Urkesh Ceramic Analysis

Categorization / Lexicon / Wares / 3rd-2nd mill.

Wet Smooth Ware (WS)

Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati – September 2011
Laerke Recht – May 2016

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General Description

Similar to the other Fine Buff Wares, Wet smooth ware has a buff color. Unlike Simple ware there can be small amounts of temper – either chaff or mineral. It has a smoothed surface as the name implies. It is generally used for medium-sized vessels compared to the small vessels made in Simple ware.

Wet Smooth Ware is part of the Fine Buff Wares Group.

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Basis for Definition

Excavated in all third millennium strata, especially early and mid third millennium contexts but also including some early third millennium contexts. This is the most common type of pottery for ED III medium size vessels; some larger jars are also made in this ware.

Identifying Attributes

Smooth surface finish, buff to yellow buff in color, paste is the same as Simple ware but this ware is used for larger shapes of jars and bowls and has tempering in it; usually medium fired.

Clay Type

Hard, very fine particles.


Can have very small amounts of chaff temper, mineral temper size can vary from large pebbles to fine sand, density is medium.




In early ED III green to green-buff self slip. Later examples tend to be buff to yellow buff (10YR8/2 to 5Y8/2 white).

Wall thickness

Varies with size of the vessel but usually from 5 to 8 mm.


In the early part of the third millennium stands with cut out designs from Ob1 (size range: h ca 18 cm; rim d ca 19 cm).

Characteristic for this ware are:
  • deep bowls with s profile (size range: h ca 13 cm; rim d ca 19 cm.);

  • large jars (d ca 20 cm);

  • very common are jars with interior grooved rims; some have potters marks or capacity marks incised at the rim (size range: rim d ca 11-34 cm).

  • Other shapes include:
  • wide rim jars (size range: h ca 14 cm; rim d ca 15-21 cm);

  • medium ovoid bodied jars (size range: h ca 28 cm, rim d ca 6 cm);

  • large ovoid shaped jars (size range: h ca 35 cm, rim d ca 13 cm);

  • deep bowls with interior triangular lugs and flat bases (size range: d ca 20-30 cm);

  • deep bowls with exterior lugs (rim d ca 15 cm).

  • Manufacturing techniques

    Large jars may have the upper portions only made on the wheel.

    Surface treatment

    Surface is wet smoothed so that all particles on the exterior of the vessel are uniform. There are no traces of the tool used for this.


    Can have one row of horizontal rope decoration applied near rim. This rope decoration is finer than the later rope decorated vessels.


    This ware is probably made from the same or very similar clay source as the Ninevite 5 and Simple wares. It however was used to produce the medium and large bowl and jar shapes which differ from Ninevite 5 and Simple ware shapes. Unincised portions of Ninevite 5 Incised vessels may be mixed in with this ware in the sherd counts of the seasons one through six. This ware becomes scarcer after ED IIIb and is very scarce after Phase 4k of the palace. However vessels in this ware can be found as late as Phase 4k as antiquarian items. The ware type of greenish Phase 5 radial burnished bowls with low ring bases is related to this ware type.

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    Sherd Illustrations

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    Back to top: Wet Smooth Ware (WS)