Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 1024–1050 | Cite as

Weak Ties and Expertise: Crossing Technological Boundaries

  • Valentine RouxEmail author
  • Blandine Bril
  • Avshalom Karasik


In this article, we question how new technological traits can penetrate cohesive social groups and spread. Based on ethnographic narratives and following studies in sociology, the hypothesis is that not only weak ties are important for linking otherwise unconnected groups and introducing new techniques but also that expertise is required. In order to test this hypothesis, we carried out a set of field experiments in northern India where the kiln has been adopted recently. Our goal was to measure the degree of expertise of the potters distributed between early and late adopters of the kiln. Our results are discussed in the light of oral interviews. Our conclusions suggest that expertise is a necessary, albeit not sufficient, condition for weak ties to act as bridges and thereby for new techniques to spread. As an example, they explain how turntables could have been adopted by potters from the northern Levant during the third millennium BC.


Borrowing Innovation Ceramic techniques Weak ties Expertise Field experiment Ethnoarchaeology 



This work was supported by the ANR (The French National Agency for Research) within the framework of the program CULT (Metamorphosis of societies—“Emergences and evolution of cultures and cultural phenomena”), project DIFFCERAM (dynamics of spreading of ceramic techniques and style: actualist comparative data and agent-based modeling) (ANR-12-CULT-0001-01, Roux PI). The data were collected in India by B. Bril and V. Roux; in Ecuador, by C. Lara, in Kenya by F. M’Mbogori and A.-L. Goujon. We thank Quentin Drillat for working on the analysis of the course of actions and for discussing the Levensthein Index. In Jodhpur, the support of the Rupayan Sansthan was invaluable. We take this opportunity to thank Kuldeep Kothari warmly for his help in sorting out all the logistic problems as well as Ira Sisodia and Lakshman Diwakar for their assistance in the field. We also would like to thank all the potters for their availability and their unfailing kindness. The photographs are by the authors.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 29 kb)
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Distance from the model and linearity of shape 23 showing the better results obtained by the early adopters (in red) (PNG 60 kb)

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High resolution image (TIF 1224 kb)
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Scores obtained by the early (E) and late (L) adopters answering questions on the properties of firing structures (PNG 62 kb)

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High resolution image (TIF 3982 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRSNanterreFrance
  2. 2.EHESSParisFrance
  3. 3.Israel Antiquities AuthorityJerusalemIsrael

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