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Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports xxx (2016) xxxxxx

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Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states


Geoff Emberling a, , Leah Minc b


Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1390, United States
100 Radiation Center, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, United States

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 27 July 2015
Received in revised form 12 January 2016
Accepted 21 February 2016
Available online xxxx
Uruk expansion
Late Chalcolithic
Neutron activation

a b s t r a c t
This study evaluates the extent of trade in ceramic vessels (and their contents) throughout Mesopotamia during
the later Uruk period of the 4th millennium BCE using instrumental neutron activation analysis. The emergence
of the rst cities and states in Mesopotamia during the 4th millennium BCE is now well documented, both in the
Uruk culture of southern Iraq and the more recently recognized Late Chalcolithic culture of northeastern Syria
and southeastern Turkey. During the second half of the 4th millennium BCE, people moved out of southern
Iraq and into surrounding areas in what Guillermo Algaze (1993) has termed the Uruk expansion. Algaze explained this expansion as a quest for raw materials and proposed a relatively centralized model in which settlements were organized to facilitate trade back to the urban centers of southern Mesopotamia. This explanation has
not found universal support. To evaluate the extent of trade in ceramic vessels throughout Uruk Mesopotamia,
we sampled and analyzed 385 samples of ceramics and clays from Jebel Aruda and Tell Hadidi in the Euphrates
Valley of Syria; Tell Brak in northeastern Syria; Nineveh on the Tigris River; sites in the Susiana Plain of southwestern Iran; and sites surveyed on the Mesopotamian plain. The study showed that it is possible to identify distinct chemical signatures of clays from different parts of Mesopotamia. It also showed that there was virtually no
trade in ceramic vessels (large or small) among sites in the vast network of the Uruk expansion, indicating that
we need to examine other explanations to account for the near uniformity of Uruk ceramics. While ceramics are
not a proxy for all types of exchange, this result suggests that settlements in the Uruk expansion may not have
been closely connected by regular exchange.
2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
It is now generally agreed that the rst states had formed in Mesopotamia during the Middle Uruk period (by the middle of the 4th millennium BCE), with the beginnings of that process extending back into the
late 5th millennium BCE. Characterized in part by the appearance of
large urban centers and associated rural settlement systems, these
states also built monumental structures including temples and developed increasingly complex visual representations of kings and their
In perhaps the most inuential work of recent decades on state origins, Henry Wright (1977) argued that specialized organization for administration was central to the emergence of states. This administrative
control extends, in the work of Wright and Johnson (1975), to the organization of craft production and the local distribution of goods (also H.
Wright et al., 1989). In their view, the emergence of states fundamentally alters economic organization and through that process, reshapes settlement within their territories. Other scholars, however, have
questioned the extent to which early state administration transformed
local economies, suggesting rather that much household production of
* Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: geoffe@umich.edu (G. Emberling), mincleah@engr.orst.edu (L. Minc).

subsistence products and utilitarian goods continued relatively unchanged (Adams, 1981:76ff.; Pollock, 1999:93ff.).
The city of Uruk in Lower (southern) Mesopotamia has long been
identied as one of the rst urban centers, not only for its large size
(250 ha) and monumental architecture, but because of the effects its
emergence had on regional settlement patterns (Adams and Nissen,
1972; Adams, 1981; Nissen, 2015). In the dry farming plains of Upper
(northern) Mesopotamia, a major urban center at Tell Brak has more recently been identied as a center of urban proportions (130 ha) by the
middle of the 4th millennium BCE (Oates et al., 2007), developing in a
separate Late Chalcolithic urban tradition that also included sites like
Arslantepe and Hamoukar.
Beginning after 4000 BCE, the distinctive material culture of Lower
Mesopotamia began to appear more widely, rst in the Susiana plain
of southwestern Iran, later in the Jazira of northern Iraq and Syria and
along the Euphrates River in Turkey. The material culture included
forms of architecture; wheel-made, sand-tempered ceramics with distinctive forms and surface treatments; and tools of administration including carved stone seals, clay tokens, and clay tablets with numbers
on them. It has become clear from the quantity of this material and
number of sites on which it appeared that the spread of Uruk material
culture represented movement of people rather than simple trade or

