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Book: Searching for Structure in Pottery Analysis

Chapter: (Ceramic) Structure and (Communities of) Practice in the Bronze Age Black Sea

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.24656


Multi-dimensional and multi-scalar analyses of ceramic structure can yield important information about the manufacturing processes employed in their production. The identification of such practices have allowed archaeologists to make inferences about the technological and social choices people in the past may have made in producing material culture, and how those choices may have acted as statements of both individual and group identity. Within such analysis, the concept of “communities of practice, originally developed as a theory of social learning, may be particularly helpful for understanding the formation of community identities through craft production. Using a chaîne opératoire approach informed by the concept of “communities of practice,” this chapter presents the results of a nested analytical study of prehistoric pottery-making practices from several communities along the Black Sea coast in order to interpret the emergence of shared pottery traditions across the region. This analysis suggests that from the end of the 4th to the early 3rd millennium BC a distinct and shared “Black Sea culture” developed across the region as a result of increased social interaction and in response to larger, interregional dynamics. This case illustrates how the integration of multi-scalar technological practice analysis with theories of craft production can identify patterns of social relations and identity in the past.

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