Mobility in Neolithic Societies - Pottery as Indication for vertical Social Organisation?

Heitz, Caroline; Hinz, Martin; Hafner, Albert (4 September 2019). Mobility in Neolithic Societies - Pottery as Indication for vertical Social Organisation? (Unpublished). In: 25th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA). University of Bern, Switzerland. 4-7 September.

The paradigm of cultural history still has an influence on how we imagine Neolithic
societies. Once established for the purpose of relative chronology and based on pottery, Neolithic cultures implied the existence of homogeneous, static social units with more or less clear spatial-temporal boundaries. Even if their initially ethnic interpretation has long been rejected, the prevention of any other social interpretations led to a blind spot, which was filled unintentionally by top-down projections of premises onto the past.
Furthermore, there is also a lack of epistemological and theoretical reflections on what determines different forms of social organization and how they could be approached archaeologically. How can things, social practice and social organization be related to each other?
Following that question we explore what could be inferred from pottery production
practices regarding social organization. Ceramics from precisely dendrodated Neolithic wetland sites of the Northern Alpine Foreland of the period between 3950 and 3800 BCE will be taken as an example. Inspired by P. Bourdieu’s theory of habitus and social practice we have developed a mixed method bottom-up approach to explore typical local pottery production practices in a settlement perspective (micro level). Following E. Wenger it is assumed that pottery was produced in communities of practice leading to the (re)production of typically local pottery styles. However, shifting to a supra-regional perspective (macro level) it an be shown that stylistic plurality in settlements was not an exception but the rule, indicating cross-regional entanglements and spatial mobility between settlement communities with different pottery production practices. Provenance
analyses of materials speak for residence-based mobility of individuals or subgroups – reminiscent of so-called segmentary societies. Although the latter concept is problematic, we propose that pottery from settlement contexts has the potential to indicate residence patterns and vertical aspects of social organisation in Neolithic societies.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of Archaeological Sciences > Pre- and Early History

UniBE Contributor:

Heitz, Caroline Franziska, Hinz, Martin, Hafner, Albert


900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)




Caroline Franziska Heitz

Date Deposited:

15 Jun 2021 12:06

Last Modified:

24 May 2023 14:27


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