Approach and Methodology

Previous research sets the baseline premises for the project:

(1) Pottery manufacture continued through the gap period;

(2) The crude handmade assemblage at the start of the gap shows connection with the centralised pre-collapse industry;

(3) Handmade manufacture can be specialised;

(4) Accepted parameters of specialisation (e.g. standardisation, quality) show assemblages of the mid 7th/8th c. and the 12th/13th c. to represent the beginning and end of a specialisation process;

(5) The high-quality handmade pottery of the 13th c. is uniform throughout the island, showing a single or converging line of development through the gap.

We suggest that there are three paths that should be followed in order to chart chronological progression of pottery relying only on the vessels themselves, as is necessary in gap periods:

          •        chart changes in shape, manufacturing techniques and decoration around a recognisable stylistic and technological core (dynamic tradition);

          •        recognise increasing quality and standardisation (craft specialisation);

          •        identifying increasing centralization in production, and distribution
networks (provenance studies).

Craft specialisation and the emergence of centralised production are markers of recovery from collapse, but do not always run their course. Where they do not apply, chronological progression can be recognised through dynamic tradition alone. In Cyprus, however, all three paths exist, and this combines with the island’s political and geographic isolation during the gap period to make it an ideal case study to formulate a methodology.

Analysis of the assemblage will follow accepted methodology: macro-visual examination, petrographic analysis, and X-ray diffraction analysis (XRD).

The study of craft specialisation, however, requires a shift in the accepted perspective of archaeological studies, particularly of the late periods. Peacock’s seminal model was developed for Roman-period ceramics production. In this model handmade pottery signifies non-specialised household production or household industry. Peacock’s model proved very successful for a range of circumstances, and so with its well defined stages, each with a set of clear parameters, became a near-dogma in archaeology. However, because some of Peacock’s parameters are invisible in the archaeological record (e.g. gender, full/part time work), archaeologists focused on the visible forming technique and firing technology. Hand-forming in particular became an automatic mark of non-specialised production. When external sources are not available, this shortcoming becomes acute. Peacock himself warned against an application of his model indiscriminately across time and space, but his warning, like the ethnographic studies that demonstrated that indeed these criteria are not universally applicable, were ignored.

Another problem with wholesale application of the model, is that processes of change and development are usually fluid, more a shift in balance between components than clearly-defined steps. Accordingly, to examine craft specialisation as a marker of chronological progression, we shall focus on parameters that are visible in the vessels, show gradual change, and demonstrate the craftsman’s skill: quality of production and standardisation. These parameters were used by Peacock, and are accepted in ethnographic studies. Standardisation is also a measure of effective transfer of knowledge, and therefore of contact between craftsman, and a means of identifying craft centres. The most significant deviation from Peacocks model is that hand-forming will not be a criterion.