Ceramic Ethonoarchaeology

As maintained by Hegmon (2000), the last decade has experienced an increase in ceramic ethnoarchaeological studies around the world, dealing with such vital topics like ceramic production, ceramic use and distribution, social boundaries, and technological change. Hegmon (2000) also said that a number of the most stirring new Americanist research assists archaeologists in refining models of ceramic production.

Moreover, growing numbers of non-Americanist studies employ a technology and culture framework to assess manufacturing variability, the articulation between ceramic technology and social boundaries, and the dynamics of cultural transmission between generations. Since Kramer’s review (Stark, 2003), ceramic ethnoarchaeology has developed significantly. For instance, a lot of sophisticated readings regarding social theory and analyses, which take into account multiple variables and levels of variability have caused better understandings of social boundaries.

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Furthermore, perceptions concerning ceramic change are becoming more and more sophisticated due to more long-term projects including research and study that takes advantage of new opportunities as well as nontraditional settings and historic collections. Stark (2003) said that the newly emerging ethnoarchaeology is contributing to general anthropological knowledge regarding material culture and society. The longevity of ceramic vessels in ethnographic contexts has been accounted for from numerous ceramic-using groups.

A number of methods have been employed to obtain estimates or approximations of the mean uselives of ceramic classes. For instance, the Kalinga Ethnoachaeological Project used a technique derived from a series of ceramic inventories ever since the year 1975. This inventory technique documented huge number of pots, much more than any other earlier studies, to guarantee the representativeness of uselife approximations. Furthermore, another data set of ceramic breakage gathered by the project shows that biases against short-lived pots were initiated by the inventory technique.

As a consequence, ceramic uselife approximated by the inventory method seems to be very long, and the amended approximations are the same as those seen in other circumstances. The motivation behind ethnographic studies of ceramic uselife originates from the realization that the longevity of ceramic pots affects the formation of archaeological assemblages (Mills, 1989). To interpret ceramics in secondary refuse deposits for past human behavior, it is essential to account for the effects of ceramic uselife.

It is probably not necessary to repeat rationales for ethnoarchaeological study of ceramic uselives to be relevant to archaeological studies (Shott, 1996). According to Tani & Williams (1999), accumulations research depends on precise uselife data to work out site occupation spans and population sizes by way of the examination of discard behavior and the rates of accumulation of pottery and other artifacts. As asserted by Varien & Mills (1997), precise uselife data from ethnoarchaeology is necessary for victorious studies. This paper intends to analyze the method of recording or documenting ceramic uselife in ethnographic contexts.

Numerous ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological researches such as the study done by Nelson (1991) have documented ceramic uselife. Even within functionally comparable classes, a huge disparity sometimes exists in reported uselives from area to area. Since several factors are involved in ceramic breakage, such disparity could simply be a result of local variation in these factors. Nevertheless, it likewise is probable that methodological biases have an effect on the result of ceramic uselife measurements. To develop the correctness of the approximation, a series of methods for approximating ceramic uselife have been formulated.

These methods have tried to prevail over two main kinds of problems in approximating ceramic uselife: the reliability of informant recall and the representativeness of the sampling. In the case of Kalinga in the Philippines, Longacre (1985) used a technique or method founded on periodically documented ceramic inventories (which are called inventory method) so as to approximate the uselife of ceramic vessels in a village called Dangtalan, in Kalinga. A total of three ceramic inventories have been documented in the period 1975-76, 1979-80, and 1987-88 seasons.

According to Nelson (1991), this method or technique yielded longitudinal data of individual pots that were more quantitative and less susceptible to the errors of informant recall. The new data documented during the 1987-88 season imply that the uselife approximations of commonly utilized cooking vessels founded on the inventory method seems to be very long, and that the overestimation was due to the biases intrinsic in the inventory method. Based on the study of Longacre and Skibo (1994), it was known that both the breakage record and the ceramic inventories were documented as a part of the Kalinga Ethnoarchaeological Project.

This project has been said to collect ceramic-related data in the village of Dangtalan and other adjacent villages. Despite the fact that practically every household made pottery when the project began in the year 1975, the number of households producing pottery has considerably regressed. As maintained by Tani & Longacre (1999), ceramic uselife estimates or approximations made by the inventory method are regarded to be more dependable compared with other methods for the reason that they are anchored in methodically gathered longitudinal data of a huge number of vessels.

