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Vessel Functions in Agricultural and Pastoral Societies of Byzantine and Early Islamic Israel Author(s): Benjamin Adam Saidel Source: Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 29, No. 3/4 (Autumn, 2002 - Winter, 2004), pp. 437

-445

Published by: Boston University Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3250902

Accessed: 06/09/2009 08:34

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Vessel Functions in Agricultural and Pastoral Societies of Byzantine and Early Islamic Israel Author(s): Benjamin Adamy : Boston Universit y Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3250902 Accessed: 06/09/2009 08:34 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates y our acce p tance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the p ublisher re g ardin g an y further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=boston . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Boston University is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of Field Archaeology. http://www.jstor.org " id="pdf-obj-0-50" src="pdf-obj-0-50.jpg">

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Vessel Functions Pastoral Societies

in Agricultural of Byzantine

Early Islamic Israel

and

and

Benjamin Adam Saidel

W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research Jerusalem, Israel

437

The identification of pastoral nomadsin archaeological contextsin the Near East isgener- ally basedon demonstrating how pastoralcampsites differfrom farms, towns, and villages.

The recognition of mobile pastoralists at multi-periodephemeral sites is more difficult becausethe architecturalremains from earlier periods do not provideinsights into the socio-

economic organization of the people who reusedthese settlements in this issuethe potteryfrom the site of Rekhes Najha 396 in Israel is

later periods. To address used to test the observa-

tion that pastoralencampments and sedentaryoccupations exhibit differentpercentages of cooking pots and storage jars. The results of this studysuggest that high percentagesof cook- ing pots and low percentagesof storage jars within the total pottery assemblage at ephemeral sites, suchas Rekhes Nafha 396, provide a means to identify, from an archaeologicalper- spective, the reoccupationof thesesettlements bypastoral nomads.The identification ofpas- toral campsites on the fringe of agricultural settlementsin the Negev Highlands is impor-

tantfor modeling symbiotic relationships between pastoral nomadsand complex societiesin the 6th through 8th centuriesA.D.

Introduction

Anthropological research in the Old World demon-

strates that pastoral nomads are dependent upon complex societies and itinerant merchants to acquire the foodstuffs

and commodities

necessary to maintain their mobile

lifestyle and social system (Musil 1928: 278-281, 348; Barth 1961: 98-100). Sedentary societies in turn acquire pastoralproducts and animals for food, transportation, and

resale (Lewis 1987: 48; Rogan 1999: 113-114).

The sym-

biotic relations exemplified by historic pastoral nomads and sedentary societies led Emanuel Marx (1992) to con- clude that pastoral nomadism could not emerge in antiq- uity until the formation of complex societies. Given the role attributed to pastoral nomads in many economic mod-

els in Near Eastern and anthropological archaeology, it is important to differentiate between farmers, townsfolk, and

mobile pastoralists in the archaeological record (e.g., Adams 1970; Zagarell 1989; Rosen 2000).

The archaeological identification

of pastoral nomads is

focused on how

pastoral campsites differ from farms,

towns, and villages. Various lines of evidence are used to

identify mobile

pastoralists in archaeological contexts.

These include site location (Zagarell 1982: 64-65, 83-84),

site size (Banning and Kohler-Rollefson 1986: 42-44), layout of architecture (Rosen and Avni 1997), diachronic

changes in settlement patterns (Mortensen 1974: 31-33,

1976: 46-48),

and ethnographic or ethnoarchaeological

analogies (Hole 1974: 227, 236; Zarins 1992). Although parallels in the layouts of ancient and modern architecture are sometimes used to identify mobile pastoralists, this ap- proach assumes that ancient and modern pastoralists share the same approach to spatial and social organization. A more difficult problem is the identification in archae- ological contexts of pastoral nomads who reused a range of abandoned sites as locations for their encampments (e.g., Avni 1992: 246, 250; Cribb 1991: 149-157; Rosen 1981). In particular, the identification of mobile pastoral-

ists at multi-period ephemeral sites is problematic because the architecturalremains from earlier occupations may not provide insight into the socio-economic organization of people who reused these settlements in later periods. To address this issue, the pottery from the site of Rekhes Nafha 396 (FIG. i) is used to test Rosen and Avni's (1997:

63-89) observation that pastoral encampments and seden- tary settlements exhibit different percentages of cooking pots and storage jars. High percentages of cooking pots

  • 438 VesselFunctions in Byzantine and Early IslamicIsrael/Saidel

Figure 1. Map showing location of Rekhes Nafha 396 in the Negev Highlands. Inset shows the map of the modern nations in the southern Levant. Maps based on survey of Israel (South)

1:250,000

(Schick 1998; Parker 1999).

and low percentages of storage jars within the total pottery assemblage at ephemeral sites such as Rekhes Nafha 396 provide a means to identify from an archaeological per-

spective the reoccupation of ephemeral settlements by pas- toral nomads.

