The role of materials research in ceramics and archaeology

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20 Scopus citations


Materials research has been applied successfully to the study of archaeological ceramics for the last fifty years. To learn about our history and the human condition is not just to analyze and preserve the objects but also to investigate and understand the knowledge and skills used to produce and use them. Many researchers have probed the limits and methods of such studies, always mindful that a glimpse at ancient reality lies in the details of time and place, context of finds, and experimentally produced data, usually compared with standards that were collected in an equivalent ethnographic setting or that were fabricated in a laboratory in order to elucidate the critical questions in a technology that could be understood in no other way. The basis of most studies of ancient technology has been established as microstructure; composition and firing; methods and sequence of manufacture; differentiation of use; use-wear and post-depositional processes; technological variability that can be interpreted as a pattern of stasis or innovation, which can be related to cultural continuity or change; and interpretation that can involve technology, subsistence trade, organization, and symbolic group- and self-definition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-385
Number of pages13
JournalAnnual Review of Materials Science
StatePublished - 2001


  • Archaeological Science
  • Archeomaterials
  • Craft history
  • Ethnoarcheology
  • Glass and glazes
  • History of technology
  • Plasters
  • Pyrotechnology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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