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Tell Kazel au Bronze Récent: Études céramiques

April 2019 (123.2)

Book Review

Tell Kazel au Bronze Récent: Études céramiques

By Leila Badre, Emmanuelle Capet, and Barbara Vitale (Bibliothèque archéologique et historique 211). Pp. 256, figs. 6, b&w pls. 57, color pls. 5, plans 2, map 1. Presses de l’ Institut Français du Proche-Orient, Beirut 2018. €45. ISBN 978-2-35159-740-8 (paper).

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Tell Kazel is identified as ancient Ṣumur, one of Egypt’s principal administrative centers in the Levant during the New Kingdom. It was no doubt chosen for its strategic location on the main trade route from the Mediterranean to inland Syria, the economic benefits of which are evidenced in the relatively large assemblages of imported Mycenaean and Cypriot pottery.

The volume reviewed here is intended as a reference manual of the Late Bronze Age (LBA) pottery of the Akkar plain, and its main audience will be ceramic specialists. The corpus includes a typology of approximately 500 vessels illustrated in 48 plates of drawings interspersed with selected small photographs and four color plates. The Tell Kazel material derives from two phases of domestic buildings in Field II and four phases of a temple and related buildings in Field IV, excavated in the course of 25 years of work directed by Badre under the auspices of the American University of Beirut. The local pottery indicates Tell Kazel’s increasing Mediterranean orientation in LB II as well as its cultural integration into the larger region extending from the Syrian coast to southern Canaan (52). The volume incorporates comparanda from J.P. Thalmann’s publications of his excavations at Tell Arqa and additional LBA pottery studied by H. Charaf.

Part 1 briefly outlines the historical context; reviews previous archaeological work in the Homs depression, recapping the stratigraphy of Tell Kazel and Tell Arqa; and includes summaries of Vitale’s and Reinhard Jung’s studies on the Cypriot and Mycenaean pottery, the latter previously in (Jung, R. "La céramique de typologie mycénienne," in M. al-Maqdissi, V. Matoïan & Ch. Nicolle (eds.), Céramique de l'age du Bronze en Syrie. I. La Syrie du Sud et la valâe de l'Oronte, BAH 161 [Beirut, 2002] 115-121). The remainder is devoted to Badre and Capet’s analysis of the local pottery. Part 2 is Vitale’s extended discussion of the Cypriot imports.

While both parts of the volume make an important contribution to our understanding of the pottery of the Akkar Plain, part 2 is especially significant because the Cypriot assemblage is the largest in Lebanon yet reported, and a number of types occurred in terminal LBA contexts, when Cypriot imports are generally less prevalent throughout the Levant. For these reasons, the corpus will undoubtedly be used as a reference by archaeologists working in the region and beyond, and therefore some clarifications regarding the terminology and classifications presented in part 2 will be discussed here.

In general, the typological distribution of Tell Kazel’s Cypriot assemblage is typical of later 14th- and 13th-century Levantine import assemblages, with the sloppily painted White Slip II bowls in Parallel Line Style, the squat Base Ring II jug (BR J: 294), and the miniatures, present in unusually large numbers, all characteristic of the latest LBA import horizon. The earliest Cypriot import may be the juglet (pl. 33, no. 378), which is probably Cypriot Black Lustrous Wheelmade Ware, with no connection to Trojan Gray Ware, as is suggested (39). The context, dated to the beginning of the LBA, is consistent with the distribution of Black Lustrous Wheelmade Ware in southern Canaan, where it is diagnostic for LB IA.

The 30 wall-bracket fragments from terminal LBA contexts, mostly in the temple area, dramatically increases the number found outside Cyprus, where the type originated and mostly was manufactured, as petrographic analyses have demonstrated. The find contexts of the wall brackets at Tell Kazel, together with the large Cypriot pottery assemblage overall, supports Panitz-Cohen’s hypothesis that the former were Cypriot cultic objects introduced by individuals associated with the Cypriot “trading diaspora” (“‘Off the Wall’: Wall Brackets and Cypriots in Iron Age I Israel,” in P. de Miroschedji and A.M. Maeir, eds., ‘I Will Speak the Riddles of Ancient Times’: Archaeological and Historical Studies in Honor of Amihai Mazar on the Occasion of His Sixtieth Birthday [Winona Lake, Ind., 2006], 613–36).

