University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology


Author: Denise Schmandt-Besserat

The Use of Clay Before Pottery in the Zagros

By: Denise Schmandt-Besserat

Clay is found abundantly in nature: its remarkable qualities of plasticity when wet and hardness when dry; its imperviousness to heat; its readiness to be worked without the need of any tool but the hand, make it an ideal raw material. One would therefore assume that clay played an important role early in the story […]


The Earliest Uses of Clay in Syria

By: Denise Schmandt-Besserat

Clay is a soft and rich earthy substance consisting primarily of hydrated silicates of aluminum. It is a product of the decomposi­tion of feldspathic rocks by erosion. The very fine particles are usually transported by water and deposited in beds with various mineral and organic impurities. Clay is plastic when wet because its small crystals […]


Animal Symbols at ‘Ain Ghazal

By: Denise Schmandt-Besserat

Animal figurines are a familiar find on Near Eastern sites from the 9th to the 3rd millenni­um BC and from the Levant to Iran. Their function, however, is still enigmatic. Excavations at the Neolithic site of ‘Ain Ghazal (ca. 8300-6000 BC, calibrated dates), located near Amman, Jordan, have produced an impres­sive assemblage of clay artifacts […]