The oldest pottery traditions of the southeastern United States include a s
eries of punctated wares geographically clustered in three locales of the S
avannah River region. Although potters in each locale decorated and used po
ts in virtually identical fashion, they tempered clays and formed vessels i
n appreciably different ways. Situated learning theory offers a framework f
or interpreting these divergent trends in earl), pottery by focusing attent
ion on the multiple communities of practice in which potters participated.
Independent data on the handedness of potters supports the inference that t
echniques for making pottery were transmitted cognately, whereas decorative
expression and methods of cooking crosscut residential units as a result o
f affinal relations. potential contradictions arising from different types
and changing forms of community membership may have contributed to radical
changes in pottery technology and decoration after some fifteen generations
of relative stability.