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A compositional and technological reassessment of the function of potters' marks on Early Bronze Age sherds from Tell el-'Abd, Syria

Anaya, SC; Quinn, PS; Amicone, S; Sconzo, P; (2024) A compositional and technological reassessment of the function of potters' marks on Early Bronze Age sherds from Tell el-'Abd, Syria. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports , 55 , Article 104492. 10.1016/j.jasrep.2024.104492. Green open access

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Abstract

A highly distinctive feature of the Early Bronze Age ceramic assemblage of the site of Tell el-‘Abd in northern Syria is the presence of large numbers of pots that were incised with a diverse range of symbols prior to firing. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the function of such ceramic “potters’ marks”. One is that they functioned as a signature or trademark used by potters or workshops to identify their work. Another possibility is that they were used for quality control or accounting purposes during manufacture. Alternatively, they may have signified vessels intended for specific customers, or the size or contents of the vessels. In the case of the Tell el-‘Abd potters’ marks, distinguishing between these possibilities has proven difficult based upon their macroscopic examination and archaeological context alone. The present research, therefore, attempts to shed further light on the function of the potters’ marks by studying the clay paste recipes of 33 ceramic samples using scientific methods. Thin section petrography, instrumental geochemistry and scanning electron microscopy have been used to characterise and classify sherds according to their raw materials and manufacturing technology. This has been compared to the type of potters’ mark and other archaeological information in order to test the hypotheses that the distinctive ceramic markings signified ceramics made at different production centres or distinguished between different artisans operating at the same workshop.

Type: Article
Title: A compositional and technological reassessment of the function of potters' marks on Early Bronze Age sherds from Tell el-'Abd, Syria
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2024.104492
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2024.104492
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2024 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Early Bronze Age, Middle Euphrates River Valley, Potters’ marks, Ceramic composition, Ceramic technology, Ceramic production
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10190252
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