Urkesh Ceramic Analysis

Shapes by horizon


Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati – January 2014
Laerke Recht – September 2016

Back to top: Introduction


This Ceramics book contains all the methodological and analytical information and codes that have been used to analyze the ceramics from the excavations. Additionally the history of the development of this methodology for the Mozan/Urkesh excavations has been included. Importantly, all the ceramics that were excavated in all the individual units are published in the individual unit books using this methodology. Therefore if one is looking for the process, this book should be consulted. But if the questions are about the ceramics from individual contexts then this information is found in the unit book website.

The catalogs found in this section span, for the most part, the time periods in which the site was occupied. This is true for the periods from LC 3 through the Middle Assyrian period. During the Early Dynastic, Akkadian and Mittani periods (using Mesopotamian chronological categories) the ceramic corpus is larger than other time periods for a variety of stratigraphic and functional reasons. These include the fact that fewer excavation units were opened for that period or that the functional contexts resulted in a greater amount of discard, this latter is especially true for the Mittani period. Also true for the Mittani period is that the catalog is larger because of the finer articulation of shapes produced by the local potters. Included at the end of the Mittani catalog are drawings of some of the painted designs. For the Middle Assyrian period there are relatively few shapes in the catalog due to the fact that there are few excavated contexts from this date.

For the concept of “horizon” see in the general Urkesh website, under Background > Horizons.

For an introduction to the Urkesh horizons see in the Mozan sitewide digital book, under Mozan frame.

Back to top: Introduction


The shapes in the various horizons in this section of the Ceramics Book reflect a selection of the shapes that are characteristic for Mozan/Urkesh during the particular horizon in question. The catalogs as conceived are a working tool for the analysis of the ceramics from the excavation units in progress of excavation. The shapes were chosen based on the available data for that period present at the time of the creation of the catalog. Because of this some excavation units are better represented in the catalog types simply because those units were being excavated when the catalog was being put together. From subsequent excavations in the same time period, new shapes were added to the catalog in an addendum section and eventually integrated into the catalog for that horizon. In this section of the Ceramics book they have been integrated into the overall catalog.

Back to top: Introduction

The data

The choice of the individual shapes to be included in the catalog for each horizon are not based on a statistical evaluation of their frequency in the horizon because these catalogs were made for the purpose of analyzing the ceramics from that horizon, so upstream from the availability of the analytical data.

Because the catalogs were conceived as a collection of the vessel shapes from that time period, there was no attempt, initially to harmonize the shape codes across horizons. The cross-horizon harmonization was to some extent done after and continues in an ongoing basis. However the shape codes used in the analysis are based on those initially assigned in the field.

For an overview through time see the Cross-horizon Typology section of the Shapes by Horizon. For the statistical data from the analysis see the bar histograms for each unit.

The total numebr of items in this corpus is 1435.

Back to top: Introduction

Sorting criteria

Sorting criterion: horizon > categorization.

The shapes are divided by logical divisions so that jars and bowls, the most common shapes in all periods, are first in the sorting order. After that there is some variability in the various horizons depending on the characteristic shapes for that horizon. For example in some horizons, cups are important, in some pots are important and may replace some bowl shapes, in others beakers appear to replace cups, etc. This arrangement is interesting in itself as it gives an overview of what shapes are important for the period.

Back to top: Introduction

Organization of the material

The individual sherds are labeled as to excavation unit and feature (eg. A16q353-p3 f5)where A16 is the excavation unit, q353 is the specific place where the sherd occurs in the feature, p3 is the individual sherd number in that q-lot, and f5 is the specific stratigraphic context. The numbers within a q lot are assigned according to their processing order. For all the sherds a cross-bar on the center line indicates 5cm; the rim diameter is located on the right of the rim. For bases the base diameter is placed on the right of the base. Many sherds, but not all, have the ware code indicated at the bottom of the individual drawing and many have the shape code at the top of the center line.

Back to top: Introduction

Typological definitions

For definitions of shape, see Lexicon > Shapes.

Back to top: Introduction

The corpus as a whole

The catalogues are seen as an initial overview of the ceramics in the various horizons and are supplemented by the pages based on an individual stratigraphic context, that is by the most important shapes in a given feature, contained in the Shapes by Strata portion of the Ceramics Book.

A complete list of all the sherds and vessels included in this section can be found in the index.

Back to top: Introduction

Additional notes

This section discusses the pottery shapes that, until now, are attested at Urkesh /Tell Mozan from Late Calcolithic III until the Middle Assyrian period.

The main goal is to provide a clear and detailed view about the ceramic shapes on this site and at the same time to be a useful and practical means of reference for the study of the north Syrian pottery.

For this purpose catalogs contribute to the known data from each chronological horizon, as they show the most significant pieces of pottery found during the twenty-three excavations seasons conducted (1988-2010).

Each horizon has a double meaning: from the internal point of view, is one of the main moments that have marked the history of the site during its occupation; from the external point of view it stands chronologically, according to the kind of pottery attested, within an overall Mesopotamian and Syrian ceramic sequence.

Within each catalog are considered the main types of pottery shapes (bowls, jars, plates, etc.) and to each of them are associated pages where the drawings of the vessels analyzed are represented.

Each drawing, whether it is a whole object or just a sherd, is related to some technical specifications: diameter, sub-type, identification code, ware type and feature of provenance; in some cases, also it is possible to obtain more details by simply clicking the drawing itself.

Back to top: Introduction


The chronological divisions used here represent the horizons found at Mozan/Urkesh, and we have chosen to describe each according to local factors and events (for example, one of the main characteristics of the Late Chalcolithic 3 at Mozan is the Temple Terrace). This is to reflect the distinctly Syrian (as opposed to Mesopotamian) character of the ceramics. In order to be able to place this in broader historical contexts and ceramic sequences, we also keep the traditional terminology.

Back to top: Introduction