. 5
( 7)


is concentrated on medium-size vessels of fabrics A and C for the sherds
analysed from the houses at Barnhouse. On a more detailed contextual
level, it would appear that medium-size vessels of fabric A are preferen-
tially utilised for cooking in certain houses, such as house 2 or 5.
Notably there is a distinction between the absence of soot on large ves-
sels of fabrics A and B through the early phases of settlement at Barnhouse,
and the presence of soot on large vessels of fabrics A and B in the struc-
ture 8 platform. This suggests a shift in social practices, since although
the ˜grammar™ of the assemblage remains the same in structure 8, with
the production of large, medium and small vessels, the ˜vocabulary™ of

Table 6.4 Simpli¬ed results of GC examination of sherds from small Grooved
ware vessels at Barnhouse

Small vessels

Sherd number Context Content

SF 1667 Fill of cut in W recess deposits house 2 Possibly barley
SF 1890 Secondary occupation house 3 Barley
SF 4263 Dump of material in ditch near structure 8 Barley
134 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

Figure 6.16 The spatial location of sherds in a typical house at

use has changed, and large vessels are now used for cooking activities.
There is no sooting on small vessels of fabrics C, D or E.
An analysis of the location of sherds within a number of houses at Barn-
house (Fig. 6.16) indicates regularities between Grooved ware categories
A biography of ceramics in Neolithic Orkney 135

and certain locations in the house. Large vessels are often placed at the
back or the periphery of the house, either beneath dressers or in box-
beds. Small vessels are found at the periphery and around the central
hearth. Medium-size vessels are found most frequently around the hearth,
although they are also stored in the right hand box-bed (Fig. 6.16). In
general the most highly decorated vessels are concentrated around the
central hearth, and those vessels with simple decoration are placed at the

Production and consumption in house 2
Although broad regularities occur within each house, we also observe
contextual differences between houses at Barnhouse. In terms of spatial
layout, house 2 is rather different to the other houses and the use of
Grooved ware is more complex (Fig. 6.17). The range of decoration on
vessels in this structure is greater than the other houses, and we observe
the occurrence of different decorative schemes (see Fig. 6.18).
Furthermore, as noted earlier, the temper of this pottery is dominated
by the use of sandstone and mudstone. The results from the GC/MS
residue analysis indicate that this is the only house to be associated with
the use of cattle meat. Everything would seem to mark out activities within
house 2 as different.
The eastern hearth area in house 2 stands out due to its size and com-
plexity. High phosphate readings to the south and east of this hearth
indicate that ash was raked out to the left-hand side in this direction.
This ash area was the only location to contain barley chaff (Hinton forth-
coming). It would seem that the secondary processing of cereals occurred
around this hearth. The localised nature of this activity suggests a num-
ber of things. First, the processing of cereals may have been subject to
prescriptive rules, resulting in this activity being spatially demarcated.
Given that the GC/MS analysis suggests the storage of barley in other
houses, it is possible that subsequent to dehusking barley may have been
redistributed between houses from this location. While the eastern hearth
was marked out by the kinds of activities carried out around it, how does
this relate to Grooved ware? The vessels found in this focal area are dis-
tinctively decorated. All of them are medium size and are a mixture of
fabrics A and C. GC/MS analysis of two fabric A vessels indicates that
they contained cattle meat.
A number of questions about the use of house 2 are raised by the
presence of a sherd in house 2 that conjoins with a partner in the house 3
ash dump. It would appear that there was a degree of circulation of vessels
between house 2 and the other houses “ it seems likely that this sherd
136 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

Figure 6.17 House 2, Barnhouse

was brought into house 2 from house 3. The evidence of the conjoined
sherds and the distinctive production of the vessels in house 2 in terms of
petrology and decoration suggest that they may have been made elsewhere
for speci¬c use in house 2.
The western room also contained a central hearth, while to the left
of the hearth a small charred hollow may indicate the presence of an
oven. Clay ovens were located in precisely this position in the Later Neo-
lithic settlement at Rinyo, Rousay (Childe and Grant 1939). The west-
ern hearth contained sherds from three distinctively decorated medium
and small vessels. The distinction between the hearths and the vessels
in each room of this house suggests that food preparation activities took
A biography of ceramics in Neolithic Orkney 137

Figure 6.18 The Grooved ware from house 2, Barnhouse

place around the eastern hearth, while the cooking and consumption
of foods, especially associated with small vessels, took place around the
western hearth.
House 2 was also marked out as the focus for the specialised production
of stone and ¬‚int tools (Clarke 1991; Middleton 1994). Two un¬nished
maceheads were found in the western area, while a lump of red and black
banded mudstone was found in the west recess. It is precisely this material
which is used to temper the Grooved ware in house 2, suggesting a link
in the chaˆne op´ratoire associated with stone tool and pottery production
± e
(Jones forthcoming b). In the eastern alcove next to the hearth, a complete
138 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

polished stone chisel was deposited beneath the ¬‚oor. A ¬‚ake from a pol-
ished ¬‚int axe was found in the northwest alcove. The technological ev-
idence from ¬‚int suggests that secondary core reduction sequences were
undertaken in the western room. Flint and stone tools are produced in
the western room and deposited in the eastern room. This represents the
inversion of the cycle of activities suggested above for Grooved ware. In
this house we observe two inter-linked activities: the ¬rst, associated with
food, speci¬cally barley and cattle meat, is conducted in a less secluded
context to the east, while the second form of activity, associated with
stone tool manufacture, occurs in a more secluded context to the west.

Consumption practices in structure 8
The latest phase of construction at Barnhouse was dominated by the
monumental building, structure 8 (Fig. 6.19). An examination of the
Grooved ware in the interior building and on the exterior platform indi-
cate differences in the categories of vessels found in both areas (Fig. 6.20).
The Grooved ware on the platform includes large vessels of fabrics A and
B, and medium-size vessels of fabrics A and C. Most of the large vessels
were burnished and a number were decorated with simple cordons. Many
of these vessels were sooted and one example, on analysis by GC/MS, was
found to contain cattle milk. Medium-size vessels were decorated with a
simple all-over incised design.
It would seem that the large vessels were used for cooking foods, par-
ticularly cattle milk. The presence of sooting suggests that these large
vessels were used for cooking, much as medium-size vessels were in the
earlier period of occupation at Barnhouse. Unlike the earlier houses, these
vessels were not positioned around the hearth but were placed around a
series of stone boxes. Judging by the width of the sherds, these vessels
were double the capacity of earlier cooking vessels. This suggests that the
number of people involved in consumption activities was much greater
in the case of structure 8.
By contrast, in the interior building we observe a quite different suite of
vessels. The largest vessel, containing barley (based on GC/MS analysis),
was buried up to the rim in the left-hand box-bed, a situation that parallels
that of similar vessels in earlier houses and suggests a storage facility. Like
those in earlier houses, medium and small vessels, decorated by all-over
incision, were clustered around the hearth and dresser area.
Despite overall similarities with the earlier Grooved ware at Barnhouse,
the Grooved ware within structure 8 was used differently. In the earli-
est phases at Barnhouse, medium-size shell-tempered vessels were used
in the preparation and consumption of food, and medium-size rock-
tempered vessels were used in the consumption of food. In structure
A biography of ceramics in Neolithic Orkney 139

Figure 6.19 Plan of structure 8, Barnhouse

8 vessels were used according to a different grammatical structure. Al-
though the use of medium and small vessels is broadly similar, the use of
large vessels has changed. While large vessels were still used for storage in
the interior of the building, they were also used for cooking food on the
platform. The consumption practices and the concomitant categorisation
of large vessels have therefore changed.
140 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

Figure 6.20 The Grooved ware from structure 8, Barnhouse

The death of Grooved ware at Barnhouse
I will now turn to depositional practices. Due to the distinctive petrolog-
ical ˜recipe™ of pottery from each of the peripheral houses, I was able to
relate the sherds from midden deposits with each house in terms of their
A biography of ceramics in Neolithic Orkney 141

