots that I have used in the Andes are minimally porous (i.e., if you ll them with water and place them on the oor for an hour, the oor underneath gets slightly damp); however, this does not seem to prevent the cooks getting a roaring boil going. I suspect that as long as the water getting through the fabric is minimal, then the loss of energy caused by water evaporating off the surface is not so great as to prevent sufcient heat transfer through the fabric. In fact, it is essential to the function of a cooking pot that it is not too efcient in heat transfer: pottery also functions as an insulator (preventing the pots contents closest to the heat source from catching re). Some Andean cooks will season a new cooking pot prior to using it for the rst time; for instance, by rubbing the inside and outside with animal fat or blood, or boiling the dark water in which freeze-dried potatoes have soaked


J. K. Feathers B. Sillar

and pouring this in (Sillar 2000, 138). These processes help to reduce the earthy avour that a new pot can impart to the food, and they also penetrate and help to seal up the pores of the vessel. During use, the abundant micropores within the low-red fabrics of a cooking pot rapidly absorb organic materials from the food contents on the inside and the carbon and hydrocarbons given off by the poorly combusted fuels on the outside. To what extent do these common aspects of a cooking pots function change the properties of the fabric? This should be considered when deciding to subject test pieces to dry heat followed by quenching, or when attempting to replicate the actual use of the vessel. (One possibility may be to impregnate the fabric with oils during the testing.) The choice of pottery forming technique will also affect the performance characteristics of the fabric. The forming technique can affect the bonding within the clay and between the clay and the inclusions, as well as the alignment of the clay crystals and inclusions within the fabric. Platy inclusions, such as mica, shell or talc, only have a benecial effect on strength and impact resistance when the platelets are aligned at 90 to the direction of impact or stress (cf., Feathers 1989). If these platelets were in the same direction as the impact then, like slate, they would provide a fault line for cleavage to pass through. One of the reasons why I think most potters take such care over nishing the rim of each pot is because it requires different nishing techniques to facilitate the changing direction of the inclusions, as well as the stresses and strains of differential drying, all of which make the rim particularly susceptible to the propagation of cracks. Rye (1981) has demonstrated how the direction of inclusions is affected by the choice of forming technique, and we should be considering this as a further aspect of our analysis of how the production techniques affect the performance characteristics. I suspect that lime spalling is primarily a problem experienced by collectors and museum curators who want to treat the pots as ornamental objects: it may well be that pots that are in frequent use are less susceptible to catastrophic lime spalling during their relatively short use-life. In Raqchi, Department of Cuzco, Peru, lime spalling has only became a signicant problem since the potters started to make pottery for tourists. Prior to that, their pots were made for domestic use, including the brewing of maize beer, and the potters did not notice any lime spalling. I suspect that when the pots are subjected to a repeated throughput of water, the re-hydrated lime is continually washed out of the vessel and lime spalling seems to become a very minor problem (it is possible that a similar process takes place when potters quench calcitetempered pottery immediately after ring; cf., Carlton 2002). These suggestions are entirely based on ethnographic observation and would benet from experimental testing. The degree to which these processes will prevent lime spalling should depend on the particular form and quantity of the calcite, the temperature of the original ring, the porosity of the fabric, the chemical effects of the vessel contents and the regularity of use/washing, all of which will affect the solubility of the lime. If my observations are correct, this would provide further support for Osborns (1988) suggestion that the presence of lime may have added to the chemical processing of maize in cooking pots. Tite et al. (p. 322) call for a database of information on clays, tempers and ring temperatures used in the production of cooking pots. Ideally, this should be supplemented by archaeological and ethnographic data relating to how these vessels were used within each cultural context. We should make careful observation of the overall form of each vessel in order to asses where use-wear has occurred and what processes may have caused it (Hally 1983; Skibo 1992), and this needs to be linked to the analysis of replaces, hearths and ovens, and the use of archaeobotanical, faunal and residue-analysis to identify both the fuels that are being used and the foods that were being prepared.

