Urkesh Ceramic Analysis

Shapes by horizon: Khabur / Provincial status


Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati – June 2013, September 2016

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The corpus of ceramics from the Khabur period is derived from the excavations of A11, A13 and A16, some tombs and a number of pottery kilns excavated in A15 (see also Lorenzo Crescioli’s MA thesis). Because of these limited contexts there are relative few Khabur period ceramics found in the excavations. The Plaza context where there was a large amount of Mittani pottery did not contain Khabur ceramics although it did yield ceramics painted in Khabur-type decoration bands which were still being produced in the Mittani period.

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Vessel shapes

The Khabur corpus is limited in the amount of ceramics and the range of types due to the nature of the excavated stratigraphy from this time period. Prevalent shapes include small pots which were probably used as drinking vessels; they are frequent in our database because of their context in A15 since many were found broken in debris at the bottom of the pit kilns we excavated dating to this period. In previous periods conical cups were still an important type of drinking vessel but in this period very few were found. Additionally medium necked jars become more frequent, in all likelihood because they were easy to transport even when filled. Carinated bowls are the prevailing bowl type with few round profile bowls being produced in this period. Deep bowls tend to have a wide groove just under the rim which would have made tying a lid on easier. Pitchers with handles from the rim to the upper body appear now. Stands appear but are rare.

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Khabur decoration

Solid bands and hatched running triangles are the most common type of painted decoration in the Khabur period. Bowl rims can be painted with parallel vertical lines in groups. Both carinated bowls and deep bowls are often decorated with solid bands on the upper body. Necked jars often have solidly painted necks on some vessels combined with parallel bands on the upper body or solid bands and hatched running triangles. Large painted dots are a carryover from the previous period and are rare. Painted decoration can occurr on vessels in this period made in the main ware types. Ribbing does occur as a decoration in this period, especially in the fine ribbed upper bodies of Gray ware bowls. Otherwise ribs are larger and more widely spaced. They are found only on the upper body of the vessel.

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Khabur wares

During this period Chaff Tempered ware and Red Calcite ware were the main wares used to produce medium and large vessels. Small and some medium vessels were usually made in Fine Chaff ware and in a fine variant of Red Calcite ware. The Chaff Tempered wares in this period have a large amount of chaff added and could have black lithic temper,usually in the size of fine sand. These vessels when fired can be buff or light orange and thicker shapes have a heavy black carbon core. Red Calcite wares are also “grittier” than in earlier periods and now have a wider size variation in the calcite inclusions. Very few shapes have a “sandwich” section. When fired most are red-orange. In this period Gray ware is produced, usually in small and medium bowls with a ring base. These bowls could have a polished exterior. In examples where the exterior is burnished there can a wide difference in the techniques used leading to large spaces between burnished and non-burnished areas. This is also true for the interior finishing.

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