Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 849–864 | Cite as

Technological aspects of Mesopotamian Uruk pottery: estimating firing temperatures using mineralogical methods, thermal analysis and luminescence techniques

  • Jorge Sanjurjo-SánchezEmail author
  • Juan Luis Montero Fenollós
  • George S. Polymeris
Original Paper


The Middle Uruk phase in Mesopotamia (3600–3500 bc) has been characterised by the massive production of “bevelled rim bowls” (BRBs). They are characterised by their similar shape and volume in Mesopotamia and surroundings. However, their production method has not been studied in detail, including the firing temperature. The determination of the firing temperature of ancient pottery has been attempted by studying mineral phase transformation sequences; although, very little knowledge exists about such transformations in mixtures or thermal analyses. These methods usually provide imprecise firing temperatures between 500 and 800 °C, as other factors such as the raw materials or firing time and conditions must be considered. As an alternative, luminescence techniques have been tested with promising results, as they have provided reliable maximum firing temperatures for ancient pottery at mild conditions (below 600 °C) with high precision. In this work, the firing temperatures of BRB samples from two archaeological sites located in the Middle Euphrates Valley (Syria) have been studied using mineralogical, chemical and thermal analysis. Both mineral characterization techniques and thermal analyses show agreement and firing probably below 600–700 °C. Luminescence yields ambiguous results but circumstantial evidence on the firing temperature between 400 and 550 °C.


Mesopotamian pottery Firing temperature Luminescence Bevelled rim bowls 



This research has been funded by projects “Investigaciones Arqueológicas en el Medio Éufrates” (HAR210-15866, Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, Spain) and “Expedición arqueolóxica da UDC no Medio Éufrates Sirio” (10PXIB 167197PR, Xunta de Galicia, Spain). The University Institute of Geology of the University of A Coruña (Spain) also received support from the Xunta de Galicia with funds from “Consolidación y estructuración de unidades de investigación competitivas: Grupos de potencial de crecimiento” (GPC2015/024) and Redes de investigación (R2014/001).

The present manuscript has been previously submitted for publication to Geoarchaeology. Despite the rejection, the authors would like to thank the two reviewers for their constructive and fruitful comments. Based on these comments, the quality of the manuscript has been substantially increased. Finally, the authors acknowledge the helpful comments of both reviewers of the present submission.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jorge Sanjurjo-Sánchez
    • 1
    Email author
  • Juan Luis Montero Fenollós
    • 2
  • George S. Polymeris
    • 3
  1. 1.Instituto Universitario de XeoloxíaUniversidade da CoruñaA CoruñaSpain
  2. 2.Facultade de Humanidades e DocumentaciónUniversidade da CoruñaFerrolSpain
  3. 3.Institute of Nuclear SciencesAnkara UniversityAnkaraTurkey

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