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Feathers ends his paper by critiquing Woods (1986) call for a more emic approach. However, I feel that the message of Woods has been misunderstood: to understand the intention of her paper we need to recall the context within which she was writing. Woods prepared her article in the early 1980s, when it had become common to assert that Inclusions in the pot fabric which have low coefcient of thermal expansion, or one similar to that of red clay (for example grog, calcite, feldspars) should prove most resistant to the effects of thermal shock, whereas a material such as quartz, with its large volume expansion when heated, should be detrimental (Woods 1986, 157). Woods was partly responding to the work of Rye (1976) and Steponaitis (1983), who had both used data from ceramic engineering to draw attention to the potential problems of quartz inversion, and suggesting that in the case of Papua and Moundville quartzite sand was abandoned in preference for shell-rich beach sand or shell temper because of its greater thermal shock resistance. Woods cited Grimshaws (1971) speculation that reversal of the cooling of quartz inversion of the phase transition after ring causes voids around quartz particles (cf., Jacobs 1983), but she was writing prior to Freestones (1989) and Kilikoglou et al.s (1995) suggestion that these microvoids help to dissipate the energy of external forces resulting in the deection, bifurcation and arrest of cracks, and that for this reason quartz actually offers greater thermal shock resistance than grog does (West 1992, referenced in Tite et al., p. 316). In this academic context, the paper by Woods provided a necessary caution: the archaeological material from Britain contradicts most of the current theories concerning thermal shock resistance properties of pottery (Woods 1986, 170). Contrary to the prevalent understanding of ceramic engineering principles, which many archaeologists in the 1970s and 1980s were referencing in their work, for some two thousand years most of the cooking pots made in Britain were at-based and tempered with quartzite sand. So, Woods (1986, 170) cautioned those who took theories which are relevant to high-red, ne-bodied ceramics and applied them to low-red, coarse-bodied ancient ceramics and suggested that the etic approach should be used with a little more discretion and more frequently in conjunction with emic data: if this is done it may once again become a useful method for determining the technology and function of archaeological ceramics and the motives of potters in the past (Woods 1986, 170). Woods was arguing the need to maintain a careful balance between developing our modern, scientic (etic), analysis of material constraints and using the ancient, archaeological (emic) evidence of what the potters and consumers actually did. Experimental archaeology provides us with a vehicle through which we can make an assessment of the formal and material properties of particular pottery forms and fabrics and compare these with the specic archaeological evidence about how pots were made and what they were used for. We should be careful not to let our modern expectations of how materials respond to certain conditions, or our assumptions of continual progress in ceramic technology, divert us from appreciating the empirical data of the archaeological remains. However, we can only do this effectively if we make some attempt to consider the context of the potters and the cooks themselves. The question that we should be asking is not How effective is quartz-tempered pottery at resisting thermal shock? butgiven that relatively thick-walled, at-based, quartz tempered cooking pots were made in BritainWhat were the cooking methods and wider cultural concerns in Neolithic Britain that encouraged their production? and What do geographical and temporal variations in the form, fabric and use of these pots tell us about the relationship between pottery production and cooking methods within these societies? In describing Vincas Steponaitis (1984) work on Moundville pottery, Tite et al. summarize this by stating that the use of coarsely ground shell during the Mississipian period provided the


J. K. Feathers B. Sillar

most appropriate temper for cooking pots and that the use of shell temper can be seen as the nal stage in a technological development aimed at achieving the ideal cooking pot (Tite et al., p. 319) However it is worth reminding ourselves of Warren DeBoers original comment on Steponaitis paper: The thing that bothers me is that you have two thousand years of ceramics, and you interpret these in a progressive way, as if potters are almost asymptomatically approaching the perfect solution. I have a much more creative picture of human behaviour. Instead of viewing this as an approach to an ideal solution, we should consider all the other things which are going on in each stage . . . each thing makes sense in its own time, rather than being directed towards any future (shell) solution, which is 2000 years ahead (DeBoer, in Steponaitis 1984, 1267). As van der Leeuw has argued, we need to combine both an analytical perspective with a (re-)creative perspective in which the ceramicists who wish to understand the potters decision-making will have to travel back in time and look forward with those whom they study (van der Leeuw 1991, 13): the (re-)creative approach would stress the uniqueness of each situation and the historical trajectory that has led to each situation (van der Leeuw 1991, 21). However, van der Leeuw (1991, 21) ends this sentence by stating that this approach would deny the usefulness of universals or laws or lawlike generalizations, but I think there is a major role for identifying universals with regard to the material properties (see below).

