Skip to main content Accessibility help

Life Histories of Pots and Potters: Situating the Individual in Archaeology

  • Patricia L. Crown (a1)


Archaeologists often implicitly assume that individual ceramic objects were the work of a single individual artisan. Ethnographic and archaeological data suggest that this assumption should be questioned. Ceramics from the Greater American Southwest demonstrate that multiple hands contribute to the finished products in two ways. Two artisans may collaborate on vessels in various combinations of task differentiation. Alternatively, some vessels are modified over time, with artisans adding new features to existing vessels in diachronic collaboration. Such collaborative vessels have implications for understanding labor demands, learning and teaching frameworks, specialized production, and the life histories of ceramics.


Los arqueólogos suelen asumir que cada objeto de cerámica habría sido obra de un sólo artesano. Sin embargo, las evidencias etnográficas e incluso arqueológicas sugieren que esta suposición debería ser cuestionada. Cerámicas del Gran Suroeste Americano demuestran que múltiples manos han contribuido en la elaboración de los productos finales de dos maneras: dos artesanos pueden colaborar en la confección de las vasijas a través de diversas combinaciones en la especialización de las tareas. De manera alternativa, algunas vasijas existentes se modifican con el tiempo, con la posibilidad de que nuevos artesanos van añadiendo nuevos elementos en una especie de “colaboración” diacrónica. Tales vasijas “olaborativas” tienen implicaciones para la comprensión de las demandas del trabajo, los sistemas de aprendizaje y de enseñanza, la producción especializada, y las historias de vida de las cerámicas.



Hide All
Alland, Alexander, Jr. 1983 Playing with Form: Children Draw in Six Cultures. Columbia University Press, New York.
Appadurai, Arjun 1986 Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value. In The Social Life of Things, edited by Arjun Appadurai, pp. 363. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Arnold, Dean 1999 Advantages and Disadvantages of Vertical-Half Molding Technology: Implications for Production Organization. In Pottery and People, edited by James Skibo and Gary Feinman, pp. 5980. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Babcock, Barbara 1993 At Home, No Women are Storytellers: Ceramic Creativity and the Politics of Discourse in Cochiti Pueblo. In Creativity/Anthropology, pp. 7099. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.
Bartlett, Katherine 1934 The Material Culture of Pueblo II in the San Francisco Mountains, Arizona. Northern Arizona Society of Science and Art, No. 4–7.
Bernbeck, Reinhard 1999 Structure Strikes Back: Intuitive Meanings of Ceramics from Qale Rostam, Iran. In Material Symbols: Culture and Economy in Prehistory, edited by John Robb, pp. 90111. Center for Archaeological Investigations Occasional Paper 26. Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.
Biber, Barbara 1962 Children’s Drawings: from Lines to Pictures Illustrated. Bank Street College of Education Publications, New York.
Bird, Rebecca Bliege, and Smith, Eric Alden 2005 Signaling Theory, Strategic Interaction, and Symbolic Capital. Current Anthropology 46: 221248.
Blair, Mary Ellen, and Blair, Laurence 1999 The Legacy of a Master Potter: Nampeyo and her Descendants. Treasure Chest Books, Tucson.
Brody, J. J. 1977 Mimbres Painted Pottery. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Bowser, Brenda 2000 From Pottery to Politics: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of Political Factionalism, Ethnicity, and Domestic Pottery Style in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 7:219248.
Bunzel, Ruth 1929 The Pueblo Potter: A Study in Creative Imagination in Primitive Art. Dover Publications, Inc., New York.
Caine, Renate, and Caine, Geoffrey 1994 Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain. Innovative Learning Publications. Addison-Wesley Publishing, Menlo Park.
Cox, Maureen 1993 Children’s Drawings of the Human Figure. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hove (UK).
Cox, Maureen 1997 Drawings of People by the Under-5s. Falmer Press, London.
Crown, Patricia 1999 Socialization in American Southwest Pottery Decoration. In Pottery and People, edited by James Skibo and Gary Feinman, pp. 2543. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Crown, Patricia 2001 Learning to Make Pottery in the Prehispanic American Southwest. Journal of Anthropological Research 57:451170.