Figure 6.21 Plan of the early phase at Barnhouse indicating the depo-
sitional relationships between individual houses and middens

petrology. This evidence was combined with that for conjoined sherds to
build up a picture of the patterns of deposition over the site as a whole
(see Fig. 6.21).
I will begin with the earlier houses by examining the dumps associated
with the peripheral houses. Each of these is a mixture of ash and frag-
mented animal bone along with large deposits of Grooved ware. Analysis
of the dumps of pottery next to houses 2, 3 and 9 indicated that while
each dump consisted of shell- and rock-tempered pottery, the petrology
of sherds within these dumps suggested a complex set of depositional
practices (Fig. 6.21). For example, a sherd from house 9 was located in
the house 2 dump, two sherds from house 3 were located in the house
9 dump, sherds from house 2 and 5 were found in the house 3 dump.
Meanwhile large vessels dominate the dump of pottery behind house
3, and petrological examination of these vessels indicates that they are
derived from all of the earlier houses in the settlement. Analysis of each
142 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

of the dumps located next to the peripheral houses suggests a difference
in the relative quantities of shell- and rock-tempered pottery. What is
more, the numbers of shell-tempered vessels in each dump seemed to
depend upon the proximity of the dump to the central ¬ring area. The
house 9 dump, closest to the central area, contains more shell-tempered
pottery, while the house 3 dumps located furthest from the central area
contain a greater proportion of rock-tempered pottery.
There were large deposits of pottery in the central area which, as
argued above, were likely to be associated with the production of
shell-tempered pottery. Within this spread of material a large number of
pits contained sherds from abraded shell-tempered pots. GC/MS analysis
suggested that some of these vessels had been used to contain cattle milk.
These pots were sooted and had undergone a fair degree of use prior to
deposition. A spatial analysis of a further spread of medium-size vessels
located behind house 6 indicated that the deposition of rock-tempered
vessels decreased away from the central area.
It is evident that there is a fair degree of selective deposition occur-
ring, with certain dumps of material having multiple sources. The most
obvious pattern relates to the spatial structure of the deposits. The shell-
tempered pottery in the central area appeared to be redeposited after
some period of use. It would seem then that the central area is the most
appropriate location for the deposition of shell-tempered vessels. Most
interesting is the steadily increasing proportion of rock-tempered vessels
as we progress away from the central area. The house 9 dump has a
large number of shell-tempered vessels, while the house 3 dump contains
It is notable that the location of the dumps in relation to houses 2, 3
and 9 describes an arc of deposits circling the central area (Fig. 6.22).
Crucially, the spatial patterning of deposits mirrors the spatial layout of
the settlement itself. While it would appear that the deposition of different
categories of vessels also echoes the concentric patterns for the distribu-
tion of different categories of vessel within the houses, what is also in-
teresting is the deposition of large vessels behind house 3, which in the
earlier phases of settlement would have been at the periphery of the set-
tlement. It would seem then that the deposition of large vessels occurred
at the edge of the settlement.
Finally, when we examine the spatial structure of deposits associated
with the later use of structure 8, we observe that deposition also conforms
to earlier patterns of concentricity and centrality. Medium-size vessels are
placed in close proximity to structure 8, and large vessels are placed at
the periphery within trench K.
A biography of ceramics in Neolithic Orkney 143

increasing number of rock-tempered vessels

Increasing number of
shell-tempered vessels


Figure 6.22 Schematic plan of Barnhouse indicating the relationships
between shell-tempered pottery and the central area, and rock-tempered
pottery and the periphery of the settlement

In this chapter we have followed the biographies of different categories
of Grooved ware from their site of production, we have examined their
role in differing consumption practices and ¬nally we have observed their
relationship to distinct modes of deposition. We have noted the way in
which, at various stages of their lives, different categories of vessels are
related to different contexts and thereby differing social identities. So far
this analysis has concentrated on the biographies of vessels within the
settlement site. In the next chapter I will expand the analysis to exam-
ine the relationship between the biography of the Barnhouse Grooved
ware and Grooved ware deposited in other locations within the wider
While this analysis is conducted at a microscale intra-site level, in the
next chapter I will examine the relationship between the practices re-
lated to Grooved ware and the wider apprehension of plants and animals.
Moreover I will examine how the culturally informed practices relating to
144 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

Grooved ware biographies inter-relate with the speci¬c mode of inhabi-
tation of Later Neolithic settlements, and how the speci¬c practice of liv-
ing in these settlements help to constitute particular settlement histories.
Finally, at a wider scale of analysis I will examine how an understanding
of the detailed social practices associated with pottery enables us to gain
a different viewpoint of the emergence of agriculture.
7 Making people and things in the Neolithic:
pots, food and history

In the previous chapter I described the interpretative framework and
analytical methodology I employed to examine the production, use and
deposition of Grooved ware in the Later Neolithic settlement site of
Barnhouse, Orkney. The analysis suggested that the ˜lives™ of different
categories of pottery take quite different forms. Their production is asso-
ciated with different areas of the settlement, while their use and deposition
are framed by their association with different kinds of activity, different
foods and different social occasions. The biographies of different cate-
gories of vessels are therefore associated with different, but overlapping,
social identities. In this chapter I will delineate these biographies and out-
line their signi¬cance in relation to other sites in Later Neolithic Orkney.
Following this I will examine the nature of the cultural metaphors that
motivate the construction of these biographies and how these intersect
with food technologies. I will then open out the discussion to examine
how the social practices associated with food and pottery production are
bound up with long-term settlement histories, and ¬nally I will discuss
the role of pottery and food in terms of our understanding of changing
social relations during the Neolithic.

The biography of Grooved ware at Barnhouse
It is important to reiterate the distinction between the production of rock-
and shell-tempered vessels. In the previous chapter I suggested that the
production of shell-tempered vessels is undertaken communally in the
space at the centre of the settlement, while rock-tempered vessels are
produced by speci¬c individual households. So not only are the raw ma-
terials of production procured from speci¬c places, but their deployment
in the production process is also related to speci¬c places within the set-
tlement. Such a distinction suggests that the precise place and manner of
production are critical to the way in which vessels are used and perceived,
and that the use of vessels will be related to either speci¬c households
or speci¬c individuals within households. Finally, the manner in which

146 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

vessels are deposited is guided by the duality between the identity of each
vessel during production and its identity through use. I will now sketch
a biographical outline for each category of vessel.

1 The large vessels at Barnhouse are produced communally in the cen-
tral area and by individual households. In use they are placed around the
walls of houses, where their position probably remained fairly static. In
support of this it is worth noting that one vessel was set into the ¬‚oor
in just such a position in structure 8. The immovability of this cate-
gory of vessel is especially apparent if we examine the evidence from
a number of other contemporary settlement sites. Within hut D at the
site of Rinyo, Rousay Childe and Grant (1938, 24) noted that a large
vessel had broken in situ within a stone alcove. Measurements of the
dimensions of the alcove and the vessel indicate that the vessel was im-
movable from the alcove in which it was situated. Furthermore, when
Childe (1928, 1929, 1931) excavated house 7, Skara Brae, there were
a number of large Grooved ware vessels smashed in situ within small
alcoves, or placed in the ˜box-beds™, while a further vessel was placed in
close proximity to the rear ˜dresser™. While not all of these vessels were
immovable, they were too large to ¬t through the low doorway of the
house. This suggests that large vessels were integral to the construction
of the house.
The spatial position of these vessels suggests that they were hardly visi-
ble during their period of use; as the evidence from GC/MS suggests they
contained either barley or cattle milk, they are best regarded as storage
vessels. It is notable that each house had a single large vessel, whose use
is likely to have been shared by the household. On discard large vessels at
Barnhouse were placed in a peripheral location at the edge of the settle-
ment at the back of house 3, conforming to the same peripheral position
they occupied during use. The material within this dump was derived
from a number of locations around the settlement. Thus, on deposition,
large vessels were placed in a communal location. After deposition cer-
tain vessels may have been incorporated within the walls of later houses as
foundation deposits.
2 The biographies of medium-size vessels are more complex, and I
will describe them according to fabric. Medium-size shell-tempered ves-
sels were produced and ¬red in the communal space at the centre of
the settlement. They were used in a number of locations around the
settlement: most were used in the houses that border the central area,
although a number were used in the houses on the periphery of the
settlement. In both locations their use was similar; that is, they were
stored around the periphery of the house and were used for cooking
Making people and things in the Neolithic 147

