It is tempting to treat borders as fixed, lines drawn on a map, but to do so fails to take into account that borders are permeable. They may be crossed by people, ideas, and objects in a variety of ways as part of an ever changing social landscape. The challenge is how to discuss this dynamic nature of a settlement’s boundary through the static material record. Ceramics, with their high survival rate and stylistic change offer an opportunity to do so.
Using a diachronic approach, three stages, within the Late Neolithic period (5700-4800BC), at the site of Stavroupoli-Thessaloniki are discussed. This model of interpretation is based on part of the ongoing PhD study of the ceramic material which comes from two domestic areas which include houses, outdoor food processing areas, hearths, and rubbish areas. The three stages selected, though all clearly from the same site and potting tradition, invite different interpretations of how the community perceived itself and its openness to the ‘outside’ through a discussion of the variability found within a site. The focus is upon the so-called tablewares as they are typically assumed to be part of the daily lives of the inhabitants.
The first stage discussed is that of a generally homogenous assemblage, mostly black vessels, juxtaposed with visible connections to the wider networks in the region, specifically that of incised-encrusted (visibly connecting the site to Cakran, Albania) and a distinct red-polished import (connecting the site to the more Northern site of Apsalos, Greece). The second stage presents a far more varied assemblage which in of itself is a challenge to interpret. However, by focusing on the details of the variability, one can see how references to the wider networks (reaching along the Danube) simultaneously indicates broader networks and closer ties to other sites (across the Thermaic Gulf) while indicating a fluid nature of internal dynamics. The third stage shows that a technological shift may be connected to a closing off of the borders-a stronger focus on the settlement in of itself.
This model is presented as a way to use style as a tool in the interpretation of community dynamics, both on an inter-site scale and an intra-site scale, rather than as a definition of what the pottery looked like over time.