The Site of Rekhes Nafha 396

Rekhes Nafha 396 is located in the Negev Highlands,

Israel (Lender 1990:

90

[English text],

163

[Hebrew

text]).

In this area farmsteads comprise the dominant type

of settlement during the Byzantine and Early Islamic peri- ods (Lender 1990: xxiii-xxv). There are, however, many settlements from previous periods that were reused in the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. Sherd scatters from

  • 23 principally Bronze Age sites discovered by survey pro-

vide the only evidence that these sites were reoccupied dur- ing the Byzantine or Early Islamic periods (Saidel 2002a, in press).

Rekhes Nafha

396

(FIG.

2)

is one

of these reoccupied

settlements. The site is situated on the southern and east-

ern slopes of the Nafha Ridge (Saidel 2002a: 39), and has two architecturalunits constructed in the Early Bronze Age which were reused in Early Bronze Age IV/Middle Bronze Age I and again during the 6th to 8th centuries A.D. There

is no archaeological evidence that the plan of these units was altered during the 6th to 8th centuries A.D. (Saidel 2002a: 58, in press). Pottery and glass artifacts provide the only evidence (Saidel in press) that Units 1 and 2 were occupied during

the 6th through

8th centuries

(TABLE I). During

the exca-

1

Journalof Field Archaeology/Vol. 29, 2002-2004

439

A Unit 4 N t Unitt N \ ) I Unit 2 ,C Unit 3 ,
A
Unit 4
N
t
Unitt
N
\
)
I Unit 2 ,C
Unit 3
,
I)
Unit 1
eo
0
20 m.
0?
Unit 2
Locus 16
Locus32

0

4m

Figure 2. A simplified plan of architecturalUnits 1 and 2 and Locus 32 at Rekhes Nafha 396 (Drawing by B. A. Saidel and B. J. Stone). Excavation units within specific loci are not illustrated. Inset shows the plan of architecturalUnits 1 through 4, redrawn after Lender 1990: 164.

vations, 130 sherds from the 6th to 8th centuries were col-

lected, including 17 diagnostic sherds (FIG. 3). Based on

these diagnostic sherds, the number of vessels in the

Rekhes Nafha assemblage can be calculated as between a

minimum of 11 and a maximum of 15. The calculation of

the minimum number of vessels assumes that the four lids

  • 440 VesselFunctions in Byzantine and Early Islamic Israel/Saidel

Table 1. Counts of pottery from the 6th through 8th centuries A.D. found at Rekhes Nafha 396.

Architectural

unit

Locus

Unit 1

1

Unit 1

2

Unit 1

3

Unit 1

4

Outside unit 1

-

Unit 2

5

Unit 2

88

Unit 2*

6

Unit 2*

32

Unit 3

10

* One glass artifact also found.

Pottery sherds

48

12

13

1

4

2

12

18

14

1

belong to the four casseroles identified in the assemblage;

conversely the count for the maximum number of vessels

is based on the assumption that the lids do not belong to

these four casseroles.The small quantity of vessels found at

Rekhes Nafha 396 indicates that the site was repeatedly oc-

cupied for brief episodes as it is unlikely that 11 to 15 ce-

ramic vessels were broken in a single short-term occupa-

tion.

The majority of the vessels

are cooking wares represent-

ed by casseroles, lids, and a closed cooking pot (FIG.

3:

1-9). Buff ware, including a bowl, water jug, and flask,

comprise the second largest group of ceramics (FIG 3:

IO-m2).

Sherds of fine Byzantine ware (FIG.

3: I3-I5) include

two bowls (Magness' Forms 1B and 1D) and a juglet (Gi-

chon 1974; Magness 1993: 193). The vessel forms men-

tioned above were not made in the Negev Highlands, but

were produced in the

agricultural and urban portions of

Palestine and acquired by the inhabitants of Rekhes Nafha

  • 396 (Magness 1993: 193; Saidel in press). The dating of

the pottery from this site follows Magness' redating of the

pottery assemblages from Capernaum, En Boqeq, and

Khirbet ed-Deir (Magness 1997, 1999, 2001).

