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[abs] Wheel-thrown pottery and transport vessels in medieval Shawbak castle. Production and function

Wheel-thrown pottery and transport
vessels in medieval Shawbak castle.
Production and function

Elisa Pruno*, Alessandro Neri*


* Università degli Studi di Firenze (Italy)


Recent excavations at Shawbak castle investigated a number of archaeological deposits with artefacts assemblages dating from Late Antiquity to Ottoman period. 2006-2009 excavations focussed on areas 35000, a large barrel vaulted structure originally part of 12th century Crusader palace complex, in the north-west sector, and 39000, a small vaulted structure set against the inner enceinte wall in the north-east sector.

A primary aim of investigation for area 35000 was to understand stratigraphic sequences of both upstanding structures and archaeological deposits in a relevant urban key point of medieval Shawbak, at the interconnection between 12th century Latin royal palace and 13th century Ayyubid palace. We expected to find stratified 12-13 centuries domestic assemblages and, partly confirming the assumption, a monumental Ayyubid stairway was in fact unearthed in 2007. The latter was built in order to link a (lowered) earthen floor, with a more ancient Crusader access door. The beautiful stairs, consisting of 5 steps, semicircular in plan and very well preserved, was completely hidden below recent occupation layers before the excavation. The dating to the Ayyubid period was first hypothesised for the dressing tool marks recognised on the stone elements of the stairs, very similar to those of walled ashlars from Shawbak Ayyubid Audience hall. Dating was later confirmed by 2008 excavation. Finally 2009 excavation exposed, below Ayyubid levels, a significant quantity of Late Roman pottery, although in a context of secondary deposition. In accordance with a similar Ancient-to-Mamluk chronology also the stratigraphy of area 39000 shows assemblages dating to Byzantine-Crusader-Ayyubid (or Mamluk) epochs. Both archaeological deposits are very rich in fragments of pottery of different typologies.

The paper will focus on the production and function of medieval wheel-thrown pottery and transport vessels found in the two areas. Comparisons will be drawn with assemblages from previously excavated areas 6000, 10000 and 24000.

Wheel-thrown pottery and transport vessels are very well known for the Roman and Byzantine periods, while there is still a lack of information for the Middle Ages. Recent studies on the latter period are indeed mostly focussed on hand-made and/or glazed pottery, mainly because of the abundance of the first and since the second (glazed pottery), even if rarer in Petra-Shawbak region, is a relevant witness of trade/exchange patterns (and also a major chronological indicator).

Quite surprisingly, for medieval contexts, wheel-thrown pottery and transport vessels are rather over-represented in areas 39000 and 35000. The study of both assemblages will help understand the specific function assigned to those typologies. Besides, production issues will be also considered, in order to shed light on social, economic and political background.

Relative abundance of wheel-thrown pottery and transport vessels is indeed most interesting when compared to coeval assemblages from Shawbak and Petra (notably at Al-Wu’ayra and Wadi Farasa), mainly characterised by hand-made pottery whose production does not need a comparably advanced wheel and kiln technology.


The paper will be presented to - ICHAJ 11

CHANGES AND CHALLENGES – 11th International Conference on the History and Archeology of Jordan
Under the Patronage of HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal

Paris, 7–14 June 2010

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