CE27 - Culture, créations, patrimoine

FROM STONE TO CERAMIC VESSELS: paces, causes and processes for the late adoption of pottery in the Southern Levant (7th millennium cal. BC) – CERASTONE

Submission summary

In the Near East, the Neolithic period is characterized by significant economic, social and symbolic changes that particularly affect the dietary habits of prehistoric societies. The gradual introduction of domesticated plants (wheat, barley, lentil) and animals (goats, sheep, cattle) in the composition of dishes is accompanied by the diversification of kitchen utensils (in stone, limestone and ceramic) used for storing, preparing, cooking and serving foodstuffs. Formerly composed of wooden containers, the kitchen utensils are enriched with Stone vessels during the Natufian, White ware during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B and Pottery during the Pottery Neolithic A. Pottery appears in Western Mesopotamia around 6900 cal. BC, before spreading in the other area of the Fertile Crescent during the following centuries through cultural or demic diffusion. Because pottery appears late in the Southern Levant (second half of the 7th millennium cal. BC), the latter region has so far remained on the sidelines of research regarding the first ceramic productions of the Near East. This corridor, located at the crossroads of Asia and Africa, is composed a patchwork of cultural entities at the beginning of Pottery Neolithic whose Yarmukian, Byblosian, Korenien and Jericho IX are the most emblematic. Different theories have been put forward on the paces (rapid vs gradual), causes (economic vs climatic factors) and processes (cultural vs demic diffusion) for the widespread adoption of pottery in the Southern Levant, but all these hypotheses remain highly speculative due to the lack of consistent data on the Levantine societies of the 7th millennium cal. BC.
The CERASTONE project aims at highlighting the strongly suspected diversity of paces, causes and processes for the widespread adoption of pottery in the Southern Levant. In order to understand this historical phenomenon in all its complexity, our investigation will focus on the assemblages of prehistoric containers from 10 key stratified settlements dated of the 7th millennium that are located within the 4 main cultural entities. Because the earliest pottery in the Southern Levant show obvious stylistic affinities (copy of certain shapes and decorations), technical (shaping using coiling techniques in basketry mold for example) and functional (food serving in particular) with stone vessels and white ware dated of the 7th millennium cal. BC, we will undertake a diachronic integrated study of these 3 categories of prehistoric vessels. This comparative innovative study (WP1) will be carried out in 3 Workpackages following common methodologies. To specify the paces for the widespread adoption of pottery in the Southern Levant (When), we will build a high-resolution chrono-stratigraphic framework (WP2) that combines relative (task 2.1.) and absolute (task 2.2.) chronological data. To understand the causes (Why), we will study the function of the different categories of Neolithic containers (WP3) through an innovative multi-proxy approach that combines the typometry (task 3.1.) and use-wear (task 3.2.) of prehistoric vessels. To decode the learning processes of pottery (How), we will analyze the manufacture of the different categories of Neolithic containers (WP4) based on a techno-petrographic approach that takes into account the technical macro-traces (task 4.1) and the petro-fabrics (task 4.2.). The combined study of ceramic, stone and limestone vessels dated of the 7th millennium cal. BC will allow us to explore the stylistic, technical and functional transfers that occurred between these 3 categories of utilitarian containers and, beyond, contribute to the controversial debates around the emergence of pottery during the Neolithic.

Project coordination

Julien Vieugue (Préhistoire et Technologie)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


PreTech Préhistoire et Technologie

Help of the ANR 341,031 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2019 - 48 Months

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