Ceramics in Context - PhD project

This project aims to explore the settlement history of the Middle Islamic period at the Northwest Quarter of the ancient city of Gerasa, known today as Jerash, in Jordan. Ongoing excavations since 2011 have resulted in many discoveries and expanded current knowledge of urbanisation and settlement development over time in Jerash. Although Jerash was an important Decapolis city, much excavated material has contributed to the understanding of the Ayyubid-Mamluk periods. On top of the NW hill, an extensive building complex was found, with Mamluk-style pottery alongside repairs and modifications of the buildings, indicating Mamluk settlement over several generations. This activity is reflected in the material culture through handmade geometrically-painted ware (HMGPW) – a ceramic style generally associated with Mamluk activity and also known from the Ayyubid period. Evidence of Ayyubid-Mamluk occupation in this area is much better represented than previously thought. The PhD project Ceramics in Context grew out of a need to analyse this later medieval material. By examining the ceramic material from these periods, both empirically and in a wider regional context, the aim is to better understand the settlement history in the Northwest Quarter.

The ceramic repertoire of the Middle Islamic period in Jordan, and its chronology and typology, is still largely unclear. Although frequently studied from historical and art historical perspectives, the period’s pottery and material culture have received little attention. Research on Islamic pottery in Jordan and the Levant is still at an early stage of development, and many studies publish ceramics without contextualising or interpreting them in meaningful ways.

This project aims to develop a more precise ceramic chronotypology for the Ayyubid-Mamluk period by focusing on Jerash. Through empirical analysis of individual finds, contextualisation within the site and the urban development of Jerash will take place. After constructing a chronotypology and examining the pottery at a local level, it can then be placed in its regional context in order to gain insight on the social history of a region, production and consumption, lines of trade, and cultural regionalism. It is also important to consider what the pottery was used for. Considering aspects of diet or food and eating trends is necessary to better understand and contextualise the pottery. By combining the empirical analysis and the deeper meanings of pottery use, their social and economic implications will be understood in a way which can take research on this topic much further.

PI: PhD student Alex Peterson