within the central hearth. Evidence from GC/MS suggests they were
used to cook cattle milk products. A number of shell-tempered ves-
sels may also have been used as serving vessels for the consumption of
foodstuffs. The high frequency of these vessels within each individual
house suggests that they were used as individual serving vessels.
The identity of these vessels depends on two factors: where they were
used and where they were made. If used in the houses around the pe-
riphery of the settlement, then they were deposited amongst the ash
dumps outside the house, although the composition of these dumps
suggests that shell-tempered vessels were preferentially dumped closer
to the central area. If used in the houses bordering the central area,
they were deposited within the central area, in the location in which
they were produced.
3 Medium-size rock-tempered vessels have quite different biographies.
These vessels were produced according to speci¬c temper ˜recipes™, which
related them to speci¬c houses. Despite the clear association with certain
houses, it is dif¬cult to determine exactly where they were ¬red. They
were located in similar places to the shell-tempered vessels within houses “
being stored around the periphery of the walls “ and used within the cen-
tral hearth. These vessels may have been used either as cooking or serving
vessels. In house 2, a number were sooted, suggesting their use as cooking
vessels. They were used to contain cattle milk products and, in the context
of house 2, cattle meat. As with medium-size shell-tempered vessels, their
frequency suggests that they were also employed as individual serving
vessels. The deposition of these vessels depends on a number of factors.
Through use, certain vessels were related to speci¬c houses and as such
they were deposited in exterior dumps outside these houses. However, if
used for the consumption of cattle meat in house 2, they were dumped
outside this house or house 3. The identity associated with their use and
deposition is complex, since it is related to the use of vessels in speci¬c
houses, such as house 2, and to the consumption of certain substances,
such as cattle meat.
4 Small vessels have simpler biographies. Depending on how they were
tempered, they were produced either communally in the central area or
individually in separate households. Their use was similar to medium-
size vessels, since they were found in peripheral alcoves within the house
and around the central hearth. However, unlike medium-size vessels,
they contained barley, and as such can be considered as serving vessels.
The low frequency of these vessels in each household suggests that these
vessels were shared in use. If produced within the central area, they were
redeposited in this location; if used within individual houses, they were
deposited amongst the hearth ash outside the house.
148 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

Grooved ware and social identity at Barnhouse
Each house at Barnhouse has a broadly similar assemblage of pottery,
with the major difference between them being the manner in which the
pottery was tempered, although each category of Grooved ware was used
in a different way. Large vessels were most closely linked to the house-
hold, since they remained static within the periphery of the house and
were used by all members of the household. However, those vessels that
were used on a daily basis around the central hearth “ medium and
small vessels “ were decorated with decorative schemes that suggest a no-
tion of communal settlement-speci¬c identity. Importantly, it was these
vessels that were used in cooking and consumption activities and were
thereby involved in the routine negotiation and sedimentation of social
Rather than perceiving identities as constants that are simply read from
the surface of the vessel, we need to consider the dynamic involved in the
negotiation of identities. Through decoration each category of vessel is
bound up with one set of identities, while through use these identities may
be evoked, reworked or contested. I noted that, due to their frequency
in individual households, small vessels were likely to be used in acts of
sharing. Therefore these vessels refer, via decoration, to the community as
represented by the settlement, while, in use, they refer to a different aspect
of community, represented by the household. Meanwhile, due to their
frequency, medium-size vessels may have been used as individual serving
vessels. Decoratively, these vessels refer to the community as represented
by the settlement, but in use they also represent the individual. In each
case we may consider the notion of community to be drawn on in acts of
household or individual consumption. A number of identities may have
been constructed through this dialectic “ especially those concerning the
place of individuals and households within the community.

Grooved ware and social identity in house 2
The activities taking place in house 2 appear to be linked to certain no-
tions of community. It is unlikely that this house was inhabited on a
full-time basis, and the activities conducted in house 2 may have involved
the community as a whole. It is notable in this regard that house 2 was a
focus for the processing and redistribution of barley. The Grooved ware
from house 2 was unusual; ¬rst an extremely uniform temper ˜recipe™
composed of widely available sedimentary rocks was used in the produc-
tion of the pottery. Despite the uniformity in the production process, the
decoration on the Grooved ware from this house was unlike that from
the rest of the site. Speci¬c categories of vessel were also utilised for the
consumption of cattle meat. Notably, consumption activities within
Making people and things in the Neolithic 149

house 2 were restricted and could only be witnessed by those within
the western room of house 2. Given the nature of the food eaten and the
form of decoration on the pots, we may consider these activities to be
restricted to those of a speci¬c identity, with possible exclusions accord-
ing to age, gender or lineage. Given that the house was a focus for the
production of stone tools that were of particular importance as exchange
objects, we may also consider the con¬nes of house 2 to be the focus of
some form of small-scale exchange activities.

Grooved ware and social identity in structure 8
In the earliest phases at Barnhouse, vessels employed in the cooking and
consumption of food were used around the central hearth and were dec-
orated in a similar manner. As such I noted that their use involved the
expression of the identities of individuals and households in relation to
ideas of community. This practice contrasts with the use of vessels for
cooking and consumption in structure 8. Here the activities of cooking
and consumption were spatially separated. The activities that surround
the production of Grooved ware and its use in the cooking and con-
sumption of food have changed, and the identities involved in the use
of these vessels has shifted. The scale of cooking around the structure 8
platform was considerable; the vessels employed for cooking were twice
the volume of earlier cooking vessels. It seems reasonable to assume that,
if structure 8 was a house, then the scale of everyday cooking and con-
sumption practices had increased, suggesting a larger number of people
included within the household.
Materially the large cooking vessels and medium-size and small serv-
ing vessels both represent similar production histories and similar com-
munal notions of identity. However, while cooking was a highly visible
activity that occurred on the platform, consumption was more restrictive
and occurred around the central hearth in the building™s interior. The
association between the act of consumption and the use of the central
hearth was retained, suggesting that the hearth remained a focus for social
interaction. It would seem that in this later period there was less empha-
sis on utilising pottery to represent differences within the settlement;
rather, we may simply be seeing large-scale consumption as a means of
cementing social ties within the community. We need not necessarily see
this change in consumption practices as re¬‚ecting changing kinship re-
lations, but rather as a change in the way social relations are expressed
and represented. Richards (1993a, 163) notes that structure 8 may be
seen as a representation of a house. In a similar way the Grooved ware
used within it may also be considered as representational. The uniform
and conglomerate method of construction and decoration would appear
150 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

to be referring to a new kind of identity, a more overarching notion of

The biography of Grooved ware beyond Barnhouse
It is notable that Grooved ware is found in two other major contexts
in Later Neolithic Orkney “ henges and passage graves. To begin with I
would like to contrast the activities at two locations: the site of
Barnhouse Odin and the Stones of Stenness. Both sites are within around
150 m of the Barnhouse settlement. The Barnhouse Odin site represents
the remains of two standing stones situated some six metres apart, and has
been recently described as a form of symbolic gateway, allowing access
from the Brodgar complex into the Stenness complex (Richards 1996,
199). A large scooped hearth, associated with ¬‚int debris and undeco-
rated sherds of medium-size shell-tempered Grooved ware, was situated
on the southeastern side of the stones.
We observe an immediate contrast when we compare this material with
that found in the henge at the Stones of Stenness (Ritchie 1976). At
Stenness all of the Grooved ware was rock-tempered and most of it was
decorated (Henshall and Savory 1976). Notably one vessel is decorated
with precisely the same decorative scheme as the Barnhouse Grooved
ware (Fig. 7.1). A petrological examination of the Stenness Grooved ware
(Williams 1976) revealed that it was tempered with two different sorts

Figure 7.1 The Grooved ware from the ditch at the Stones of Stenness
Making people and things in the Neolithic 151

Figure 7.2 Plan of the Stones of Stenness henge indicating the position
of Grooved ware sherds

of igneous and sedimentary rock. The ¬rst of these cannot be sourced,
although it was used in a number of speci¬c contexts at Barnhouse, es-
pecially house 2. The second is the source of rock used exclusively in
house 5, Barnhouse. A total of twelve vessels are represented at Stenness,
and these are mostly derived from the ashy ¬ll of the central hearth and
the western terminus of the rock cut ditch (Fig. 7.2). The radiocarbon
dates for the use of the hearth are fairly late and are likely to date the
¬nal use of this feature. However the deposition of Grooved ware vessels
in the primary ¬ll of the ditch, vessels that are almost certainly prov-
enanced from within the earliest houses at Barnhouse, suggests a degree
of contemporary activity.
152 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

