JOURNAL of ANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH

Learning and Craft Production
C. Jill Minar and Patricia Crown, 
Guest Editors

Volume 57, Number 4, Abstracts

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LEARNING AND CRAFT PRODUCTION: AN INTRODUCTION

C. Jill Minar
Department of Anthropology, Geography, and Economics, Fresno City College,
Fresno, CA 93741

Patricia L. Crown
Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-1086

Understanding the process by which technological skills are learned provides a means of recognizing the result of manufacturing activities by different segments of a society.  It may also provide useful clues to social organization and even the recognition of group interactions.  Understanding how the producers of material culture become who they are may help anthropologists understand continuity and change in material culture.  Various, sometimes conflicting, theories about the process of learning combined with ethnoarchaeological and experimental approaches are used to explore some specific cases in which learning appears to affect the production and distribution of material culture attributes.


MOTOR SKILLS AND THE LEARNING PROCESS: THE CONSERVATION OF CORDAGE FINAL TWIST DIRECTION IN COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE

C. Jill Minar
Department of Anthropology, Geography, and Economics, Fresno City College,
Fresno, CA 93741

Over the past decade, textile researchers have identified large temporal and geographic regions in the eastern United States in which strong patterns of cordage twist direction existed prehistorically.  This work prompted questions about why cordage production processes seem to be so conservative.  Recent research demonstrates that handedness, fiber type, and spinning technique probably do not determine cordage twist direction.  The results indicate, instead, that participation in communities of practice or learning networks, the automatization of motor skills, and the practicalities of production have important effects.  This paper also examines learning and motor-skill development as factors in conservative cordage production behavior and then interprets cordage twist direction distributions in the prehistoric Southeast from this perspective.


COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE IN THE EARLY POTTERY TRADITIONS OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST

Kenneth E. Sassaman
Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611

Wictoria Rudolphi
School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University
V5A 1S6, BC, Burnaby, Canada

The oldest pottery traditions of the southeastern United States include a series of punctuated wares geographically clustered in three locales of the Savannah River region.  Although potters in each locale decorated and used pots in virtually identical fashion, they tempered clays and formed vessels in appreciably different ways.  Situated learning theory offers a framework for interpreting these divergent trends in early pottery by focusing attention on the multiple communities of practice in which potters participated.  Independent data on the handedness of potters supports the inference that techniques for making pottery were transmitted cognately, whereas decorative expression and methods of cooking crosscut residential units as a result of affinial relation.  Potential contradictions arising from different types and changing forms of community membership may have contributed to radical changes in pottery technology and decoration after some fifteen generations of relative stability.


PREHISTORIC CHILDREN WORKING AND PLAYING: A SOUTHWESTERN CASE STUDY IN LEARNING CERAMICS

Kathryn A. Kamp
Department of Anthropology, Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA 50112

Fingerprint ridge breadth measurements and qualitative and quantitative attributes of ceramic quadruped figurines, miniature pottery, and full-sized vessels from the Sinagua region of northern Arizona provide information for a case study of ceramic learning.  As a very young age, Sinagua children started to make animal figurines and probably miniature dishes for use as playthings.  In the process of working with clay, children learned about its properties and practiced some of the techniques used by the Sinagua for producing larger vessels.  An intermediate stage in learning to become a competent ceramicist was to produce small-sized, but usable, ceramics.  Possibly in part due to this early exposure to clay in play contexts, some Sinagua appear to have been producing full-sized, usable vessels at a young age.


LEARNING TO MAKE POTTERY IN THE PREHISPANIC AMERICAN SOUTHWEST

Patricia L. Crown
Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-1086

Recent studies of apprenticeship and learning provide a framework for understanding how the social contexts of learning affect the material outcome of the learning process among potters.  Using methods derived from educational psychology to examine prehispanic pottery made and painted by unskilled potters from the American Southwest, it is possible to evaluate cognitive maturity and motor skills.  Comparisons of two culture areas indicate differences among Southwestern populations in teaching frameworks and how children were incorporated into craft production.



LEARNING HOW TO MAKE THE RIGHT POTS: APPRENTICESHIP STRATEGIES AND MATERIAL CULTURE, A CASE STUDY IN HANDMADE POTTERY FROM CAMEROON

Hélène Wallaert-Pêtre
Section d'Anthropologie Sociale et Culturelle, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
68 rue Tige de Buresse, B-5360 Hamois, Belgium

For more than half a century, archaeologists have focused their research on understanding the mechanisms underlying the making of human cultures.  Thus, many have analyzed various aspects of culture hoping to identify not only how traditions are set and perpetuated, but also how innovations occur.  As a result, research on material culture and style embraces other disciplines of study and integrates every aspect of society.  Style, for example, is no longer reduced to a surface attribute that primarily marks the boundaries of ethnic groups.  Technological, social, psychological, and religious parameters surrounding material culture are understood to be a part of style and to influence the production of material culture.  This article presents research among Cameroonian potters concerning the learning processes specific to ceramic production.  This kind of study helps to identify the social and technical  factors that condition teaching and learning procedures.  Ultimately, it attempts to demonstrate the existence of differentiated processes leading to various behaviors and discourses leading to the perpetuation of ceramic traditions.  This work presents ethnographic inquiry, but it is completed by an experimental approach derived from cognitive psychology.


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