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Analyses of Scodelle su alto Piede: Class 1

Scodelle su alto Piede, Class 1, upside down

I. Introduction to Functional Analysis

The concept of functional analysis is key to understanding the individuals, the people, who used those vessels and objects. The key to understanding functions are the physical properties of that vessel or object (Hendrickson and McDonald 1983: 630), thus there exists a type of relationship between materiality and function (Almeida 2013: 45). In the sense of a vessel’s engineering, the suitability to perform different tasks is dependent upon the vessel’s design; different uses place differing demands upon the container (Rice 2015: 412). In fact, it can be stated that these vessels and objects contain the physical properties in which they have because they were, at least in part, designed to have those properties and are dependent upon their intended uses (Almeida 2013: 36).

a. Explanation of Form, Technology, and Use-Alteration

In this chapter, this relationship will be examined broadly through the use-relationships of vessels (Rice 2015: 411), specifically an analysis of form, technology, and use-alteration (Eusebio 2015: 15). The analysis of form is made through material observations including primary and secondary vessel features such as those pertaining to the rim, lip, base, handles, neck, flanges, profile, restrictedness of the orifice, etc. These will help to determine use-related properties such as capacity, accessibility, stability, and transportability (Skibo 2013: 31). When compared to ethnoarchaeological, ethnographic, and even experimental archaeological studies, possible use-relationships can be understood (Rice 2015: 416). Technologically, each vessel will be analyzed according to its ceramic manufacturing, including thickness, inclusions, porosity, coarseness, etc. These will help to determine a vessel’s fracture strength, impact toughness, and resistance to thermal shock (Tite, Kilikoglou, and Vekinis 2001: 301-03). Finally, an analysis of use-alteration, such as abrasions, chipping, spalling or pitting, sooting and attrition patterns, etc. should provide enough evidence to categorize such primary and possibly secondary use-relationships as will be important to understanding household patterns of living.

Ultimately, the purpose of this chapter is not to identify possible functions but both intended and actual functions of each vessel and object within Hut 12 at Mokarta. These will include techno-functional characteristics (intended use) along with socio-and-ideo-functional characteristics (actual use) if at all possible (Skibo 2015: 189), all of which will guide the reader into a better understanding of the daily-life choices of the inhabitants.

In addition to the individual analyses of artifacts, collective analyses will be performed upon the Hut 12 assemblage as a whole, such as discovering the standard domestic pottery service within the hut, identifying possible culinary practices, and both possible familial and communal social activities that may have been performed within the hut.

b. Ceramic Container Vessel Form Categories

Setting aside non-container objects for the moment, such as mortars and pestles and the single stone axe head found within Hut 12, ceramic vessels fall into three broad categories: storage, processing, and transfer (Rice 2015: 412). These categories are a summary of the “predicted archaeological correlates,” which includes storage, cooking involving heat, preparing food without heat, serving, and transport (Orton, Tyers, and Vince 1993: 217-18). Storage, as a category, stands alone, but broadly speaking, storage includes both long-term and short-term storage (Cantisani 2020: 229), and these are broken down into the storing of both liquids and solids (Magrì and Cattani 2021: 68). The processing of foods includes cooking activities, such as preparing food with or without heat (as above) depending on whether it is liquid or dry and tended or unattended (Rice 2015: 413). Finally, the last two categories of the predicted archaeological correlates, falls under transfer includes serving, eating, and transport (Magrì and Cattani 2021: 68).

With all of that said, a vessel may not be limited to a single function, so the researcher must be careful not to assume a single function. A vessel may be used to cook food, but then the individual may choose to eat directly from that cooking vessel. The same is true of cooking and storing; these are two separate functions which may be employed using the same vessel (Rice 2015: 416). Thus, it may be possible to give a vessel both a primary and a secondary function.

These categories will be used as a standard when inferring functions of ceramic vessels within Hut 12. This author will attempt to utilize the analyses of form, technology, and use-alteration, above, in order to categorize each of the whole, or near whole, vessels within Hut 12, including primary and secondary functions, when available. It is important to note that some types, such as the Scodelle su alto Piede, having a total of eighteen of the type, will be distinguished into vessel type classes based on the size of the mouth/rim. These classes may serve different functions in spite of the fact that the forms are quite similar to each other. Based on size, this could mean the difference between a plate and a platter; one can be used individually, whereas the other likely has the primary function of serving rather than eating.

