Optimal Choice of Prototypes for Ceramic Typology

Uzy Smilansky, Itzhak Beit-Arieh, Avshalom Karasik, Ilan Sharon, Ayelet Gilboa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


A crucial step in any typological analysis is the determination of the prototypes according to which the assemblage
is to be classified. Two conflicting requirements dictate this choice: the number of prototypes should be minimal to allow an
efficient classification. At the same time, the set of prototypes should be comprehensive so that the essential variability of the
original assemblage is reproduced by the prototypes. This problem is especially complex when the assemblage consists of
ceramic vessels of the same genre such as e.g., storage jars, cooking pots or drinking cups. Here, we present a computerized
method to identify an optimal set of prototypes, which is based on the analysis of pottery profiles considered as planar curves.
The profiles are clustered according to their correlations, and the correlation tree yields a preliminary set of types, whose number is much smaller than the number of profiles in the original assemblage, and which is based on the dominant but distinct features in each of the branches. The next step in the process is to find the optimal subset of types, which satisfies the
conflicting requirements mentioned above. The optimal set of prototypes is the one which minimizes the number of types without affecting the quality of the description. The method will be illustrated by showing its application to an assemblage of a few hundreds of Early Bronze age holemouth vessels from Tel Arad (Southern Israel) and the Sinai peninsula (Egypt).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond the Artifact - Digital Interpretation of the Past
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of CAA2004, Prato 13–17 April 2004
EditorsF. Niccolucci , S. Hermon
StatePublished - 2010


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