Pottery Production in Jerash

2017 marks the 110th anniversary of excavations in Jerash, ancient Gerasa. However, the long tradition of diggings, bringing to light immense amounts of finds that have been analysed in broader synthetic studies, have very often disregarded a view to a contextualised approach. The research project Ceramics in Context aims to fill those gaps and investigate ceramics in context. Its approach lays the foundation for a better understanding of the settlement history in the Northwest Quarter of Jerash.

Two main research questions have guided the past few months of Heike Möller’s research: Jerash’s embedding into micro networks, i.e. markets on local /regional levels, and on macro scale, i.e. its networks within the Eastern and Western Mediterranean.

Jerash was a “mass-production centre” of pottery from Hellenistic/Early Roman times up to Early Islamic times. To trace the radius of distribution, it is useful to establish a geochemical fingerprint of the local wares, which will make it possible to identify the characteristic fabrics made in Jerash at surrounding sites. This, in turn, will lead to a better understanding of local/ regional exchange in and around the Decapolis cities. Imported finds, such as amphorae and tableware, transported from as far as the outermost west of the Western Mediterranean to Jerash indicate a global exchange network.

To study the global and interregional dynamics, interdisciplinary research and data exchange are crucial, as is the employment of different scientific techniques. Disciplines such as Geoscience, Archaeobotany, Archaeozoology and Physics are integrated into the pottery analyses to make up a high-definition approach. The implications of these studies are promising. Results indicate that Jerash’s production was mainly intended for the local market, with regional supply to a minimum extent. Only few imports from far away reached the city, providing people with fish sauce, wine and other deli food. Even though the imports are rare, compared to the local “mass production” of pottery, they prove that Jerash was embedded into an exchange network on macro-market level. The intention is to expand the study on the local pottery production to analyse distribution patterns in a more detailed way and to intensify the study of the ceramics in context to get a better understanding of people’s daily life in Jerash.

PI: Professor Rubina Raja

Investigator: Assistant Professor Heike Möller