The Decline of Wheel-made Pottery on the Territory of Poland in Early 1st Century AD – a Forgotten Secret, Socio-psychological Circumstances or Economic Factors?
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Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytet Rzeszowski, ul. Hoffmanowej 8, 35-016 Rzeszów
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2013;LXIV(64):85–95
Relics of pottery kilns identified in the La Tène Culture settlement at Nowa Cerekwia, Upper Silesia, and in sites of the Tyniec Group in the Krakow region document local production of wheel-made pottery. The youngest finds of wheel-made wares are contemporary with the horizon of A. 68 fibulae. The technology was not adopted by the people of the Przeworsk Culture and almost invariably the pottery produced after the decline of Celtic cultures is hand-built; finds of wheel-made pottery of Early Iron Age date are very rare. This phenomenon has been explained in various ways. Some researchers, e.g., J. Wielowiejski, J. Marciniak and A. Cofta-Broniewska, concluded that the secrets of production of wheel-made pottery had not been handed down to the people of Przeworsk Culture and that with the extinction of the last foci of Celtic culture the knowledge of more advanced pottery making technologies naturally died out too. Alternately, J. Rodzińska-Nowak has proposed that a key factor responsible for the non-adoption of the wheel-made pottery technology by the Przeworsk Culture people was the existence of a socio-psychological barrier, the result of the traditional division of tasks into male and female. While feasible, this reason cannot be recognized as crucial. The decline of wheel-made pottery on the threshold of our era is a more widespread phenomenon observed across the Central European Barbaricum, both the territory occupied by latenized cultures (Przeworsk Culture, Elbian Culture), by the acculturated communities descended from the people of the Tyniec Group, a culture unit with Celtic traditions, and also on the territory of the “state” of Maroboduus, under influence of Rome. The named communities were dissimilar in their culture outlook, having evolved from different traditions but in none of them the technology of wheel-made pottery was adopted for good. In the Gross Romstedt Culture and in the Plaňany Horizon there is evidence on local pottery production using the potter’s wheel but there too the technology relatively soon disappears from the archaeological record. It is unlikely that in these environments, dissimilar in their tradition and evolving under the impact from different cultures, the traditional division into female and male roles could have played a key role in the reception of innovative pottery making technologies. Presumably, on the threshold of the Roman Period in communities residing on the territory of Poland there was a well-defined division of tasks into male and female, but it was not treated very rigorously or, possibly, it did not extend to all the areas of life and some activities were carried out together by both sexes. I believe that the key factor decisive for the decline of wheel-made pottery on the territory of Poland at the onset of the Roman Period was economic. In this I share the view expressed by L. Gajewski, J. Wielowiejski and K. Godłowski who, nevertheless, nowhere specify how they understand this term. To function, production workshops, potteries also, depend on the existence of a distribution network for their wares and there is a need to break with the autarkic tradition. The craftsmen must be assured of having recipients of their wares and in conditions of isolation of individual human groups and the limited scale of exchange the demand for their products is limited. There is an observable difference here between a potter and a blacksmith, the latter is more mobile and, what is more, has a monopoly on his activity for, in contrast to mass pottery production which needs to compete against wares made by hand as part of household activities, the means for individual manufacture of metal objects are quite limited. Specialised pottery workshops on the territory of Poland became viable only when exchange between human groups became sufficiently frequent and intensive for the cost of transport of pottery to decrease so that the ratio of the price of the vessels offered to their value (not necessarily utilitarian only) was recognized as favourable. Specialised pottery making could not function without a developed distribution network; only when the necessary level of social and economic development had been reached did it become profitable to introduce pottery as an object of exchange.