Surprisingly, there has been very little general or theoretical discussion about the purpose of experimental work in archaeology, perhaps because many experiments are of the one-off weekend type (Schiffer et al. 1994) or are aimed mainly at educating schoolchildren or at reconstruction events staged for television (cf., Stone and Plane 1999). Michael Schiffer, James Skibo and the laboratory for traditional technology has probably done more to develop an explicit agenda for experimental work than most (e.g., Schiffer et al. 1994: but see also Coles 1973; Reynolds 1979; Bell et al. 1996). But there remains a need for more explicit discussions of the wider aims of experimental work, including the relationship between reconstructions undertaken in the eld and more controlled laboratory analysis. True scientic experiments do not try to replicate real life: instead, they isolate and control a small number of variables to assess how they interact in specied conditions. [Note that this is a somewhat different emphasis to the description of experimental archaeology given by Coles (1973), where he places greatest emphasis on using materials and techniques available at specic locations and time periods.] Although experimental archaeology is directed at understanding how people have made and used artefacts within past societies, it has been largely concerned with measuring physical and chemical changes in materials brought about by artefactartefact interactions. On its own, such work is a poor area for exploring the social, economic or ideological signicance of material culture, but the results of this research are essential for a better understanding of how materials respond to particular conditions created by people in the past, as well as some aspects of the foresight and organization that were necessary to produce specic results. Archaeologists have made good use of the extensive research on the material properties of ceramics that has been done for industry, and this has provided the foundation for much of our understanding of the general principles of how the properties of natural clays can be altered by adding and subtracting other materials and by the ring conditions (e.g., Shepherd 1965; Rice 1987). But ceramic engineers rarely consider low-red ceramics with large amounts of coarse tempering materials or their use for activities such as cooking over an open re (cf., Woods

Strength, toughness and thermal shock resistance of ceramics


1986, 170; Bronitsky 1989, 591). This is one of the reasons why archaeologists need to create their own experimental programmes. This leads to the question of which materials and methods should be used by experimental archaeologists who are seeking to gain a better understanding of pottery production and use in the past. Some archaeological experiments can be undertaken on original ancient materials, and this will have the benet of authenticity when dealing with specic local questions. However, archaeological materials may have changed their material properties through previous use, re-use and long-term burial, and there is a reluctance to use original archaeological samples that are a unique and valuable resource. It may be considered acceptable to use destructive analysis to describe and identify the materials and methods used to make ancient ceramics, but only in rare circumstances will it be possible to undertake an extensive research programme into their mechanical properties. This is one of the reasons why most experimental work involves either replicative studies (that deliberately try to mimic the fabric and form of ancient artefacts), or they go one step further in researching the interrelationships between a restricted number of variables involved in ancient technologies. The latter approach is the type of work that provides the basis for the review by Tite et al. (2001), and it allow researchers to assess the effect of changing one variable at a time. This means that other variables (e.g., clay type, percentage of inclusions, ring temperature and so on) should ideally be kept constant, and this requires the preparation of a wide range of samples for testing, and the development of specic experimental machinery and expertise (Schiffer et al. 1994). Even if the intention is to use complete vessels rather than briquettes, there is a problem because many traditional pottery-making techniques result in relatively poor mixing of the fabric, variable wall thickness, and poor temperature and oxidation control during ring: although the resulting pots are perfectly serviceable, they would not be considered as sufciently predictable standards for precisely measured experiments. Thus Schiffer et al. (1994) developed a complex forming technique using standardized extruded coils and plaster moulds, in order to promote uniformity in the vessels that they tested. There is a difference between experiments directed towards elucidating one area of technological change in a specic cultural context and researching a more general understanding of ceramic technology and the universal properties of specic materials. To date, most experimental archaeology has been predicated by questions relating to specic technologies relating to specic time periods or archaeological cultures, so that even where the relationship between a small number of variables is measured in well controlled laboratory experiments, the parameters of the analysis are usually formulated and restricted by this framework (Tite et al., p. 310). Even within the current discussion, no consideration has been given to the role of coarse-tempered ceramics as a refractory material used for kiln linings and crucibles, which are repeatedly raised to temperatures over 1000C and cooled again, but the literature on this topic (e.g., Freestone 1989) may be very relevant to the current discussions. What is notable about Tite et al.s review of previous workand, more specically, their proposal for extending this research beyond quartz-tempered pottery . . . to include other temper types . . . [and] . . . to cover the range 6001000C (Tite et al., p. 321) and the promotion of standardized experimental methodsis that it aims to create a more comprehensive data set that would be more universally applicable. This does not mean that the cultural signicance of these properties will be the same universally. Because technical choices affect more than one performance characteristic, the same technical choice . . . can play quite different roles in different technologies (Schiffer and Skibo 1987, 616). Moreover, a given technical choice may have rather different functions at different times in a technologys history (Schiffer et al. 1994, 211). But if archaeologists


