General evaluation of finds from previous years

One of the primary goals of the 2008 season was to analyze materials collected by the project in the 2005, 2006, and 2007 seasons to enhance our understandings of ceramic typologies and chronologies across the various periods presented in the study area. With the use of sheltered spaces in the compound of the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis during the initial weeks of the CLAS season, all previous finds were laid out on a series of tables according to their CLAS collection units (“Survey Units,” or SUs, and “Points of Interest,” or POIs), allowing for their study and for comparison between collection units. This work proved to be extremely valuable, refining our previous determinations of the periods represented by each collection unit and helping us to develop further local typologies for prehistoric ceramics.

Of most significance to our current emphasis in the project was the reevaluation of finds dating to the Bronze Age, its early through late phases. Given that extensive excavations have yet to be conducted at sites of these periods in Lydia, CLAS has been slowly developing its own ceramic typologies, using the previous work of the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis at Ahlatlı Tepecik, Eski Balıkhane, and Kılcanlar Höyük as general guides (Hanfmann 1967 and 1968; Mitten and Yüğrüm 1968, 1971, and 1974). The ceramic material from contemporary and nearby sites was consulted as much as possible, as well, especially with reference to published collections from Beycesultan, Ulucak, Panaztepe, the Troad, Elmalı, and the western Anatolian littoral in general (Lloyd and Mellaart 1962 and 1965; French 1969; Warner 1994; Mellaart and Murray 1995; Günel 1999; Bayne 2001; Çilingiroğlu et al. 2004).

For the EBA, there are several fairly clearly defined ware groups including hand- and wheel-made forms presumably ranging at least from the EB I through EB II phases. An early fine ware group consists primarily of dark gray to olive-colored burnished wares, most commonly represented by bowls with inverted or simple rims. Distinctive handles also characterize this early group, with vertical strap handles bearing low knobs, as do tripod feet found in plain forms but also with grooved or punctate decoration. Each of these early forms has parallels in nearby LC assemblages, and so may slightly predate the EBA in our area as well. From the later phases of the EBA are red-slipped fine wares, and their usually hand-made form suggests an EB II rather than EB III date if they are part of the “Western Anatolia Red Slipped Ware” tradition (French figure-16-materials-analysis1969). Typical of the EB III phase, however, may be several examples of braided and/or molded handles known from contemporary contexts at Beycesultan (Lloyd and Mellaart 1962). EBA coarse wares are more varied, but tend to have surface colors ranging from deep red to brown and brown to gray in fabric with medium to large-grained quartz temper.

For the second millennium BCE, comparison with ceramic typologies from Beycesultan (Lloyd and Mellaart 1965; Mellaart and Murray 1995) and along the Aegean littoral (Günel 1999; Bayne 2000) are beginning to allow us to separate Middle from Late Bronze Age products, yet a good deal of continuity across these periods still confounds precise dating. Common shapes of the period include ring-foot craters and bowls with basket or strap handles in both gray and plain red ware varieties, with gray ware examples smaller and perhaps finer, on the whole, than red wares. What we have come to call “slit handles” – basket handles with deeply tooled incisions covering the handle to body attachment (and perhaps related to evenness in firing according to Bayne (2000: 35)) – appear first in Bayraklı level 10 (the last level of the MBA) and in contemporary levels at Larisa (Bayne 2000: 69), and continue into the LBA at Bayraklı levels 11–14 (Bayne 2000: 79). They are common throughout the later MBA levels at Beycesultan (IVc–IVa) (Lloyd and Mellaart 1965: 128, fig. 4, 2; insert 1), yet, while perhaps predominantly diagnostic of the MBA, cannot yet be excluded from LBA periods in central Lydia. Perhaps diagnostic of the LBA are similar vessel forms and handles with finger-impressed dimples replacing the slits. These “dimple handles” are found first in Beycesultan IVa (Lloyd and Mellaart 1965: insert 1), yet continue through the LBA levels at that site and are known also from the deepest levels of the House of Bronzes sector at Sardis.

Other diagnostic second millennium BCE forms include the stemmed fruit dishes so characteristic of M–LBA levels at Beycesultan – their bases and rims are easily identified and are present in both gray and red ware varieties; bead-rim bowls; bowls with plastic handle decoration (or “W” handles, as known from Beycesultan V through, and especially in, IVc (Lloyd and Mellaart 1965: insert 1; Bayne 2000: 34)), and various grooved or ridged forms, with parallel grooves or ridges found especially along the neck/shoulder transition or just below the rim. Particularly indicative of likely LBA dates are a few decorative traditions including grooved, wavy line decorations (Lloyd and Mellaart 1965: insert 1; Mellaart and Murray 1995: vol. 2.2, 22; Bayne 2000: 33) and gold washed exteriors (Mellaart and Murray 1995: vol. 2.2: 1, 21). Examples with this latter treatment sometimes also have additional red painted decoration. Along with other painted wares, these probably date to the LBA (Mellaart and Murray 1995: vol. 2.2: 57), while plain, dark red-slipped (and sometimes burnished) wares appear to be a continuation from earlier varieties. Many examples of similar painted wares were initially mistaken for early Lydian wares; their chemical compositional grouping with other second millennium wares seems to suggest, rather, that they are local painted wares of the LBA, some of them probably imitative of contemporary Mycenaean products. Finally, several second millennium BCE coarse ware varieties are present, too, the most diagnostic among them having a coarse red fabric with large quartz temper.

The transition from the LBA into the Early Iron Age (EIA) as represented by ceramics is still hazy, but is becoming somewhat clearer. Of specific note are gray wares and jug or jar shoulder/neck transitions. Preliminary analyses suggest that a “bluish ” gray ware of the M–LBA becomes increasingly dark gray over time. By the EIA this gray ware is a solid gray and is, perhaps, fired at a higher temperature. Raised ridges at the shoulder/neck transitions of jugs and/or small jars also appear to be diagnostic of later LBA and/or earlier EIA phases. They are found at sites in central Lydia preliminarily dated to these periods and also in some of the EIA levels from the House of Bronzes sector at Sardis.