In the study of Tani & Longacre (1999), it was found out that when the two Kalinga data sets of broken pots are compared, there are two main types of inconsistencies in the summary statistics of broken pots. According to them, the first discrepancy is on the uselives. It was found out that the approximated uselives by the inventories are in general much longer than those by the breakage record except for the huge ittoyom (also called as rice cooking vessels) class. Moreover, the second discrepancy is on the frequency of breakage.

According to their study, despite the fact that documented regular cooking vessels created in the year 1977 are much fewer compared with those created in the year 1979, the numbers of documented huge cooking vessels created in the year 1977 and in 1979 are not extremely different. Even though the inventories document more pots, the breakage record involves a disproportionally huge number of broken pots for a single year. Because the number of recorded broken pots in the classes of huge pots is small in the breakage record, the uselives of just regular cooking pots by the two data sets are compared.

The study indicated that the breakage record involves 79 breakage events of regular cooking vessels. According to the study, the mean uselives in regular ittoyom are 1. 4 years by the breakage record and around 4. 9 years by the inventories. Meanwhile, those in regular oppaya are 1. 2 years by the breakage record and 3. 5 years by inventories. These mean uselives founded on the breakage record and the inventories are considerably or significantly different.

Furthermore, the study of Tani & Longacre (1999) reveals that the histograms of the uselife distribution documented by the two techniques/methods illustrate the nature of the difference in the mean uselives of regular cooking pots. The study further indicates that the breakage record involves 34 pots recorded to be broken within a year compared to just 6 such pots in the inventories in spite of the reality that the three (3) inventories include a 13-year period. Moreover, not merely the zero-year class but the one and two year classes are much under-represented in the inventories.

According to the authors, these differences imply that the three (3) inventories failed to document several short-lived pots. These “missing pots” appear to be the primary reason for the two discrepancies in uselife approximations and in the number of broken pots between the breakage record and the inventories. As maintained by Tani & Longacre (1999), that the inventories failed to document a specific number of broken pots is not by itself a grave concern. The authors said that if a representative sample were taken, the mean uselife of a ceramic class would be representative as well.

Nevertheless, if collected data were systematically biased, it would cause more grave problems. Meanwhile, the authors also asserted that regarding what pots were missed by the inventories and how, the histogram of documented pots by production year in the inventories is informative and useful. Tani & Longacre (1999) added that based on their study, the uselives of large-sized pots are not as strongly influenced by the bias or partiality brought about by the inventory method/technique for the reason that large-sized pots last longer compared to regular cooking pots.

According to them, pots that last as long as the interval between two inventories will never be ignored. They added that even when the uselife of a pot is shorter compared to the interval, that pot might still be documented or recorded. Hence, despite the fact that a number of short-lived huge vessels possibly were ignored, the proportion of those ignored pots to documented ones in these classes or kinds does not appear to be as extensive or significant compared to the smaller classes.

The study says that the uselife values of the large vessel classes do not appear to be extremely influenced or affected by the missing pot bias. The authors said that the bias seems to considerably affect or influence uselife values for the regular cooking vessel classes for the reason that a considerable number of regular cooking pots appear to have been created and broken between inventories. They further said that to more precisely estimate the uselife of regular cooking pots, it is important to give an explanation for the effects of the broken pots missed by the inventories.

In conclusion, it can be gleaned from the study that the inventory method/technique has polished extant methodology to examine ceramic longevity. Nevertheless, this examination shows that this method alone seems to be inadequate for longer-lived pots. Thorough documentation or recording of ceramic breakage like the breakage record appears to be sufficient for supplementing the shortcomings of the inventory method.

Nonetheless, a method like the breakage record is not designed to replace the inventory method/technique for broadly measuring ceramic longevity. The study illustrated that when the inventory method is employed, the bias could not be eluded. Nevertheless, the effect or influence of the bias is totally predictable because of its systematic failure. Hence, it can be concluded that provided that the bias is recognized, the effects could be neutralized with supplementary data like the breakage record.

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