Plain pottery and social landscapes: Reinterpreting the significance of ceramic provenance in the Neolithic

Ana Jorge, M. I. Dias, P. M. Day

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This paper focuses on plain, stylistically unvaried pottery from three Late Neolithic sites from the Mondego Plateau, Portugal, and investigates ceramic production and exchange among small-scale prehistoric societies by means of thin-section petrography and chemical analysis (INAA). The results show that the majority of the pottery was made with widely available, granite-derived sedimentary clays, but petrographic differences between fabrics indicate collection at multiple locations within these deposits. Variation in chemical composition is consistent with site-specific sourcing areas, while comparison with data from earlier sites in the Mondego and surrounding mountains suggests that such sources were geographically restricted within the plateau. In contrast, the small percentage of vessels produced with residual clays of metamorphic and intermediate igneous origin, which outcrop over 10 km and 30 km from the archaeological sites, demonstrates that plain pottery did circulate during the Neolithic beyond the funerary sphere. This is the product of the routines of mobility and social networks of Neolithic groups across the wider landscape, which involved the exchange of ‘mundane’ vessels. Finally, the study demonstrates that micro-regional provenance studies can provide significant insights into prehistoric social landscapes if the data are interrogated beyond simplistic classifications of local and non-local.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825-851
Number of pages27
Issue number5
Early online date19 Aug 2012
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • plain pottery
  • social landscapes
  • provenance
  • ceramic analysis
  • thin-section petography
  • INAA
  • neolithic
  • Europe
  • Portugal


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