|10 January 2017
Cypriot-style ceramics in Iron Age Anatolia
Cypriot-style ceramics were popular in Anatolia (present-day Turkey) during the Iron Age, but new research shows some were produced locally, and not imported from central and southern Cyprus, requiring a major revision of our understanding of economic interaction in the Eastern Mediterranean in the first millennium BCE.
Steven Karacic from Florida State University and James Osborne from the University of Chicago analysed the chemical composition of ceramics found at three sites in southern Turkey's Hatay region. They found that imported and local Cypriot-style ceramics contained different chemical signatures, which helped them determine where they were produced. Their work suggests people from Chatal Hoeyuek and Tell Judaidah bought imported ceramics from Cyprus, while those in Tell Tayinat bought a mixture of locally made and imported Cypriot-style objects.
To trace the ceramics' place of production without harming them, the researchers first fired high-energy X-rays at the objects. As atoms absorb the energy, they emit a small amount of energy. Different chemicals produce different energy emission signatures, providing clues to the objects' composition.
Karacic and Osborne found that common ceramics from Tell Tayinet - produced locally, but not in the Cypriot style - had a certain emission signature, while Cypriot-style ceramics from Chatal Hoeyuek and Tell Judaidah had a different signature. Cypriot-style ceramics from Tell Tayinet were split between the two.
To confirm their results, the pair used neutron activation analysis, bombarding a sample with neutrons, causing the elements within to form radioactive isotopes whose distinctive emissions and decay paths are analysed to expose the elemental composition of the sample.
Analysed this way, the two found distinct differences between ceramics produced in Anatolia and those from Cyprus, confirming that some of the Tell Tayinat ceramics were produced locally.
Karacic and Osborne suspect that feasting practices among the wealthy in Tell Tayinet drove demand for Cypriot-style ceramics, and that local potters may have copied the style, or Cypriot potters moved to Anatolia to be nearer their customers.
Edited from PLOS One (30 November 2016), Cosmos (1 December 2016)
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