Crown, Patricia 2002 Learning and Teaching in the Prehispanic American Southwest. In Children in the Prehistoric Puebloan Southwest, edited by Kathryn Kamp, pp. 108124. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Crown, Patricia 2005 Ceramic Use-Wear in the American Southwest. In Inscriptions: Papers in Honor of Richard and Nathalie Woodbury, edited by Regge N. Wiseman, Thomas C. O’Laughlin, and Cordelia T. Snow, pp. 55–66. Archaeological Society of New Mexico Annual Papers 31.
Crown, Patricia 2007 Learning about Learning. In Archaeology and Anthropology: A Retrospective, edited by James Skibo, Michael W. Graves, and Miriam T. Stark, pp. 198217. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Crown, Patricia, and Wills, Wirt H. 2003 Renovating Pottery and Kivas at Chaco: Pentimento, Restoration, or Renewal? American Antiquity 68:511532.
David, Nicholas, and Kramer, Carol 2001 Ethnoarchaeology in Action. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
DeBoer, Warren 1990 Interaction, Imitation, and Communication as Expressed in Style: The Ucayali Experience. In The Uses of Style in Archaeology edited by Margaret Conkey and Christine Hastorf, pp. 82104. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Dennis, Wayne 1940 The Hopi Child. Appleton-Century Co., New York.
Dennis, Wayne 1942 The Performance of Hopi Children on the Goodenough Draw-a-Man Test. Journal of Comparative Psychology 34:341348.
Deregowski, Jan B. 1980 Illusions, Patterns and Pictures: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Academic Press, New York.
Duncan, Ronald J. 1999 The Economics of Crafts among Home-based Workers: The Women Potters of La Chamba, Colombia. Research in Economic Anthropology 20:197219.
Duncan, Ronald J. 2000 Crafts, Capitalism, and Women: The Potters of La Chamba, Colombia. University of Florida Press, Gainesville.
Ericsson, Karl A., and Lehmann, A.C. 1996 Expert and Exceptional Performance:Evidence of Maximal Adaptation to Task Constraints. Annual Review of Psychology 47:273305.
Espenshade, Christopher T. 1997 Mimbres Pottery, Births, and Gender: A Reconsideration. American Antiquity 62:733736.
Estes, J. Robert 2001 From Agriculture to Art and Industry: The Changing Organization of Production in Mata Ortiz. In From Paquime to Mata Ortiz, edited by Grace Johnson, pp. 1129. San Diego Museum of Man Papers 40. San Diego.
Fowler, Carol 1977 Daisy Hooee Nampeyo: The Story of an American Indian. Dillon Press, Inc., Minneapolis.
Goodnow, Jacqueline 1977 Children’s Drawing. Open Books, London.
Gooselain, Olivier 1998 Social and Technical Identity in a Clay Crystal Ball. In The Archaeology of Social Boundaries, edited by Miriam Stark, pp. 78106. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.
Gosden, Chris, and Marshall, Yvonne 1999 The Cultural Biography of Objects. World Archaeology 31:169178.
Greenfield, Patricia M., and Lave, Jean 1982 Cognitive Aspects of Informal Education. In Cultural Perspectives on Child Development, edited by by D. Wagner and H. Stevenson, pp. 181207. W. H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco.
Guthe, Carl 1925 Pueblo Pottery Making. Papers of the Southwestern Expedition Number 2. Yale University Press, New Haven.
Hagstrum, Melissa 1999 The Goal of Domestic Autonomy among Highland Peruvian Farmer-Potters: Home Economics of Rural Craft Specialists. Research in Economic Anthropology 20:265298.
Hamann, Byron 2002 The Social Life of Pre-Sunrise Things: Indigenous Mesoamerican Archaeology. Current Anthropology 43:351382.
Hegmon, Michelle, and Trevathon, Wenda 1996 Gender, Anatomical Knowledge, and Pottery Production: Implications of an Anatomically Unusual Birth Depicted on Mimbres Pottery from Southwestern New Mexico. American Antiquity 61:747754.
Hegmon, Michelle, and Trevathon, Wenda 1997 Response to Comments by LeBlanc, by Espenshade, and by Shaffer et al. American Antiquity 62:737739.
Hendry, Jean 1992 Atzompa: A Pottery Producing Village of Southern Mexico in the Mid-1950s. Vanderbilt University Publications in Anthropology 40. Nashville.
Hill, James 1977 Individual Variability in Ceramics and the Study of Prehistoric Social Organization. In The Individual in Prehistory, edited by James Hill and Joel Gunn, pp. 55107. Academic Press, New York.
