Pots and Production: The Secret Agents of the Urartian Empire

Author(s): Susannah Fishman

Year: 2015


In archaeological analyses of empire, certain aspects of material culture, such as specific architecture, metal work, and ceramic styles are often interpreted as diagnostic of imperial presence, the corporeal residue of political change. But these materials must be understood as agents of change working in concert with the people whose lives shift with the political reality. Elite ceramics are an essential component of the Urartian "State Assemblage," the material signature of the first empire in the northwestern highlands (800-600 BC) of the Near East. This paper will explore how the selection and rejection of Urartian ceramic elements in Oğlanqala, Azerbaijan, an administrative center on the periphery of Urartu, instigated changes in local production and exchange. Petrographic analysis demonstrates that new styles required new methods, which in turn required shifts in the organization of production and exchange. The limited adoption of Urartian ceramics does not simply reflect imperial affiliation, aspiration, or mimicry, but performs an important role in technological shifts that have implications for local practice and identity. Most of the ceramics mediating these changes do not appear typically Urartian, but demonstrate the creative ways that the inhabitants of Oğlanqala employed technology to negotiate their position in the Urartian network.

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Pots and Production: The Secret Agents of the Urartian Empire. Susannah Fishman. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397776)

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Agency Empire Technology