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Traditional craftspeople are not copycats: Potter idiosyncrasies in vessel morphogenesis

Gandon, E; Nonaka, T; Endler, JA; Coyle, T; Bootsma, RJ; (2020) Traditional craftspeople are not copycats: Potter idiosyncrasies in vessel morphogenesis. PLoS One , 15 (9) , Article e0239362. 10.1371/journal.pone.0239362. Green open access

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Abstract

Ceramics are quintessential indicators of human culture and its evolution across generations of social learners. Cultural transmission and evolution theory frequently emphasizes apprentices' need for accurate imitation (high-fidelity copying) of their mentors' actions. However, the ensuing prediction of standardized fashioning patterns within communities of practice has not been directly addressed in handicraft traditions such as pottery throwing. To fill this gap, we analysed variation in vessel morphogenesis amongst and within traditional potters from culturally different workshops producing for the same market. We demonstrate that, for each vessel type studied, individual potters reliably followed distinctive routes through morphological space towards a much-less-variable common final shape. Our results indicate that mastering the pottery handicraft does not result from accurately reproducing a particular model behaviour specific to the community's cultural tradition. We provide evidence that, at the level of the elementary clay-deforming gestures, individual learning rather than simple imitation is required for the acquisition of a complex motor skill such as throwing pottery.

Type: Article
Title: Traditional craftspeople are not copycats: Potter idiosyncrasies in vessel morphogenesis
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239362
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239362
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright: © 2020 Gandon et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10111076
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