Hill, James, and Gunn, Joel (editors) 1977 The Individual in Prehistory. Academic Press, New York.
Hill, Willard W. 1982 An Ethnography of Santa Clara Pueblo New Mexico. Edited and annotated by Charles H. Lange. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Ingold, Tim 2001 Beyond Art and Technology: The Anthropology of Skill. In Anthropological Perspectives on Technology, edited by Michael B. Schiffer, pp. 1731. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Jett, Stephen C., and Moyle, Peter B. 1986 The Exotic Origins of Fishes Depicted on Prehistoric Mimbres Pottery from New Mexico. American Antiquity 51:688720.
John-Steiner, Vera 1975 Learning Styles among Pueblo Children. Final report U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare National Institute of Education. College of Education, University of New Mexico. Albuquerque.
Kaplan, Flora S., and Levine, David M. 1981 Cognitive Mapping of a Folk Taxonomy of Mexican Pottery: A Multivariate Approach. American Anthropologist 83:868884.
Kensinger, Ken 1975 Studying the Cashinahua. In The Cashinahua of Eastern Peru, edited by Jane Powell Dwyer, pp. 985. Studies in Anthropology and Material Culture No. 1. The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. Brown University, Bristol, RI.
Kopytoff, Igor 1986 The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process. In The Social Life of Things, edited by Arjun Appadurai, pp. 6491. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Kramer, Barbara 1996 Nampeyo and Her Pottery. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Kramer, Carol 1985 Ceramic Ethnoarchaeology. Annual Reviews in Anthropology 14:77102.
Kramer, Carol 1997 Pottery in Rajastan: Ethnoarchaeology in Two Indian Cities. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.
Krampen, M. 1991 Children’s Drawings: Iconic Coding of the Environment. Plenum Press, New York.
Lackey, Louana M. 1982 The Pottery of Acatlan. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
Lave, Jean, and Wenger, Etienne 1991 Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
LeBlanc, Steven A. 1997 A Comment on Hegmon and Trevathan’s “Gender, Anatomical Knowledge, and Pottery Production.” American Antiquity 62:723726.
Lemonnier, Pierre 1993 Introduction. In Technological Choices: Transformation in Material Cultures since the Neolithic, edited by Pierre Lemonnier, pp. 135. Routledge, London.
London, Gloria 1986 Response to Melissa Hagstrum, “Measuring Prehistoric Ceramic Craft Specialization: A Test Case in the American Southwest.” Journal of Field Archaeology 13:510511.
MacGregor, Gavin 1999 Making Sense of the Past in the Present: a Sensory Analysis of Carved Stone Balls. World Archaeology 31:258271.
Mills, Barbara 2000 Gender, Craft Production, and Inequality. In Women and Men in the Prehispanic Southwest: Labor, Power, and Prestige, edited by Patricia L. Crown, pp. 301343. School of American Research Press, Santa Fe.
Mills, Barbara, and Crown, Patricia 1995 Introduction. In Ceramic Production in the American Southwest, edited by Barbara Mills and Patricia L. Crown, pp. 129. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Minar, Jill, and Crown, Patricia 2001 Learning and Craft Production: an Introduction. Journal of Anthropological Research 57:369380.
Moulard, Barbara 1984 Within the Underworld Sky: Mimbres Ceramic Art in Context. Twelvetrees Press, Pasadena.
Murdock, George P., and Provost, Catherine 1973 Factors in the Division of Labor by Sex: A Cross-Cultural Analysis. Ethnology 12:203225.
Nahohai, Milford, and Phelps, Elisa 1995 Dialogues with Zuni Potters. Zuni A:shiwi Publishing, Zuni.
Naranjo, Tessie 1992 Social Change and Pottery-Making at Santa Clara Pueblo. PhD Dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of New Mexico.
Nash, June 1970 The Eyes of the Ancestors: Belief and Behavior in a Mayan Community. Yale University Press, New Haven.
Olsen, Nancy 2002 Potters’ Choices: The Social Construction of Pottery-Making at Acoma and Laguna Pueblos, New Mexico. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico.
Ortiz, Alfonso 1979 San Juan Pueblo. In Southwest, edited by Alfonso Ortiz, pp. 278295. Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 9, William C. Sturtevant, general editor, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Peterson, Susan 1997 Pottery by American Indian Women: The Legacy of Generations. Abbeville Press, New York.
