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Typology of objects

Giorgio Buccellati – November 2006

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Typology and stratigraphy

The typology of objects has been studied in greater detail than the typology of the built environment and even more so than stratigraphy in general. Hence the pertinent categorization is considerably better understood and more highly differentiated.

Within the Urkesh Global Record, there is a first level treatment of object typology, which is given for every recorded item. Since these items retain their typological identity quite independently of their stratigraphic context, they remain available for typological study at any time in the future, provided they are placed in adequate storage.

Since the Urkesh Global Record gives absolute precedence to stratigraphic information and analysis, the typological aspect is admittedly secondary – obviously not in the sense that I do not recognize its importance, but only in the sense that fuller typological treatment can legitimately be delayed.

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Incremental publication

This bears on the topic of what a final publication ought to be. Essentially, the typological dimension of the Urkesh Global Record] is fluid and subject to ongoing corrections and additions – in contrast with the observations about emplacement which can no longer be revised. Thus the publication of the emplacement data is final in the deeper sense of being definitive, while the publication of the objects is, we might say, incrementally final. It is final from the very onset with regard to the emplacement information that accompanies each item; but it is in different stages of completeness with regard to typology.

This applies in the first place to the description of the individual items. The first stage takes place at the time of excavation, and often there are no specialists for each category, so that the initial description may be rather generic. Also, some of these categories have a large number of elements (up to 30,000 and more sherds are common for any given excavation Unit), and so an analysis of the entire inventory will normally lag behind the publication of the Urkesh Global Record of a given Unit. Greater details are added, and often corrections are made, as the objects come to be reviewed by experts in the various categories. It will be apparent from the nature of the entries for each item, and from the initials that accompany the description, what level of competence may be attributed to any given comment.

This will be even more so with regard to the synthetic overviews that are offered in this section. Some are quite preliminary and succinct, and may simply reflect the excavators’ assessment of what appears to be most important in the assemblages from any given excavation units. The interest of the specialist will generally entail a research into the wider perspective of a larger corpus beyond the limits of given excavation units, resulting in monographs that reach beyond the compass of the Urkesh Global Record.

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The broad categories into which we subdivide, in our primary treatment, the various types of objects, are the standard ones. They are in effect based on a variety of alternative criteria. In what follows, I here the major types of artifacts and the criteria used to define them.

criterion types of artifacts
type of material ceramics, lithics, metal artifacts
figurative style glyptics, choroplastics (figurines)
epigraphic component tablets, seal legends

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