2352-409X/ 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024

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In one highly inuential interpretation, Algaze (1989, 1993) identied and explained this expansion as the establishment of a network of
settlements from a Lower Mesopotamian center (perhaps a single
city) for the purpose of securing raw materials (particularly metal
ores, timber, and semi-precious stones) from the mountains to the
north and east. Wine and possibly honey were also produced in these
mountain regions and could have been high value but perishable imports (for wine, see McGovern, 2003:148ff.). It is also possible that
these areas were valued as pasture land and that wool was also being
sent to the South (R. Wright, 1989; now Porter, 2012).
The largest and most important of the southern settlements in these
networks Algaze termed enclaves. These included, among others, several sites along a route running east-west across the Jazira that connected the Tigris with the Euphrates: Nineveh (on the Tigris), Tell Brak, and
the large settlement cluster on the Euphrates that included Habuba
Kabira/Qannas and Jebel Aruda. Algaze considered that smaller sites
with southern material culture along routes connecting these enclaves
were stations that could facilitate movement of people and goods,
particularly along routes to the highlands. A few outpostsincluding
Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains in Iranwere located in more distant regions but were also established, in Algaze's view, to extract resources for the benet of Lower Mesopotamia. Possible exports from
the South, if these resources were obtained by trade, might have included textiles, bulk grain, and oils.
Criticisms of Algaze's model have focused on four main questions.
First, was the south was ruled by a single center, as Algaze initially suggested, or were there multiple centers? The majority of scholars now
think there were almost certainly multiple centers (e.g., Stein,
1999:88). The Uruk layers of such large urban sites as Umma, Girsu,
and Nippur, for example, have not been investigated by archaeologists.
Second, did the inhabitants of an urbanized South expand without resistance into an undeveloped periphery as Algaze's original model suggested? This idea stimulated a great deal of eld research that has
shown Algaze initially underestimated the development of particularly
the Jazira in northern Iraq and Syria (as he recognizesAlgaze,
2008:117). In fact, more recent work has shown evidence of a great
deal of violence at Tell Brak and Hamoukar around the time of the
Uruk expansion (Emberling, 2002; Reichel, 2009; McMahon et al.,
2011). Third, was it possible given the conditions of transportation,
communication, and warfare that political and economic control could
have been exerted at such distances (e.g., Stein, 1999)? Could the entire
system really have functioned as an integrated whole? Finally, was
long-distance trade as signicant to the Uruk system as stated in
Algaze's model? Many scholars cited a lack of direct evidence for trade
throughout the network (see comments in Algaze, 1989). Algaze
(2008:9399) later enumerated imports at Uruk itself including pine
roong beams, metals, semi-precious stones, obsidian, and vessels holding wine, but documentation of trade throughout the Uruk world remains sporadic.
We are left with questions about the level of connectivity among
Uruk settlements and the political and economic organization through
which these raw materials were obtained and distributed. If Algaze's
idea of a single center no longer seems likely, what kinds of political
relations among centers may have held? In terms of economic organization, how would goods have been physically extractedby expeditions
organized from enclaves, by independent merchants on the model of
later Old Assyrian traders (Steinkeller, 1993), or by local populations coerced (or enticed) into cutting timber and mining metals and stones as
Other models for the Uruk expansion were proposed soon after
Algaze's, 1986 dissertation on the subject. Schwartz (1988) suggested
that the Uruk enclaves were colonies sent out by cities in Lower Mesopotamia to expand agricultural land and perhaps also to act as trade
centers (on the analogy of later Greek colonies; see also Alizadeh,
2008:2730). Johnson (198889) proposed instead that the expansion
was in fact a phenomenon of collapse in which factions that had lost

political struggles in Lower Mesopotamian cities departed and formed

settlements of refugees. Unlike other models for the Uruk expansion,
Johnson's proposal does not consider Uruk states or Uruk cities as
unitary social or political systems, but acknowledges the varied groups
of which they were composed. The state of the discussion on the Uruk
expansion was admirably summarized in a volume edited by Rothman
(2001), including the lack of agreement among researchers concerning
underlying cultural and historical processes.
One way of evaluating among these varied models would be to understand in more detail the connections among sites and regions as represented by exchange. What types of goods were moving among
communities, if any? And what specic connections can be documented, and at what scale?
In this study, we examine the movement of pottery, in its role as either commodity or container, among several key areas of the Uruk expansion, using chemical analyses of ceramic pastes via instrumental
neutron activation analysis (INAA). Uruk-style pottery is striking in its
uniformity across the area of the Uruk expansion, with a standard set
of forms and surface decorations (Fig. 1). Some of these vessels are containers, and bottles and jars would be candidates for containers that
would have been transported for liquid contentswine and honey
from the mountains brought down for the elite of the large cities, for example. Although some microstylistic study of Uruk pottery (Johnson,
1973; Wright, 2014) has been able to identify the products of different
local workshops, trace-element analysis of Uruk vessels has broader
and more immediate potential to identify interregional tradenot
only to identify vessels not made locally, but to match them to a source
region. Movement of ceramic vessels would be signicant in its own
right, but could also serve as a proxy for degree of communication and
other forms of exchange among settlements in the Uruk world.
Drawing on a regional database of chemical data as discussed in the
chapters in this volume (and archived through ScholarsArchive@OSU;
http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/handle/1957/50610), we assess
the archaeometric evidence for the movement of pottery between the
Uruk heartland of Lower Mesopotamia and several key areas of the
Uruk expansion. These include the Susiana plain (likely colonized
from Lower MesopotamiaAlgaze, 1989:574ff.), two proposed Uruk
enclaves (Jebel Aruda and Tell Brak), along with Nineveh (a probable
enclave on the Tigris River). Based on the evidence of classic Uruk vessel
forms, we suggest that the long-distance transport of ceramic vessels
did occur on rare occasions, but by itself does not account for the great
similarities in technology and style found across the study area (for

Fig. 1. Selection of classic Late Uruk ceramic forms. Clock-wise from tall vessel in center
back: jar, jar with nose lugs, churn, stack of ower pots, droop-spout jar, beveled-rim
bowl (BRB), droop-spout bottle, jar with band of cross-hatch incision and nose-lugs.
Vessels from Jebel Aruda; photo copyright Dutch National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden;
permission courtesy Lucas Petit.

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024

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local variants, see Helwing, 1999). Further, we suggest that Mesopotamian contacts with these various regions were not uniform, and that
Nineveh, in particular, occupied a special place in exchange interactions
with the Uruk core.
2. Production and transportation of pottery in the Uruk world
To understand the signicance of potential movement of ceramics,
we begin with the contexts of production and the means and mechanisms of exchange. Some Uruk ceramics were mass producedsmaller
vessels on a fast potter's wheel, while others like the ubiquitous
beveled-rim bowls (BRB), which were probably used to distribute
workers' rations, were by other methods (van As, 2007). Kilns have
been excavated in a variety of contextsat major centers, in towns,
and even in villages; and within settlements as well as on their outskirts.
Some are single kilns, and others are concentrations of kilns and slag.
Thus, ceramic production during the Uruk period likely operated in a variety of contexts, ranging from household production to specialized
workshops. The economy of production in workshops is not well
understoodwe do not know the extent to which workshops were directly attached to larger institutions or whether they were independent
(using the terms of Costin, 1991). Even a direct textual attestation of ceramic workshops from the Ur III period (ca. 2100 BCE) is difcult to interpret, with one scholar understanding that potters worked for an
institution part-time and made pots on their own during other times
(Steinkeller, 1996; Adams, 2004), while another understands the potters as being unfree workers producing pots for the provincial governor
(Dahl, 2010).
Transportation of these nished goods would have been possible by
donkey caravan and by boat (see discussion in Algaze, 2008:50ff.). Donkeys were domesticated by the 4th millennium BCE (camels, of course,
not until much later). The rst representations of wheeled vehicles also
appeared during this time, but as networks of roads would only be fully
developed later (as the hollow ways of third millennium BCE Upper
Mesopotamia suggestWilkinson, 1993; Ur, 2003), their signicance
for Uruk period transportation was likely limited. Large cargoes, including larger jars, could have been carried by boats along the Tigris and Euphrates and along the canal networks that connected the cities of Lower
Mesopotamia, but boats would have been of less use in the cities of the
Jazira or in the mountains in Turkey or Iran. The ow of the rivers to the
south and east would have made travel in those directions considerably
In general, we know relatively little about the mechanisms of distribution of ceramics and other goods, either locally or long-distance.
Some scholars (Adams, 1966; Algaze, 2008) presume the existence of
a market economy already in these earliest urban systems, while others
(Emberling, 2015) suggest that the that the development of commercial
market networks took centuries, and that distribution of goods would
have taken place through existing social and political networks of exchange. These perspectives obviously have some resonance with the debates initiated by Polanyi over the nature of ancient economies (Polanyi
et al., 1957; more recently Stanish, 2004; Van De Mieroop, 2004).
One proposed part of this economic system is itinerant
pottersindependent specialists who plied their trade among various
communities (Wright, 2001; see also Alden and Minc, in this volume).
This model would suggest that it was some potters, not the pots, that
moved across the landscape, potentially contributing to regional stylistic similarity. Given this diversity of production and exchange, the stylistic and formal uniformity of Uruk pottery becomes all the more striking.
3. Evaluating trade in Uruk ceramics
An NSF-funded project to develop a database of ceramic composition
from across the Middle East, directed by Leah Minc, provided an opportunity to assess trade in ceramic vessels. The resulting database also has
obvious relevance to identifying movement of containers and packages

