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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.

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

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

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

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

Ceramic 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 shape and design vary all over the world. Explore ceramic variation. [more]
Explore how and why pots are made throughout the world. [more]
How do Archaeologists describe ceramics? Explore ceramic attributes. [more]
To analyze or compare large groups of ceramics, Archaeologists use assemblages. Explore assemblages. [more]
To make their work easier, Archaeologists study ceramics by classifying them into "types." Why? [more]
Cut right to the chase and try out the Prehistoric Puzzles exciting activities. [more]


The Predynastic cemetery HK 43 at Hierakonpolis (Upper Egypt), which dates to 3600 BC, has the earliest recorded examples of hair extensions and hair die in the entire world.

Explore Lithic technology from an archaeologist's perspective. [more]
Explore Ceramics from the perspective of an archaeologist as well as a potter. [more]
Explore agriculture in the archaeological record. [more]
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