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Publication . Article . 2020

Assessing the influence of culture on craft skills: A quantitative study with expert Nepalese potters

Enora Gandon; Tetsushi Nonaka; Raphael Sonabend; John Endler;
Open Access
English
Published: 01 Oct 2020 Journal: PLOS ONE, volume 15, issue 10, page e0239139 (eissn: 1932-6203, Copyright policy )
Abstract

Studies have documented that traditional motor skills (i.e. motor habits) are part of the cultural way of life that characterises each society. Yet, it is still unclear to what extent motor skills are inherited through culture. Drawing on ethnology and motor behaviour, we addressed this issue through a detailed description of traditional pottery skills. Our goal was to quantify the influence of three kinds of constraints: the transcultural constraints of wheelthrowing, the cultural constraints induced via cultural transmission, and the potters’ individual constraints. Five expert Nepalese potters were invited to produce three familiar pottery types, each in five specimens. A total of 31 different fashioning hand positions were identified. Most of them (14) were cross-cultural, ten positions were cultural, five positions were individual, and two positions were unique. Statistical tests indicated that the subset of positions used by the participants in this study were distinct from those of other cultural groups. Behaviours described in terms of fashioning duration, number of gestures, and hand position repertoires size highlighted both individual and cross-cultural traits. We also analysed the time series of the successive hand positions used throughout the fashioning of each vessel. Results showed, for each pottery type, strong reproducible sequences at the individual level and a clearly higher level of variability between potters. Overall, our findings confirm the existence of a cultural transmission in craft skills but also demonstrated that the skill is not fully determined by a cultural marking. We conclude that the influence of culture on craft skills should not be overstated, even if its role is significant given the fact that it reflects the socially transmitted part of the skill. Such research offers insights into archaeological problems in providing a representative view of how cultural constraints influence the motor skills implied in artefact manufacturing.

Subjects by Vocabulary

Microsoft Academic Graph classification: Cross-cultural Cultural group selection Pottery Cross-cultural studies Cognitive psychology Motor skill Gesture Craft Cultural transmission in animals Psychology

Medical Subject Headings: education

Subjects

Multidisciplinary, Medicine, R, Science, Q

Funded by
EC| SKILL
Project
SKILL
Individual Variations and Cultural Evolution: The pottery wheel-throwing skill as a case study
  • Funder: European Commission (EC)
  • Project Code: 793451
  • Funding stream: H2020 | MSCA-IF-EF-CAR
Validated by funder
,
EC| SKILL
Project
SKILL
Individual Variations and Cultural Evolution: The pottery wheel-throwing skill as a case study
  • Funder: European Commission (EC)
  • Project Code: 793451
  • Funding stream: H2020 | MSCA-IF-EF-CAR
Validated by funder
Related to Research communities
Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage
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PLoS ONE
Article . 2020
Providers: JAIRO
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