sealed with clay sealings (see Pittman et al., in this volume). As part of
that project, this paper presents results of neutron activation analysis
of Uruk-style ceramic vessels from four areas of Greater Mesopotamia
dating to the later 4th millennium BCE: the alluvial plain of Lower Mesopotamia; the site of Nineveh on the Tigris River; the site of Tell Brak on
the Wadi Jaghjagh (a tributary of the Khabur River and thus of the Euphrates); and Jebel Aruda and Tell Hadidi, two sites of the Euphrates
Valley in Syria (hereafter referred to as Syrian Euphrates; see Intro
chapter, this volume for map of site locations). We also reference ceramic materials from neighboring areas in Iran that were apparently
culturally connected to Mesopotamia during the Middle and Late
Urukincluding the Deh Luran plain (Emberling, 1997; Neff et al.,
1997), the Susiana plain (Ghazal et al., 2008; Alden et al., 2014), and
the Ram Hormuz plain (Alden et al., 2014)as possible sources of
imported ceramics.
In identifying local and nonlocal ceramics in each of these areas, we
hoped to address both the extent and direction of movement of ceramic
vessels. We suggest that different models for the Uruk expansion would
show different patterns in ceramic exchange.
An Uruk expansion controlled from a single center at Uruk would
have required extensive communication between the center and the
outlying areas, and would have involved a high level of administrative
coordination. Such a system could have entailed movement of ceramic vessels as containers for specic high-value liquids like wine, oils, or
honey, archaeologically visible as a restricted range of forms and perhaps limited to administrative or elite contexts.
An expansion from multiple centers in Lower Mesopotamia that was
still engaged in signicant movement of goods from the new outlying
networks back to each separate center in the South might produce
clear links between different southern cities and different areas of
the expansion.
The degree of symmetry in the type and quantity of exchange between areas might provide evidence for the system under which ceramic vessels would have been moving. Symmetry might suggest a
system of trade in one type of good for another, while strong asymmetry in number of vessels might suggest a tributary relationship. In this
case, we must consider the possibility that goods sent in exchange
might not be archaeologically visible, whether because they were perishable, or because they were high value and low in volume. The fact
that use of seals and clay sealings on containers and packages was
widespread during the Uruk period makes it unlikely that such shipments would be entirely invisible, however. Precious traded goods
would be likely to appear in high status contexts.
If the expansion were in fact a collapse (Johnson, 198889), we would
expect relatively little exchange among the former core and new centers of habitation, although intra-periphery exchange might of course
also occur. The case of little exchange is also affected by the possible
invisibility of the traded goods.

4. Methods for provenience determination

In order to evaluate the possible movement of ceramic vessels as
part of the Uruk expansion, we examined the chemical composition of
637 vessels from Mesopotamia, the Susiana Plain, and the Jazira of
northern Syria and Iraq. As described in greater detail below, this
dataset includes new INAA analyses from Lower Mesopotamia and the
Upper Mesopotamian Jazira, and incorporates previously published
studies from neighboring areas (Table 1).
As a rst step to understanding the nature of chemical variability
among these ceramics, the samples were examined for their distribution in a regional principal components analysis (Fig. 2). As discussed
by Minc (in this volume), the primary principal components for the
Middle East data set emphasize the large-scale differences in surcial
geology and parent materials that affect clay geochemistry.

