What's in a vessel's name? A relational text-object approach to the uses of Mesopotamian pottery

Calderbank, D. (2021) What's in a vessel's name? A relational text-object approach to the uses of Mesopotamian pottery. American Journal of Archaeology, 125(1), pp. 29-64. (doi: 10.3764/aja.125.1.0029)

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Abstract

While pottery is the most abundant form of material culture found at Mesopotamian archaeological sites, references to pottery vessels in cuneiform texts are comparatively infrequent. Beyond one-to-one identification of common vessel names with archaeological pot types, rarely have these two sources of evidence been integrated to expand our understanding of Mesopotamian peoples’ perceptions of, and engagements with, their material world. This article develops an innovative methodology that is based on analysis of second-millennium BCE texts in combination with excavated ceramics from the Sealand-period site of Tell Khaiber in southern Iraq (ca. 1600–1475 BCE). It begins by investigating the broader repertoire of pottery nomenclature to sketch out the primary use-contexts of Mesopotamian vessels, before conducting a contextual analysis of vessel names in the Tell Khaiber archive and in the Sealand-period tablets in the Schøyen Collection. Vessel use-contexts are mapped across the excavated areas of Tell Khaiber’s Fortified Building to understand whether the vessel uses suggested by the texts are borne out in context. This process provides fresh insights into the material basis of the little-understood Sealand period, while also recognizing the complex ways in which names and vessels operated contingently in the social reproduction of an ancient craft tradition.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Mesopotamia, pottery, sealand, Bronze Age, relational approaches.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Calderbank, Dr Daniel
Authors: Calderbank, D.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Journal Name:American Journal of Archaeology
Journal Abbr.:AJA
Publisher:Archaeological Institute of America
ISSN:0002-9114
Published Online:18 December 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 Archaeological Institute of America
First Published:First published in American Journal of Archaeology 125(1):29-64
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
305559BAPDF - Daniel Calderbank: Life at the Margins of Power: The Reach of Mesopotamian States in the 2nd millennium BCEDaniel CalderbankBritish Academy (BRITACAD)PF19\100094Arts - Archaeology