Sunday, 20 January 2008

It is the work of artists such as these which has provoked the line of reasoning set out below. I also worked as a field archaeologist for six years in 70’s +80’s. Thus the interdisciplinary approach to the study of ceramics is essential to me.
Colin Renfrew says

This proposal contains an introduction, the theoretical/conceptual background to the project, aims and intentions, proposed research design and method, which will present research questions for the origins and genesis of the mug/cup - the individual, handled, ceramic drinking vessel. Its history is often associated with the teapot, and although the teapot is often mentioned this is usually used to illuminate a point about the mug/cup when no other reference exists. The focus will always be the cup/mug. (SAY SOMETHING ABOUT LONGEVITY AND CONTINUITY).
Certain key issues in archaeology arise out of this study - the relationship between social practices and material culture; Social changes manifested in material culture; the relationship between the past and the present; the relationship between people and objects
The mug/cup as an everyday object has been made, bought, used and discarded or in some cases collected and curated now for nearly six hundred years- how has this happened? Is there any other object that this has happened to? The book, specifically the English bible, undoubtedly;;, the clay pipe, however, became obsolete. These sorts of questions will need further exploration.

As Michael Shanks(email, 18-01-08) has said, this will be “a genealogy of an everyday item - a pragmatogony".

There is a well documented transition from the medieval to the post medieval period. Indeed Barker,(Accessed on line 30-12-07) attests to a transitional phase defined by transitional groups of pottery. The Post Medieval period, 1450-1700, according to Cumberpatch,(2003), refers more or less to a period which follows the medieval and is largely defined by the material culture of this context. From these contexts come large amounts of ceramic material which are distinctive from the medieval ceramics. They consist of assemblages which have a specific character, are described as transitional groups containing cups platter, jugs, pancheons, dripping pans, as seen in FIG 1. The medieval forms had largely been replaced by vessels with specific functions some of which are still readily recognisable in the contemporary period.

The Early industrial Revolution is the same period but refers to social, technological and economic change of the 15th and 16th century in Great Britain.

Furthermore, the earliest historical reference to an earthenware platter is in 1666, and is of Samuel Pepys dining (Coleman-Smith, 1988, pg 174) “it is unusual to find pottery examples before the post medieval period”.
The teapot arrived into the post-medieval period, 1600-1720 a period which can be seen as the start of the consumer age with ”a wider variety of mass produced forms in varying colours.


Coleman-Smith(1988), and Cumberpatch(2003) provide evidence for the theoretical background. Additionally, Gaimster and Stamper(1997) document the transition period as context to these changes. Coleman-Smith(1988,p 1) says that, at Donyatt in Somerset,
“the end of the medieval tradition as represented by the 16th century phase production was apparently abrupt, with a complete changeover to new forms, different techniques of production and a new emphasis on decoration”.

Indeed, the 17th century transitional phase of production represented an increase in the variety of forms. This tendency/pattern of increasing variety continued well into the 19th century. Another aspect of this variety is that vessels became more and more specialized - this vessel specificity shows that the preparation and serving of food becomes separated, dining, display and entertainment become the new practices.
could be another aspect of this subject that might benefit from further research. 9(Rewrite this) Lack of resources has prevented further research into this aspect.

Cumberpatch, (2003) has defined the scope of the problem

“in highlighting the inadequacies of the existing explanations and to indicate a possible way forward which involves considering the phenomenological change in ceramics as a significant aspect of wider social change. Above all it is clear that a broader approach to ceramics, which situates them within the realm of material culture generally and connects this with larger social structures, is required if the reasons for the changes are to be interpreted and adequately explained“.

As an undergraduate, the interdisciplinary nature of material cultural studies when writing an essay on the evolution of the teapot became significant set within in a socio-economic historical framework, relating design history to social change/cultural evolution. It emerged almost by accident by juxtaposing statements from two different disciplines about the same subject, and surprising things happened about the type of knowledge that could emerge. At a later date , having read Knappett (2005, p2), in his recent book, Thinking Through Material Culture), the idea became more realistic, as he says “…it gradually becomes apparent, in a rather surprising fashion, how readily some areas lend themselves to interbreeding”. Consequently, for my dissertation, which was entitled the Changing Value and Status of Handmade Pottery began to use evidence from archaeology, design history, consumer studies, social theory, social and economic history to map socio-cultural change through the study of the evolution of artifacts. It is therefore important, for this current project, to use evidence from several disciplines - the full history of ceramics has to be an interdisciplinary exercise to develop a more rounded and integrated overview of the development of tableware. Karl Knappett(2005), says that material Cultural Theory, within archaeology is in its infancy, and it has not yet developed sophisticated theoretical models for understanding the role of artifacts in human societies. One of the theoretical problems is that it is almost impossible to create a model when much information about a person’s relationship with an object is missing. This is the problem of prehistory. On the other hand, the study of a contemporary object which is also found within the archaeological record may open up the possibility of creating a model for understanding the significance of our relationship with objects. This is also a key issue in archaeology. This would introduce anthropology into the study, which would provide the tools for studying our social relationships with our material culture. This would not be part of the focus of the current project I am proposing, but it is another area where further research would be possible.

Objects have meaning over and beyond their functional and formal elements. The mug or cup, the individual handled ceramic drinking vessel, is probably one of the most ubiquitous objects in western societies. It is known as an everyday object. But this object has a beginning, there was a time when it didn’t exist. The context of its introduction is where much of its meaning may be revealed. It was introduced into the British Isles circa 1450, but seemingly did not make an appearance in the Southwest until circa 1550. Initially, it was probably quite a rare object but now its distribution can be seen everywhere. Its introduction is most likely associated with the introduction of hot drinks.
The potters in the Southwest, Bristol etc seemed to be making handled cups before imports from the East. The teapot was imported in the 1650’s.

The handled cup became part of the teaset at a later date; the saucer was first introduced circa 1710 onwards to accompany the increasing use of small cups, as Hilary Young at the Victoria and Albert Museum says

“Teabowls and saucers were imported from China from the third quarter of the 17th-century, and were put together as paired sets by India Co and china dealer's warehousemen. Handled cups for coffee and chocolate were made from around 1690, and were equipped with saucers by the 1710s. Handled teacups with matching saucers were a slightly later development”.

Email 09-03-2007.
It is the indigenous development of the handled drinking vessel that will concern this paper.

Other studies that are used in historical archaeology are probate inventories of household, where artefacts are analysed within their domestic contexts. These would be consulted, where there are references to cups and mugs.

My work as potter gives me some insight in that I can look at a piece of ceramic and begin to tell an audience about the person who made the sherd of pottery, their level of skill, and I could in some cases with certain assemblages of pottery begin to draw conclusions about the social organization surrounding the making of the pottery, MAYBE THE MARKET IT HAS BEEN MADE FOR DEPENDING ON THE CONTEXT OF THE POTTERY. I was able to gain a bit more insight into the production of the sherds, see below for Ethics of Improvement. This is an interdisciplinary exercise.

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