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Book: Searching for Structure in Pottery Analysis

Chapter: What a Difference Structure Makes: Material Styles of Syrian Caliciform Ware Identified through Ceramic Petrography

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.28558


Ceramic petrography makes it possible to investigate the chaîne opératoire, or series of actions and choices made during the production process of ceramic artifacts. Such structural analysis can help identify different material styles in ceramic groups that may have previously been seen as homogeneous. Using a case study from northwestern Syria, this chapter explores how ceramic petrography can move beyond typologies and provenience and begin to answer questions about specific economic practices, such as state control over the production of ceramic containers. During the late third millennium BC in northwestern Syria, the state of Ebla was powerful and had connections to other political and economic centers in the region. One type of ceramic container that is a marker for this period, and is directly associated with the state of Ebla, is called the Caliciform Ware cup. Many archaeologists characterize this ware as standardized and mass produced across the extent of the Ebla state. Ceramic petrography of painted Caliciform Ware from the Ghab, located within the territory of the Ebla state, indicates non-standardized production, despite the homogenous forms and decorative patterns. This study emphasizes the need to study ceramic structures across the political landscape in detail to fully understand processes of production and what that means for questions of state control.

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