The main purpose of this research project is to examine through an archaeometric approach the pottery production from Arslantepe in the Malatya Plain (Eastern Anatolia) and the Upper Euphrates Valley between the Late Chalcolithic 1 and the Early Bronze Age III (4250-2000 BCE) in order to define: the raw material procurement patterns, the complexity level of the production modes, the nature of interactions between the communities of the Malatya plain, the Euphrates valley and the surrounding Anatolian world. In more detail, the aim ist to assess the elements of continuity/discontinuity of such aspects in connection with the significant social, economic and political changes occurred during the two millennia under investigation.
From the end of the 5th mill. BCE the social life of the communities living along the Upper course of the Euphrates River was characterized by the convergence of different cultural influences – from the Mesopotamian, North-Anatolian and Transcaucasian worlds – and the emergence of the centralized economy.
Arslantepe ceramics, largely found in primary contexts, provide a significant record to investigate such phenomena. During the lc3-5 (3800–3000 BCE), when an early-centralized complex society of mesopotamian type appeared, an uruk-influenced wheel-thrown pottery and mass-production occurred. After the collapse of the centralized system and the establishment of mobile groups linked to the southern caucasian world at the beginning of the ebai (3000-2900 BCE), the pottery assemblage changed completely and consisted almost entirely of a handmade red-black burnished ware (RBBW). At the end of this period (2900-2800 BCE) post-Uruk wheel-made wares significantly reappeared flanking the rbbw in a new sedentary rural settlement. From the EBAII (2750-2500 BCE) a new period of socio-political and cultural fracture was marked by the appearance of a painted production peculiar to the anatolian upper euphrates, which became highly standardized in the EBAIII (2500–2000 BCE), when a well-planned fortified town arose. the pottery production from Arslantepe and the upper euphrates has been exhaustively investigated from chrono-typological, stylistic and functional points of view. In order to enlarge the understanding of the production organization such data need to be integrated with archaeometric analyses.
Methodologically, the archaeometric approach mainly consists in petrographic analyses of thin sections under the polarizing microscope, geochemical and mineralogical analyses to identify the local supply sources, paste preparation modes, surface treatments, shaping techniques and firing processes. In order to localize the supply sources the data obtained on ceramics are compared with the local outcrops reported on geological maps and with the compositions of local reference materials, such as mud bricks, clay sealings and geological samples. To better understand the practices and choices in the pottery production, I will then compare compositional data to experimental proofs (firing, shaping, use). Furthermore, a topic worthy of interest is the different types and function of organic temper which appears to be differently used according to the chronological phases and ceramic classes.
As main reference material Pamela Fragnoli will use the LC-EBA pottery assemblages from Arslantepe (Malatya), where the long-lasting extensive excavation has been documented the above-mentioned processes and interactions. To this end, the following material can be used:
1) the archaeometric data-set left by the late Alberto Palmieri, including 200 thin sections and XRF-chemical analyses of potsherds from Arslantepe and other sites of the Malatya plain (Gelinciktepe, Fethye, Köşkörbaba, Şemşiyetepe); 2) 300 potsherds from Arslantepe covering the whole sequence from periods VIII to VID3 (LC1 to EBA3) that Pamela Fragnoli sampled taking into account macroscopic, technological, typological and functional observations and the finding contexts; 3) 20 clay and rock samples that Pamela Fragnoli took from the different geological formations surrounding the site.
Then such material with the pottery production from other sites of the upper and middle Euphrates, sharing similar productive traditions, chronological sequences and cultural influences will be compared: to the north, Değirmentepe, Norşuntepe and Tepecik (Elazığ) and, to the south, Zeytinli Bahçe (Urfa). The pottery from Değirmentepe is directly comparable with the Late Ubaid-influenced assemblages of Arslantepe period VIII (LC1-2), that from Tepecik and Norşuntepe with the VIA (LC5), VIB1-2 (EBAI-II) Red-Black Burnished wares and wheel-made wares and with the VIC-VID (EBAII-III) painted wares. Zeytinli Bahçe on the other hand represents the parallel development of a more “Mesopotamian-related” site, and the comparison between the LC4-5 (Arslantepe periods VII and VIA) and EBAI (Arslantepe period VIB1) ceramics and those of the Upper Euphrates region will be particularly significant. On the basis of the achieved results, a new pottery and clay sampling will be organized, also in collaboration with scholars dealing with territorial and environmental issues.