Silvia Amicone

From pottery to metal: tracing technological links of pyrotechnologies in the Vinča culture, Serbia

This project will explore the conventional argument of a pyrotechnological association of pottery firing with early metal smelting.

The ability of man to control and manipulate firing temperature and atmosphere and the knowledge of materials proprieties can be traced to the development of ceramic technology as the only high-temperature industry pre-dating the development of metallurgy. For this reason pottery production has often been suggested as a technical precursor to the discovery of metallurgy. In particular, the rise of metallurgy in the Balkans coincided with the appearance of black burnished ware and graphite painted pottery. This phenomenon gave start to a long debate on the possible connection between these two technologies.

This PhD research aims to test the validity of this claim through the application of different analytical methods, tracing technological links between the two pyrotechnologies in the Vinča culture. It will be conducted on the ceramic assemblages originating from two early 5th millennium BC sites in Serbia, where the earliest known metallurgical activity developed (Belovode and Pločnik). Particular emphasis will be placed on the black burnished pottery; however, for an unbiased assessment of the relevant evidence, a representative selection of all types of pottery fabrics will be sampled and studied in detail. It is expected that this analysis will enable us to substantially support or refute the proposed technological relationship between pottery firing and the invention of extractive metallurgy.

Furthermore, this project combining archaeological and scientific information within an integrated programme of research, could not only contribute enormously to shed new light on the validity of the claim which sees a connection between pottery firing and the invention of extractive metallurgy, but will also allow a better understanding of the broad technological and social context of Vinča culture, that is indeed one of the most interesting Neolithic/early Chalcolithic phenomena in the Balkans.

Co-organiser of international workshop 'Tracing pottery making recipes in the Balkans, 6th -4th millennium BC' (September 2014).

Funding organisation


Research Directory Records

Educational background

  • BA, Classics, Università degli Studi di Milano, 2006
  • MA, Archaeology , Università degli studi di Milano, 2009
  • MSc, Technology and Analysis of Archaeological Materials, UCL Institute of Archaeology, 2011

S. Amicone, forthcoming. Fifth and Fourth Century BC Black Glaze from Iasos: a Technological Approach. Proceedings of the conference KERAMOS. An International Symposium on Ceramics: a cultural approach, May 9-11 2011, Izmir (Turkey).

I. Mailland, M. E. Peroschi, S. Amicone, F. Mailland and E. Anati, 2009. A pre-pottery Neolithic B site at Har Karkom (Negev Israel) report on the HK/361 site. BCSP, 35, 51-72.


S. Amicone and P. Quinn 2012. Rediscovering Brockley Hill: A Compositional and Technological Study of Verulamium White Ware. ISA 2012. International Symposium on Archaeometry, May 28-June 1 2012, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium

S. Amicone, 2012. The Verulamium White Ware Production in Brockley Hill. Erstes Köllner Nachwuchstreffen für BearbeiterInnen von Fundkeramik und Glas, February 25-26 2012, International graduate school MORPHOMATA, Cologne (Germany).

S. Amicone 2011. Fifth and Fourth Century BC Black Glaze from Iasos: a Technological Approach. KERAMOS. An International Symposium on Ceramics: a cultural approach, May 9-11 2011, Ege University, Izmir (Turkey).

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