The use of ceramic sourcing to study the scale of human interaction has revealed new perspectives on Early Neolithic voyaging in the Ligurian Sea (northern Italy). We have documented, through archaeometric analyses and in particular optical microscopy of 50 thin sections, the discovery of imported vessels at important prehistoric sites of the Impressed Ware culture of western Liguria. The imported fabrics are characterised by inclusions of gneisses, ophiolites or alkaline-potassic volcanic rocks, which are incompatible with local formations. The sources of these imports could be a few geological areas of the Tyrrhenian coast between central Liguria, Corsica and Lazio. The results of this research demonstrate that a very early maritime circulation of pottery began in the central Mediterranean, with the introduction of ceramic pyrotechnology at the beginning of the Neolithic period (c. 6000 BCE). The provenanced areas for the imported vessels suggest that the route of human colonisation of the Ligurian-Provençal arch could have been from the south-east, probably favoured by the north-west direction of the surface marine currents. The stylistic similarities (in vessel shapes and decorative motifs) observed in the pottery production and other aspects of the material culture from the Impressed Ware sites of the north and central Tyrrhenian coast are thus explained as the result of an intensive contact network that existed between the populations living along the coast of the Mediterranean, which were trading and exchanging several commodities overseas, presumably including obsidian and greenstones but also, perhaps, perishable substances contained in vessels.

The circulation of Early Neolithic pottery in the Mediterranean: A synthesis of new archaeometric data from the Impressed Ware culture of Liguria (north-west Italy).

Capelli C.;Cabella R.;Piazza M.
2017

Abstract

The use of ceramic sourcing to study the scale of human interaction has revealed new perspectives on Early Neolithic voyaging in the Ligurian Sea (northern Italy). We have documented, through archaeometric analyses and in particular optical microscopy of 50 thin sections, the discovery of imported vessels at important prehistoric sites of the Impressed Ware culture of western Liguria. The imported fabrics are characterised by inclusions of gneisses, ophiolites or alkaline-potassic volcanic rocks, which are incompatible with local formations. The sources of these imports could be a few geological areas of the Tyrrhenian coast between central Liguria, Corsica and Lazio. The results of this research demonstrate that a very early maritime circulation of pottery began in the central Mediterranean, with the introduction of ceramic pyrotechnology at the beginning of the Neolithic period (c. 6000 BCE). The provenanced areas for the imported vessels suggest that the route of human colonisation of the Ligurian-Provençal arch could have been from the south-east, probably favoured by the north-west direction of the surface marine currents. The stylistic similarities (in vessel shapes and decorative motifs) observed in the pottery production and other aspects of the material culture from the Impressed Ware sites of the north and central Tyrrhenian coast are thus explained as the result of an intensive contact network that existed between the populations living along the coast of the Mediterranean, which were trading and exchanging several commodities overseas, presumably including obsidian and greenstones but also, perhaps, perishable substances contained in vessels.
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