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take care to analyse the specic forms, wear patterns and contextual data in order to reconstruct what activities their vessels were used for, they would then be able to draw upon a relevant data set of the material properties of different fabrics in order to re-assess how these would affect the material properties of the fabrics that they are analysing in relation to the specic archaeological context concerned. It is only in relation to specic archaeological contexts, including an analysis of the way in which the pots were used, that we can assess whether or not changes in ceramic technology were due to a desire to achieve specic mechanical and thermal properties that were benecial in use (Tite et al., p. 317). The use of experimental archaeology to develop a better understanding of the universal material properties of ceramic fabrics will not remove the need for experiments designed to explore questions relating to specic local fabrics, and local culinary techniques, based on specic archaeological evidence. However, the review article by Tite et al. seems to represent a more encompassing vision for the role of experimental archaeology, and I very much hope that their suggestion that there is a need to coordinate an extensive series of experiments into the strength, toughness and thermal shock resistance of diverse mixes of clays and tempers, red under different conditions of temperature and oxidation, is acted upon.

I would like to thank Mike Tite for encouraging me to write this commentary, and Marcos Martinon-Torres for discussing an earlier version with me.
REFERENCES Bell M., Fowler, P. J., and Hillson, S. W. (eds.), 1996, Experimental Earthwork Project 19601992, Research Report 100, Council for British Archaeology. Bronitsky, G., 1989, Ceramics and temper: a response to Feathers, American Antiquity, 54(3), 58993. Bronitsky, G., and Hamer, R., 1986, Experiments in ceramic technology: the effects of various tempering materials on impact and thermal-shock resistance, American Antiquity, 51(1), 89101. Carlton, R., 2002, Exploring the role of quenching in the production of calcite-tempered pottery in the Western Balkans, The Old Potters Almanac, 10(1), 16. Coles, J., 1973, Archaeology by experiment, Hutchinson, London. Dobres, M.-A., 2000, Technology and social agency, Blackwell, Oxford. Feathers, J. K., 1989, Effects of temper on strength of ceramics: responses to Bronitsky and Hamer, American Antiquity, 54(3), 57988. Freestone, I. C., 1989, Refractory materials and their procurement, in Old World archaeometallurgy: proceedings of the international symposium, Heidelberg, 1987 (eds. A. Hauptmann, E. Pernicka and G. A. Wagner), 15562, Selbstverlag des Deutschen Bergbau-Museums, Bochum. Grimshaw, R. W., 1971, The chemistry and physics of clays, 4th edn, Benn, London. Hally, D. J., 1983, Use alteration of pottery vessel surfaces: an important source of evidence for the identication of vessel function, North American Archaeologists, 4, 326 Jacobs, L., 1983, Notes about the relation between ller and clay and ller and shrinkage, respectively, Newsletter of the Department of Pottery Technology of the University of Leiden, 1, 612. Kilikoglou, V., Vekinis, G., and Maniatis, Y., 1995, Toughening of ceramic earthenware by quartz inclusions: an ancient art revisited, Acta Metallurgica et Materialia, 43, 295965. Latour, B., 1993, Ethnography of a high-tech case: about Aramis, in Technological choices: transformation in material culture since the Neolithic (ed. P. Lemonnier), 37298, Routledge, London. Lemonnier, P., 1993, Introduction, in Technological choices: transformation in material culture since the Neolithic (ed. P. Lemonnier), 135, Routledge, London. Osborn, A. J., 1988, Limitations of the diffusionist approach, in The transfer and transformation of ideas and material culture (eds. P. J. Hugill and D. B. Dickson), 2344, Texas A & M University Press, College Station.