How was Grooved ware used in the henge, and what form did these
activities take? In order to answer these questions, we need to consider the
activities at Barnhouse Odin and Stenness together. At Barnhouse Odin
large amounts of shell-tempered Grooved ware were mixed with ash and
¬‚int tools, but surprisingly little burnt bone. In contrast, it is notable
that few ¬‚int tools were found within the henge. I believe that we are
observing a distinction between activities inside and outside of the henge
enclosure, with the butchery of animals and the cooking of food associated
with shell-tempered Grooved ware taking place around the Barnhouse
Odin hearth. The cooking process may then have been followed by the
consumption of food around the large central hearth in the Stones of
Stenness, with the subsequent deposition of food remains and pottery
in the ditch. Interestingly, there were deposits of cattle, sheep and dog
bones in the ditch and terminal of the henge (Clutton-Brock 1976, 35).
What is also of interest with regard to the animal bones is the propensity
of juveniles, suggesting that the animals had been slaughtered around late
autumn or winter. Colin Richards (1993b, 238) has suggested that this
may indicate activity around midwinter, a symbolically important point
in the Orcadian year.
I now want to turn to the Quanterness passage grave (Fig. 7.3) to
assess the nature of Grooved ware in this context. The passage grave

Figure 7.3 Plan of Quanterness passage grave
Making people and things in the Neolithic 153

Figure 7.4 Relationship between Quanterness passage grave and the
Barnhouse settlement

at Quanterness (Renfrew 1979) is situated twelve miles distant from
Barnhouse (Fig. 7.4). Excavation in the central chamber revealed a se-
quence of deposits of human remains initiated by deposits placed directly
on the bedrock ¬‚oor. This activity was followed by the construction of
three cists cut into the ¬‚oor deposits. Of these only two were excavated,
cists A and B. Both cists contained a single inhumation: in cist A, an
adult male between 30 to 40 years old was found. Cist A had subse-
quently been reopened, some time after, for the burial of a child and
a female teenager. The deposits in cist B are more likely to be in situ.
Further deposits of disarticulated human bone then covered the cists.
Finally, a pit containing an adult male inhumation was cut into these up-
per deposits. The radiocarbon dates for the construction of this passage
grave accord almost exactly with the Barnhouse settlement.
154 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

Although the deposits are disturbed (Barber 1988; Hingley 1996) we
are not required to understand the spatial integrity of the twenty-two to
thirty-four Grooved ware vessels (Henshall 1979, 75) deposited in this
passage grave in order to understand the nature of deposition. However,
as Renfrew (1979, 158) rightly notes, if the pottery was intermixed with
bone prior to deposition, there would be less spatial differentiation be-
tween human bone and artefacts. Despite the disturbance of the contents
of the passage grave, a Grooved ware sherd was found in a sealed con-
text next to each individual in the cists and the inhumation in the pit.
I contend that this repeated contextual association cannot be dismissed
as coincidental or taphonomic.
One vessel from Quanterness (P2) was decorated with precisely the
same curvilinear decorative scheme as the Barnhouse Grooved ware
(Fig. 7.5). This was the only vessel from Quanterness to have been tem-
pered with olivine-basalt (Williams 1979, 84), and examination of the
thin-section (Jones 2000) revealed that it is from the same source of
olivine-basalt that outcrops near the chambered tomb of Unstan in the
loch of Stenness. It is this material that predominates as a tempering
agent in the Grooved ware from houses 3 and 5, Barnhouse. Further
examination of thin-sections from Quanterness revealed two sherds tem-
pered with two different sources of igneous dyke material, again used
preferentially in the Grooved ware from house 3 and house 5, repec-
tively. More general examination of the thin-sections from Quanterness
by Williams (1979, 96) indicates that at least twelve vessels from the site
were not tempered with materials available in the local vicinity.
Given the speci¬city of the decorative schemes and the remarkable
petrological concordance, it is suggested that at least three vessels from
Quanterness were produced at Barnhouse. Notably, most of the sherds
in Quanterness are derived from medium-size rock-tempered vessels. On
this basis it seems likely that this category of vessel was especially appro-
priate for deposition in passage graves. It is dif¬cult to determine whether
the vessels placed within the passage grave were used beforehand or pro-
duced speci¬cally for deposition within this context, but the presence of
sooting on many of the vessels (Henshall 1979, 77) suggests they have
been used elsewhere. At Barnhouse, this category of vessel was used for
the consumption of speci¬c foodstuffs, either cattle meat or milk.
What is the nature of the social practices surrounding the introduction
of individual Grooved ware vessels into the passage grave? The inhabi-
tants of a speci¬c household at Barnhouse produced the vessel P2 de-
posited at Quanterness. My analysis of the production of Grooved ware
at Barnhouse indicates that the manufacture of this vessel relates to in-
dividual households. Its use would have been fairly restricted during its
Making people and things in the Neolithic 155

Figure 7.5 The Quanterness Grooved ware

use-life, with consumption con¬ned to use around the central hearth of
an individual house. Its use in a context beyond the settlement would
suggest that a very speci¬c aspect of its biographical identity was evoked
in this context; an identity associated with kin relations between speci¬c
households in different settlements. A similar argument may be advanced
for other vessels within Quanterness. Given the widespread provenance of
pots within Quanterness, some form of exogamous kinship system con-
necting a number of geographically distinct groups is likely. The relation-
ship between people and tombs is far more complex than the one-to-one
156 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

relationship originally proposed by Renfrew (1979, 221). The dispersed
nature of settlement is certain, but the complexities of the relationship be-
tween the passage grave and the settlements necessitate against a simple
unitary or segmentary view of society. Rather, it is likely that a num-
ber of complex exogamous kinship relations, probably reckoned through
marriage, were expressed over a wide area.
Things are bound up with the biography of people. The biography and
memory associated with particular people and particular social groups are
bound up in the production and use-life of the vessel. Thus, the use of an
object so intimately connected to settlement-related notions of identity
is especially appropriate in this context, since it is the memory of the
relationship between one group and another that is being commemorated.
The use of a vessel with a speci¬c production history, decorative scheme
and place of origin would have brought into focus, or presenced, the
relationship between the deceased and those depositing the vessel in this
context (see Chapman 2000b; Munn 1986).
Similarly, at the Stones of Stenness we see the use of at least one vessel
that refers to Barnhouse due to its production history and decoration. Its
presentation in a context outside the settlement must involve the repre-
sentation of the notion of community, and the community of Barnhouse
in particular. This is of interest if we consider that activities within the
Stones of Stenness were visible to people beyond the community of
Barnhouse. Precisely the same form of pottery is being used both in the
intimate con¬nes of the house at Barnhouse, and in the wider arena of the
henge. This is especially interesting when we note that the architecture of
the henge draws on the architecture of the house. This architecture is
furthermore reproduced at a later date within the settlement, in the con-
struction of structure 8.
Through the use of Grooved ware, which refers both to the house and
to the community, the social relations of the household and members of
the wider community were drawn on by those participating in the ac-
tivities within the henge. This is an important point since we observe
consumption and sharing associated with a vessel whose use would nor-
mally be restricted to the household. In a wider communal context, this
act would have been essential to the creation of relations of af¬nity be-
tween the inhabitants of Barnhouse and those whose origins lay beyond
the settlement.
It is important to note that in the case of the henge and the passage grave
to the vessels used in each context were also associated with daily practices
in the settlement. It is precisely because these vessels are associated with
the quotidian that their use has impact outside the settlement. In the
case of their use in mortuary practices in Quanterness, they stand for a
Making people and things in the Neolithic 157

relationship between members of one community and another that are to be
dissolved or renegotiated on the death of an individual from one of these
communities. In the context of the Stones of Stenness, these vessels stand
for the community of Barnhouse, who are conducting activities within the
henge on behalf of the wider community. The signi¬cance of the vessels
is subtly transformed as they move from one context to another.

