This chapter presents an overview of the chaîne opératoire approach and recalls its relevance as a social and transmission signal. It describes the main components of the ceramic chaînes opératoires and the principles for identifying them on the archaeological material through diagnostic attributes including both surface features and microfabrics. Next, it takes a forward look at the classification of ceramic assemblages according to the chaîne opératoire approach in order to unravel the sociological complexity behind their variability. Finally, this chapter highlights the heuristic character of the chaîne opératoire approach when studying, on the synchronic axis, the techno-economic systems, and on the diachronic axis, changes in technical traditions considered as the expression of culture histories and the factors affecting them.
A brief discussion of two traditional approaches in the study of pottery production organization, ceramic ecology and typologies of production, identifies several key problems. In order to move forward and develop new strategies, it is proposed to adopt a symmetrical perspective, integrating methods and concepts from a variety of theoretical origins, including chaîne opératoire, object biography, relevant user groups or cadena, and entanglement. A brief case study outlining a proposed strategy for a relational approach to the study of ceramic production organization concludes the chapter.