Ceramics AnalysisSee also: History of pottery in the Southern Levant and Palestinian pottery
A central concern of Syro-Palestinian archaeology since its genesis has been the study of ceramics. Whole pots and richly decorated pottery are uncommon in the Levant and the plainer, less ornate ceramic artifacts of the region have served the analytical goals of archaeologists, much more than those of museum collectors. The ubiquity of pottery sherds and their long history of use in the region makes ceramics analysis a particularly useful sub-discipline of Syro-Palestinian archaeology, used to address issues of terminology and periodization. Awareness of the value of pottery gained early recognition in a landmark survey conducted by Edward Robinson and Eli Smith, whose findings were published in first two works on the subject: Biblical Researches in Palestine (1841) and Later Biblical Researches (1851).
Ceramics analysis in Syro-Palestinian archaeology has suffered from insularity and conservatism, due to the legacy of what J.P Dessel and Alexander H. Joffe call "the imperial hubris of pan-optic 'Biblical Archaeology.'" The dominance of biblical archaeological approaches meant that the sub-discipline was cut off from other branches of ancient Near Eastern studies, apart from occasional references to Northwest Semitic epigraphy and Assyriology, as exemplified in the Mesha Stele, the Sefire Stelae, and the Tel Dan Stele.
As a result, widely varying principles, emphases, and definitions are used to determine local typologies among archaeologists working in the region. Attempts to identify and bridge the gaps made some headway at the Durham conference, though it was recognized that agreement on a single method of ceramic analysis or a single definition of a type may not be possible. The solution proposed by Dessel and Joffe is for all archaeologists in the field to provide more explicit descriptions of the objects of they study. The more information provided and shared between those in related sub-disciplines, the more likely it is that they will be able to identify and understand the commonalities in the different typological systems.
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—Joan Didion (b. 1934)