image/svg+xml109XII/2/2021INTERDISCIPLINARIA ARCHAEOLOGICANATURAL SCIENCES IN ARCHAEOLOGYhomepage: http://www.iansa.euEditorial IANSA 2/2021The Digital Conference “Archaeological Approaches to the Study of the Potter’s Wheel”Caroline Jefra, Chase A. M. Minos, Richard ThérFrom 24thto 27thNovember, 2020, the international conference “Archaeological Approaches to the Study of the Potter’s Wheel” was held digitally, organised by Caroline Jefra (University of Amsterdam, Tracing the Potter’s Wheel Project), Richard Thér (Philosophical Faculty, University of Hradec Kralové), Chase A. M. Minos (The Cyprus Institute), and EXARC. Initially, the conference was to be hosted by the University of Amsterdam, but was quickly reconfgured to take place entirely online. The conference brought together archaeologists, potters, anthropologists, historians and classicists, with the aim of exploring a topic which has garnered increased attention in recent scholarship. The keynote lecture was presented by Sander van der Leeuw entitled “Invention… in ceramics and the environment” (https://, and he also served as theme three discussant ( along with Carl Knappett (theme one discussant, and Valentine Roux (theme two discussant, Furthermore, the conference was accompanied by a Potting Film Festival, which took the form of a curated playlist of videos available on YouTube which is published in EXARC’s online presence, available here: scholarship on the topic has increasingly addressed issues which relate to the way that individuals, communities, and societies responded to the introduction of the potter’s wheel. In region after region, period after period, existing potting traditions were adjusted, altered, supplanted, or otherwise changed as potters negotiated with the diferent practices that this technological device enabled. To date, however, discussions of the integration of rotational potting have been largely seated within region- or chronologically-focused literature. In order to encapsulate a variety of regions and time-periods, three broad themes crossing regional and chronological borders were highlighted and explored over the course of the conference.The frst theme centred on questions of the mode of research, showcasing solutions reached in the absence of a reliable, objective methodology for identifying the ways that the potter’s wheel was utilised in pottery forming sequences. This theme was included in the conference sessions in order to foster a dialogue regarding standards of practice in documentation, analysis, presentation, and terminology when describing the evidence. Carl Knappett took an introspective stance in his discussion of the papers in this theme “Expressive Technique or The Mechanical and the Thinking Hand”, drawing on a number of interdisciplinary perspectives to interrogate the foundations of how and why studies of the wheel are carried out. His basic concern is not to forget aesthetic expression as one of the basic dimensions of pottery technology. The efort to accurately detect technological actions and elements bears a potential risk of the reduction of the perception of technology into a mechanical sequence of interdependent actions leading to a functional product. While seeking for the causal links between observable features and technical actions that caused them, we must be aware that the reconstruction of the production process does mean understanding the craft, the artisan and her/his expressions.Five articles from the presentations on this theme appear in this volume, each addressing a diferent methodological aspect of how the potter’s wheel is investigated and recognised archaeologically. Two of these focus on issues relating to the tool itself; in the frst, Brandon Neth and Eleni Hasaki present a tool developed to aid and standardise wheel velocity measurement during experiments, facilitating greater comparability between experiments. Chase A. M. Minos, on the other hand, makes a strong case for explicitly considering the wheel as a variable within experiments, how it relates to a potter’s skill, and what impact these factors have upon macroscopic traces left on pots. Each of these contributions serve to re-focus the emphasis of experimental work to appropriately integrate, and report on, the particularities of wheel devices when discussing and describing the products made with these tools. Richard Thér and Petr Toms, on the other hand, take a deep dive into the way that wheel-throwing methods impact the orientation of Volume XII ● Issue 2/2021 ● Pages 109–112
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2021 ● XII/2 ● 109–112Caroline Jefra, Chase A. M. Minos, Richard Thér: The Digital Conference “Archaeological Approaches to the Study of the Potter’s Wheel”110particles and voids, as seen in optical microscopy, which presents opportunities to analyse material more precisely as well as to overcome barriers that other methods, such as surface features analysis, might encounter. Francesca Porta meanwhile turns her attention to an often-overlooked category of vessels – very large storage containers – to establish a baseline of observable traces, both using macroscopic examination of surface features and X-ray analysis. These large vessels are often left aside in experiment and analysis, and F. Porta’s experiment and description of results allow for better assessments of the material going forward. Lastly within this theme, Caroline Jefra’s contribution outlines the creation of and justifcation for an open-access generalised type set of experimental material, which serves as a starting point for comparisons against archaeological material from many contexts. With such comparanda available, scholars may focus their attention on creating more precise experiments, or, lacking experimental skills