Scientific analysis of Neolithic period ceramics from Fars, Iran

Meakes, Alison A. (2016) Scientific analysis of Neolithic period ceramics from Fars, Iran. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis forms the first application of scientific analysis (thin section petrography, electron microprobe and scanning electron microscopy) to Neolithic ceramics from Fars province, Iran. The research specifically addresses the questions surrounding the choice of raw materials, production techniques and the use and consumption of ceramic vessels at these village sites. I have sought to attempt a deeper understanding of the past socio-economic context of ceramic production and consumption, as well as draw comparisons with wider ceramic technologies in the surrounding regions of Iran, Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Central Asia.

Analysis and interpretation of decorated ceramics from Neolithic Southwest Iran has traditionally focused on decorative designs, where coloured pigments have clearly played an influential role. However, very little was specifically known about the raw materials, manufacture, and production stages of these wares. The samples selected for analysis include newly excavated and previously unpublished ceramics that have been incorporated into an updated typology. This is then used to provide detailed characterisation of the materials and techniques employed by past potters to create the wares.

Ceramics from different sites and valley locations were compared, and the development and changes in pigment raw materials and painted motif selection is demonstrated across different village sites and throughout the Neolithic time period. The introduction of manganese black and bichrome designs at Tol-e Nurabad is particularly interesting amidst the widely used iron oxide pigments and monochrome designs recorded from other sites.

The choice of these raw materials is considered in respect to potters’ interaction with their surrounding landscape and in the context of other crafts and productive technologies. The transfer of potting knowledge is also considered, with visible evidence of a range of skill levels and marked corrections and adjustments made to painted motifs on the vessels studied.

The use and consumption of vessels in Neolithic Fars is based on the remains of kitchen hearths and cooking equipment, namely clay balls and river cobbles, combined with use-wear analysis to show that plain wares were not subjected to direct heat and that painted wares were most likely used in the presentation and consumption of food.

The painted motifs and decorative designs created on Neolithic vessels in this study are compared to other excavated sherds and whole or reconstructed vessels and show a broad similarity in apparent manufacture and painted designs. I suggest that this is evidence of the capacity of ceramics to store visual information, and to signify the Neolithic style of design that was actively shared and participated in across village sites in Fars. This was potentially done to demonstrate group membership and contribute to the construction of community, perhaps at feasting events which have been proposed across this region during the Neolithic, which would have provided venues for the consumption of such ceramics alongside the transference of decorative schemes between villages.

Wider comparisons with contemporary Neolithic wares in the surrounding Iranian region, as well as Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Central Asia are also drawn, linking the communities of Fars with wider Neolithic technologies and styles.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Henderson, Julian
Livarda, Alexandra
Keywords: Archaeological ceramics, Neolithic, Fars, Iran, scientific analysis, petrographic, SEM, production sequence
Subjects: C Auxiliary sciences of history > CC Archaeology
D History - General and Old World > DS Asia
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 36039
Depositing User: Meakes, Alison
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2017 15:06
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2018 15:12

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