Biblical Archaeology Review 36:3, May/June 2010

Archaeological Views: Going to Pot: The Love-Hate Relationship of an Archaeologist and Her Pottery

By Nava Panitz-Cohen

Pottery is both the bane and the blessing of the archaeologist’s work. On the one hand, it is often ubiquitous to the point of uncontrollability; on the other hand, it is this very trait that makes it so valuable for archaeological research. Pottery has played a role in determining just about every facet of archaeological study: chronology, ethnicity, trade, prestige, building function, social complexity, level of technology, gender, age, cultic activity, mortuary beliefs—in short, almost every aspect of human culture and behavior we can imagine. More than any other artifact, pottery tells us how ancient people interacted with their environment and with each other.

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