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Reynolds, P. J., 1979, Iron Age farm. The Butser experiment, British Museum Publications, London. Rice, P. M., 1987, Pottery analysis; a sourcebook, University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Rye, O. S., 1976, Keeping your temper under control: materials and the manufacture of Papuan pottery, Archaeology and Physical Anthropology in Oceania, 11, 10637. Rye, O. S., 1981, Pottery technology; principles and reconstructions, Manuals on Archaeology no. 4, Taraxacum, Washington, DC. Schiffer, M. B., and Skibo, J. M., 1987, Theory and experiment in the study of technological change, Current Anthropology, 28(5), 595622. Schiffer, A. B., and Skibo, J. M., 1997, The explanation of artifact variability, American Antiquity, 62(1), 2750. Schiffer, M. B., Skibo, J. M., Boelke, T. C., Neupert, M. A., and Aronson, M., 1994, New perspectives on experimental archaeology: surface treatments and thermal response of the clay cooking pot, American Antiquity, 59(2), 197217. Shepard, A. O., 1965, Ceramics for the archaeologist, Carnegie Institution, Washington, DC. Sillar, B., 1997, Reputable pots and disreputable potters: individual and community choice in present-day pottery production and exchange in the Andes, in Not so much a pot, more a way of life (eds. C. Cumberpatch and P. Blinkhorn), 120, Oxbow Monograph, Oxford. Sillar, B., 2000, Shaping culture: making pots and constructing households. An ethnoarchaeological study of pottery production, trade and use in the Andes, British Archaeological Reports, International Series 883. Sillar, B., and Tite, M., 2000, The challenge of technological choices for material science approaches in archaeology, Archaeometry, 42(1), 220. Skibo, J. M., 1992, Pottery function: a use-alteration perspective, Plenum Press, New York. Steponaitis, V., 1983, Ceramics, chronology and community patterns, Academic Press, New York. Steponaitis, V. P., 1984, Technological studies of prehistoric pottery from Alabama: physical properties and vessel function, in The many dimensions of pottery; ceramics in archaeology and anthropology (eds. S. E. van der Leeuw and A. C. Pritchard), 79127, CINGULA 7, Institute for Pre- and Proto-History, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam. Stone P. G., and Plane, P., 1999, The constructed past: experimental archaeology, education and the public, One World Archaeology 36, Routledge, London. van der Leeuw, S. E., 1991, Variation, variability and explanation in pottery studies, in Ceramic ethnoarchaeology (ed. W. A. Longacre), 1139, The University of Arizona Press, Tucson. West, S. M., 1992, Temper, thermal shock and cooking pots: a study of tempering materials and their physical signicance in prehistoric and traditional cooking pottery, Unpublished M.Sc. thesis, University of Arizona, Tucson. Woods, A. J., 1986, Form, fabric and function: some observations on the cooking pot in antiquity, in Technology and style (ed. W. D. Kingery), 15772, Ceramics and civilization, vol. 2, American Ceramic Society, Columbus, Ohio.

Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, 6 Keble Road, Oxford OX1 3QJ, UK

Laboratory of Archaeometry, Institute of Materials Science, NCSR Demokritos, Aghia Paraskevi, 15310 Attiki, Greece

Advanced Ceramics Laboratory, Institute of Materials Science, NCSR Demokritos, Aghia Paraskevi, 15310 Attiki, Greece

Feathers, in commenting on the paper by Tite et al. on the mechanical and thermal properties of ancient ceramics, considers one particular aspect only; that is, the signicance of the rise in the frequency of shell temper in pottery produced in eastern North America during the later prehistoric period.


J. S. Feathers M. K. Tite et al.

The discussion of this rise in frequency of shell temper is systematic and well balanced, with each of the possible explanations, other than the increased toughness and thermal shock resistance associated with shell temper, being carefully considered and, in turn, rejected. As a result, Feathers claims that the improved mechanical and thermal properties explanation remains a possibility. However, he accepts that even if improved mechanical and thermal properties is the explanation for the introduction of shell temper in the specic region under consideration (i.e., south-east Missouri), this explanation would not necessarily be applicable even to other parts of eastern North America. Instead, since many factors can inuence technological choice, each situation must be considered in its own right. However, the chronological link established between the introduction of maize agriculture and shell-tempered pottery is impressive, and some common reason for this link across eastern North America seems probable. The common reason proposed by Feathers is that the clearance associated with the introduction of maize agriculture resulted in the availability of a new fuel, and that the use of this new fuel resulted in the observed increase in reduction ring. In turn, reduction ring delayed the decomposition of the shell carbonate and this facilitated the production of shell-tempered pottery, with its improved mechanical and thermal properties. In contrast to Braun (1983), Feathers does not go on to argue that improved mechanical and thermal properties were necessary for cooking maize; nor does he suggest that the use of shell temper was the nal stage in a 2000-year technological development, as implied by Steponaitis (1983) and highlighted by Sillar. However, even if this fuel-based explanation for the link between the introduction of maize agriculture and shell temper is correct, it is still possible that shell-tempered cooking pots were favoured for some other reason than their improved mechanical and thermal properties. We believe, therefore, that it would be valuable to investigate the possible differences in taste between maize cooked in shell-tempered vessels and that cooked in vessels tempered with quartz sand or grog. Furthermore, we are uneasy about the extent to which Feathers plays down, or even rejects, the role of technological style in determining technological choice. As a result, we feel that he does not take sufcient account of the possible wider cultural reasons for technological choice in general, and for the link between the introduction of maize agriculture and shell-tempered pottery across eastern North America in particular. Schiffer comments on two aspects of the terminology used by Tite et al. First, he questions the use of the term technological choice rather than technical choice and, second, he highlights the clear difference between the physical or material properties of an artefact and its performance characteristics in use. Although we understand the need to distinguish between the choices made by the potters during production and the choices made by the consumers, for example, in selecting pots at a market, like Sillar, we still prefer to retain the term technological choice for the former. In part, this preference is because the term technological choice links in better with the term technological change, which is routinely used (including by Schiffer in his nal paragraphs) when considering changes made by the artisans in their methods of production. Conversely, we fully accept the very real difference between physical or material properties and performance characteristics and we regret any ambiguity that exists in Tite et al. Certainly, this difference is clearly expressed in both the discussion and in gures included in Tite (1999, 2001) and in Kilikoglou and Vekinis (2002). Sillar makes a number of important points, with many of which we are in agreement. Thus, we agree that it is important, in each specic situation, to understand how a cooking pot was used and to question the validity of standard laboratory strength, toughness and thermal shock

