Tracing the Potter's Wheel

Investigating technological trajectories and cultural encounters in the Bronze Age Aegean

The project

The Tracing the Potter’s Wheel project is designed to identify and assess the appearance of the potter’s wheel as a technological innovation within the Bronze Age Aegean (2500-1200 BC). Our approach uses the potter’s wheel as prism through which to investigate the transmission of craft knowledge during this exciting period of social, cultural and technological development, and consider the ways Aegean (potting) communities were configured and connected through time. The Bronze Age Aegean offers a valuable arena for assessing the dynamics behind past cultural encounters and interaction networks and a key project objective is to better understand the multi-scalar material, technological and social interactions that facilitated the transmission of the potter’s wheel in this region. In the case of the Aegean, terms such as Anatolianization, Minoanization or Mycenaenization carry tacit indications of cultural contact, yet the technological dimension of such interactions remains poorly understood. How did the use of the potter’s wheel develop over the Bronze Age Aegean? Was it adopted or adapted differently, or at different times, within the Aegean?

Investigating the potter’s wheel and the development of wheel-coiling and wheel-throwing techniques within the Bronze Age Aegean is addressed across three interwoven sub-projects. Our methodology integrates theoretical perspectives on social interactions, technological processes and innovation, with experimental, 3D scanning and analytical methods for visualising and interpreting ceramics. This combination of theory and analysis will address how we can move from static dots representing diagnostic artefacts for early wheel use towards socially and technologically constituted ‘communities of practice’ that are instead linked by dynamic and relational connections. The overall project methodology is constructed using three intertwined subprojects that focus on key aspects of investigating the potter’s wheel in the Bronze Age Aegean.