Interassemblage

Comparisons

Rosen and Avni

have demonstrated that the pastoral en-

campments of Har 'Oded and Nahal 'Oded have high per-

centages of cooking pots and low percentages of storage

jars within the total pottery assemblages. In contrast, this

pattern is absent in the pottery assemblages from the towns

(Nessana and Rehovot)

and agricultural communities

(Abu Matar and Sde Boqer) in the Negev during the 6th

to 8th centuries A.D. (Rosen and Avni 1997: 63-89).

The

sites included in their study were clearly identified as

towns, villages, and pastoral campsites based on their loca-

tion and the layout of the architecture.

A test of Rosen and Avni's hypothesis is possible by

comparing the percentages of cooking pots and storage jars

at ephemeral sites such as Rekhes Nafha 396. It is assumed

that a positive result will provide a means to identify the ar-

chaeological remains of pastoral nomads. In their study

Rosen and Avni used "ceramic type frequencies" of diag-

nostic and undiagnostic sherds to determine the percent-

ages of cooking pots and storage jars at the 'Oded sites. The

method used here, however, is based on the numbers of di-

agnostic sherds illustrated or enumerated in excavation re-

ports since many publications omit the total number of di-

agnostic sherds and intact ceramic vessels found during

fieldwork.

The following types of excavated settlements located in

the northern and central Negev are included: farmsteads

(Haiman 1995; Ustinova and Nahshoni 1994), agricul-

tural watchtowers (Katz 1993; Sontag 2000: 92), a squat-

ter occupation from the Byzantine town of Rehovot-in-

the-Negev (Tsafrir 1988: 27-28,

67-68), and pastoral en-

campments (Rosen and Avni 1997). The typical pottery as-

semblages used in this study are treated as if they originat-

ed from a single phase of occupation within

through

8th centuries A.D.

the 6th

First, the percentages of cooking pots and storage jars

from Rekhes Nafha 396 are compared with those found at

the farmsteads of Nahal Mitnan and Ramot Nof. Nahal

Mitnan is one of series of farms located in a tributary of

Nahal Horesha in the Negev Highlands (Haiman 1995).

Ramot Nof contains a series of excavated farmsteads and

installations located within the confines of modern Beer-

sheva (Ustinova and Nahshoni 1994). The percentages of

cooking pots, storage jars, and miscellaneous vessels are

similar at both sites, although Ramot Nof and Nahal Mit-

nan are located in two different environmental zones in the

northern and western Negev, respectively (Ustinova and

Nahshoni 1994: 157; Haiman 1995: 1). A comparison of

the assemblages from these farmsteads with Rekhes Nafha

  • 396 demonstrates that storage jars are present at the farm-

steads but are absent at Rekhes Nafha 396. Given that all

sediments from the excavations at Rekhes Nafha 396 were

sieved, the dearth of storage jars at this site does not

to be accidental (Saidel 2002a: 40). Coolking pots,

appear

on the

other hand, when viewed as a percentage of the total ce-

ramic assemblage at Ramat Nof and Nahal

Mitnan are less

frequent (24% and 18% respectively) than at Rekhes

Nafha 396 where they make up 60% of the assemblage

(FIG. 4).

Second, the percentages of cooking pots and storage jars

at Rekhes Nafha 396 can be compared with those found at

two agricultural watchtowers located in the confines of

modern Beersheva. These watchtowers are small structures

measuring no more than 3.6 x 4 m and 2.10 x 3.4 m (Katz

1993: 96; Sontag 2000:

92 [English]). Storage jars are

Journal of Field Archaeology/Vol.29, 2002-2004

441

I

i

2

I1'

J

I

II

3

II

I

.

II

I

?

4

4

l"

\

r-

I

/

,5

I

I

9 ,

t

I

II

eJ'

y\

\

--I

j5

I

II

-11

-l

II

f -

r

/

/

A,.

I

p7

I

I

10

I

1

II

11

I

I

.I

13/

13 /

I-

J

11

I

\

14

1

WI

1

I

11

^

-

\

I-.

