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Beyond Impressions: Systematizing sherd identification using the Yale Khabur Basin Project collection

Author(s): Yukiko Tonoike ; Dawn Brown

Year: 2017

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The first step in ceramic analysis is typically to determine the age or cultural affiliation of the sherds. Traditionally, this process is done through comparisons of superficial attributes to those of sherds that are already known. This task is difficult to do without years of region-specific experience and knowledge.

Using the ceramics collected from over 300 sites, ranging over 5000 years through surface collecting survey in northeastern Syria by the Yale University Khabur Basin Project (KBP), we plan to systematize this identification process using a method akin to that used in biological keys. We aim to determine the age of an unknown sherd through a system of observations, rather than just impressionistically. Such a systematic approach should improve consistency among analysts, particularly those without first-hand knowledge of ceramics from the various periods of this region.

This poster shows the first attempt at developing such a system, using the example of bowls from the KBP. Beyond the superficial inspection of sherds, we plan to carry out additional modern technical analyses to augment the macroscopic observations with other aspects such as paste, temper, clay, and firing.

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Beyond Impressions: Systematizing sherd identification using the Yale Khabur Basin Project collection. Yukiko Tonoike, Dawn Brown. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429412)


Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16950

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America