2008 | 53 | 1 | 73-80
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A NEW LOOK AT THE ORIGINS OF EARLY MEDIEVAL CERAMICS (Nowe spojrzenie na geneze ceramiki wczesnosredniowiecznej)

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In the 1960s and 1970s, some Early Medieval ceramic assemblages from southern Wielkopolska (Greater Poland) and the region of Krosno Odrzanskie were found to include pots tentatively attributed to the terminal Roman-age pottery ware known especially from Silesia. At the time the attribution appeared quite probable. These determinations were generally rejected later, especially the possibility of the extremely poor culture of Early Medieval times being derived from the rich and developed Przeworsk culture of the age of Roman influence. Pointing out the clear temporal gap between the two cultures, scholars interpreted it as proof of there being a settlement void over large stretches of Polish territories. They saw the origins of this wheel-made pottery, mostly dated later, solely in external influence. All of Early Medieval Slav ceramics was derived from the east, the basin of the Dnieper to be more precise. These ideas can now be put into doubt in the light of intensified fieldwork and the application of the natural sciences to the chronologization of archaeological records. Large stable settlements have been brought to light, among others, in Greater Poland and certain areas of central Poland, existing apparently at least into the 5th/6th centuries. They feature a modest assemblage of non-ceramic goods in stark contrast with a picture of the Przeworsk culture formed mainly on the grounds of cemetery finds. The pottery set is dominated by hand-made pots, mostly ovoid in shape, accompanied by a fairly low share of wheel-made pieces. In the light of these finds, the alleged 'settlement void' in central and western Poland no longer bears up to scrutiny. New data has also surfaced concerning the origins of Early Medieval ceramics, especially the craftsmanship trend. The prototypes for this pottery, which were fairly rare in Greater Poland but relatively abundant in Silesia, have been described by T. Makiewicz as a 'Late Ancient' pottery type related to the 5th-6th century production of the Roman provinces in the Eastern Alps. From the inception of the Early Middle Ages we should expect, at least in the better investigated central and western region of Poland, as believed earlier, two separate pottery manufacturing traditions. One would be the general domestic production satisfying the everyday needs of the population, and the other would be a small percentage of specially crafted wares - luxury vessels made on commission very likely by wandering artisans catering to special tastes (perhaps that of a rising elite?). A brief review of new research indicates that the question of origins and further development of Early Medieval ceramics should be taken up again, taking into consideration not only production technology, but also a broader cultural and social context.
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  • Z. Kurnatowska, ul. Galileusza 1A m. 34, 60-159 Poznan, Poland
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