Food and consumption in Later Neolithic Orkney
So far I have analysed the ˜grammatical structure™ of the Barnhouse pot-
tery assemblage. Broadly speaking, each category of vessel is employed
for the storage, cooking or consumption of speci¬c foods. We have also
observed the way in which different categories of vessel are used in distinct
contexts inside and outside the settlement. In each case I have empha-
sised the nature of the identities expressed through the use of Grooved
ware in these contexts. Here I want to examine the way in which these
identities are emphasised not only by the biographical histories of indi-
vidual pots, but because of the signi¬cance of the foodstuffs contained
within these pots. I want to elucidate the way in which the biographies as-
sociated with pottery are entangled with the biographies associated with
particular plants and animals as components of diet. As Samuel (1999)
notes, the use of plants and animals as foodstuffs involves a complex series
of stages in which they undergo a transformation in order to become food.
In the present discussion I want to examine how certain elements of the
chaˆnes op´ratoires associated with plants and animals, as food, intersect
± e
with those of Grooved ware.
Most importantly, the use of plants and animals within the Barnhouse
Grooved ware appears to be selective. We only observe the storage and
consumption of barley and the cooking and consumption of cattle milk,
with cattle meat con¬ned to consumption activities within house 2. I
believe that the selective use of these particular species is signi¬cant. If
we are to understand the signi¬cance of these foodstuffs in more detail,
we need to turn to the extensive faunal and botanical evidence from
Later Neolithic Orkney.
Let us begin by examining the evidence for the use of plant-based
foods. Most botanical material comes from the midden deposits asso-
ciated with houses and settlements. Large amounts of carbonised grain
of barley (Hordeum sp.) were found in discrete deposits within the mid-
dens at Skara Brae, Tofts Ness and Pool (Bond 1994, 173“5; Clarke and
Sharples 1990, 73) along with crab apple (Malus sylvestris) pips in small
quantities (Camilla Dickson, pers. comm.). Other plant species found in
settlement sites include wheat (Triticium spp.), pignut (Conopodium majus)
158 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

and crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), hazel nuts (Corylus) and onion couch
(Arrhenatherum eliatus ssp. tuberosum). Cereals such as Triticium dicoccum
(emmer wheat), Hordeum vulgare (hulled six-row barley) and Hordeum
vulgare var. nudum (naked six-row barley) grains were also deposited in
mortuary contexts as at Isbister, South Ronaldsay (Lynch 1983, 174).
It is of interest then that of the wide range of wild and domestic plant
species utilised in Later Neolithic Orkney, it was barley that was stored
and consumed in Grooved ware pottery. I have discussed the signi¬-
cance of the association between cereals and pottery elsewhere ( Jones
1999). There are a number of points concerning this discussion that are
worth repeating here. The ¬rst point is that the production of large ce-
ramic containers appears to facilitate the storage of cereals. This marks
a signi¬cant break with previous periods where we observe little ma-
terial evidence for the storage of cereals. With regard to the storage and
consumption of cereals, it is notable that the large Grooved ware vessels
used to store barley are located in the peripheral alcoves and dressers of
Later Neolithic houses, while the consumption of barley occurs in small
vessels decorated with passage grave art motifs. In both cases there is a
striking relationship between the storage and consumption of cereals and
the dead. First, there is a strong spatial homology between the location
of the large storage vessels in the houses of the living and the storage
of ancestral remains, especially skulls, in the peripheral alcoves of pas-
sage graves: the houses of the dead (Hodder 1992). Furthermore, the
association between the decoration of small Grooved ware vessels and
that of passage graves also provides a link with the dead. Finally we also
observe the deposition of cereals in passage graves, as at Isbister, South
I have suggested that this association between cereal storage and con-
sumption, pottery and the dead is best understood in terms of the creation
and maintenance of memory (Jones 1999, 71“3). The cycles of growth,
harvest and storage associated with cereals encourage an appreciation
of the signi¬cance of memory. Furthermore these activities promote the
remembrance of those previous generations involved in the production
of crops (see Meillasoux 1972). It is for this reason that there is a close
association between the storage of this ancestral resource, the storage of
the dead in the passage grave, and the remembrance of the dead dur-
ing consumption of cereals via the medium of the decoration on small
Grooved ware vessels.
Having brie¬‚y examined the nature of plant use with regard to Grooved
ware, I will now turn to examine Grooved ware and animals. I have argued
elsewhere that the deposition of animal remains in Later Neolithic Orkney
is selective. Animals are deposited in particular contexts, including
Making people and things in the Neolithic 159

chambered tombs and passage graves, henges and settlement middens.
Settlement middens at Skara Brae provide the best evidence for the range
of animal species, which includes cattle, sheep, pig, dog, whale and a nu-
mber of bird and ¬sh species (Noddle unpublished). However these an-
imal species are not all deposited as the result of domestic consumption
practices; certain species are selected for special treatment. Cattle skulls,
whale skulls and long bones are found as structural elements embed-
ded in the walls of the settlement. In the case of cattle, we also observe
cattle bones embedded in the walls of passage graves (Sharples 1984).
Other deposits include the 15 completely articulated red deer that were
slaughtered and placed at the limit of the settlement at the Links of
Noltland (Clarke and Sharples 1990), and the similar deposit found
at Skara Brae (Richards forthcoming). The range of animal species de-
posited in settlements is paralleled in passage grave and chambered tomb
Spectacularly, we observe the deposition of at least 15 white-tailed sea
eagles in the tomb located on the cliff edge at Isbister, South Ronaldsay
(Hedges 1984). We also observe the deposition of around 14 and 36 red
deer in the tombs located on the hill terrace at Knowe of Ramsay and
Knowe of Yarso, Rousay (Callander and Grant 1935, 1936). Around
24 dog skulls were placed in the passage grave located on a hillside
at Cuween Hill, Mainland Orkney (Charleson 1902) and around 16
sheep and lambs deposited in the tomb located on lower ground at
Blackhammer, Rousay (Callander and Grant 1937). In summary, the
process of deposition in various Later Neolithic depositional contexts is
not arbitrary (see Table 7.1). It involves the selection of animal remains
most appropriate to particular kinds of place, including both settlements
located coastally and tombs situated in different locations within the lived
landscape. I have argued elsewhere that the signi¬cance of this selec-
tive deposition relates to an association of particular species with certain
habitats, with speci¬c behavioural characteristics and according to their
association with humans (Jones 1998).
For those animal species that are selected for special treatment, these
species represent the most obvious characteristics of particular kinds of

Table 7.1 Depositional contexts for animal species in Later Neolithic Orkney

Cow Sheep Pig Dog Deer Whale Birds Eagle Fish

Mortuary context Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Settlement midden Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Henge ditch Yes Yes No Yes No No No No No
160 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

place and particular sorts of activity ( Jones 1998). Sea eagles constitute
the example of a bird par excellence, being the largest bird in Neolithic
Orkney and the bird that is able to ¬‚y the highest. Whales are the largest
sea mammals in Neolithic Orkney and constitute the most obvious as-
pects of the sea. Cattle are the largest domesticates, being of a similar
size to the aurochs (Noddle 1983), while red deer are the largest non-
domesticated land animal. Dogs, on the other hand, are the only do-
mesticated carnivore and as such may serve to point up similarities be-
tween humans and themselves, since each eats the ¬‚esh of other animals.
However, both dogs and cattle are associated with the settlement, while
deer are associated with the hunt and are deposited on the margins
of the settled landscape. Analysis of both deer and cattle skeletal ele-
ments suggest that cattle and deer were both important sources of meat
(Barker 1984).
As a species cattle pre-eminently signify the life of the settlement. Cattle
bones are closely associated with human bones in certain mortuary con-
texts, as at Isbister, and they are also embedded in the walls of both
settlement and passage grave. They are therefore associated both with
qualities of strength and protection and with the identities of speci¬c
individuals. Furthermore, the large size of Later Neolithic cattle in Orkney
means that the slaughter of cattle would constitute a substantial provision
of meat. It is worthwhile noting that it is sheep that dominate the faunal
assemblages of the settlement, suggesting that sheep may form the bulk of
the meat component of the diet, while cattle may be slaughtered on a more
periodic basis. The periodicity of the pattern of slaughter is underlined by
the high number of juveniles within both cattle and sheep assemblages,
suggesting the slaughter of livestock in autumn. It is interesting, then, that
the main cattle product to be found in the Barnhouse Grooved ware was
cattle milk, which may be consumed on a periodic basis with no harm
to the animal. The use of the more scarce resource of cattle meat was
restricted to consumption within house 2.
Overall, it is interesting to note that while different categories of ves-
sel were used together around the central hearth, they were used for the
preparation and consumption of different kinds of food. Foods such as
barley and milk were cooked within medium-size shell-tempered vessels,
but were consumed in different categories of vessel. Barley was consumed
in the smallest and most highly decorated vessels, while either cattle milk
or meat was consumed within medium-size vessels, also highly decorated.
The consumption of foods in a complex set of ceramics, and in speci¬c
restricted contexts, suggests that different foodstuffs may have been per-
ceived hierarchically. Interestingly, quite different foods such as barley
and milk are cooked in the same kind of vessel, but it is their consumption
Making people and things in the Neolithic 161

