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Thomas A. Loughlin (Supervisor: Prof Chris Mee)
School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology
The Neolithic Period in Greece lasted roughly from 7000 BC until 3000 BC. It was a period when humans interacted more with the environment around them and increased their exploitation of the landscape they lived in. This period has the first evidence of movement away from a reliance on hunter-gatherer activities huntertowards crop production and domestication of animals. There is also also evidence for the beginnings of sedentary lifestyles, urbanisation urbanisation and ultimately inter-communal activities. Advances in technology interallowed greater diversification in tools and crafts. These technological and social changes are reflected in the artefacts left behind them.
Ceramics are the most common artefact found on archaeological sites and reveal a huge quantity of information about the society society from which they came. There is a series of decisions that the potter potter has to make from the selection and blending of the fabric clays and other materials, through the shaping and decoration of the vessel vessel and ultimately its firing. Neolithic pottery from Greece is of an an extremely high technological standard demonstrating a degree of ingenuity and creativity that reflects a number of specific specialist specialist choices throughout all stages of the production process (Fig 1.) This (Fig 1.) study will focus on the ceramics from one site in Greece as a microcosm of Middle Neolithic (5800 BC - 5300BC). The site of Kouphovouno (Fig. 2 & 3.) is situated south-west of modern Sparta (Fig. 3.) southin the fertile Laconia valley. It is the most important Neolithic site in Neolithic the region found to date; and has material dating from the Middle Middle Neolithic through to the Early Bronze Age and covers approximately approximately 5 hectares. It is being excavated by a joint project involving the the University of Liverpool, the University of Nottingham and L’Université de Clermont-Ferrand in France. A large number (over Université Clermont150,000) of sherds have been recovered during the excavations.
By examining the technological procedures, decorative designs and and functionality of the vessels, it is possible to extrapolate a range of range options that were open to the potters. This project aims to examine examine the reasoning that influences choices made by the potters at Kouphovouno, to determine whether there are deliberate decisions influenced by sociological, environmental or technological factors factors and to what degree each of these constrain the potters. A series of analyses will be conducted to examine technological features of the ceramics; Petrography provides a detailed picture of the materials materials that make up the fabric wall (Fig. 4.), many of which are added to (Fig. 4.), give the fabric certain functional qualities: sea shell, for example, example, can greatly affect the expansion rate of a ceramic when it is heated, heated, which greatly affects it performance when exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods of time and, therefore, has ramifications for cooking vessels. Examination using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) will provide a picture of the microstructure of the ceramic wall, specifically the degree of vitrification of the clay, which increases with exposure to higher higher temperatures (Fig. 5.). Colour of ceramics provides information (Fig. 5.). about the amount of oxygen available to the atmosphere of the fire fire during firing: if a great amount is available the ceramic will be be orange-red (Fig. 6.) in colour if not, it will be grey to black (Fig. 7.). (Fig. 7.). orange(Fig. 6.)
The results of these analyses will be used to determine if a range of range fabrics, firing temperatures and atmospheric conditions are present. present. From this information a variety of technological abilities can be be determined; if, for example, the potters are consciously influencing influencing the colour of the fabrics, or if the majority of the ceramics are fired at are a lower temperature than we know they could achieve, it would demonstrate a deliberate decision. Ethnography will provide parallels to examine if similar decisions are sociologically driven by driven cultural features. From this study it will be possible to assess the level of proficiency of Neolithic potters, whether Neolithic society society was structured to allow potters to specialise in their craft while being while supported by the wider community perhaps even if society determined the shapes and to what degree fabrication and decoration of vessels is functionally or culturally tailored.
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