Placing pottery: an actor-led approach to the use and perception of medieval pottery in Southampton and its region cAD700-1400.
University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities,
This study considers the relationship between how we traditionally categorise pottery in archaeological analysis and the ways that it was understood in the past, using a case study from medieval Southampton (Hampshire, UK). In an effort to overcome the chronological fragmentation inherent in the study of medieval archaeology, a long temporal span is considered, from cAD700-1400. Traditionally pottery has been studied from an economic viewpoint and archaeologists have seen it as reflecting patterns of trade and wider economic or social trends. This study takes a nonrepresentative approach to the study of this material. Following work on 'Actor-Network Theory' it is argued that rather than reflecting an over-riding 'social', that engagements with pottery were active in constructing a patchwork of meanings and associations which constructed the medieval 'social'. The study begins with an overview of the state of medieval ceramic studies, demonstrating that the focus on economic issues developed from a need to provenance and date pottery, and that now we are in a position to ask more subtle questions about its role in everyday life. Chapter 2 outlines a history of categorisation studies, both in relation to archaeology and other disciplines, before moving on to introduce the non-representative framework utilised through the remainder of the study. The research questions are posed in chapter 3 and a methodology for answering them is proposed. In chapter 4 the archaeology and history of medieval Southampton is described, the pottery summarised and a résumé of other material evidence is also presented. The next three chapters reconstruct the engagements between people and pottery in medieval Southampton, through exchange, use and deposition. Chapter 8 then takes a regional perspective to these trends, looking at how pottery was exchanged, used and disposed of in Hampshire, other large towns in England and in northern France. Chapter 9 uses these engagements to examine the formation of categories of people through engagements with pottery, before these strands are all brought together in chapter 10, which considers how engagements between people and pottery were active in creating 'the social' in medieval Southampton, with a particular focus on the process of urbanism. Finally the effectiveness of the approaches taken are evaluated and ways forward for future research are outlined.
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