Rheingold, Harriet L. 1985 Development as the Acquisition of Familiarity. Annual Review of Psychology 36:117.
Roe, Peter 1995 Style, Society, Myth, and Structure. In Style, Society and Person: Archaeological and Ethnological Perspectives, edited by Christoper Carr and Jill Neitzel, pp. 2776. Plenum Press, New York.
Romero, Mary 1994 Identifying Giftedness among Keresan Pueblo Indians, the Keres Study. Journal of American Indian Education 34(1):3538.
Rothbaum, Fred, and Trommsdorff, Gisela 2007 Do Roots and Wings Complement or Oppose one another? The Socialization of Relatedness and Autonomy in Cultural Context. In Handbook of Socialization, edited by Joan Grusec and Paul Hastings, pp. 461189. The Guilford Press, London.
Roux, Valentine 2003 Ceramic Standardization and Intensity of Production: Quantifying Degrees of Specialization. American Antiquity 68:768782.
Roux, Valentine 1989 The Potter’s Wheel: Craft Specialization and Technical Competence. Iin collaboration with Daniela Corbetta. Oxford & IBH Publishing Co., New Delhi, India.
Roux, Valentine and Bril, Blandine 2005 General Introduction: a Dynamic Systems Framework for Studying a Uniquely Hominin Innovation. In Stone Knapping: The Necessary Conditions for a Uniquely Hominin Behavior, edited by Valentin Roux and Brandine Bril, pp. 122. McDonald Institute Monographs, Cambridge.
Schiffer, Michael 1975 Behavioral Chain Analysis: Activities, Organization and the Use of Space. Fieldiana Anthropology 65:10374.
Schiffer, Michael and Skibo, James 1997 The Explanation of Artifact Variability. American Antiquity 62:2750.
Schneider, Walter, and Fisk, Arthur D. 1983 Attention Memory and Mechanisms for Skilled Performance. In Memory and Control of Actions, edited by Richard A. Magill, pp. 119143. Advances in Psychology 12, G. E. Stemlach and P. A. Roon, Editors. North-Holland Publishing Company, Amsterdam.
Shafer, Harry 1985 A Mimbres Potter’s Grave: An Example of Mimbres Craft-Specialization? Bulletin of the Texas Archaeological Society 56:185200.
Shaffer, Brian, Gardner, Karen M., and Shafer, Harry J. 1997 An Unusual Birth Depicted in Mimbres Pottery: Not Cracked up to What It is Supposed to Be. American Antiquity 62:727732.
Sillar, Bill 1994 Playing with God: Cultural Perceptions of Children. Play, and Miniatures in the Andes. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 13(2):4763.
Skibo, James, and Schiffer, Michael 1995 The Clay Cooking Pot: An Exploration of Women’s Technology. In Expanding Archaeology, edited by James Skibo, William Walker, and Axel Nielsen, pp. 8091. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Solheim, Wilhelm G. 1984 Pottery and the Prehistory of Northeast Thailand. In Pots and Potters, edited by Prudence Rice, pp. 95105. Institute of Archaeology Monographs XXIV. University of California, Los Angeles.
Stanislawski, Michael, and Stanislawski, Barbara 1978 Hopi and Hopi-Tewa Ceramic Tradition Networks. In The Spatial Organization of Culture, edited by Ian Hodder, pp. 6176. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh.
Vygotsky, Lev S. 1978 Mind in Society. (Trans. by M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, and E. Souberman) Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
Weiner, Annette B. 1992 Inalienable Possessions: The Paradox of Keeping-While-Giving. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Wilson, Brent, and Ligtvoet, Johan 1992 Across Time and Cultures: Stylistic Changes in the Drawings of Dutch Children. In Drawing Research and Development, edited by David Thistlewood. Longman, London.
Wilson, Brent, and Wilson, Marjorie 1984 Children’s Drawings in Egypt: Cultural Style Acquisition as Graphic Development. Visual Arts Research 10:1326.
Wright, Rita 1991 Women’s Labor and Pottery Production in Prehistory. In Engendering Archaeology, edited by Joan Gero and Margaret Conkey, pp. 194223. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.
Wyckoff, Lydia L. 1985 Designs and Factions: Politics, Religion, and Ceramics on the Hopi Third Mesa. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed