Height: 5.000 cm
Diameter: 15.700 cm (bowl, max.)
Excavated by M.E.L. Mallowan
ME 127530 (bowl);ME 127585 (plate)
Painted pottery bowl and plate
Halaf culture, about 5500-5000
From Arpachiyah, northern Iraq
Fine pottery from the ancient world
Around 5500 BC a distinctive style of pottery spread across the whole of northern Mesopotamia. They were made by hand (the potter's wheel had not yet been invented) and decorated with very fine geometric designs in one or two colours. The painted pottery was then fired, and generally to a high standard.
It is not yet understood how this style spread over such an enormous area. It was made locally in many places, but may also have been exchanged because of its beauty and prestige value. Perhaps itinerant potters may have moved across the region producing examples and starting a fashion in different areas.
The high quality of the firing means that many examples of Halaf pottery have survived and have been found by archaeologists. This plate and bowl, typical examples of the Halaf style, come from Arpachiyah in northern Mesopotamia, one of the most important sites for understanding the period and its pottery. Arpachiyah was excavated by Max Mallowan in 1933.
D. Frankel, Archaeologists at work: studie (London, The British Museum Press, 1979)
M.E.L. Mallowan and J.C. Rose, 'Excavations at Tell Arpachiyah, 1933', Iraq, 2 (1935), pp. 1-178
H.W.F. Saggs, Babylonians (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
J.E. Reade, Mesopotamia (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)