Dr Joanna Sofaer joined the CECT Conference ‘Things in Culture, Culture in Things’ in Tartu by video link on 21 October to give a plenary lecture on Bronze Age bowls, a common vessel type in the European Bronze Age which has been found in both settlement and cemetery contexts. The lecture explored how bowls may have been used to tell stories (more specifically cosmological myths) from the Early Bronze Age to the Late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age in the Pannonian region (modern-day Hungary and northern Croatia).
Over this period, changes in the relationship between the shape and decoration of bowls show a shift in emphasis from two-dimensional to three-dimensional use of the vessel surface. This can be understood in terms of the development of design principles that allowed the presentation of common Bronze Age motifs, such as the sun and the wheel, through vessel form as well as surface decoration. Pots were thus used as mnemonics for wider cosmological notions. Middle and Late Bronze Age developments in vessel form also created possibilities for the display of stories in new and overt ways through hanging vessels on walls. Moreover, changes in the location of motifs on bowls provided opportunities for the concealing or revelation of stories depicted by them. Finally, if pots were used to tell stories, then this places potters in the role of storytellers.
Watch the video below or visit the conference video site for more videos from Tartu.