To smooth or not to smooth? A traceological and experimental approach to surface processing of Bronze and Iron Age ceramics

Keywords: Bronze Age, early Iron Age, ceramics, experiment, surface treatment, tool kit


The biographic approach – that is, tracing artefacts’ ‘lives’ from production, through their use, and finally to their deposition – is commonly applied in the analysis of lithic, flint, and metal artefacts. Objects made of clay, although the most common artifacts at many prehistoric sites, are rarely subject to such studies. In this paper, we focused on the short span of time during the “life” of a ceramic object when its surfaces were smoothed or/and burnished. Both are typical properties of Bronze/early Iron Age pottery found in today’s Poland. We studied two factors that influenced the desired final effect: the vessel drying time and the applied tool(s). To accomplish this study, we combined the results of observations of 46 samples from three settlements and two cemeteries in southwestern Poland, as well as the analysis of experimental reference samples. We demonstrated that the drying time was crucial, while the tool kit was composed of rather simple, mostly unprepared, objects such as pebbles or pieces of antler. In the smoothing process, we also observed a connection between surface selection (internal/external) and the purpose to which the vessel was put (settlement/funerary).


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How to Cite
Gawron-Szymczyk, A., Łaciak, D., & Baron, J. (2020). To smooth or not to smooth? A traceological and experimental approach to surface processing of Bronze and Iron Age ceramics. Sprawozdania Archeologiczne, 72(2).