DS0804 - Création, cultures et patrimoines

Western Mediterranean Impressed Wares: An interdisciplinary research on Early Neolithic – CIMO

Submission summary

As a contribution to the « Creation, cultures and cultural heritage” topic, this 42 months project has the overall objective to unravel the processes and skills related to pottery production and uses, and then contribute to identify transfers and cultural links within the frame of the Early Neolithic diffusion across the NW Mediterranean. It therefore combines archaeological and experimental approaches to geological, geochemical, physical, chemical, and materials engineering.
Across NW Mediterranean, Early Neolithic development and peopling seem to have resulting of a leapfrog-like seafaring spread of pioneers groups supposed to be originating from the SE Italian Impressed-Ware core. A rather short span of time has been spent for this transfer, if one considers the earliest evidences of farmers settlements in the Apulia core (ca. 6000 BCE), and the earliest ones along the NW Mediterranean coast (ca. 5800 BCE).
One of the main locks up for understanding the transfer processes is to identify reliable traditions among a huge diversity of pottery styles. What does such diversity reveal? Could it be linked to different degrees of Mesolithic mixing? Could it be linked to successive split and drift of small groups of settlers? What does it tell us about the social forms of the first agro-pastoral communities?
This project has the ambition to reduce part of these questions while considering not only stylistic aspects but the whole pottery “technical subsystem”, using an integrative and multi-scale methodology. The latter considers the whole aspects of the chaînes opératoires from sourcing to shaping and use.
In this perspective, research will first focus on the Ligurian Sea before running comparisons with the Mediterranean Languedoc and the SE Italian core. The choice of the Ligurian atelier is due to 5 main reasons: (1) it provides a rather dense network of Early Neolithic settlements with a significant part dated to the first step of the pioneer spread at 5800-5600 BCE; (2) major sites provide new and consistent data, clear contexts and abundant pottery sets thanks to recent excavations; (3) among the available sites, pottery styles variability is very high and offers a perfect case study for understanding cultural vs. chronological or functional diversity; (4) the geological background is of great help for an accurate sourcing of coarse pottery pastes; the latter are often made from crystalline rock alterations and constitute a large part of the earliest Neolithic kits; (5) for a part of these pastes and pots, the questions asked by shaping, finishing and firing techniques are quite challenging, as well as the questions of related potters’ knowledge and skills.
Research will be organised within 6 work-packages. WP1 will organize research, teaching and dissemination tasks under the control of a Scientific Board. Research will be dedicated to: contextual assessments and series sampling (WP2); raw materials characterisation running innovative mineralogical and geochemical methods applied for the first time to archaeological and sourcing contexts (WP3); characterisation of shaping and firing methods correlating mechanical and chemical properties and experimental sources (WP4); innovative and risky research in the field of bio-molecular and isotopic analytical archaeology enabling to widely improve knowledge on pottery uses (WP5). Synthesizing tasks (WP6) will then allow discussing Early NW Mediterranean Neolithic networks and traditions in a holistic perspective.
In addition to peer-reviewed papers, the deliverables of this project will include a web-site, master trainings and PhD, bi-annual seminars and conclusive symposium and exhibition.
The lab consortium groups 31 academic members of French Joint Research Units (UMR) and 11 Italian scholars, specialists of the scientific field. Its main advantage consists in the close collaborative experience the partners already shared through research and teaching interdisciplinary projects.

Project coordination

Didier BINDER (Cultures – Environnements. Préhistoire, Antiquité, Moyen Âge)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CEPAM Cultures – Environnements. Préhistoire, Antiquité, Moyen Âge
CEMEF Centre de Mise en Forme des matériaux
ICN Institut de Chimie de Nice

Help of the ANR 523,218 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2014 - 42 Months

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