The social manipulation of symbolic material culture is a previously unexamined source of information on the nature and mechanisms of social and economic change in Pottery Neolithic communities. The two main categories of symbolic artifacts to appear in the Pottery Neolithic period are the figurines, which we prefer to refer to as "imagery"a la Conkey (Conkey 1987), and the assemblages of decorated and undecorated pottery vessels that appear in a rich variety of sizes and shapes in both cultures. Although pottery assemblages are usually treated from a functional perspective by archaeologists, we prefer to regard the first pottery assemblages to appear in the southern Levant as fulfilling a social role, as "sociotechnic" (Goren and Gopher 19951, and to treat them as a symbolic assemblage. In the rest of this chapter we briefly describe the main elements of these symbolic assemblages, discuss some of the differences between them, and then proceed to examine some of the possible implications of these artifacts for the socioeconomic milieu from which they came.
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