Inside out: Assessing pottery forming techniques with micro-CT scanning. An example from Middle Neolithic Thessaly

Publication date: December 2018

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 100

Author(s): Jannis Kozatsas, Kostas Kotsakis, Dimitrios Sagris, Konstantinos David


Studies relating to pottery primary forming techniques are relatively scarce in the field of ceramic studies. This is, in part, due to the difficulty in obtaining information about the inner structures of pots in a non-destructive way. Methodologies which have been applied previously (mainly macroscopic observation and X-ray radiography) are subject to limitations which restrict their scope and accuracy. Recent developments in industrial X-ray micro-CT, however, pave a new direction for the study of ceramic technology. Micro-CT is a non-destructive methodology, which allows the precise visual and computable detection of clay fabric microstructures. More precisely, this method allows direct visual detection and measurement of coils, slabs, and other construction units; the recording of the orientation of voids and inclusions; and the documentation of specific forming technicalities. These features can be highly indicative of specific techniques, and they can, thus, help to identify even individualised craft behaviours.

In this paper, we present the results of the micro-CT scanning of a Middle Neolithic pottery assemblage from Sesklo (Thessaly, Greece). The study proposes a concrete methodology for the recognition and classification of specific macro- and micro-features. These features are indicative of distinctive vessel shaping processes, and, on the basis of these data, we suggest a revised model for the correlation between the orientation of voids and inclusion within specific formation techniques. The results show clearly the invaluable potential of micro-CT in the study of pottery forming techniques. In particular, they indicate a significant technological pluralism within the pottery assemblage from Sesklo.