Meaning in the making: The potter's wheel at Phylakopi, Melos (Greece)

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It is now commonly accepted that technology is, to its very core, a social product through which we can explore cultural choices. This cultural dimension of technology will be examined with reference to the introduction and use of the potter's wheel at Phylakopi on Melos (Greece) during the Late Bronze Age. At this site, the co-existence of two different manufacturing techniques was so deeply embedded that, despite the presence of hybrid vessels, many aspects of the pottery production had become linked to either a local (hand-built) or Minoanising (wheel-thrown) tradition. It will be argued that the traditional hand-building technique was associated with individual and rooted facets of the Melian identity (such as kinship, social class, or gender). Reasons for the initial stimulus for adoption of the potter's wheel are considered to lie in its potential for competitive social practice through association with exotic, symbolically laden technologies, craft products and consumption rituals. The gradual application of the technology to ever more complex vessels, on the other hand, corresponds to the apprenticeship sequence outlined by Roux and Corbetta and may indicate an incomplete learning process or a certain lack of practice opportunities among local potters. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-252
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


  • Apprenticeship
  • Cultural choices
  • Cyclades
  • Identity
  • Late Bronze Age
  • Potter's wheel
  • Technology


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