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Flaked glass and pottery sherd tools of the late roman and byzantine periods from the hippodrome at Jerash - article ; n°3 ; vol.69, pg 451-464


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Syria - Année 1992 - Volume 69 - Numéro 3 - Pages 451-464
14 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



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Published 01 January 1992
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I. Kehrberg
Flaked glass and pottery sherd tools of the late roman and
byzantine periods from the hippodrome at Jerash
In: Syria. Tome 69 fascicule 3-4, 1992. pp. 451-464.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Kehrberg I. Flaked glass and pottery sherd tools of the late roman and byzantine periods from the hippodrome at Jerash. In:
Syria. Tome 69 fascicule 3-4, 1992. pp. 451-464.
doi : 10.3406/syria.1992.7298
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/syria_0039-7946_1992_num_69_3_7298FLAKED GLASS AND POTTERY SHERD TOOLS
This article introduces nine unusual tools which to the best of my knowledge have
so far not been noted in excavations of historical sites in Jordan. These tools are rare not
only because they are made in the millennia old tradition of flint-working but also in
that this technique was applied to material not usually used for the manufacture of
flaked tools. There are one glass sherd blade (no. 9) and eight pottery sherd tools (nos. 1-
8) from Late Roman and Byzantine levels at the hippodrome at Jerash. l
No. 1 Pottery sherd scraper (Fig. 1 a-b; Fig. 10.6)
H 86. Eur.3b. Intact; body fragment of large vessel; pale red ware with tiny white inclusions; bright
red thick wash with incised parallel multiple lines on outer surface. Length: 8.1 cm.
Tool no. 1 is from the earth-rubble-pottery fill (dump) in the underground part of
the barrier {euripus) which can be dated by the pottery from the late third to the earlier
l; This study concentrates on the tools found in the 1987", pp. 51-77; I. Kehrberg, "Selected Lamps and
course of excavations. For a more comprehensive recent Pottery from the Hippodrome at Jerash", pp. 85-97; Z.
" Inscriptions on Altars from the Hippo- presentation of the history and for the plan of the hip- Borkowski,
podrome, see: A.A. Ostrasz, "The Hippodrome of drome of Gerasa", pp. 79-83, - in: Jerash Archaeological
Gerasa: A Report on Excavations and Research 1982- Project 1984-1988, II, Syria 66, fasc. 1-4, Paris 1989. .
part of the fourth century. The ware of the tool is of the same date and the manufacture
of the scraper is thus contemporary with this Late Roman deposit. 2
The sherd was roughly shaped into a scraper by large flakes struck off the sections
and the outer surface leaving only a patch with the wash and decoration intact. The
flaked areas show clear traces of additional systematic shaving or filing to improve the
surface. It is from these prepared surfaces and the reverse side that smaller flakes were
then struck to define the scraping edges. The flaked facets along the edges of both faces
have a thick coating of patina and the contours are worn smooth from use. The patina
is different in colour and texture from the usual incrustation and dirt found on sherds
buried in Jerash soil.
No. 2 Pottery sherd scraper (Fig. 2 a-b; Fig. 11.7)
HCh88. E 29 /E 30.2. Intact; body fragment of large closed vessel; inner surface uneven,
handmade / slow wheel; yellowish pale brown ware with tiny white and dark grey inclusions; whet smoo
thed outer surface. Length: 10.0cm.
Tool no. 2 belongs to a small deposit from a reburial found sealed by stones below
the threshold of the doorway connecting chambers E29 and E30 of the cavea. The
deposit can be dated to the end of the Late Roman period by the latest pottery sherds.
The ware of scraper no. 2 is Late Roman and the manufacture of the tool can be placed
in the same period as the rest of the deposit. It is unlikely that the tool was part of the
original burial. The skeleton is very fragmentary with parts missing and the sherds
mixed with the bones tell of a rather unceremonious action where the disturbed remains
were scraped together to be reburied in respect of the dead. A more probable associa
tion of the tool, as indeed the odd number of sherds, seems to be with the adjacent Late
Roman level and its deposit in chamber E29.3
In contrast to tool no. 1 the flaking is only along the thick sections struck away
from the inner side of the sherd. The dense knapping along the provided steep
cutting or scraping edges. Some patina is evident on the inner surface of the sherd and
on the flaked facets. The even spread of patina indicates that the sherd was flaked before
it accumulated a layer of dirt unlike examples nos. 7 and 8 (see below) where there is
clear evidence of flaking having been done on a patinaed surface.
