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Title: The emergence of ceramics among hunter-gatherers in northern Eurasia : the Neolithic ceramics of the Upper Vitim Basin, northern Transbaikal, Siberia
Author: Hommel, Peter
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2012
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The pivotal role of hunter-gatherers in the origins of ceramic technology has only recently been recognized. Chronological evidence, which allows the scale of this largely unacknowledged phenomenon to be visualized, is presented and discussed. The origins of pottery, the perceived constraints on production and plausible functional/symbolic roles for pottery are discussed in the context of emergent complexity within hunter-gatherer society. A case study in early ceramics from the Upper Vitim Basin, Northern Transbaikal, Siberia (which superficially conforms some of the simple expectations of the dominant explanatory models) is introduced alongside two, locally-specific and conflicting interpretations of ceramic use in the region which this study sets out to explore, test and extend. Macroscopic description and thin-section petrography, supplemented by a small range of targeted instrumental analyses (including a small, self-contained pilot study in residue analysis) were employed to identify and explain variability in the Neolithic ceramics from this remote region of Siberia. Research was carried out within a cultural framework established by the region's principal archaeological chronicler, V. M. Vetrov. Through this analysis of patterns of compositional variety and technological choice it was possible to support/confirm many of the suggestions offered in the literature, to challenge/refine aspects of existing the technological descriptions and to provide some new insights into the lives of the prehistoric potters of the Ust'-Karenga and Ust'-Yumurchen culture. The results of the analysis were interpreted with reference to the available archaeological evidence, geological field samples and existing socio-economic interpretations, considered in relation to the potential costs and benefits of pottery production in a hunter- gatherer society. A major shift in clay resource exploitation was identified, from residual/colluvial to detrital/alluvial sources corresponding with other changes in lithic procurement strategies, ceramic technology and typology, associated with the Ust'-Yumurchen culture. A plausible explanation for this change was proposed in terms of shifting patterns seasonal mobility and landscape use.
Supervisor: Day, Peter M. ; Jordan, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available