||During the third millennium BC, similar funerary rituals and objects appear throughout Europe. This event is known as the Beaker phenomenon and has sparked a long-standing controversy in prehistoric archaeology. This controversy consists of two key questions: what mechanisms resulted in the spread of funerary rituals and objects; and what are the causal factors behind this mechanism? This thesis aims to verify explanatory theories for the first question. These theories fall into three categories based on the mechanisms they propose: migrationist theories, diffusionist theories, and network theories. Regardless of their classifications, all theories share two aspects: 1) they are based on ceramic typology; 2) they equate ceramic types to social entities. Both aspects are controversial in the contemporary archaeological discourse. Nevertheless, there is a continued need to engage with ceramics, because it is the most abundant find category at sites from this period. Moreover, the above-mentioned assumption remains widely-used, despite contradictory evidence. Therefore, this thesis formulates and performs an alternative verification procedure for the above-mentioned explanatory theories. The study area for the application of this procedure is the western coastal area of the Netherlands.
The basis for the above-mentioned verification procedure is an ethnoarchaeological study of the relations between ceramic technology and identity that departs from the concepts chaîne opératoire and community of practice. This study enables the formulation of hypotheses for the technological impact of classes of explanatory models on ceramic technology. Subsequently, an integrated technological study of ceramic vessels from three sites in the study area (Hazerswoude-Rijndijk N11, Voorschoten-De Donk, and Zandwerven) maps the technological developments during the Beaker transition. A comparison of the observed and hypothesised developments in ceramic technology points out that the beaker phenomenon was not a uniform process in the study area. Whereas a diffusionist scenario matches the patterns observed at Voorschoten-De Donk and Zandwerven, the technological developments at Hazerswoude-Rijndijk N11 are akin to a network model. Lastly, the results also point at the importance of communication networks and interaction for the conceptualisation of the Middle and Late Neolithic at the western coastal area of the Netherlands.