Urkesh Ceramic Analysis

Categorization / Lexicon / Shapes


Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati – May 2016, August 2023
Laerke Recht, Caitlin Chaves Yates – May 2016

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The codes

All sherds that have a diagnostic shape preserved are coded using the shape code system.

Shape codes are based on a system that allows the combination of different codes in the following five roster slots:

  1. main shape (sh),
  2. family (ZcaS1),
  3. subfamily (Zcas2),
  4. details (ZcaS3) and
  5. particulars that include especially rims, bases or handles (ZcaS4).

While it is theoretically possible to create any combination allowable codes in each roster slot, the known combinations are in fact, as expected more limited. A full list of known combinations and description of how the codes are combined is given on the shapes-code page. The system is very flexible due to the modular nature of how codes are combined. The list of acceptable entries for each roster slot is given in the lexicon.

The pages in this section of the ceramics book describe the codes for each roster slot and assist the reader in understanding the combinatory properties of the attributes. The codes are intended as part of a system and most are not used in isolation. Only the main shapes and the rim/base/handle shapes appear individually. The family, sub-family and type are a way of further classifying main shapes and therefore are always used in conjunction with the main shape.

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Body sherds

In a small number of cases the overall shape cannot be determined, either because of preservation issues or because the part of the shape preserved is not sufficiently diagnostic to determine the overall shape of the vessel. Within the category of non-diagnostic sherds is the whole category of body sherds, most of which are not distinctive enough to determine the vessel shape. In relatively rare cases, like large portions of the mid-section of a jar, it is possible to assign a main shape. When the rim is preserved but not a sufficient portion of the body is not, then rim shape categories are assigned. See Methodology section for futher discussion of how the system is implemented.

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The combinations, including illustrations, for each known phase at Mozan is given as part of the shapes by horizons and cross-horizons. These represent the catalogs of shapes for the different phases at the site and are a comprehensive overview of the known types. Some shapes appear in multiple phases while others are specific to one phase. Further information is found it the Introduction to the Shapes by horizon.

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xxx all that follows is taken and ajusted from OVERALL CODES page

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Each shape sherd in the Urkesh corpus is coded according the overall ceramic system as detailed within this website. This section presents an overview of the various shape combinations that comprise the Mozan corpus.

In principle, shape codes are combinations that include main shape (sh), family (ZcaS1), subfamily (Zcas2), details (ZcaS3) with a rim, base or handle (ZcaS4). In practice, the combinations used may be more limited, with certain common shapes representing the majority of the combinations. The modularity of the system does however, allow flexibility for including the wide range of shapes that are found in the corpus.

The columns are arranged to help the reader understand how the codes are combined to the final code that defines the type (i.e. the description). This chart can be used to better understand the codes as they appear in the various records. By checking any combination of codes against this chart a fuller text description can be found than what is automatically produced by the programs within the individual book records.

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shapes (shape, ZcaS1, ZcaS2, ZcaS4): The shapes in columns 1-3 and 5 can be any combination of the acceptable letters available in the lexicon. The majority of shapes, however, are within a standard range of types. The list here aspires to be the comprehensive list of shape combinations that have been identified in the corpus to date. The flexible nature of the system for identifying and naming new types means that there may be additional types that have not yet been added to this list, or that may be added to the corpus in the future.

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type (ZcaS3): The numeric codes in this category are applied when there is more than one “type” of a specific shape (e.g. variations within the sharp carinated bowls - bcrsa). The numbers are assigned sequentially and do not represent the frequency of occurrence. Like the shapes this main list is aimed to represent the known types thus far, with an explanation of the variations of the types. Other types/numbers, however, may exist as they have not yet been added. Further types may be identified and added in the future as well. The numbering generally begins at 1 with numbers 1-50 and the 100 series applying to the LCH, EDII/EDIII, Akkadian, UrIII and Khabur catalogs, while the 800 and 900 series apply exclusively to the Mitanni and Middle Assyrian corpus. Originally only the 1-50 and 800 series were used, but during the ceramics review of 2014/2015 it became necessary to assign new types and to avoid accidental overlap with existing types the 100 and 900 series were added.

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Synthetic type code

Type code: This column holds the combination, machine-readable format of the code that appears on the drawing images. The codes have five spaces (1/2/3/4/5), with the following limitations:

  • space 1: one letter
  • space 2: max 2 letters, if single letter second position filled with "."
  • space 3: max 2 letters, acceptable to fill with single letter only without adding any placeholder for second letter (as next entry is numeric and distinguishable)
  • space 4: numeric entry, up to 3 digits allowed. If no number is given entire position filled with a single -
  • space 5: max 4 letters, if no code given position is left empty

In cases where there is no entry for a column but another code appears in a later column, then the positions between must be filled with a - to indicate the spacing of the entries.

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Type description

This a fuller text description explaining in words the code’s resolution. This description also identifies the differences between the types.

See the lexicon for a description of each specific code.

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