Across Western Asia, the astonishing increase in the availability of durable ceramic containers in the seventh millennium BCE had significant societal repercussions – so much so that vital social, economic, and symbolic activities became dependent upon the availability of pottery containers. These early ceramic containers, however, established themselves alongside flourishing pre-existing container traditions, with vessels made in a wide range of materials including clay, bitumen, basketry, leather, wood, and stone. How did prehistoric people respond to the emergence of containers as a key factor in their lives?
Building on Olivier Nieuwenhuyse’s rich scholarly legacy, this volume brings together 18 papers by leading scholars in the field of container technology, discussing cases from eastern Asia to Africa, but with a focus on prehistoric Western Asia. Looking not just at pottery but also explicitly beyond, the contributions consider and address the cross-overs of different kinds of raw materials for containers and their crafting; the multiplicity of temporal scales in the production, use and discard of pottery; the social anchoring of vessels’ use and deposition as evident in their specific contexts; and local as well as regional variations in early pottery.
Reinhard Bernbeck and Koen Berghuijs
The ultimate black box – an introduction
Thinking inside the mask
Containing the flow: Çatalhöyük
Clay, enamel & plastic. Three ethnographic studies on diversity and innovation in container usage
Hans Peter Hahn
Just an everyday story of pots? Thinking through the controversies, materialities, and interdependencies of initial pottery and organic containers in the East Mediterranean
Thinking inside the pot – Improving organic residue analysis
Early pottery in Upper Mesopotamia
Marie Le Mière
Imagined Inceptions: of pottery and basketry in the Upper Mesopotamian late Neolithic
Koen Berghuijs and Olivier Nieuwenhuyse†
Alternating mediums? The introduction of pottery to the southern Levant and its impact on the production of stone vessels: Sha‘ar Hagolan as a case study
Danny Rosenberg and Yosef Garfinkel
Early pottery in the Southern Levant and beyond
A view from the northern forests: container technologies of boreal hunter-gatherers
The affordances of portable containers in early village societies in the Kopet Dag region
Containers of collective memories. A biographic-contextual approach to the chlorite vessels of the 10th millennium BCE of northern Mesopotamia
Containers for spirits: symbolic meaning of early pottery and stone vessels discovered in Tell el-Kerkh
Clay containers and mobility in the final stage of Neolithisation: storage bins and the earliest pottery at Tell el-Kerkh, northwest Syria
Immovable and movable containers: evidence from the Syrian Euphrates in the mid-8th millennium cal. BCE
Anna Bach Gómez, Adrià Breu Barcons, Miquel Molist and Walter Cruells
Lifting the lid on the materiality of containing and retrieving
Container cultures: a synthesis
Olivier P. Nieuwenhuyse
Olivier Nieuwenhuyse (1966-2020) was an archaeologist and expert in the field of Western Asian prehistoric ceramics. At the time of his untimely death, he was a Humboldt Fellow at the Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie (Freie Universität Berlin). He was the author of numerous articles on Late Neolithic ceramics and (co-)editor of Climate and Cultural Change in Prehistoric Europe and the Near East (2016), Painting Pots, Painting People (2017) and Relentlessly Plain (2018). Olivier conducted fieldwork in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and, most recently, Iraqi Kurdistan.
Reinhard Bernbeck is Professor of Western Asian archaeology at the Freie Universität Berlin and professor emeritus of Anthropology at Binghamton University. His interests include the prehistory of Iran, archaeological manifestations of social and material inequality, economic exploitation and ideological dimensions of archaeological practice.
Koen Berghuijs holds a B.A. in Archaeology and an M.A. in Archaeology of the Near East from Leiden University. A former student of the late Olivier Nieuwenhuyse, Koen has published on (Late) Neolithic ceramics and basketry remains from various sites in Syria and Iraq and on more recent petroglyphs from the Jordanian Black Desert. He has participated in several survey and excavation projects in the Netherlands, Jordan, and Oman.