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Households at Work: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of Variation in Ceramic Production in North India

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This ethnoarchaeological study, carried out in the Upper Ganga Plains of North India, contributes to our understanding of the variation that exists in the organization of household ceramic production. The paper describes techniques, tools and
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  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found athttp://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=yeth20 Ethnoarchaeology  Journal of Archaeological, Ethnographic and Experimental Studies ISSN: 1944-2890 (Print) 1944-2904 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/yeth20 Households at Work: An EthnoarchaeologicalStudy of Variation in Ceramic Production in NorthIndia Supriya Varma & Jaya Menon To cite this article:  Supriya Varma & Jaya Menon (2017) Households at Work: AnEthnoarchaeological Study of Variation in Ceramic Production in North India, Ethnoarchaeology,9:1, 3-29, DOI: 10.1080/19442890.2017.1278862 To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/19442890.2017.1278862 Published online: 13 Feb 2017.Submit your article to this journal Article views: 194View related articles View Crossmark data  Households at Work: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of Variation in Ceramic Production in North India Supriya Varma a and Jaya Menon b a Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 110067, India; b Department of History, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shiv Nadar University, Gautam BuddhNagar, Uttar Pradesh 201314, India ABSTRACT  This ethnoarchaeological study, carried out in the Upper GangaPlains of North India, contributes to our understanding of thevariation that exists in the organization of household ceramicproduction. The paper describes techniques, tools and facilities;division of work/tasks; location of production; range of products;differences in the scale and intensity of production between ruraland urban households; and interweaves the archaeologicalimplications in relation to the locus of production, scale, intensityand specialization. KEYWORDS ethnoarchaeology; ceramicproduction; organization of production; rural and urbanhouseholds; North India Introduction While a large majority of the ethnoarchaeological studies of craft production have focusedon ceramics and metallurgy (David and Kramer 2001), our concern in this paper is withceramics, more specifically with earthenwares fired at temperatures between 700° and1200°C. A number of recent reviews of ceramic ethnoarchaeology illustrate the range of themes that have been explored (Arnold 2000b; Hegmon 2000; Stark 2003), usefully high- lighting the new developments that have emerged in ceramic ethnoarchaeology sinceKramer ’ s (1985) comprehensive review. Stark  ’ s review (2003) is particularly valuable forits geographical coverage and analysis. Costin (2000), too, has reviewed select ethnoarch-aeological studies that help in understanding specifically those questions related toceramic production that are of interest to archaeologists.In South Asia, substantial work has been done on ceramic production with themesranging from manufacturing processes (Allchin 1959; Fischer and Shah 1970; Rye and Evans 1976; Miller 1985; Kar, Koiso, and Thomas 1993; Kramer 1997; Mishra 2006; Nguille 2006; Vijaya Prakash 2006), tools and facilities (Behura 1964, 1978; Saraswati 1964, 1979; Saraswati and Behura 1966; Rye and Evans 1976), technological choices exer- cised by potters (Birmingham 1975; Choksi 1995, 1997, 1998), learning mechanisms (Sar- aswati 1979; Roux and Corbetta 1989), range of utilitarian vessels produced (Fischer and Shah 1970; Birmingham 1975; Miller 1985; Kar, Koiso, and Thomas 1993; Choksi 1995, 1997, 1998; Kramer 1997), rituals associated with potting and the use of ritual vessels (Fischer and Shah 1970; Birmingham 1975; Saraswati 1979; Miller 1985; Hashim 1988 – © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group CONTACT  Supriya Varma supriyav@jnu.ac.in ETHNOARCHAEOLOGY, 2017VOL. 9, NO. 1, 3 – 29http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19442890.2017.1278862  89; Mahias 1993; Huyler 1994), distribution (Choksi 1995, 1997, 1998; Kramer 1997) and  variability (Miller 1985). The attempt in this paper is to add to the existing body of work inSouth Asia and other parts of the world by specifically examining the variation that existsin the organization of household ceramic production in North India. The paper describestechniques, tools and facilities; division of work/tasks; location of production; range of products; differences in the scale and intensity of production between rural and urbanhouseholds; and interweaves the archaeological implications in relation to the locus of production, scale, intensity and specialization. Organization and location of production One of the major ways of investigating craft organization, specifically of ceramics, has beenin terms of assessing the scale of the production unit. Beginning with van der Leeuw  ’ sstudy (1977), pottery production, based on scale and intensity, was seen to be organizedinto six categories  –  household production, individual industry, household industry, work-shop industry, village industry and large-scale industry. On the basis of the parameters of context, concentration, scale and intensity, Costin (1991, 8 – 9) delineates eight categoriesof production units. These are individual specialization, dispersed workshop, community specialization, nucleated workshops, dispersed corvée, individual retainers, nucleatedcorvée and retainer workshop.Sinopoli (1988) uses the factors of scale and extent of state involvement, and argues forthree modes of productive organization (administered, centralized and non-centralizedproduction) in the case of textiles and ceramics in medieval Vijayanagara in SouthAsia. For her, all production occurred within workshops  –  non-centralized (small-scaleand involving nuclear or extended families at the level of the household that could beundertaken part-time or full-time), or centralized (large-scale and non-state) or adminis-tered (large-scale with direct state supervision and attached specialists). In contrast totextile production, which clearly seems to have been practiced in administered contexts,ceramic production would have taken place