The Social and symbolic role of early pottery in the Near East

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2019
Yıldırım, Burcu.
The aim of this thesis is to investigate the social and symbolic role of the earliest pottery in the Near East which flourished during the Neolithic Period. This dissertation provides a comparative analysis of the earliest ceramics and the relationship of pottery form and technology to the plaster and figurine technologies. As early as the 9th millennium BC, the skilled use of ceramic technology and control of fire was evident in the production of lime plaster, as well as anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines in the region. Therefore, the question of "why the production of pottery had to wait for another two-thousand years", is an intriguing one. The results of the study demonstrate that the emergence of pottery is a "symbolic technology" that is deeply embedded in the earlier Neolithic belief and ritual. Pottery restates a relationship between "the human body" and "the house", as an alternative to the pre-existing Early Neolithic relationship that was formed between "the dead", "the house" and "the communal buildings". As such, pottery must have been an important agent in the negotiation of new social relations in the new economic context of agriculture. Whereas its form evoked familiar ancestral concepts, its portability and use facilitated new types of relations. In this context, the reason why pottery was such a late introduction in the Near East may not be due to a lack of knowledge, instead, the reason is more likely to be cultural one, which requires a further contextual evaluation of the shifts in social structure and belief.