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Book: Searching for Structure in Pottery Analysis

Chapter: Coiling on the Wheel: The Sociopolitical Implications of a Particular Formation Technique in Bronze Age Crete

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.24651


Clay vessels can be made with a wide variety of distinct forming techniques or combinations of two or more techniques. The most common ways of making pots during the Cretan Bronze Age were wheel-throwing and coiling. Thanks to X-ray studies, macroscopic inspection, and experimental archaeology, “wheel-coiling” – a technique that combines hand-building and wheel-throwing techniques at different stages of the forming process – has recently been recognized as an additional popular forming technique. Tracing the emergence and continuity of these different techniques allows us to put forward hypotheses about their relationship to each other, their socio-political meaning, and the organization of pottery production more generally. It will be demonstrated that wheel-coiling is a technique that emerged at the same time as wheel-throwing and continued to be utilized throughout the Bronze Age. Unlike wheel-throwing, wheel-coiling was employed for the full range of vessels and was uniquely adapted to gain the greatest possible advantage from the slowly revolving potter’s wheel. While wheel-based techniques have frequently been linked to the emergence of the Cretan palaces and the desire of elites to enhance their social standing through provision of specialized craft products, the existence of a highly specialized, independent pottery production since the Final Neolithic undermines this popular assumption.

Chapter Contributors

  • Ina Berg ( - iberg) 'University of Manchester'