Tell Atchana/Alalakh

Ceramic Fabric Experiment


Experimental Archaeology

Replication of a LBA Kiln 

  Kiln Gallery

Making Mud Bricks

   Mud Bricks Gallery

Making Tandir

   Tandir Gallery

Burn the Brick

Burn the House Down

   Burn the House Gallery

   Burn the House Video

Ceramic Fabric Exp.

The Mud House





To date, four ceramic fabric types have been identified within the local assemblage. These preliminary types are: (1) a Fine Fabric, (2) a Medium-Fine River Sand Fabric, (3) a Coarse Calcite Tempered Fabric and (4) a Very Coarse Crushed Shell Tempered Fabric (for detailed descriptions see attached chart, Morrison 2008). Horowitz has collected evidence which proves the ancient Alalakh potters formulated specialized ceramic clay bodies that have chronological significance and/or associated with specific functions. For example, the coarser Crushed Shell and Calcite tempered fabrics were used only to produce cooking vessels (forthcoming Horowitz Report).

The goals, methods and results of our preliminary findings are outlined in the following four tables.As a side note, we are happy to announce that our abstract for the 2009 SAA meetings has been accepted. We will be presenting a paper that demonstrates how ceramic fabric studies and experimental archaeology can be combined to construct potential pathways of pottery production processes. We will be using summer 2008 field work from Mochlos and Alalakh to illustrate our argument, since both sites represent varied geological and geographical conditions that should be considered when investigating ancient ceramic production practices.


To better understand and identify the working parameters of local potting materials, we executed a two-week field-based project that allowed us to explore potential pathways of ancient pottery production.



The goal of our project is to identify the working parameters of local potting materials in order to explore potential pathways of ancient pottery production at Alalakh. To being this process, we developed a single variable replication program that could be executed within a two-week time frame (see Table 2). To accomplish this, we used the macroscopic description of the local archaeological material to determine what types of materials to test. The materials tested are a fine clay that outcrops SW of the mound, river sand and crushed freshwater clamshells (see Table 1). We made the experimental fabrics by kneading each type of processed aplastic grit, i.e. river sand and crushed shell, independently into the fine clay (see Table 2).

Overall we are pleased with our results (see Table 3). Our findings demonstrate that it is possible to use the local materials to make basic pinch pots and figurines. We are also able to demonstrate that both heat-treated and non-heat-treated shell can be used as a tempering agent (see Table 4). We would like to stress that we are not claiming the materials tested are exactly those the ancient potters used, however; we are confident that these materials are probable candidates for two reasons. First because they can be located in the immediate environment of the site and at this time we have no evidence the potters traveled far to collect their pottery supplies and/or traded for them. Most importantly, the experimental fabrics macroscopically resemble the archaeological material.

Based on our 2008 findings, we will continue testing these materials to make replicated fabrics as well as introduce additional variables. Stylistic analysis indicates that the majority of the archaeological ceramic material is wheel-made and finished with various surface finishes. To ensure that these sorts of variable technologies can be explored experimentally, we are coordinating with Murat Akar the production of a potter’s wheel and a proper kiln. By doing so, it is our hope that we will be much closer to identifying specific pathways of ancient pottery production at Alalakh.

Jerolyn E. Morrison and Mara T. Horowitz