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We're here in the Haffenreffer Museum

today, in the cultural lab.
And we're here to discuss pottery and why
pottery is so important to the
archaeologist, why archaeologists love
this material.
And I've got Mge here to help me, I
thank you so much.
And we have a collection of pots as you
can see, spread out before us.
And really what I want to address today
are the three main types of questions
that archaeologists ask on a basis of
pottery and therefore how we approach
this material, just as a subsidiary
But there's really three big ones.
Probably the one that comes to people's
mind first is date.
When is a pot from?
And the reason archaeologists care about
this so much of course, is because when
they find dateable pots in a context
archaeologically they can then date that
So we move from the pot itself to a
greater understanding of the building
within which it's found, the site within
which it's found.
So chronology is, is really sort of an
obvious one that archaeologists ask
We also ask about location.
Where's the pot from?
Not just where it was used but where was
it made?
This can be a really important way for us
to see interconnections between
And finally we ask about the use of the
So how was it used?
What was it's function both on the most
basic level.
What's the function of this pot?
>> Well, it's probably for carrying
some sort of liquid I'm going to guess
because it's, it's big and it's closed or
something that has to be safe inside
without spilling.
So something of a controlled storage I
would say.
>> Absolutely.
Does it have the same function as a pot
like this?
>> No, absolutely not, it's smaller,
it's open.
Yeah, the size is different, the form is
different so probably function is
very different as well.
>> And you're absolutely correct.
And these are, by observing differences
between pots and, and, much of it is even
common sense talking about how pots were
used can tell us again about the context
within which we find them.
For instance, the pottery you find in a
domestic context in someone's house.
It's going to be quite different than the
pottery you find in a funerary context.
What somebody took with them to the afterlife, often.
So, we can learn about the context we're
looking at by talking about the function
of the pottery.
Again, subsidiary questions not just
function based function.
This was used to hold liquid but also
The liquid in this almost, my gosh, this
is imported olive oil.
Is that going to be a low-class object?
No, that's going to be a high-class
So, pottery can help us untangle social
relationships as well as functions.
But of course to answer all these
questions takes a lot of work on the part
of the archaeologist on several levels.
And as you already started to mention,
form is one of the ways that we can
access where when and how pots were made
and used.
What else could we ask about these pots
aside from form that might give us some
indication of, of their use, their, their
>> I will guess that since the shapes
are very different, that some of them are
maybe wheel thrown, some of them are hand
Colors are different.
Some of them seems to have surface.
treatment, some of them seems to be more
>> And you're absolutely right.
What you're picking up on is looking for
This is of course the best way for us to
assec, access things is to create
typologies where we can say, hm, this is
one type of thing, this is another.
And in addition to form, looking at
So what's it made out of?
These two pots are not made out of the
same material.
They're made out of very different clays.
Not only that they have very different
what we call tempers, this one is made
out of a more or less pure clay.
This one has lots of little spots as you
look in it.
There's lots of what we call non-plastic
inclusions that were added by the potter.
And that changes the nature of the fabric
both during the construction of the pot
and during the use of the pot.
This is actually a water jar.
You can see there's a, a sieve built into
>> Oh yeah.
>> And in fact this is made to be quite
porous because water evaporating through
the fabric of the jar will cool the water
inside it.
>> So this as a vase is made to contain
water and not leak.
>> Yeah.
>> So that difference in fabric there
in this case is related to function as
well as perhaps to date and place of
So we can talk about, just as you
mentioned, we can talk about the fabric,
what they're made out of.
We can talk about the manufacturing
You also mentioned that.
That can be very important.
The wheel was not invented as early as
This, this is a beautifully wheel-thrown
You can see how symmetrical it is.
You can see these, what we call rilling
lines, these parallel lines on the side,
which were made as the potter's hands
drew the pot up.
It's actually like this.
If you look at this vessel, which is
approximately round, approximately
>> Yeah.
>> You can see there's no such sign of
>> Yeah, and I also don't see any
Whereas in here, and especially on this
one, you can see the lines here as well.
>> Absolutely.
>> This has a more homogeneous surface
in terms of the lack of lines but that is
also not very symmetrical as those other.
>> You also get fingerprints on this
one, which is a good sign.
>> Yeah.
>> Now of course, handmade pottery
predates the invention of the wheel.
But handmade pottery is continuing to be
made even today.
So manufacture is not a perfect
indication of date.
You really have to take all of these
things and put them together.
You also could note in terms of
manufacture that this vessel was fired in
an open pit as opposed to a kiln.
This lovely, even coloring you get is
something you see in a kiln but not all
pots need to be fired in kilns.
Actually that leads us to another
So here we have, we're talking about
materials, we're talking about
What do you actually need to make a pot?
>> I'm going to guess some clay?
>> Sure.
What's clay?
>> Um, dirt.
>> [LAUGH] Very fin particles of dirt.
And the way they adhere to one another
when they're wet gives the clay its
plastic quality that allows you to shape
it into what you want.
>> Exactly.
And as we saw in this one, in some cases
you need some what you mention it,
>> Mm-hm.
>> So different particles.
And water?
>> Absolutely.
Can't make a pot without water.
>> No.
And what else?
Maybe some, surface treatments, do you need
>> Oh, but there's a big, big one, too
and this is important for our
understanding of how pottery manufacture
works in ancient societies.
>> I don't know.
>> You need fuel.
>> Oh, yes.
>> You've got a fire these suckers,
you've gotta get a pot pretty hot in
order to chemically change it from dirt
into ceramic.
Once you've formed this out of ceramic.
And in fact this vessel is not fired, it
still, it looks like a pot, it is a pot,
it's in fact made out of exactly the same
materials as this.
You can see that the firing process has
changed the color.
This also fundamentally altered the
chemistry of what we have going on here.
If you put this in water it will turn
back into dirt.
You could put this in water, it will not.
And it takes a lot of fuel to do that.
And so, in fact access to fuel is one of
the most important things we have to
understand when we're looking at the
production of pottery in the ancient