PhD Courses in Denmark

Approaching pottery studies: current perspectives and future directions

Graduate School, Arts at Aarhus University


A prime source of information for archaeologists, pottery has been studied for centuries across a wide range of cultures and periods. From a long-held focus on types and styles, ceramic study is today amongst the most dynamic and diversifying branches within archaeology, where innovative conceptual approaches and methodologies are opening new, exciting avenues into the study of the past. If defining typologies and chronologies remains the priority of any researcher dealing with this type of material, analytical approaches have considerably expanded the number of questions that archaeologists can answer. These include, for example, reconstructing the biography of pots through the profiling of food residues and use wear, mapping the provenance and processing of clay and temper, charting the use, recycling and trade, to mention but a few topics. Further important developments concern the study of people-pot interactions and the ways in which ceramic shapes and decoration evolved as a result of changing social, cultural, and economic relations. The study of the humble pot, thus, is offering new ways in which archaeologists can study societal development, culture transformation, socio-ecological changes and resilience in high-definition. This research led-course will provide the participants with an introduction to a diverse range of methodologies for ceramic studies, from traditional, typologically-driven approaches to state-of-the-art laboratory analyses. In so doing, the course will provide a forum to discuss and reflect on how new research approaches are gradually transforming archaeology.


The course will offer research-led teaching on methods and techniques for the study of pottery and will focus on two main objectives:

  • To explore the importance of pottery study for archaeological research
  • To explore and discuss traditional and innovative approaches to ceramic analysis

The course structure consists of three modules, as detailed below. Having introduced the basics of pottery studies in module 1, the following two modules will focus on two themes that are at the forefront of current archaeological debates: Pottery and the human landscape and Urban contexts and ceramics. The aim is to encourage students from archaeology and related disciplines from the humanities to consider and discuss the potential of applying innovative approaches to their own research.


Module 1: Studying pottery – the basics

The first module will offer an introduction to pottery studies. What is a potsherd? How do we study it? What types of information can we gain from it? By focusing specifically on traditional methods of recording and studying potsherds, Module 1 will address these questions and set the background for Modules 2 and 3.

Module 2: Pottery and the human landscape

The second module will explore how the study of pottery can contribute to our understanding of the evolution of the human landscape. What can pottery tell us about changes in settlement patterns? How much can we rely on material collected from surveys? Lectures will be focusing on these questions, drawing some answers from selected case studies.

Module 3: Urban contexts and ceramics

The third module will explore how to approach the study of pottery collected in ancient urban environments. The aim is to discuss what types of data archaeologists can gather from pottery retrieved in sealed urban contexts, and the traditional and innovative methods used to study them.


To be announced - please check:

Target group:

PhD students from archaeology and related disciplines with little background knowledge on ceramics




The course will offer lectures, exercises and a workshop where active participation will be expected. Each module consists of an overview on the main topic, followed by lectures discussing specific themes and applications, group exercises and Q&A  sessions.

Group exercises and workshop

These will consist of group discussions related to the lectures, reading material supplied and the case studies prepared by the participants. Active participation and critical engagements are expected during group activities. On Day 2, we will host a workshop to discuss case studies prepared by the participants and visit resources and laboratories facilities at Moesgaard Campus. The latter will include a short introduction and visit to relevant ceramic collections at Moesgaard Museum.




Proposed keynote speakers and lecturers:

Professor Rubina Raja, CAS and UrbNet, Aarhus University

Topic: urban dynamics and networks in a million sherds – Jerash

Professor Anders Lindahl, Department of Geology, Lund University (to be confirmed)

Topic: ethnoarchaeological study of pottery production in Iron Age southern Africa and Sweden

Dr Marc Vander Linden, Department of Archaeology, Cambridge University

Topic: From production to migration

Dr Emanuele Intagliata, UrbNet, Aarhus University

Topic: Introduction and history of research

Alex Peterson,  UrbNet, Aarhus University

Topic: Ceramics, the basics

Dr Gry Barfod, UrbNet and Institute for Geoscience, Aarhus University

Topic: Profiling pottery

Dr Carmen Ting, Cyprus University - to be confirmed

Topic: Petrography

Dr Bente Phillipsen, UrbNet and Department of Physics, Aarhus University

Topic: Residue analysis

Dates and time:

29 & 30 April:

29 April: 09:00-17:00 - dinner in the evening

30 April: 08:30-13:00


Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) Aarhus University Moesgård Allé 20, DK-8270 Højbjerg Denmark, Building 4230, 2nd floor. (

Application deadline:

Please apply for a seat via no later than 1 March 2020.

When signing up in the application facility, you are kindly requested to upload the following documents as PDF files:

  1. A case study of 1-2 pages, which deals with one or more of the subthemes of the course: Human landscapes and/or Urban Contexts. The cases can relate to an own project, previous experience, or a case inspired by academic literature. These will be reviewed by the course organising team and discussed during the workshop;
  2. A max 2-page CV;
  3. A max 1-page cover-letter, motivating the reasons for  participation