Strength, toughness and thermal shock resistance of ceramics


resistance measurements in providing a realistic measure of these properties in use. However, because of the interdependence of the different properties, thermal shock resistance need not be determined from unrealistic rapid quenching experiments, but can instead be inferred from the more appropriate standard toughness measurements. Furthermore, we would agree that, when measuring mechanical and thermal properties, it is essential to take into account the progressive degradation of a cooking pot during use. However, since the internal surfaces of cooking pots need to be sealed in order to minimize permeability of water and hence evaporation from the outer surfaces (Schiffer 1990), data resulting from mechanical and thermal property measurements on dry bodies should be valid. Regarding the problem of lime spalling, it is important to distinguish between limited spalling that only affects the appearance of a vessel, and would not therefore have been a problem in the context of cooking pots, and the complete disintegration of a vessel that can occur immediately after ring when there has been decomposition of the shell carbonate. In conclusion, we would rst emphasize that, in order to be able to infer realistically the mechanical and thermal properties of the archaeological pottery under consideration, it is essential to undertake the measurement of these properties on pottery samples produced using a diverse range of clay and temper types, and ring conditions. Second, we fully agree that the performance characteristics inferred from these properties must be appropriate to the way in which the vessels would have been used. In this respect, the recent development by Kilikoglou and Vekinis (2002) of a quantitative model, based on nite element analysis, for predicting the failure of vessels of different shapes under different loading conditions represents an importance advance. Third, as originally argued by Kilikoglou et al. (1998), we regard an understanding of the constraints imposed by the mechanical and thermal properties, required by pottery in use, as providing a valuable baseline for the consideration of the overall reasons for the technological choices associated with its production. Finally, we would reafrm our agreement with Sillar that it is essential, in deciding which factors determined the technological choices made in pottery production, to take full account of the specic cultural context within which the pottery was being produced and used.
REFERENCES Braun, D., 1983, Pots as tools, in Archaeological hammers and theories (eds. J. A. Moore and A. S. Keene), 10734, Academic Press, New York. Kilikoglou, V., and Vekinis, G., 2002, Failure prediction and function determination of archaeological pottery by nite element analysis, Journal of Archaeological Science, 29, 131725. Kilikoglou, V., Vekinis, G., Maniatis, Y., and Day, P. M., 1998, Mechanical performance of quartz-tempered ceramics. Part 1: strength and toughness, Archaeometry, 40, 26179. Schiffer, M. B., 1990, The inuence of surface treatment on heating effectiveness of ceramic vessels, Journal of Archaeological Science, 17, 37381. Steponaitis, V. P., 1983, Ceramics, chronology and community patternsan archaeological study at Moundville, Academic Press, New York. Tite, M. S., 1999, Pottery, production distribution and consumptionthe contribution of the physical sciences, Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 6, 181233. Tite, M. S., 2001, Overviewmaterials study in archaeology, in Handbook of archaeological sciences (eds. D. R. Brothwell and A. M. Pollard), 4438, John Wiley, Chichester.