I

I'

\

> \

I

/

I

/

"I

17

I \

1

16

16

\\

*

18 -,

18

II

I^

\

\

\I/"

\

'iVi

\

19

l1

0

I

Figure 3. Pottery from Rekhes Nafha 396. 1-4) Casseroles; 5-8)

Casserole lids; 9) Closed cooking pot; 10)

 

%

 

~'>7

 

I

V

-W

,

8

 

_

1

 

5

10 cm

I

I

I

I

Jug; 11) Bowl; 12) Flask; 13) Byzantine fine ware bowl form 1B; 14) Byzantine fine ware bottle; 15) Byzan-

tine fine ware bowl form 1D; 16-17) Casserole handles; 18-19) handles. Drawings by Marina Zeltser.

  • 442 VesselFunctions in Byzantine and Early IslamicIsrael/Saidel

70 - - 60 50 - X 40- - 2 30- 30 _ 20 10R t
70
-
-
60
50
-
X
40-
-
2
30-
30
_
20
10R
t Nf
RamatNof (Farms)
NahalMitnan
RekhesNafha 396
(Farmstead)

Figure 4. Frequencies of cooking ware (black), storage jars (gray), and miscellaneous pottery

(white) from Ramot Nof, Nahal Mitnan, and Rekhes Nafha 396. Data from Haiman (1995)

and Ustinova and Nahshoni (1994).

80 - 70 - 60 - - o 50 .6- 40- 8 * 30- 20- -TI
80
-
70
-
60
-
-
o
50
.6-
40-
8
*
30-
20- -TI
1010
-
Beersheva, Ramot
Beersheva, Nahal
RekhesNafha 396
Beq'a

Figure 5. Frequencies of cooking ware (black), storage jars (gray), and miscellaneous pottery

(white) from Rekhes Nafha 396 and two agricultural watchtowers in the Beersheva area. Data

from Katz (1993)

and Sontag (2000).

present at the

agricultural watchtowers but are absent at

Rekhes Nafha 396. As in the case of the farmsteads, the fre-

quency of cooking pots at the watchtowers also shows a

marked contrast when compared with Rekhes Nafha 396.

Cooking pots at Beersheva Ramot and Beersheva Nahal

Beq'a comprise no more than 10% and 11% of the assem-

blage, while at Rekhes Nafha 396 cooking pots are 60% of

the total ceramic assemblage (FIG. 5).

Third, the town of Rehovot-in-the-Negev is included in

this study because Tsafrir suggests that Locus 509 may

have been occupied

by Arab squatters, presumably pastoral

nomads or people with a lifestyle similar to the historical

Bedouin (Tsafrir 1988: 25,

64-68;

Tsafrir and Holum

1993: 1275). Locus 509 is a side room in the Northern

Church. A comparison of the percentages of cooking pots

and storage jars from Locus 509 with Rekhes Nafha 396

shows that there

are no similarities between these two sites.

Fourth, the pastoral encampments of Har 'Oded and

Nahal 'Oded are located to

the south of the Ramon Crater

near Mount

'Oded (Rosen and Avni 1997: 10-11, 42). A

comparison of cooking pots as a percentage of the total

pottery assemblages from the 'Oded sites with Rekhes

Nafha 396 (FIG. 6) demonstrates that these sites have sim-

ilar percentages of cooking pots. While storage jars are pre-

Journalof FieldArchaeology/Vol.

29, 2002-2004

443

- 80 70- - 60 0) , 50- 8 40- ' - 30 30- a. -
-
80
70-
-
60
0)
,
50-
8
40-
'
-
30
30-
a.
-
20
-
10
0
-
HarOded
NahalOded
Rehovot
RekhesNafha
(Pastoral
(Pastoral
(Squatter
396
Campsite)
Campsite)
Occupation)
Figure 6. Frequencies of cooking ware (black), storage jars (gray), and miscellaneous pottery

(white) from Rekhes Nafha 396, the 'Oded sites, and the squatter occupation in the town of

Rehovot-in-the-Negev. Data from Rosen and Avni (1997) and Rosenthal-Heginbottom

(1988: 95). 60 - ~- 'O Locus509 Rehovot 50 - .40 Y2 - NahalMitnan 30 -
(1988: 95).
60
-
~-
'O
Locus509 Rehovot
50
-
.40
Y2 -
NahalMitnan
30
-
*
Ramat Nof
O)
-0)
o
20
-
rBeersheva,
Nahal Beq'a
3
:
Beersheva,Ramot
O HarOded
10-
0 NahalOded
^~~~~~~~~-
~~Rekhes
Nafha396
0
1,
I
,
I
,
I
,
,
,0
[
,
50
60
70
,
80
,
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
Cooking Pots (%)

Figure

7. A comparison of the percentages of cooking pots and storage jars in the total pottery

assemblages from all sites in this study. The pastoral encampments (circles), agricultural watchtow-

ers (open squares), and farmsteads (black squares) seem to form three clusters. The diamond rep-

resents the assemblage from the side room, Locus 509, in the North Church at Rehovot in the

Negev.

sent at the 'Oded sites, they are absent from Rekhes Nafha

396, however.

