What makes a pot: transformations in ceramic manufacture and potting communities in early urban societies of the 3rd millennium BCE - a chaîne opératoire perspective from Tell eṣ-Ṣâfi/Gath (Israel)

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Ross, Jon
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Pottery is ubiquitous on Near Eastern excavations and materialises many dimensions of economic and social life. By characterising the organisation of production at a major regional centre following the transition to an urban way of life, this study will further clarify the debate over the economic foundations and social organisation of settlements in the Levantine Early Bronze Age. The study pilots an alternative protocol for classifying traces of vessel manufacture on freshly cut and scanned sherds. Sherds were sampled from a neighbourhood exposed in Area E, at Tell eṣ-Ṣâfi/Gath. ‘Mesoscopic’ signatures of manufacture are combined with thin-section petrography and inspection of surface features. In total, four specialist potting communities were identified, with one group largely dominating supply (71% of the sample). The remaining groups are attested in far smaller quantities and are restricted to select shapes/forms, which complete the overall repertoire. Techno-stylistic groups crosscut the buildings and alleyway and are stable overtime. These results suggest that the domestic economies at major early urban sites in the Levantine foothills were served by specialist potting communities, who generated a surplus for exchange. This contradicts the claims of some, who propose that pottery production in the EB III was largely structured around domestic replacement where the producing households are the principle consumers. This PhD thesis further develops techno-stylistic analyses through the use of novel approaches that more reliably identify potting methods from sherd assemblages. Shaping techniques were identified on an incredible 82% of the study sample (a far greater return compared to most studies). The analysis is low-cost and benefits from clear images in full colour. The methodological advances are such that the refined techno-stylistic analysis can be applied wherever archaeological ceramics are present.
Early Bronze Age Levant, chaîne opératoire, ceramic analysis, pottery production, anthropology of techniques, Tell eṣ-Ṣâfi/Gath, shaping techniques, potting methods, mesoscopic