Pottery types, composed of specific sets of attributes, have long been defined for various periods and areas of the Atlantic coast, but their relationships and meanings have not been explicitly examined. In exploring these relationships for the North Carolina coast, this work examines the manner in which pottery traits cross-cut taxonomic types, tests the proposition that communities of practice existed at several scales, and questions the fundamental notion of ceramic types as ethnic markers. Ethnoarchaeological case studies provide a means of assessing the mechanics of how social structure and gender roles may have affected the transmission of pottery-making techniques and how socio-cultural boundaries are reflected in the distribution of ceramic traditions. Another very valuable source of information about past practices is replication experimentation, which provides a means of understanding the practical techniques that lie behind the observable traits, thereby improving our understanding of how certain techniques may have influenced the transmission of traits from one potter to another. Both methods are employed in this study to interpret the meaning of pottery as an indicator of social activity on the North Carolina coast.