Computational analyses of archaeological ceramics: The second millennium BCE ceramics of the Marmara Lake Basin in their western Anatolian regional context

Peter J Cobb, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation investigates the social processes and interactions of people living in central western Anatolia during the second millennium BCE through a detailed analysis of archaeological ceramics. The pottery sherds collected by the Central Lydia Archaeological Survey (CLAS) within the Marmara Lake Basin are the main focus of this research. These sherds are contextualized through comparison to a database of regional ceramic sherds created for this dissertation. The main properties of the ceramic vessels considered include form, external surface color, and a basic characterization of fabric. An analysis of these characteristics helps to address a variety of archaeological research goals, including the development of an understanding of the main functional categories of ceramic vessel shapes and their implications for past social practices. The analysis also considers colors and fabrics to further understand vessel use and presentation, as well as the sharing of ideas about the production process. These comparisons lead to an investigation of the interconnections and interactions among communities. This dissertation also experiments with digital data and computational analytical methods for archaeological ceramics in order to explore how these techniques can help advance these research goals. Techniques applied to the ceramic data include automatic shape-matching algorithms, graph visualizations of sherd relationships, and spatial analysis of pottery distributions. Preliminary results seem to indicate possible shared social functions involving eating and drinking based on a preference for bowls of various sizes. The prevalence of monochrome vessels in medium-fine fabrics hints at the desire to copy metal originals. Differences in color preferences across the region and through time indicate divergent firing processes. The local topography of river valleys separated by mountain ranges appears to constrain the networks of interaction in central western Anatolia. Based on pottery similarities, the Marmara Lake Basin seems most closely connected with the nearby Akhisar plain and to a lesser extent with the sites on the routes to the Aegean Sea. Digital data and computational analysis applications for archaeological ceramics hold out much potential for advancing an understanding of the past, but they depend on a significant increase in the availability of high-quality digitized pottery comparanda.

Subject Area

Archaeology|Near Eastern Studies

Recommended Citation

Cobb, Peter J, "Computational analyses of archaeological ceramics: The second millennium BCE ceramics of the Marmara Lake Basin in their western Anatolian regional context" (2016). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI10190311.