Scottish Bronze Age food vessel corpus: a new materialist re-evaluation

Innes, Marta (2020) Scottish Bronze Age food vessel corpus: a new materialist re-evaluation. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


Food Vessels, which are recognised as a distinct Bronze Age ceramic type, are found throughout the British Isles, dating to between c.2200-c.1700 BCE. The category comprises a morphologically and contextually varied group of vessels, which are broadly defined in contrast to other Bronze Age ceramics and grouped together through the conventionally assumed shared tradition of use and formal affinity. Over 550 Food Vessels are known from Scotland, but there has been no comprehensive examination of the entire corpus to date, and the analysis of the material is generally limited to normative formal typologies, or overarching narratives on the socio-cultural symbolism of the tradition. As such, the Scottish Food Vessel corpus presents a long neglected and little utilised analytical arena, perfectly suited for exploring the opportunities of a novel interpretative approach.

The key aim of this thesis is therefore to collate and re-evaluate the complete assemblage of Scottish Bronze Age Food Vessels, producing a reference database of the corpus, and utilising a relational new materialist approach with an assemblage focus to challenge the traditional unilateral interpretations and effectively de-code conventional Food Vessel conceptualisations. These aims are addressed through a relational attribute analysis and a multiscalar approach, investigating examples of single pots, specific sites, and different artefact corpora, to critically examine the nested processes behind formal and contextual similarity and difference within the sample. Focusing on the actively referential and collective processes involved in the manufacture and performance of Food Vessels, this study challenges monocausal explanations of direct and socio-culturally specific origins of ceramic or depositional attributes, in order to appreciate the fluid meaning that is actively negotiated in the making and enactment of the pots, and which emerges from the meshwork of relationships between their various constituting elements. Effectively, this thesis argues that Food Vessel pot- and site-assemblages are inherently unstable and fluid phenomena, rather than fixed categories of meaning, and the Food Vessel corpus assemblage is not a clearly bounded category defined by a stable package of attributes, but one with fuzzy boundaries.

The results of this research demonstrate that a new materialist perspective and an assemblage approach supported by relational attribute recording practice, provide a more nuanced interpretation of continuity and variation within the Food Vessel corpus. Moreover, the approach developed here, not only represents a contribution to the study of Food Vessels, but also provides a fresh avenue of investigation that can facilitate novel analyses and new understanding of prehistoric ceramics in general.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright issues the full text of this theses is not available for viewing. An edited version (3rd party copyright removed) will be made available when the embargo period expires.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Finlay, Dr. Nyree
Date of Award: 2020
Embargo Date: 9 June 2025
Depositing User: Marta Innes
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81419
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2020 06:39
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2023 08:49
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81419

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