In part 2, Vitale makes the important observation regarding the local imitations of the Cypriot pottery that “their relative low number, and the fact that they were found along side [sic] the imports would suggest that the supply wasn’t lacking,” nor did the former increase as the quantities of the Cypriot products decreased, to replace them (180). This distribution mirrors the situation in southern Canaan, where it similarly appears that local potters made imitations to take advantage of the Cypriot pottery’s popularity rather than to create substitutes for dwindling imports (C.J. Bergoffen, “Canaanite Wheelmade Imitations of Late Cypriot Base Ring II Jugs,” in E. Czerny et al., eds., Timelines: Studies in Honour of Manfred Bietak [Leuven 2006] 331–38).

The imitations include a handmade hemispherical bowl sherd erroneously classified as White Slip II (WS II) Ladder Lattice Pattern Style. As Vitale noted, the ladder lattice at the rim is composed of only three horizontal bands instead of the canonical four; the color of the paint is redder and paler than normal Cypriot WS II; and the fabric is coarser. According to Ben Shlomo, who conducted petrographic analyses on sherds of this type from Tell Jemmeh, the ware is Canaanite. Further investigation by neutron activation analysis, however, would certainly be welcome.

It would have been helpful if the Cypriot pottery on plates 43 and 44 (in part 1) were referenced in Vitale’s catalogue and her letter-number designations also listed in those plate descriptions. Several intriguing Cypriot sherds were not drawn or were illustrated only in small photographs. The possibly unique White Shaved juglet with an incised design deserved a drawing, as did a sherd with a badly abraded surface that appears to be White Slip I Ladder Lattice Pattern Style, identified as WS I–II (167, 174, 189).

For the White Slip Wares, Vitale treats WS I–II and WS IIA as a single group, illustrating three sherds labeled as WS I–II under the plate heading "WS IIA," but including only "WS I–II Transitional" in her catalogue (182, 189, pl. 1). On the other hand, these sherds are listed as WS IIA, in part 1, plate 43. The drawing of the rim sherd WS I–II:1 indicates that it probably came from a tankard, rather than a bowl, as classified (pp. 144-145, pl. XLIII: 485; p. 182, pl. I, WS I-II:1). The krater sherd decorated in Dotted Row Style illustrated with a photograph at the bottom of page 199 is mislabeled WS II:87, a Hooked Chain Style bowl, and it is not clear which of the WS II K entries of kraters is pictured.

For the Base Ring pottery, it should be noted that Åström (The Swedish Cyprus Expedition. Vol. 4, pt. C, The Late Cypriote Bronze Age: Architecture and Pottery [Lund 1972], 175–76) classified Y-shaped Base Ring bowls as BR II based on their shape, without regard to the quality of the surface burnish (170). The Base Ring bowl BR B:1, on plate 2, drawn without the base shown on the photograph, looks like BR II, not BR I, as classified (170, pl. 2—unless the photograph on page 201 is mislabeled).

Whited Shaved vessels are classified as "Shaved Ware" (39, 174–75), one of several instances where the current Cypriot pottery terminology is modified. Other idiosyncratic classifications include “hooked horizontal style” for WS II Hooked Chain Style (167), and “Double Dotted Lattice Frieze” for WS II Dotted Row Style.

Introducing variant terminology for well-known types is unnecessary and can be confusing. For instance, one of Vaughan’s Base Ring Ware fabric groups, Red Burnished, is referred to as Red Lustrous, which could be mistaken for the unrelated Red Lustrous Wheelmade Ware (170) (S.J. Vaughan, A Fabric Analysis of Late Cypriot Base Ring Ware: Studies in Ceramic Technology, Petrology, Geochemistry and Mineralogy [London 1987] 53–4). The BR II flask FL:187, ascribed to Vaughan’s “Red Lustrous” group, however, is described as “brown clay / light grey” and therefore cannot belong to the Red Burnished group, which has a red fabric (171, 209–10).

Notwithstanding the above observations, this comprehensive study of the pottery of the Akkar plain and Tell Kazel’s important Cypriot assemblage is very illuminating and will be an indispensable resource for Syro-Palestinian pottery specialists and those concerned with Cypriot and Mycenaean imports in the Levant.

Celia J. Bergoffen
History of Art Department
Fashion Institute of Technology

Book Review of Tell Kazel au Bronze Récent: Études céramiques, by Leila Badre, Emmanuelle Capet, and Barbara Vitale

Reviewed by Celia J. Bergoffen

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 123, No. 2 (April 2019)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1232.bergoffen

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