2. For the chronology of Jordan, see Archaeology of period when it was filled with the dump.
Jordan I. Bibliography, Akkadica Suppl. Ill, Leuven 3. The finds in chambers E 29 and E30 and the
1989, p. 10, eds. D. Homès-Fredericq and J.B. deposits in other locations mentioned here are part of a
Hennessy. publication of the pottery and other finds from the hip-
The barrier (euripus) is still being excavated but it is podrome (in preparation),
clear that it was in disuse by the end of the Late Roman 1992] FLAKED GLASS AND POTTERY SHERD TOOLS 453
Fig. 1. — No. 1 Pottery sherd scraper. See drawing Fig. 10:6.
Fig. 2. — No. 2 Pottery sherd scraper. See drawing Fig. 1 1:7. 454 SYRIA [LXIX
No. 3 Pottery sherd leaf-shaped scraper (Fig. 3 a-b; Fig. 10.5)
HCh87. E29.2. Intact; centre fragment of flat based bowl; light red ware; light red burnished slip.
Length: 3.9cm.
Tool no. 3 is from chamber E29 and was amongst a mixed deposit of pottery dating
from the late third to the fifth centuries. The disturbed nature of the level from which
the deposit came can be associated with the construction of a small kiln of which only
traces remained. The fifth century ware of the tool places the scraper with the later pot
tery in this level and dates the manufacture of the scraper.
The flat centre sherd was first deliberately shaped into a small leaf-shaped scraper
by larger sections having been struck off all around the sherd. Additional flaking was
done within these areas mostly from the slipped surface.
The patina on the flaked facets and the unslipped base of the sherd is evenly distrib
uted and the contours of the flaked areas are worn smooth from use. There is no sign of
weathering on the unworked surface of the sherd.
No. 4 Pottery sherd blade I scraper (Fig. 4 a-b; Fig. 11.8)
HCh88. E30.2. Intact; pan-handle fragment of bowl ("frying-pan"); greyish brown ware, gritty
with small white inclusions; whet smoothed surface. Length: 9.8cm.
Tool no. 4 was amongst Late Roman and Early Byzantine pottery found directly
under and in between stones of an intrusive wall in the doorway between chambers E29
and E30. The wall corresponds to the early Byzantine level in chamber E30 and the
tool fits here, its ware being of an early date in this period. The fact that the tool was
part of the wall deposit indicates that the tool was made some time before the construc
tion of the wall.
Pan-handle fragments can fracture alongside by natural causes. Such conveniently
fractured handles could have simply been used as such or been chosen for the manufact
ure of particular tools. Tool no. 4 shows, however, that a large flake was deliberately
struck off precisely along half of the lower side of the handle fragment. This gave the
tool the evenly tapered cutting or scraping edge. As is common on flint blades of this
type the centre ridge shows additional retouch flaking. The join of the handle to the
rim was removed by two stepped flakes struck off the central ridge to form a flat curved
end. Smaller flakes were then struck off the long cutting edge at both ends. The oppos
ite long side and most of the upper surface of the handle were left untouched. The
resultant shape of the tool is reminiscent of a sickle blade but the ware of the tool sug
gests the use for scraping rather than cutting. There is no patina on the surface except
in the cracks of the coarser ware section exposed by flaking. 4
4. The worked sections of the finer wares seem to or slurry on the outer surfaces of the eight pottery
absorb patina more readily than the grainier ware of sherds,
this example. No such patina adhered to the slip, wash 1992] FLAKED GLASS AND POTTERY SHERD TOOLS 455
Fig. 3. — No. 3 Pottery sherd leaf-shaped scraper. See drawing Fig. 10:5.
Fig. 4. — No. 4 Pottery sherd blade /scraper. See drawing Fig. 1 1:8. 456 SYRIA [LXIX
Fig. 5. — No. 5 Pottery sherd chisel /scraper. See drawing Fig. 1 1:9.
No. 5 Pottery sherd chisel/ scraper (Fig. 5 a-b; Fig. 11.9)
HCh88. E30.2 Intact; near base fragment of large storage amphora; handmade; buff ware, pink
inner surface and half section, very fine white inclusions; whet smoothed outer surface. Length: 14.8 cm.
The chisel-like scraper no. 5 comes from the Early Byzantine level in chamber E30
already mentioned above (see tool no. 4). The tool was made from a Late Roman
amphora sherd but as with previous Early Byzantine contexts, this deposit too had Late
Roman sherds mixed with the Early Byzantine pottery. In this instance it is not possi
ble, however, to determine whether the tool was manufactured in Late Roman or Early
Byzantine times.
Preliminary shaping was done along the thick sections of the sherd to give the tool
its proper outline. Subsequent flaking is extensive especially on the inner side of the
sherd. A series of large flakes was struck off the inner side fanning out and stepped
towards the main chiselling or scraping edge. Dense small flakes were then struck off
both sides along the edges. A thin layer of patina is evenly distributed on the flaked sur
faces while the untouched areas have none. The contours of the flaked ridges are worn
Fig. 6. — No. 6 Pottery sherd blade /file. See drawing Fig. 10:2.