that is important and requires their division into separate categories of
vessel. The use of ceramic containers like Grooved ware facilitates the
separation and classi¬cation of foods. Concomitantly, this enables foods
to become a useful tool for the mediation and expression of different
aspects of identity in different social contexts. The relationship between
the biography of certain vessels, their decoration and the substances con-
sumed within them coheres in order to express subtle differences in the
social identities of consumers.
We seem to observe a contrast between food that is associated with the
community as a whole, such as barley and cattle milk, and foods that are
associated with particular identities, such as cattle meat. This contrast
allows us to understand how different foods are used in expressing dif-
ferent kinds of social identity. The consumption of barley is symbolically
signi¬cant. This food is shared within the community but more impor-
tantly indicates a shared relationship between the living and the dead.
On the other hand, the close association between cattle and people on
death suggests that cattle may be associated with the self and the indi-
vidual. As such, the consumption of the products of cattle in a number
of different contexts is a powerful statement of the relationship between
people. The sharing of cattle milk both within the community and in the
context of activities in the henge and passage grave constitutes an impor-
tant expression of social relations between communities. The consump-
tion of cattle meat in the con¬nes of house 2 constitutes an important
means of de¬ning the intimacy of relations between people.

People, pots and houses
Throughout this chapter I have demonstrated the link between particu-
lar categories of vessel and different kinds of social identity. Here I will
clarify that link by examining the central metaphorical associations (see
Gosselain 1999 for discussion of pots and metaphor) that relate different
categories of vessel to different identities. This examination will enable
us to elucidate how the production and use of Grooved ware is bound
up with the social changes that take place over the life of the Barnhouse
settlement and more generally within Neolithic Orkney as a whole. In this
way I want to examine the subtle ways in which the biographies of various
categories of Grooved ware are mediated by contextual associations with
the house and the settlement.
Here I am concerned with examining the metaphorical relationship
between pots and houses. I will begin this examination by considering the
production process. Grooved ware is circular in shape, and the primary
construction of a Grooved ware vessel begins by building a ¬‚at clay base.
162 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

The walls of the vessel are built using successive interlocking rings of clay.
This primary construction process is analogous to the construction of a
Later Neolithic house: ¬rst a clay ¬‚oor is laid, and a low bank of clay is
placed around the circumference of the house, while the walls are laid as
successive interlocking rings of stone walling.
The Grooved ware vessel is strengthened using temper derived from
speci¬c sources related to the identity of particular people and ancestors,
just as the walls of the houses are strengthened with midden material that
is related to the identity of the previous inhabitants of the settlement.
The exterior of the vessel is slipped in order to smooth the surface prior
to ¬ring. This allows a series of decorations to be placed onto the pots™
surface. Again the exterior of the house is covered in a turf jacket, but the
interior of the house may be decorated with a linear decoration similar
to that found on the surface of some Grooved ware vessels. The pot is
¬red either within the centre of the settlement or outside this area, possi-
bly within individual houses. The location of ¬ring appears to structure
the nature of the relationship between particular categories of vessel and
the house. Just as the pot is warmed by ¬re to enable its transformation,
the ¬re within the central hearth socially transforms the house (Richards
Pots were used within houses in different ways. The large vessels, used
for storage, were placed around the periphery of the house in alcoves,
the ˜dresser™ or within pits. Medium- and small-size vessels were typically
used around the central hearth. Most strikingly, pots were deposited in
relation to houses, with those used around the hearth being deposited in
close proximity to the house. Those made and used in the central area
were deposited in this area, while those vessels most closely associated
with the house, the large vessels, were placed at the periphery of the
settlement. The social signi¬cance and identity of different categories of
Grooved ware depended on their conceptual distance from the house.
The whole ¬eld of activities associated with Grooved ware was based on
the important metaphorical notion that pots and houses have properties
in common and that each is naturally related to the other.
The relationship between different categories of pottery and houses
is related more generally to the idea of mobility (see Battaglia 1991 for
discussion of social mobility of people and things). The social mobility of
different categories of vessel depends on the relationship of the category
of vessel to the house. There are a number of attributes that de¬ne the
social mobility of vessels: these include the vessel size; the materials used
in production; the location of production; and the typical contents of the
vessel. A further factor to consider is the decorative scheme, since this is
drawn on in the differential contextual use of the vessel. Decoration is not
Making people and things in the Neolithic 163

con¬ned to Grooved ware but found in a number of contexts during the
Later Neolithic, including houses, passage graves, cist slabs, stone knives
and carved stone balls. Much of this decoration consists of bounded
linear motifs, although a number of passage graves are also decorated
with curvilinear motifs. The presence of decoration on Grooved ware acts
as an additional means of categorisation. Overall, as discussed previously,
it is the speci¬c biographies of Grooved ware vessels, coupled with their
settlement-speci¬c decorative schemes, that motivate their use outside
the settlement in passage grave and henge contexts. It is the ability of
Grooved ware to carry this place-speci¬c meaning beyond the settlement
that is crucial in these contexts.

Grooved ware and social change in Later Neolithic Orkney
The relationships between Grooved ware, houses and settlements are
critical to our understanding of broader patterns of social change in Later
Neolithic Orkney. Broadly speaking we observe three distinct changes
occurring over the duration of the Later Neolithic:
1 As noted in the previous chapter, we observe a change in the decora-
tive techniques (from incised to applied decoration) executed on Grooved
ware vessels. This change in technique is associated with a change in the
way in which decoration is related to settlement: in the earliest phases
of the Later Neolithic, each settlement is deploying its own individual
decorative scheme; by the later phases each settlement is deploying the
same decorative scheme.
2 The earliest phases of the Later Neolithic are characterised by the
construction of a series of monumental architectural constructions, in-
cluding henges and passage graves (Richards 1998). In the later phases
of the Later Neolithic these monuments fall out of use.
3 This shift in emphasis is also related to a change in house architec-
ture and the nature of settlement. During the earlier phases of the Later
Neolithic, settlements consist of free-standing houses; by the later phases
we observe either the construction of monumental houses, such as struc-
ture 8, Barnhouse, or the nucleation of settlement in which house con-
struction becomes conjoined, as at Skara Brae and the Links of Noltland.
In order to understand these changes in social practices, we need to
consider the issue of social identity. Of particular importance here is the
relationship between the expression and negotiation of identity in rela-
tion to consumption practices. There is a transformation in the social
emphasis placed on the appropriate contexts for large-scale consumption
during the Later Neolithic. In the earlier phases of the Later Neolithic,
164 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

the large-scale communal consumption of food occurred in the context of
henges and passage graves. By the later phases the emphasis had shifted
to settlements as the contexts for large-scale consumptive practices, as
we see in the form of the monumental structure 8 at Barnhouse. The
changing contexts of consumption, along with the changing decorative
motifs on Grooved ware, constitute an active expression of changing ideas
of community. We observe a change from a more divisive form of social
community, in which consumption occurred in visible public arenas such
as the henge or the platform of the passage grave, to a more inclusive form
of social community, in which consumption occurred within the settle-
ment itself. This ¬nal expression of community was de¬ned not only
through the enactment of consumption practices within the settlement,
but also through the production of similar forms of Grooved ware in each
Later Neolithic community across Orkney. Finally, this inclusive notion
of community is expressed in the architecture of house and settlement,
where we observe a shift towards monumental houses or the nucleation
of settlements. Importantly, the expression of these changing notions of
identity emerges through the routine practices associated with the habi-
tation of the settlement and the production and consumption of pottery.

