Urkesh Ceramic Analysis

Categorization: The system

Diachrony and synchrony

Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati – August 2023

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Given the wide chronological range of the Urkesh corpus, extending currently from the mid fourth millennium to almost the end of the second millennium, it is important to maintain a diachronic approach to the material. This happens in several ways in our system.

  1. Every single item, whether whole vessel or sherd, is located chronologically through one of two systems.
    1. The normal one is stratigraphic, i. e. according to the emplacement of any given item: this system is referred to as time sequencing in the record as found in the unit books (see, e. g., A16q419-p6), with a link to stratum and phase as outlined in the proper strata sequence (sequence AAH for this particular sherd).
    2. A special typological assignment can sometime be found, which identifies a vessel or sherd on the basis of its morphological characteristics, regardless of its emplacement. It may supplement the stratigraphic assignment (as with the same sherd A16q419-p6) or in cases where a sherd is found out of its original context, e. g., on the surface.
  2. The section about horizons describes in detail the different periods of occupation of the site and gives an ample review of the pertinent ceramic types.
  3. Certain sections in the ceramics book emphasize the diachronic dimension, e. g., in the lexical entry for wares.

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On the other hand, there are certain caterogies that remain constant through time, such as color or function. Even a major category like the one of shapes is essentially synchronic, in the sense that basic shapes remain the same throughout time.

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