II. Function by Type

As noted in the last chapter, there are a total of sixteen different ceramic vessel forms within Hut 12 of Mokarta. Additional to these, a number of stone mortars and pestles and one stone hand axe exist within the Hut 12 repertoire; these stone objects will be categorized last, after the ceramic vessels.

The ceramic container vessels within Hut 12 of Mokarta are typed as follows: Scodelle su alto Piede, Piattelli su alto Piede, Scodelle, Tazze, Olle, Brocche, Bicchieri, Boccale, Bacini Baccellato su alto Piede, Hydriai, Sostegni fittili, Piastre, Vasi miniaturistici, Alare, Pissidi, and the Anfore. Below, each of these types, and their classes, will be categorized by primary and secondary function.

a. Scodelle su alto Piede: Functions

There are eighteen Scodelle su alto Piede (Sp), with one possible additional vessel which consists of merely an elevated foot. These include ten Sp/I, two Sp/II, one possible Sp/I or II, three Sp/III, one possible Sp/II or III, no Sp/IV, one possible Sp/V, no Sp/VI, and one unknown, possible Sp or P. The majority of these, twelve, contain large amounts of the vessel, including at least part of the basin and the stem/foot. One vessel consists of part of the stem and foot only; this vessel is not identified specifically as a Scodelle su alto Piede as it could be a Piattelli su alto Piede, both having a high pedestal. Only six of these vessels are determined by diagnostic, rim sherds. Specifically, five of these six contain the standard bipartite rim found only in the Sp/I subset.

Based on rim size, four classes of Scodelle su alto Piede have been distinguished. These four classes are broken down as follows: extra small (16-18cm), small (23cm), medium (26-29cm), and large (35cm) (see Fig. #). Only twelve of the eighteen Sp could be analyzed, with the remainder either being too small or missing diagnostic rims. When assigning primary functions to these vessels, assignments will be differentiated by class.

i. Class 1: 16-18cm

1. Form

Each of the three vessels within Class 1 are quasi-closed forms, meaning that while the orifices of these vessels are quite large, ranging between 16-18cm, each of these contain an inverted, or inward-leaning, rim making the orifice smaller than the widest point of the vessel. Despite of the inverted rim, the wide mouth of the vessel allows for both visual and physical accessibility of the contents.

Both Reperto 1013 and 1017, Sp/I and Sp/III respectively, have an unequal biconical profile, while Reperto 1036, Sp/I, although biconical, has a somewhat globular appearance on the lower portion of the biconical basin. Reperto 1017 has a less distinct vertex than the other two, being somewhat more rounded. These basins, themselves, are quite deep, and the inward-leaning rim, being designed to reduce spillage (Maniscalco 1999: 188), in connection to the deep basin, suggests that the vessel holds liquid contents in a somewhat small capacity.

As with all Scodelle su alto Piede, along with Piattelli su alto Piede, the bases of these vessels, although missing on these three within Class 1, are elevated and considered high pedestaled. This is determined by the presence of at least the beginning of a stem in Reperti 1013 and 1017, and a large section of a stem in Reperto 1036. The elevated foot adds to the stability of the vessel, particularly as the basin, along with the contents, is elevated. When holding content, the center point of gravity is no doubt higher than the midpoint, but the wide, or flared, nature of the foot gives a high level of steadiness when placed on a flat surface (Skibo 2013: 32).

Only one of the three, Reperto 1017 (Sp/III), has handles. These plain ledge handles are placed on either side of the vessel, and one can imagine that the user placed each hand upon the shoulder of the vessel, directly under the ledge handle, in order to transport the vessel and its contents over short distances. Reperti 1013 and 1036, both Sp/I, are lacking handles, but they have a rather distinct vertex in their biconical profile. The apex upon the shoulder, along with the truncated-conical shape of the lower portion of the basin, likely acted as a grasp-point, though the transportability of the vessel would had been quite low, allowing only for short distance transfer.

