Ambiguity, Ambivalence, Multiplicity: A Case Study of Late Pottery Neolithic Ceramic Assemblages from the Southern Levant

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This paper presents an experiment. Can a typologically inarticulate assemblage be accounted for by other means? What might such an articulation look like? What prospects would it offer? Focusing on three small late Pottery Neolithic assemblages from the southern Levant, the paper argues that they are typologically inarticulate, primarily because they possess considerable morphological fluidity that is at odds with the segmented structure demanded by this mode of classification. The paper presents an attempt to formulate an account of these assemblages that incorporates their morphological fluidity and ambiguity. Allowing for differential quantitative emphases across the assemblage, it is suggested that certain forms may be specified as types. In turn, the relations among these types are shown to constitute a structural order. Yet the assemblages are also fundamentally ambivalent, both constituting and de-constituting their order and logic. For the types are constituted in relative (rather than absolute) terms and the orderly structures are accompanied by elements that are incommensurable with it. Acknowledging these conflicting qualities, it is proposed that they are multiple, that the one assemblage is several. Finally, the paper explores some implications this understanding of the ceramic assemblages might have for the discussion of temporal development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-645
Number of pages17
JournalCambridge Archaeological Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research 2018.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Archaeology


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