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Pottery vessels played a role in almost every aspect of life in the Bronze and Iron Ages. Easily shaped and enduring, pottery provides a continuous record of changes in economic conditions, technology and social values. Pottery, whether whole or in fragments, serves archaeologists as a chronological indicator and provides evidence for the movement of peoples in the Bronze and Iron Ages and the distribution of their traded goods around the Mediterranean.

As early as 5500 BCE, people made hand-formed pottery in the southern Levant. The "fast wheel" was first introduced at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (1900 BCE). The most common type were single wheels with a working platform (probably of wood) and a socketed stone bearing. These potter's wheels required two people&endash;one spun the wheel while the second worked the clay.

By the Middle Bronze Age, pottery was a specialized industry produced in pottery workshops. Potters, like most other craft workers, were almost exclusively male.

At Sarepta in Lebanon, archaeologists unearthed a potter's workshop dating from the Late Bronze Age through the early Iron Age (13th-11th century BCE). This workshop included basins for preparing clay, potter's tools for shaping vessels, vertical kilns, and many over-fired vessels ("wasters") which had been discarded in antiquity.

potter's wheel

Phoenician bowl

Pottery of many shapes and sizes was produced in workshops in the southern Levant. Enormous storage jars were created to carry grain. Wine and olive oil were stored and shipped in smaller pithoi. Other forms include miniature juglets, chalices, lentoid shaped "pilgrim flasks," broad open bowls, cooking pots, and strainers for beer and wine. After the vessel was shaped on the wheel, it would be set aside and allowed to dry to a "leather-hard" consistency. At this point, incised decoration and handles or spouts could be attached. A "slip" of cream colored or reddish-brown clay was often added to help waterproof the vessel and make it more attractive. Painted decoration in simple lines or geometric designs was added and the surface of some vessels was burnished to a lustrous sheen by rubbing the exterior with a hard smooth object.

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