2. Technology

As with most of the ceramics at Mokarta, all three examples within Scodelle su alto Piede: Class 1 show evidence of a reddish slip, which, as seen in previous chapters, is typical of the Mokarta-Pantalica facies. Exposed across the surface of these vessels, both within the slip and in areas where the slip is now missing, are voids and inclusions. Reperto 1017, Sp/III, has voids and inclusions which appear to have a maximum size of 3mm. Reperti 1013 and 1036, both Sp/I, voids and inclusions have a maximum size of 2mm. All three contain flat, sub-circular, and angular white inclusions which appear to be shell fragments. These are not particularly well sorted, and Reperto 1017 appears to have more than the others. Additionally, reddish-brown and gray angular temper is seen sparsely throughout, possibly being grog. Quartz sand and limestone may have been added, though sparingly, and voids from soft organics are seen in all three. These voids range from round to flat, and they may represent seeds, grasses, or dissolved shell. It should be noted that Reperto 1017 appears to be poorly fired as evidenced by a layered effect in the core. Altogether temper seems to be moderately included.

Striations on the surface of the clay in Reperti 1013 and 1036 may suggest that these vessels were formed on a slow wheel, whereas Reperto 1017, being much thicker, is quite crudely manufactured and was likely made by hand. The former contain a coarse texture, and they are fairly homogenous, whereas Reperto 1017 has a very coarse texture, but this may be due to its poor firing.

All ceramics within Hut 12 are low fired and therefore lacking in strength. Scodelle su alto Piede: Class 1 appear to have a moderate frequency of inclusions, ranging from grog to organics, and possibly quartz sand or limestone. Based on these inclusions, their frequency, and the firing temperature, it can be stated that these vessels, though lacking fracture strength, had a moderate impact toughness and resistance to thermal stress (Tite, Kilikoglou, and Vekinis 2001: 321).

3. Use-alteration

Each of the three vessels within Class 1 have been pieced together after being unearthed in a shattered state, yet, signs of wear and attrition are still recognizable. Both Reperti 1013 and 1036 show evidence of friction upon the vertex of their biconical joints on their shoulders, likely due to rubbing up against other objects in-between uses. Reperto 1017 does not have such wear, but the object also does not have such a distinct vertex. Instead, it is more rounded and shows signs of other wear, including a large gash in the fabric upon the shoulder near where the vertex would be. Additionally, some friction-wear is seen upon the ledge handle of the vessel, and this may be attributed, as with the other two above, to rubbing against other objects.

Notedly, each of the three vessels shows signs of use upon the their lips. Excluding fracture points, each vessel shows several dents or chips at the apex of the lip, with Reperto 1017 showing much deeper chips than dents. Both Reperti 1013 and 1036 have evidence of multiple points of repeated contact, these ranging from indentations to deep gashes upon the rim. These were likely created during use rather than post-deposition.

Surface color changes also appear, including sooting patterns, but these blackened patterns appear to have been either fire clouds from the firing process or due to the destruction at the end of the life of the vessel. None of these within Class 1 appear to have been purposely placed into a fire for cooking or heating.

4. Projected Function

Based upon the above evidences, Scodelle su alto Piede, Class 1, has been deemed a class for consumption, likely of some sort of liquid food such as a stew. The elevated foot of this class suggests stability during use, which is often associated with vessels of transfer such as those related to eating and serving (Rice 2015: 415), and based on ethnographical studies, the size of the orifice, 16-18cm, suggests individual use (Hendrickson and McDonald 1983: 632). The rather open form is indicative of accessibility to both view and interact with the contents (Rice 2015: 424), though the inverted rim suggests a reduction of spillage or some sort of liquid (Maniscalco 1999: 188). The denting and chipping on the thickened rim suggests regular use within the home (Rice 2015: 420). As noted above, the small ledge handles of Reperto 1017 and the biconical nature of the basin allow for moving the vessels only a short distance, likely from the hearth to a sitting area (Rice 2015: 421), where the user likely sat crossed-legged easily accessing the food (Maniscalco 1999: 192). Finally, the somewhat elaborate bipartite rim suggests a decoration that may be viewed during the consumption process, possibly by those outside of the home just as well as those inside (Rice 2015: 424).


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