Relentlessly Plain: Seventh Millennium Ceramics at Tell Sabi Abyad, Syria [Hardback]

Olivier P. Nieuwenhuyse (Editor)

ISBN: 9781789250848 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2018 | Language: English 442p, H297 x W210 (mm) b/w and colour

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Relentlessly Plain


The prehistoric site of Tell Sabi Abyad lies in the valley of the Balikh River, a tributary of the Euphrates in northern Syria. Between 2001 and 2008 excavations focused on the north-western, western and southwestern slopes of the main mound (Operations III, IV and V). Relentlessly Plain presents the results of detailed investigations into the 7th millennium BC ceramic assemblages recovered from those excavations by an interdisciplinary group of scholars. The 7th millennium BC was an era of profound cultural transformations in the ancient Near East. This began with the sustained adoption of pottery c. 7000 cal BC, followed by the slow advance of the new craft as pottery containers became increasingly common. Important social, economic and ritual activities became increasingly dependent on pottery containers. Over the course of the millennium, prehistoric communities began to cook food and drink, store surpluses, and send symbolic messages via the medium of pottery vessels. Tell Sabi Abyad offers a unique vantage point from which to study these innovations. Supported by a strong program of radiocarbon dating, extensive excavations have revealed a lengthy, continuous sequence of prehistoric occupation from the start of the Late Neolithic into the Early Halaf period. Pottery changed dramatically in the course of this long trajectory. Whereas in the initial stages pottery containers were rare, at the end of the sequence they represented a mass-produced craft. Initially ceramic containers were visually conspicuous, occasionally decorated, but masses of relentlessly plain pottery characterize subsequent stages. The book combines detailed discussion of themes relevant to the study of early ceramics in the ancient Near East with extensive analyses of each of the individual wares currently distinguished at the site. Separate chapters offer perspectives on the archaeometry, the depositional context, early repairs, food residues, provenance and associated human burials.

Table of Contents

List of Contributors
Chapter 1 The emergence of pottery in Upper Mesopotamia
Olivier Nieuwenhuyse
Chapter 2 The excavations at Tell Sabi Abyad
Olivier Nieuwenhuyse
Chapter 3 Analytical procedures
Olivier Nieuwenhuyse
Chapter 4 Analysing the prehistoric ceramic wares
Olivier Nieuwenhuyse
Chapter 5 Raw materials for early ceramic production at Tell Sabi Abyad
Bonnie Nilhamn, Loe Jacobs and Bram van As
Chapter 6 Plastered ceramics at Tell Sabi Abyad
Olivier Nieuwenhuyse and Ewout Koek
Chapter 7 The decoration techniques of ‘white-slipped-and-painted’ Standard Ware
Luc Megens
Chapter 8 Early pottery repairs at Tell Sabi Abyad
Olivier Nieuwenhuyse and Renske Dooijes
Chapter 9 Investigating the provenance of the early pottery from Tell Sabi Abyad
Marie Le Mière, Valérie Thirion-Merle and Maurice Picon (†)
Chapter 10 Basketry-impressed pottery from Late Neolithic Tell Sabi Abyad
Koen Berghuijs
Chapter 11 Neolithic assemblages, periodisation and sequences
Olivier Nieuwenhuyse
Chapter 12 The pottery from Operations IV and V
Olivier Nieuwenhuyse
Catalogue 307
Chapter 13 The depositional context of the pottery
Olivier Nieuwenhuyse
Chapter 14 Ceramics from the cemeteries
Jo-Hannah Plug and Olivier Nieuwenhuyse
Chapter 15 Tracing pottery use through lipid residue analysis
Mélanie Roffet-Salque, Richard P. Evershed and Anna Russell
Chapter 16 Into the Pottery Neolithic at Tell Sabi Abyad
Olivier Nieuwenhuyse

Reviews & Quotes

"...well-written and well-produced... The case is made steadily and by the end the reader should be convinced that a lot of our old assumptions about the introduction of pottery in the Near East are simplistic or just wrong"
Jonathan Last
Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society (03/05/2019)

"This is an excellent work that presents a detailed analysis of the ceramin productions in the seventh millennium BC at a settlement with an impressive archaeological record that has been the subject of outstanding research. "
Miguel Molist Montana
Antiquity (20/06/2019)

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