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Plain Ware and Polychrome: Quantifying Perceptual Differences in Ceramic Classification

During the upcoming 83rd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Washington DC, Jan C. Athenstädt (Konstanz University), Lewis Borck (Leiden University), Leslie Aragon (University of Arizona), Corinne L. Hofman (Leiden University), and Ulrik Brandes (Konstanz University) will present a paper entitled 'Plain Ware and Polychrome: Quantifying Perceptual Differences in Ceramic Classification'. Read the abstract below!


In the course of the NEXUS 1492 project in the Caribbean, we became interested in potential differences in the perception of archaeological ceramic sherds between various groups. A pilot study was conducted across four states in the US Southwest, to explore how different groups of peoples cognitively sift experiential information of ceramic sherds.

In different sorting exercises, study participants were asked to arrange the sherds according to their perceived similarity based on standardized questions. The spatial arrangement of the sherds was averaged within the groups and used to quantify variation and similarity between individuals and between groups.

In this presentation we will discuss the results of the study and evaluate the results in regard to the following questions:

- Does the perception of pottery differ within and between groups of peoples?

- Are there implications of these differences for archaeologists?

Ideally the results can help archaeologists refine their social interpretations of ceramic data