Making people and things in the Neolithic
As I indicated in chapter 4, microscale studies also provide leverage with
regard to problems of a macroscale nature. In the light of this I want
to consider the analysis of the Barnhouse Grooved ware in relation to
the general proposal by Julian Thomas that the Neolithic is the result
of ˜the wholesale transformation of social relations which results from
adopting an integrated cultural system™ (Thomas 1991, 13). Thomas
quali¬es this statement by suggesting that it is a recognition of the sym-
bolic potentials of various elements such as domesticates, novel material
culture and the construction of durable monuments which creates the
Neolithic world. If we consider the historical phenomena we describe as
the ˜Neolithic™ as occurring as the result of a recon¬guration of social
relations, and a re-description of the relationship between people and
their environment, then we need to consider both in what terms and
through what medium these changes were de¬ned. In particular it is im-
portant to highlight the coherence between the social relations expressed
by people in their habitation and utilisation of the environment, and the
relationship between material culture, food and the creation of new forms
of social expression.
We have seen that within a single ˜Grooved ware™ settlement, the use
of Grooved ware is complex. Different fabrics, volumes and decorative
Making people and things in the Neolithic 165

schemes distinguish different categories of pottery. ˜Grooved ware™ is
therefore not a homogenous cultural label signi¬ed by the use of a spe-
ci¬c class of pottery. Rather particular categories of ˜Grooved ware™ are
both the medium and the outcome of particular ways of living. Here our
attention is drawn to the close identi¬cation made between the expres-
sion of social identities and the articulation of an attachment to place
and locality (see Lovell 1998). Certain pots are constructed from ma-
terials whose signi¬cance is speci¬c to a place, while others are con-
structed within speci¬c places, such as the house or the centre of the
settlement, and other pots are also used or deposited in speci¬c places.
All of these apects of production and use simultaneously de¬ne and ex-
press a series of overlapping social identities. Moreover, at a regional
scale the different Grooved ware biographies are related to the de¬nition
of the af¬nities and differences between different communities during
the Later Neolithic. During the earlier phases of the Later Neolithic,
we see certain categories of Grooved ware used to construct differences
between communities, while towards the end of the Later Neolithic we
see all settlements using the same category of Grooved ware to de¬ne a
holistic sense of community.
The expression of place and locality is a critical component of be-
ing Neolithic (Whittle 1996, 355“71). These issues motivate not only
the production and deposition of material culture, but inhabitation and
sequences of settlement and the construction of chambered tombs and
passage graves in which the dead are situated in place. While these as-
pects structure the temporal inhabitation of Neolithic lifeworlds, how are
social relations maintained and expressed?
Here it is critical to consider the role of food consumption. Although
subsistence has played a clear role in characterisations of the Neolithic,
there have been fewer tendencies to examine the nature of the changing
relations of consumption that, in part, motivated the alteration in subsis-
tence practices. Where discussion has taken place, there is a tendency to
relate consumption or feasting to the acquisition of status (Hayden 1990,
1996; Wiessner 1996), as part of a process of evolving social complex-
ity. Within this framework the adoption and use of ceramics is seen to
be a logical outcome of intensifying strategies in which groups wish to
differentiate themselves. Instead we need to re-orientate our notions of
how ceramics are socially deployed. The Barnhouse study suggests that
pottery allows food to be cooked and consumed in more complex ways,
and also enables the storage of foodstuffs. As I have argued elsewhere
( Jones 1996, 1999), rather than viewing this as the inevitable outcome of
the production and use of pottery, we need to realise that the production
and use of pottery is related to speci¬c ways of viewing the world. For
166 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

example, while storage is an expedient method of managing the prob-
lems of abundance and scarcity, it also marks a new way of organising
and engaging with issues of time and place (see Jones 1999). The activi-
ties of food production, consumption and storage in relation to ceramics
constitute new ways of engaging with and classifying the world. While I
have argued that the production and use of pottery is closely allied to the
expression of certain forms of social identity, the consumption of food
within ceramic containers also provides a new arena for the negotiation
of different kinds of social relations.
Although episodes of consumption in Neolithic Orkney can be char-
acterised in terms of competitive feasting, it is important to note that
the commensal politics of consumption are not only con¬ned to episodic
feasts but take place on a quotidian basis. Equally, as Falk (1994, 10“44)
argues, the meal acts as a mode of consumption at a number of ontolog-
ical levels. Food is incorporated into the body, just as the shared meal
itself embodies a process of incorporation in which individuals are in-
corporated into the group. Therefore social relations are expressed and
con¬rmed as much at the level of daily acts of consumption as on more
formalised occasions. The distinction between the preparation of food
outside and the consumption of food inside house 2 and structure 8,
Barnhouse might be described as diacritical feasting (Deitler 1996, 98)
intended to highlight and naturalise differences within groups. Similarly
the use of Barnhouse Grooved ware within the Stones of Stenness henge
for the consumption of food on behalf of the wider community might
be described as entrepreneurial (Deitler 1996, 92), in that those orches-
trating the feast will gain symbolic capital from the event. However we
also need to consider the relationship between community and house-
hold articulated by the use of medium and small vessels, and the rela-
tionship between stored produce and household articulated by the use
of large vessels at Barnhouse. The alteration in the terms in which so-
cial relations were expressed cannot be wholly reduced to aggrandising
strategies (Hayden 1996); rather, we must realise that such terms had
to be rethought before they could be expressed. Prior to their use in
de¬ning differences between people, a re-evaluation of the relationship
between people and the foods that they ate was required to take place.
Foods were related to particular understandings of the world and as such
were also related to particular categories of person, or certain forms of
social occasion, as appears to be the case with cattle meat at Barnhouse,
house 2.
The process of re-evaluation undergone by foodstuffs also involves a
new de¬nition of the relationship between people, between people and
place and their temporal habitation of the world. The practices of food
Making people and things in the Neolithic 167

consumption are both medium and outcome for the expression of dif-
ferent kinds of communal identity. It is through the act of constructing
social relationships through the medium of food consumption that we
observe the changing production of pottery and changing de¬nitions of
settlement. It is through social practices such as these that people con-
struct different ways of inhabiting the world. In short, then, we are able to
observe that food, material culture and the construction of monuments
are integrally related to the process of living in the Neolithic.
8 Before and after science

I will begin this ¬nal chapter by reiterating three theoretical propositions
that I consider to be of signal importance to the motivation and structure
of our practices as archaeologists:

1 Most importantly, knowledge does not arise from simple one-to-
one observations and descriptions of pre-existing categories in the world.
Instead knowledge is created from our engagement with the world
through the construction of categories. These categories are then uti-
lised as the means to interrogate and provide an understanding of that
2 If we accept the view that knowledge is constructed, we need to
consider precisely how it is constructed. One of the ways in which we
may understand the process of knowledge construction is through an
analysis of the practices of particular groups of people. As I have already
observed, distinct practices are associated with distinct groups of people
or cultures.
3 It follows from the above two points that cultural knowledge is not a
static or concrete entity that can be grasped ˜out there™ in the real world;
instead people live within cultures, and they both use and alter cultural
knowledge through practice. Culture is therefore a contingent process
that must be continually performed if it is to be maintained. It is this
point that I want to develop with regard to science and archaeological
practice in the context of this chapter.

These viewpoints apply with as much force to the study of scienti¬c prac-
tice as they do to the cultural practices of other peoples distant in place or
time. This is the essence of the symmetrical approach of the anthropology
of science “ we apply the same principles to the examination of the beliefs
and practices of other cultures as we do to our own (Latour 1993). In this
chapter I will return to this problem in the light of the preceding chapters
and conclude by emphasising the correlate of these perspectives to our
analysis of archaeological knowledge, scienti¬c or otherwise.

