Urkesh Ceramic Analysis
Categorization: Lexicon

Details of color

Laerke Recht – September 2014

A representative sample of sherds from various units (A1, A5, A6, A7, A8, A9, A10, A12, A13, A14, A15, A16, A18, J1, J3 and OD50) have been selected for colour notation. The colours were recorded using the standard Munsell Color Chart commonly used in archaeological practice for this purpose (see the Munsell website for an explanation of how the chart works). The colours were noted by the same few persons and always under the same light conditions. Interior and exterior surfaces were recorded, and in some cases also tempering and paint colour.

A majority of the sherds recorded fall into a limited cluster, both in terms of colour names and by hue, value and chroma. The figures below provide an overview of the colour scheme found at Mozan:

On this figure, the coloured bars represent each of the colours from the Munsell Chart (the colours approximate, and only those found at Mozan are depicted), and the shaded grey bars above show the percentage of sherds found in each colour category; the darker the grey, the higher the percetnage. The actual numbers are also recorded in the centre of each box. We can thus note that the sherds from Mozan cluster around the relatively ‘light’ shades of pale yellow (44.26%) and, to a lesser extent, very pale brown (18.20%) and pink (10.17%).

If the recorded colours are placed on overlapped sheets of the Munsell Chart, it is again possible to note a clear concentration around 8/2-8/3 (33.42% and 20.93%), and secondarily around 7/3-7/4 (9.45% and 8.56%). These are as expected also fairly ‘light’ colours with a low level of intensity.

Comparing the notations between interior and exterior surfaces, it is revealed that the large majority of the sherds have the same colour both on the exterior and the interior (80%); and of those that are different, a significant portion only display a small difference in chroma (7%).

Altogether, the Munsell recordings of the Mozan pottery suggests a level of oxidation that is above average, but more importantly, a standardisation and consistency that indicates skill and control of the firing process.

For a detailed report of the ceramic colours at Mozan, see Tell Mozan ceramics: Munsell colours.

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