Using Ceramics to Answer Questions

III. Ceramics and Social Organization
  • Carla M. Sinopoli


Ceramics, like all material products of human activity, are used and produced in a social context. Individuals learn techniques of ceramic production from parents or other relatives, or from employers, and tend to replicate, to a greater or lesser extent, the production techniques and products of their teachers. Potters produce for consumers and make vessels in accordance with the demands of their users: demands for functionally effective and formally appropriate vessels. Culturally conditioned opinions on the appropriate form of ceramics or other objects ultimately determine whether new forms will be accepted or rejected and contribute to the historic continuity of particular forms over multiple generations. Goods, then, are produced in a system of meaning that governs definitions of appropriate forms, techniques, and use, as well as the assignment of value. Over the past two decades, a number of cultural anthropologists and archaeologists have considered goods in their social context and have produced both general theoretical frameworks for viewing material culture and specific tests of these frameworks in archaeological or ethnographic contexts.


Material Culture Vessel Form Ceramic Vessel Horizontal Differentiation Vertical Black Line 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carla M. Sinopoli
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA

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