No. 6 Pottery sherd blade/file (Fig. 6 a-b; Fig. 10.2)
HCh84. E 44.3b. Intact; body fragment of large closed vessel, inner surface uneven; handmade/
slow wheel; gritty beige orangy ware with fine inclusions, grey in section with pale orange inner and
outer surface; thin pale orange wash. Length: 9.5cm.
trench" — part Tool no. 6. is from a large pottery dump in the Roman "foundation
of an older quarry trench under the south-eastern chambers of the cavea — in chamber
E44 (see n. 1, above). The dump consists of discarded pottery and wasters of the second
half of the sixth century. This later fill or re-fill of the quarry trench can probably be
associated with a nearby kiln complex just outside the eastern chambers of the cavea. 5
Contemporary and similar pottery dumps from the foundation level in this part of the
hippodrome usually contain a very small amount of Late Roman pottery sherds and the
deposit from chamber E44 is no exception. Although tool no. 6 was made from such a
Late Roman sherd, it is possible that the use of the tool was contemporary with the
sixth century deposit.
5. Preliminary investigation of the kiln complex sug production. In this context, see also I. Kehrberg, op.
gests a later sixth century date as the main period of cit., n. 2, p. 85. 458 SYRIA [LXIX
The tool was worked completely on one long section and the pointed end. The
flaked facets still showing on the flat outer surface are in good condition but the ridges
below and the whole width of the section are almost entirely rubbed smooth. On the
opposite section only minor flaking is discernible. Unlike any of the worn contours on
the other sherd tools, the use of this tool caused the exposed surface of the ware to be
sealed by a thin and slightly glossy film. This slight distortion of the appearance of the
ware is only true of the densely flaked section on the opposite side showing no signs of
wear. It is suggested therefore that the tool was used for filing off or rubbing on some
material like leather or perhaps even for burnishing pottery. 6 There are some faint
traces of patina on the flaked facets and on the inner surface of the sherd but none on
the rubbed surface. If this tool was indeed used for burnishing pottery a direct associa
tion with the products of the kiln complex and thus the discarded pottery cannot be
ruled out.
No. 7 Pottery sherd scraper (Fig. 7 a-b; Fig. 10.3)
H 85. S-E. 0-3. Intact; centre fragment of bowl or dish; Eastern Sigillata; two parallel impressed
lines on outer surface. Length: 5.6cm.
No. 8 Pottery sherd bi-pointed awl (Fig. 8 a-b; Fig. 10.4)
H 85. S-E. 0-3. Intact; rim fragment of bowl or dish; Western Sigillata (Arretine); groove on inner
and outer surface below rim. Length : 2.9 cm.
Tools nos. 7 and 8 came from a residual layer excavated just outside the south
eastern chambers of the cavea. Neither the distinctive ware of the tools7 nor the
accumulated deposit provide an accurate date for the time of manufacture. Due to the
location of the one may however suggest that the sigillata tools were made in
the Late Byzantine period. The south-eastern chambers and the adjacent area were
made use of mainly during the later half of the sixth century. 8
Both sherds were shaped into the required tools by extensive knapping. Scraper
no. 7 has retouch flaking around the whole sherd with facets struck off both surfaces.
The bi-pointed awl no. 8 has a narrow rim segment left intact. The tools show signs of
use but the flaked ridges are not as worn as on the other tools made of local and less lev
igated Roman ware. In both examples it is clear that the flakes were struck off patinaed
6. This theory was confirmed by J. Mason, lecturer in E35, see below, tool no. 9).
ceramics at the Yarmouk University, Jordan. 8. See above, tool no. 6, from chamber E44 and the
7. Sigillata ware was found at the hippodrome in the kiln complex; see also M. Gawlikowski and A. M usa,
second century foundation level and in late third to ear- "The Church of Bishop Marianos *, in Jerash Archaeolog-
lier fourth century deposits (e.g. euripus dump) as well teal Project 1981-1983, 1, Amman 1986, pp. 137-153;
as in mixed fills which contained sherds from the Late I. Kehrberg, of. cit., p. 88 and n. 7.
Roman to the Late Byzantine periods (e.g. Chamber 1992] FLAKED GLASS AND POTTERY SHERD TOOLS 459
Fig. 7. — No. 7 Pottery sherd scraper. See drawing Fig. 10:3.
Fig. 8. — No. 8 Pottery sherd bi-pointed awl. See drawing Fig. 10:4.