Creativity can just piss off…..or so I thought.

yippeeTwo years (ok, over two years) into my research project, I have finally decided that it is simply not possible to categorically locate creativity within ceramic assemblages of Belegiš type. How it took me so long to come to this rather obvious realisation is beyond me. Perhaps I was simply trying to be clever. Or stubborn. The eureka moment presented itself in a project meeting back in December where I tentatively suggested to the group that I wasn’t entirely sure whether I could really equate the diversity within my assemblages with creativity alone. Murmurs of agreement followed. My first reaction was, shit, I knew it. And then a wonderful recognition came over me. These assemblages are diverse and yet bound by traditional technological rules and design structures which don’t necessarily point to creativity. But this in itself is fascinating. What is it that allows for such variability? In that instant, my research became less about actively trying to superimpose western ideas of creativity onto these prehistoric assemblages, and instead became a detailed study of the processes that allow for variation and cohesiveness in assemblages. So now I am using my data to explore much more tangible concepts and investigate similarity and difference at several scales of analysis, from three interlinked perspectives: craft practice (at an individual and community level), social tradition ( a more macro scale of analysis), and yes, it’s still there, creativity. OK, so I can’t pinpoint creative action in the archaeological record, but that is not to say that I should abandon the concept entirely. Instead, it now has use as a tool for thinking through and discussing the engagement between people and material. If we take Ingold and Hallam’s (2009) idea that creativity is how we as individuals make our way through the world through improvisation and problem-solving, it becomes a valuable way of rethinking through how agents working within communities of practice renegotiate social traditions. In essence, creativity bridges the gap between individual action and ever shifting social traditions. So all is not lost. My project is now a much more holistic probing of a dynamic assemblage of material and goes beyond the previous rather simplistic typological analysis of Belegiš material to probe the technological underpinnings of production. Phew! I better get cracking…..!