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Different communities, different choices. Human agency and the formation of tableware distribution patterns in Hellenistic Asia Minor
(Journal of Greek Archaeology Volume 1 2016) by Mark van der Enden. Pages 271-312.ISBN JGAVOL12016VANDERENDEN.

The interpretation of pottery distribution patterns has always been an important analytical endeavour in archaeological approaches to the past. The spatial distribution of pottery has, for example, been queried to identify cultural zones, landscape use, activity areas, and patterns of trade and economic interaction. Pottery distribution patterns can indeed tell us an awful lot about the socio-economic, cultural and geo-political dispositions of the past. Researchers of Classical Greek and Roman pottery have in particular made great strides in this respect and significantly increased our understanding of not only the pottery itself but also the way in which it was produced, distributed, used and discarded. What have not yet received much attention, however, are the formation processes lying behind ceramic distribution patterns observable in the archaeological record. It is precisely with this issue that the present contribution is concerned and by focussing on the Hellenistic tableware distributions of four archaeological sites in (Western) Asia Minor, it, it will test the importance and role of contextualized human agency with regards to the formation of ceramic distribution patterns.

To be precise, site-formation processes have received and continue to receive ample attention. Important work has been conducted in this respect exemplified in the field of Classical Archaeology by the recent publication of Theodore Peña’s Roman Pottery in the Archaeological Record and Mark Lawall’s and John Lund’s Pottery in the Archaeological Record: Greece and Beyond. Site-formation processes, although fundamentally important for our understanding of the archaeological record, form only part of the stories that lie behind the particular nature and character of artefact distribution patterns. Equally or perhaps more important in approaching a greater understanding of (pottery) distribution patterns is the human factor. What is meant by the term ‘the human factor’ is With the human factor is meant not only artefact discard behaviour (studied under the heading of site formation processes and an important element in, for example, Theodore Peña’s work) but also the choices made (with regards to giving material form to eating and drinking practices) by the human agents who produced, distributed and consumed the artefacts in question. These choices determined to a large extent the particular nature and outlook of archaeological distribution patterns and as such deserve careful consideration.

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