For many past and present societies, pottery forms an integral part of material culture and everyday practice. This makes it a promising case example to address human-thing-relations on a more general level, as well as social life itself. Humans organise their lives not only by engaging with materials and things but also by oscillating between movement and stasis. In these various rhythms of mobility – from daily subsistence-based movements to long-term migrations – things like ceramic vessels are crafted, but also act as consumer goods. From their production until their deposition as waste, grave-goods, collectibles etc. pottery vessels can move with their owners or be passed on and may thus shift between spatial, temporal, social, economic and cultural contexts.
This volume unites contributions addressing such phenomena from archaeological and anthropological perspectives. Evolved from an interdisciplinary workshop held at the Institute of Archaeological Sciences (University of Bern) in 2015, the aim is not to promote one single epistemic approach or any elaborated empirical findings but to trigger thoughts and foster discussions.
While the first part of the book contains introductory texts, the second part includes archaeological contributions that address mobility and social ties by focussing on variability in pottery production within, as well as between, settlements and regions. Taking a more object-centred perspective, they comprise attempts to think beyond established concepts of ‘archaeological cultures’ and chronological issues. The third part unites anthropological and archaeological texts that take more actor-centred perspectives of making, distributing and using pottery. These texts examine how humans and things are intertwined though practices and various rhythms of movement and mobility. Thereby it can be shown how cultural forms are reproduced but also transformed by humans and things, like pots, potters, pottery mongers and pottery users that are intermittently on the move.
1. Changing perspectives, changing insights
‘Mobility and pottery production’, what for? Introductory remarks
Caroline Heitz, Regine Stapfer
Prehistoric archaeology, anthropology and material culture studies: aspects of their origins and common roots
Material culture and mobility: A brief history of archaeological thought
Astrid Van Oyen
2. Object-centred perspectives: From ‘cultures’ and chronology to relations and mobility
The Munzingen culture in the southern Upper Rhine Plain (3950–3600 BC)
From typo-chronology to inter- and intra site variety: the ‘Michelsberg’ pottery of South Germany (4300–3600 BC)
Social dynamics and mobility: Discussing ‘households’ in Linear Pottery Culture research (6 ML BC)
Special pottery in ‘Cortaillod’ settlements of Neolithic western Switzerland (3900–3500 BC)
Cultural and chronological attribution of pottery on the move: from rigid time-space schemata towards flexible microarchaeological ‘messworks’
3. Actor-centred perspectives: Movements of making – mobilities of pots, potters, skills and ideas
Movement in making: ‘Women working with clay’ in northern Côte d’Ivoire
Form follows fingers: Roman pottery, the producer’s perspective and the mobility of ideas
Practice, social cohesion and identity in pottery production in the Balearic Islands (1500–500 BC)
Daniel Albero Santacreu
Making things, being mobile: pottery as intertwined histories of humans and materials
Pots on the move become different: Emplacement and mobility of pottery, specific properties of pots and their contexts of use
Hans Peter Hahn
Regine Stapfer is an archaeologist specializing in Neolithic wetland sites and works as a research and teaching assistant at the University of Bern (Switzerland), Institute of Archaeological Sciences (Prehistory). She is part of the research team of the project ‘Mobilities, Entanglements and Transformations in Neolithic Societies of the Swiss Plateau (3900–3500 BC)’ supported by the SNFS.
Caroline Heitz is a Senior Researcher and SNSF-Ambizione Grantee at the Institute of Archaeological Sciences and the Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern. In her award-winning doctoral thesis, she combined research on mobility, entanglement, appropriation, and transformation in relation to Neolithic pottery from the UNESCO-World Heritage wetland sites around the Alps. She was also awarded a Postdoc-Mobility Grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation and became a fellow at the Universities of Oxford and Kiel in 2021–2022. She is currently conducting research on social archaeology as well as climate change resilience and vulnerabilities of prehistoric waterfront communities.