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Ancient culture study: The pottery of Ancient Mesopotamia

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Linny Y.
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  1. Introduction.
  2. How were the beveled-rim bowls produced?
  3. Theories explaining the beveled-rim bowls.
    1. The votive offering theory.
    2. Thomas W. Beale's hypothesis.
    3. Support for Beale's theory of offerings.
    4. A. R. Millard's theory.
  4. The literature and textual evidence of the Late Uruk period.
  5. H. J. Nissen and Gregory Johnson postulates.
  6. Criticisms of Johnson's and Nissen's theory.
  7. The major theories of the beveled-rim bowls as presented by Beale, Millard, and Nissen.
  8. Conclusion.

The production of pottery can be considered one of the most important steps an early civilization can take. In point of fact, early societies are often distinguished by their development of pottery, such as the Pre-pottery Neolithic A and B periods are. After the introduction of pottery into society, pottery is of the utmost importance to archaeology as it is very useful in dating and identifying sites. It is therefore of no surprise that the pottery of the Uruk period has been extensively studied. Of all the pottery items and shards found, one type of pottery has been discovered in such great quantities to merit special mention: the beveled-rim bowl. These bowls were clearly mass produced and, in fact, beveled-rim bowls, along with conical cups, have comprised up to eighty percent of all pottery found at some sites (Potts, 151). Even more intriguing is that the reason behind having these bowls is still very much unknown.

[...] Ancient culture study: The pottery of Ancient Mesopotamia The production of pottery can be considered one of the most important steps an early civilization can take. In point of fact, early societies are often distinguished by their development of pottery, such as the Pre- pottery Neolithic A and B periods are. After the introduction of pottery into society, pottery is of the utmost importance to archaeology as it is very useful in dating and identifying sites. It is therefore of no surprise that the pottery of the Uruk period has been extensively studied. [...]


[...] Thirdly, there must be some form of organization of production (Johnson, 130). Such a huge quantity of bowls implies that the manufacture of these bowls was organized and implies specialization of labor with people who only made pottery and these bowls. It is clear that these bowls could not have been homemade (Potts, 153). Fourthly and fifthly, the location of production must be near the place of distribution and there must be a standardization of size of the units (Johnson, 130). [...]


[...] This points to temples or official buildings. Such as large number of donations would lead to a large number of beveled-rim bowls being deposited in the same place and it would make sense for the receivers of the donations to dispose of the bowls in batches. This would explain why the bowls are so often found in large groups. There are several sources of support for Beale's theory of offerings. Beale suggests that if the ritual with offerings involved the earth, the bowls could be symbolic as the bowl is made from clay and other materials that can be found from the earth (Beale, 306). [...]


[...] Interestingly, the production of beveled-rim bowls suddenly stopped in the Uruk IV period (Millard 54). It is possible that the bowls were replaced by other pottery such as conical cups from the Early Dynastic I and II periods but never to the same degree (Ellison, 64). Thus, it is possible to identify a very specific time period where these beveled-rim bowls were produced in such large numbers. Before considering the theories concerning why such bowls were made, it is important to look at the simpler question of how the beveled-rim bowls were produced. [...]


[...] Delougaz and Seton Lloyd, who proposed that the bowls were used in the production of yoghurt (Millard, 51). As Millard points out, these bowls are too porous to be used in making yoghurt. Additionally, the bowls would have likely crumbled too quickly to have been of any use in yoghurt or cheese production (Beale, 305). This theory also raises the question of how much yoghurt a society needs, as the huge number of bowls would imply a vast amount of yoghurt. [...]

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