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Ceramics in transition: a comparative analytical study of late Byzantine–early Islamic pottery in southern Transjordan and the Negev

Holmqvist, V.E.; (2010) Ceramics in transition: a comparative analytical study of late Byzantine–early Islamic pottery in southern Transjordan and the Negev. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis examines the production, exchange and distribution of domestic and utilitarian ceramics in southern Transjordan and the Negev in the 6th–9th centuries AD, i.e., during the late Byzantine–early Islamic transition following the Muslim expansion into the former Byzantine province in the mid-7th century, and the formative centuries of Islamic culture. Ceramics from five socioeconomic contexts and archaeological sites, the monastery of Jabal Harûn, the village of Khirbet edh-Dharih, the port city of ‘Aqaba/Aila, the commercial and administrative centre of Elusa, and the farmstead of Abu Matar in Beersheva, were assigned to typo-chronological categories and analysed with ED-XRF and SEM-EDS to investigate their microstructure and composition. These data were employed to make inferences about their provenance, local ceramic production, manufacturing techniques, distribution patterns of ceramic products and shared influences in the ceramic culture. Typologically, the ceramics have numerous parallels from sites in southern Transjordan and the Negev, but also in the broader geographical area, illustrating that potters adapted their technologies similarly on the basis of influences diffusing from the Islamic centres. The analytical results demonstrate that the communities mainly utilised local ceramic supplies, although there were also complex systems of regional and interregional exchange, the distribution areas of certain ceramics extending to 200 km. There were apparently overlapping systems of ceramic supply. Some workshops specialised in certain forms, while others produced a wide range of products. Coarse ware ceramics were exchanged as byproducts of other goods, but probably also as primary products, either directly or via markets. Urban and rural communities also used cooking ware from the same manufacturer. The chronological span of the exploited raw material resources was remarkably long, and although new forms were introduced, possibly relating to changes in dietary customs, there were minimal changes in the operational chains of the potters and the ceramic recipes over these centuries. The ceramic data demonstrate that there were wealthy rural and urban economies in southern Transjordan and the Negev in the early Islamic period, which required and were able to sustain ceramic manufacture on a significantly large scale. Many characteristics of the southern ceramic culture provide an analogy with areas further north, Islamic cultural centres, and the wider cultural context.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Ceramics in transition: a comparative analytical study of late Byzantine–early Islamic pottery in southern Transjordan and the Negev
Language:English
Additional information:Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology

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