Ceramic vessels were first made by prehistoric peoples over 15,000 years ago and pottery is one of the most common types of artifact found at recent archaeological sites in many parts of the world.

Often well-preserved, ceramics can be a potent source of information about the past. Even small fragments of pots can be studied by archaeologists to determine how ancient pots were made and used. More importantly, archaeologists can also also use ceramics to help date sites, and to reconstruct patterns of prehistoric economy, social organization and cultural contact across a region.

This Prehistoric Puzzles Ceramic study site introduces several aspects of ceramic artifact analysis that are important for archaeologists.

Variation: Pot designs vary from region to region, and change through time. What can archaeologists learn from this?

Technology & Function: How are pots made and used in Africa today, and how can archaeologists find evidence of ancient pottery manufacturing and use?

Attributes: How can pots be described and how do archaeologists reconstruct the attributes of whole pots from the small fragments preserved at sites?

Classification: How and why do archaeologists classify potsherds from a site into "types"?

Assemblages: How do archaeologists analyze collections of ceramics from a site, and compare such assemblages between sites? What are the goals of such comparative study?


Ceramic Variation
Ceramic shape and design vary all over the world. Explore ceramic variation.

Technology and Function
Explore how and why pots are made throughout the world.
Ceramic Attributes
How do Archaeologists describe ceramics? Explore ceramic attributes.
Ceramic Assemblages
To analyze or compare large groups of ceramics, Archaeologists use assemblages. Explore assemblages.
Ceramic Classification
To make their work easier, Archaeologists study ceramics by classifying them into "types." Why?
Interactive Activities
Cut right to the chase and try out the Prehistoric Puzzles exciting activities.