Before and after science 169

Science and history
The approaches to science and practice discussed throughout this vol-
ume may still occasion some problems for those practising science-based
archaeology. As I noted in the opening chapters, we observe a radical dis-
junction between the views of the natural sciences and those of the social
sciences. In the former view, the world is seen to be a static entity that can
be adequately represented by scienti¬c analysis. In the latter the world is
seen to be a contingent or shifting entity which is imperfectly represented
through the lens of culture. Moreover the approaches of the natural sci-
ences are usually applied to the analysis of stable or concrete entities
within the natural world, while the approaches of the social sciences are
applied to the mutable worlds of culture and sociality. We therefore have a
distinction between the static and stable representation of knowledge, on
the one hand embodied by observable, demonstrable scienti¬c facts, and
on the other by the shifting theoretical perspectives of social knowledge.
One obvious worrisome query might be that if we embrace a viewpoint
that suggests that scienti¬c practice is contingent and changeable then
we may be in danger of losing sight of the concrete results of scienti¬c
analysis. Added to this is the worry that if we lose access to the reliable
and observable results of our analyses, on what grounds are we able to
claim knowledge of the past “ again, the spectre of relativism arises.
I will address this point more generally later in this chapter. Here it is
worth pointing out that this query appears to be especially pertinent in
the context of archaeological enquiry. Archaeology is, of course, an un-
usual discipline since it employs the physical elements of the world (such
as material culture, architecture, and faunal and botanical remains) as
a means of studying the social world. Not only this “ it also relies on
the physical presence of the traces of past activity as a means of me-
diating between past and present (Barrett 1994, 2000). On the face of
it, then, archaeology would seem to be furnished with an abundance of
concrete physical evidence for the existence of past worlds. It is the crit-
ical importance attached to this concrete material evidence that I will
explore through the remainder of this chapter. In particular I will exam-
ine the distinction made by many between the observable and concrete
nature of the material evidence of the past, and the facts derived from
the scienti¬c analyses of this material evidence and the changeable na-
ture of archaeological theory. The approach I want to develop here will
attempt to overcome the problems related to the bifurcation between
these two divergent approaches to knowledge by suggesting that we are
required to embrace the concrete and contingent nature of both theory
and data.
170 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

How are we to surmount the problems related to the distinction be-
tween the concrete nature of scienti¬c facts and the shifting nature
of theoretical perspectives? One of the ways in which we may overcome
these dif¬culties is by examining the practice of science. This is precisely
the approach I have adopted throughout this volume. I noted that sci-
enti¬c facts are constructed and that scienti¬c knowledge is subject to
a process in which particular narrative and rhetorical devices are used
to convey certain kinds of information in order to convince or persuade
their target audience (Harraway 1989; Knorr-Certina 1981; Latour and
Woolgar 1987). This point is important since it highlights the fact that
people are active in the process of creating knowledge. It follows that if
knowledge is actively constructed by people, then it is constructed in par-
ticular ways at particular times “ in other words, knowledge of the world
is not static, it is historically contingent.
But if knowledge is historically contingent, how does this relate to
the apparently concrete nature of the world? Are we to return to the
problems related to incommensurable worlds of knowledge, as raised by
the approaches of Kuhn and Feyerabend? As we change our perspective
do we also inhabit different worlds? Or does the concrete world remain
the same while we simply change our perspectives on it? In both cases
problems arise because we tend to treat either the natural world or our
knowledge of it as static. In the ¬rst instance the notion of paradigms is
historically de¬ned or bounded “ knowledge is ¬xed in relation to speci¬c
paradigms, and in order to overcome this problem the natural world is
required to change with the paradigm. In the second instance the natural
world is ¬xed and instead our perspectives on it change.
If we are to overcome these problems we need to investigate the nature
of practice in more detail. I have already noted that scienti¬c analysis in-
volves the construction of facts. But this situation is somewhat one-sided.
Problems arise when we oppose the constructive activity of science with
the static immutable nature of the ˜real world™. However as I have pointed
out at various junctures throughout this volume, scienti¬c activity does
not simply involve the intervention of the scientist in the natural world;
rather, it involves a process of active engagement with the world. The
world is not just made up of people; it is composed of people and things.
This perspective is critical to any attempt to overcome the dif¬culties that
arise between models of concrete scienti¬c knowledge and changing in-
terpretative models. In chapter 2, I introduced two critical concepts that
help us overcome these problems. The ¬rst was the notion that scienti¬c
practice is characterised by a relationship between animating subjects
(people) and animated objects (technologies made up of machines and
instruments). The second important notion was that networks, composed
of both people and instruments, shaped scienti¬c knowledge.
Before and after science 171

We need to reappraise these ideas here. While it is important to re-
tain the notion that knowledge is constructed through the creation of
associations between people and things, we need to question how this
process operates. Should we consider scienti¬c knowledge to be entirely
constructed by scientists drawing together scienti¬c facts, instruments
and other people into networks of interpretation? The problem with this
proposal is that it suggests that people are solely responsible for the worlds
that they construct and live in.
Again we are faced with a dilemma, since an objective viewpoint sug-
gests that the concrete nature of the world has an important part to play in
the construction of reality. Yet, throughout this volume I have discussed
the notion that objects “ be they scienti¬c instruments or otherwise “ have
a degree of agency, that they are animated since the intentions and motiva-
tions of their authors are embedded within them. If this is the case, might
we be able to accord motivations and intentions to the material world?
Rather than considering scienti¬c analysis to be solely related to the
intentions, motivations and observations of scientists, following Pickering
(1995, 9“21) an alternative perspective might be to suggest that the ma-
terial world also operates with a degree of intentionality. This is because
the material world simultaneously constrains and structures the observa-
tions, actions and intentions of the scientists observing it. As observers,
our theories are required to be accommodated with regard to the form
and structure of the material world. Therefore, while the material world
may be observed and interpreted in a multiplicity of possible ways, inter-
pretations are not wholly open-ended; the nature of the material world
resists some kinds of interpretation while it provides the means for others.
It is a process of resistance (from the material world) and subsequent
accommodation (from those making observations related to that world)
that characterises the process of interpretation (Fig. 8.1). The process
of accommodation is furthermore affected by both the theoretical and
practical orientation of scientists, since the practical application of spe-
ci¬c ideas or techniques ˜frames™ the material world and enables it to be
observed in particular ways (Pickering 1995, 93“6). This allows us to un-
derstand the kind of process involved in formulating ideas, ˜testing™ these
against our observations, and changing our ideas according to whether
these appear to ¬t our initial observations.
This perspective encompasses both the notion of objectivity and that of
relativism, since it proposes that the observations of scientists are always
situated in speci¬c concrete material conditions, and that these conditions
affect the observations and construction of the theories of those scientists.
However this perspective is provided with a historical dimension since it
also grants the fact that the observations and theories of previous scientists
determine those material conditions. To paraphrase Pickering (1995, 33):
172 Archaeological theory and scienti¬c practice

Agency of Material
scientist agency

Observation of scientist resisted by material world

Agency of Material
scientist agency

Observation of scientist accommodated by material world
Figure 8.1 The relationship between the resistance and accommodation
of material and human agency

˜What counts as knowledge now is a function of the speci¬c historical
trajectory that practices have traced out in the past.™ Although I do not
have space to enter into this here, this notion serves equally well for
scienti¬c practices in relation to the material world and scienti¬c practices
in relation to the world of concepts or ideas (Pickering 1995, 68“147).
Both ideas and the material world resist and structure the nature of our
observations and theories. The most important thing about this proposal
is that it circumvents the problem of opposing concrete observations and
explanations based on scienti¬c analysis with rapidly changing theoretical
We can think about the operation of the relationship between the tra-
ditional distinctions between objective knowledge and subjective inter-
pretation in terms of objective knowledge existing in time as a series of
stable framed ˜events™ along a chain (Fig. 8.2). Each of these framed
events would appear to maintain its stability due to our practical inter-
action with and observation of these events. Notably this is very different
from claiming that we simply move from one form of truth to a better
form of truth. Instead, referring back to the original argument concerning
networks, what I am proposing here is that it is the interaction of people,
instruments and theories that creates this stability. I am suggesting then
that the change in the nature of objective (or representational) knowl-
edge and theory emerges over time through practice: it is wrought by the
interaction between the agency of people and that of the material world.


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