in  “ specialist workshops organized at thehousehold level ”  (Sinopoli 1998, 163). Although the term  “ workshop ”  indicates a pro-duction place, which is distinct from domestic area, and may involve non-kin labor, itcan also denote work areas outside the house compounds, where three or more stagesof ceramic production can take place (Underhill 2003, 230 – 231).The household as a site of ceramic production has been well documented in most partsof the world (Behura 1964, 1978; Saraswati 1964, 1979; Saraswati and Behura 1966; Rye and Evans 1976; Miller 1985; Arnold 1991, 1993; Longacre and Stark 1992; Kar, Koiso, and Thomas 1993; Kramer 1997; Deal 1998; Underhill 2003; Arthur 2009, 2013). Pro- duction is seen as compatible with household tasks in small-scale societies where thepotters are women, ceramics are handmade and the craft is fitted into an agriculturalcycle (Arnold 1985: 100 – 103). In more complex societies, however, with the intensifica-tion of production for a market economy, male potters often tend to take over the craft(Arnold 1985, 103 – 108; David and Kramer 2001, 309). In such a situation, there isoften a shift from handmade to mold made and wheel made pottery production. Whileboth men and women can be involved in the production of mold made ceramics,wheel-working is almost exclusively associated with men, with possibly one exceptionamong the Kota community in the Nilgiri Hills in South India (Degoy 2008, 204). This 4 SUPRIYA VARMA AND JAYA MENON  gendered division of labor has been observed in South America, India, Egypt, Tunisia andMorocco (Stark 2003, 204). Both men and women participate in other production taskslike processing clays and pigments, paddle and anvil forming, and firing, althoughwomen are often solely involved in decorating vessels (Miller 1985; Kramer 1997; Degoy 2008). In some cases, the larger pots may be made by men, and the smaller by women (Arnold 2000b, 108). There are also instances of men making one set of vesselson the wheel, and women in the same household making different vessels by hand(Allchin 1959, 250 – 252). Pottery production has also been associated with prohibitionsor preferences along gendered divisions (Allchin 1959; Rye and Evans 1976; Krishnan 1989, 88; Kramer 1997, 49; Nguille 2006, 310; Degoy 2008, 204). Craft production is intertwined with issues of specialization, work areas and intensity.While there may be many kinds of specialization (Brumfiel and Earle 1987; Clark and Parry 1990; Costin 1991, 2000), what is distinctive to South Asia and parts of Africa is the presence of endogamous specialist groups of potters and other artisans. In this situ-ation, craft skills are passed down from one generation to the next. These groups oftenhave distinctive names and occasionally live in circumscribed areas within a settlement(Miller 1985, 23 – 33; Kramer 1997, 16 – 27; David and Kramer 2001, 308; Stark 2003, 205). Kramer (1997, 72 – 79) uses the variables of production locations, the number of monthsin a year potters work at their craft, and the range of forms that potters make, to indicatespecialization. Work areas are highly distinctive on account of the stores of clay, tools andfacilities such as wheels, anvils, firing facilities, racks for drying vessels and storing finishedpots, recyclable sherds as well as tools and piles of potsherds in the homes and neighbor-hoods of potters (Arnold 1991; Kramer 1997; Underhill 2003). Certain facilities are rela- tively more permanent because of the issue of portability, as in the case of grinding slabs,or the investment involved in constructing kilns as well as the necessity for fixing footwheels in a particular location (Arnold 2000b, 110). Detailed plans of potters ’  workshopshave been published by ethnoarchaeologists working in Upper Egypt, Mexico, CentralAmerica and South America (Stark 2003, 203). In South Asia, the most systematicmapping of potting households and their workshop areas has been undertaken by Kramer (1997, 183 – 212), although a few plans are available in other studies (Fischerand Shah 1970, 133; Rye and Evans 1976, 18, 44; Kar, Koiso, and Thomas 1993, 177). The study area and methodology This study was carried out among caste potters in the villages of Indor Khera and KhediyaBaksh, as well as the small town of Dibai, which are all located within ten kilometers of each other in Bulandshahr District in the state of Uttar Pradesh in North India(Figure 1). Khediya Baksh is located two kilometers southeast of Indor Khera and Dibaiis about five kilometers further southeast from Khediya Baksh. This region was chosenfor the possibility of studying rural as well as urban potting households producing low-fired earthenware. Khurja, a major center for production of high-fired stoneware, isalso located at distance of about 50 kilometers from Dibai. This study is part of a largerproject that aims to study variation in ceramic production at different scales and intensity within the same region, from the small-scale (Indor Khera and Khediya Baksh) tomedium-scale (Dibai) and large-scale (Khurja). HOUSEHOLDS AT WORK 5  At Indor Khera, there are three potting households, and at Khediya Baksh, only one, allof which were studied (Table 1). Of the three potting households in Indor Khera, two arebrothers who live in the same compound, with the younger brother in the front half, andthe elder brother in the rear. Both households work and eat separately in their own por-tions of the house compound. We chose the two villages of Indor Khera and KhediyaBaksh because we wanted to increase the sample size of rural households as well asmake a comparison between two rural settlements. At both Indor Khera and KhediyaBaksh, potting work areas are located near the periphery of the settlements.At Dibai, there are three distinct neighborhoods where potting households live andwork. These are Kazikhel  mohalla , Chodhrykhel  mohalla  and Hateria  mohalla .  Mohalla is the vernacular term for neighborhoods in urban centers in North India. While Chodh-rykhel and Hateria  mohallas  are in the periphery, Kazikhel is more centrally located. Thereare four potting households in Kazikhel  mohalla , ten in Chodhrykhel  mohalla  and six inHateria  mohalla . Of these, one was studied in Kazikhel  mohalla , five in Chodhrykhel mohalla , and two in Hateria  mohalla  (Table 1). Of the five households studied in Figure 1.  Ceramic production sites in the study area. 6 SUPRIYA VARMA AND JAYA MENON
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