or resources, make assessments which would have been impossible for them in the frst place.Beyond the foundational level of interpretation and documentation of evidence was the second theme, which addressed current approaches to understanding the evolution of the technique. It is acknowledged that each archaeological context, in which these questions are asked, is formed of its own particular context based on social, economic, and cultural spheres, defning the character of the interplay between device capabilities and potting practices through time. Nine such examples are included in this volume, representing material from the Near East, the Mediterranean, Europe, Northeast Africa, and the Caribbean dating to the Early Bronze Age (c. 4000 BC) through the Colonial Period (1562 AD). In her discussion “Understanding the Evolution of Wheel Potting Techniques”, Valentine Roux drew on her extensive knowledge of the ways that the technology can manifest archaeologically, and the methods for recognizing the diferent ways of employing the wheel in pottery forming archaeologically, to bring together the talks from this theme. Considering the interpretation of surprising variability of forming methods, she highlighted the role of context in which the wheel is used for the evolution of the technological practices connected with this specifc tool. She also raised the issue of using standardised, unbiased language in discussing observed evidence of manufacture.Johnny Samuele Baldi’s contribution describes the earliest material within this volume, focusing on the Uruk cultural sphere, specifcally from recent feldwork from Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan. In particular, he gives context to the rise of the potter’s wheel as seen in the new data when considered against existing knowledge of wheel emergence and use in other areas of the Near East. The Middle Bronze Age Sudanese site at Amara West discussed by Sarah K. Doherty paints a diferent picture, investigating the role that Egyptian colonization played in changing local potting traditions. In a similar time period, Ilaria Caloi also raises some important questions about the infuence or inspiration that Egypt might have played in the way that the potter’s wheel was employed, this time in south-central Crete. Also in modern-day Greece, and during the Middle Bronze Age, Anthi Balitsari discusses one specifc ware of pottery to explore the forming diferences which exist between so-called “archetypical” and “imitation” variations from the Argolid and Attica. Xenia Charalambidou contributes further research from Greece, in this case concerning Iron Age Naxos. Her discussion tackles the traditional division of wheel-formed fne wares versus hand-formed coarse wares, describing areas of technical similarity for much needed nuance in the broader discussion of these wares. Beatrijs de Groot’s work also concerns the Iron Age, this time in southern Iberia. The relationship of the introduction of the wheel and the establishment of Phoenician trade colonies is discussed, especially in light of the creation of so-called “hybrid” forms from this period. The most recent archaeological contexts belonging to theme two included in this volume come from Alise Gunnarssone et al.and Marlieke Ernst. A. Gunnarssone et al.describe the interesting case of Baltic ware production from two nearby regions during the 11th–13thcentury in Latvia, where they argue for greater “professionalization” of production in one region when compared against the other. M. Ernst’s work concerns the colonial period in the Caribbean, where the potter’s wheel was introduced during colonization and important insights into the process can be gained from a context where more types of evidence are available.An approach that several of these theme two contributions have in common is to critically examine broad categories of “wares” from the standpoint that variation in production technology may be indicative of diferentiation between the potters. This is particularly evident in papers by A. Balitsari and J. S. Baldi, where in the former it may be a regional diference whereas in the latter it may relate to the relationship between potters and the wider social context in which they worked. I. Caloi also makes reference to this phenomenon as well, though to a slightly lesser extent. This standpoint of seeking diferentiation within previously undiferentiated classes of material showcases a major asset in technological assessment at the assemblage level. Following a revelation of poorly-defned or unobserved diference within an otherwise grouped class of material, it is possible to interrogate the source of those diferences.A second trend among papers observable is the role that colonization plays in technological negotiations made by potters. S. K. Doherty describes this in Sudan (Egyptian colony), B. de Groot in southern Iberia (Phoenician colony), and M. Ernst in the Dominican Republic (Spanish colony). What is striking among these examples is the extent to which local potters responded, adapted, or maintained existing practices alongside practices brought with colonial agents. The three examples highlighted here provide interesting case studies against which other colonial contexts may be compared to gain further insights into the social and cultural mechanisms at work.A fnal trend within the second theme of the conference is investigating the nature of side-by-side divergent production strategies. Two contributions, from X. Charalambidou and
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2021 ● XII/2 ● 109–112Caroline Jefra, Chase A. M. Minos, Richard Thér: The Digital Conference “Archaeological Approaches to the Study of the Potter’s Wheel”111Figure 1. Conference poster (author: Magdalena Zielinska).