Discussion and Conclusion

The higher percentage of cooking pots at Rekhes Nafha

396, which contrasts with the rarity of storage jars, has a

number of interpretations. First, the functional composi-

tion of the pottery assemblage may be a reflection of mo-

bility strategies. The higher percentage of cooking pots,

when combined with the absence of architecturalmodifi-

cations made to Units 1 and 2, suggests that the inhabi-

tants of this site were mobile pastoralists. The pottery as-

semblage from Rekhes Nafha 396 is

at the pastoral encampments of Har

similar to those found

and Nahal 'Oded, but

  • 444 VesselFunctions in Byzantine and Early IslamicIsrael/Saidel

differs from the assemblages found at the farmsteads and

watchtowers

(FIG.

7).

Second, the percentages of

cooking

pots and storage jars

at ephemeral sites provide a means to physically locate the

interface of agricultural and pastoral societies, from a syn-

chronic perspective. Relhes Nafha 396 is not a unique site

in the Har Nafha area. There are 10 Early Bronze Age and

  • 13 Early Bronze Age IV/Middle Bronze Age I settlements

in this area that contain pottery from the Byzantine and

Early Islamic periods. These reoccupied settlements have

stone animal pens and enclosed courtyards suitable for cor-

ralling herd animals which may be the reason that these

sites were reoccupied in the 6th and 8th centuries A.D. As

a working hypothesis I propose that the reuse of these sites

in the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods is evidence for

pastoral nomads camping on the fringe of agricultural so-

cieties.

Finally, I suggest that the high percentage of cooking

pots at ephemeral sites such as Rekhes Nafha 396 is evi-

dence for symbiotic relations with complex societies dur-

ing the 6th through 8th centuries A.D. The cooking pots,

and presumably the food cooked inside them, were ac-

quired from the agricultural and urban areas of Palestine

during the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods (Avni

1996: 50-51;

Magness 1993: 211-215).

In the ethno-

graphic literature, the acquisition of certain foods by pas-

toral nomads is considered to be one manifestation of sym-

biotic relationships with complex societies (Musil 1928:

278-281,

348; Barth 1961: 98-100).

The results of this study build upon the study of Rosen

and Avni (1997: 63-65). The ratios of cooking pots to

storage jars may provide a mechanism for identifying mo-

bile pastoralists at multi-period ephemeral sites where the

architecturalremains date to earlier periods and are useless

for identifying the socio-economic organization of its last

occupants. This method of

examining variations in the

fre-

quency of functional types (e.g., Saidel 2002b) can also be

used to distinguish

tary populations in

between mobile pastoralists and seden-

other periods and regions.

Acknowledgments

This article was written during my

tenure as the Ernest

  • S. Frerichs Fellow/Program

Coordinator in 2002-2003

at

the W. F. Albright Institute

of Archaeological Research in

Jerusalem and I express my appreciation to the fellowship

committee for its support. I thank Laura Mazow and

Steven Rosen for comments on this manuscript. The field-

work conducted at Rekhes Nafha 396 was funded by two

pre-doctoral grants awarded to the author by the Wenner-

Gren Foundation for Anthropological

Research. This pro-

ject was sponsored by the Department of Anthropology of

Harvard University

and affiliated with the American

Schools of Oriental Research. Lastly, I thank with appreci-

ation three reviewers for insightful comments on this pa-

per.

Benjamin Adam Saidel (Ph.D. Harvard University, 1998) is

currently an Ernest S. FrerichsFellow at the Albright Insti-

tute

in Jerusalem. His researchinterests focus on the interac-

tion betweentribes and complex societiesin the southernLev-

ant duringprot-st-historical

and historical periods. He has par-

ticipated in a number of archaeologicalprojects in Israel,Jor-

dan, and Cyprus. Mailing address:W F. Albright Institute

ofArchaeological Research, PO. Box 19096, Jerusalem

91190, Israel. E-mail: benjaminsaidel@hotmail.com

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