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024

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Table 1
Regional distribution of INAA samples.




Lower Mesopotamia
Syrian Euphrates
Tell Brak
Deh Luran
N. Susianaa
S. Susianaa
Susiana clays/soils




Data courtesy Abbas Alizadeh.

The rst componentpositively correlated with Al (a primary constituent of clay) along with many of the trace metals and rare earth elements (REE), but negatively correlated with Ca, suggests an apparent
dilution effect by calcium on most other elements. In this limestonerich environment, such dilution could result in part from the amount
of calcium-rich grit that is present in the ceramic paste. Ceramics from
all areas form fairly elongate (and partially overlapping) clusters on

the rst PC, indicating high within-group variation in Al:Ca ratios

owing to the choice and amount of tempering materials. Yet in spite
of this dispersion, there is also variability in calcium content among
sites, with the Susiana samples somewhat higher in Ca than the other
In contrast, the second component emphasizes the covariation of Co,
Mn, Cr, and Fe, in opposition to K and U, and to a lesser extent Rb and Cs.
We suggest that the high values of Cr and Co reect the accumulation of
heavy minerals along the lower reaches of the Euphrates drainage, and
this dimension clearly separates ceramics of Lower Mesopotamia and
the Syrian Euphrates (both relatively high in trace metals) from the
areas closer to the mountainsthe sites of Tell Brak and Nineveh, and
the Deh Luran and Susiana plains (relatively higher in K, Rb, and U).
While PCA emphasizes the broad geological processes linking rather
than distinguishing these regions, using methods of exploratory data
analysis and group renement described in Minc (in this volume; see
also Glascock, 1992; Neff, 2002), we have dened reference groups
representing locally produced ceramics for Mesopotamia, the Syrian Euphrates, Tell Brak, Nineveh, and S. Susiana, which complement existing
analyses of the Deh Luran plain (Emberling, 1997; Neff et al., 1997) and
N. Susiana (Ghazal et al., 2008). Separation of these groups is illustrated

Fig. 2. Distribution of ceramic reference groups on the rst two principal component axes as dened for the Middle East data set; ellipses represent 95% condence interval ellipses for
group centroids.

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024

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Fig. 3. Separation of regional ceramic reference groups on the rst two canonical discriminant function axes. (A) 95% condence interval ellipses for group centroids; (B) location of clays
and architectural ceramics of presumed local manufacture relative to CI ellipses for reference groups. Note that clay cones from Mesopotamia and the Euphrates sites fall within their
respective CI ellipses, as do unred clay objects from northern and southern Susiana. In contrast, riverine clays (ICS) from northern Susiana display much greater diversity.

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024

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Fig. 4. Sites sampled from Robert McCormick Adams' Akkad Survey (Adams, 1981) and Warka Survey (Adams and Nissen, 1972).
Map courtesy Carrie Hritz.

using canonical discriminant function analysis; based on the full suite of

27 elements, a misclassication rate of b 3% is achieved. As plotted on
the rst two discriminant function axes (Fig. 3), the regional reference
groups are generally clustered in distinct regions of multivariate space,
although there is obvious overlap in some cases. Further details on
these groups and their compositional characteristics are given below,
followed by a discussion of evidence for the interregional movement
of vessels.
5. Sample selection and reference group delineation
Ceramic samples were selected by Geoff Emberling and Henry
Wright from accessible collections that represented major areas of the
Uruk expansion. Sample selection targeted classic Late Uruk types
thought to have been traded (spouted bottles and jars with nose lugs),
as well as standard forms that are typically considered less likely to
have been trade items due to size, poor quality, or use (jars with reserve
slip; jars with heavy expanded band rims; beveled-rim bowls, and clay
wall cones). We also sampled ceramics of local style and/or manufacture where available for comparison. In the following sections, we

present the archaeological contexts for these samples, along with results of chemical characterization of samples from each site.
5.1. Lower Mesopotamia
In order to characterize Late Uruk ceramics from the Mesopotamian
heartland, we drew on Robert McC. Adams' Akkad and Warka survey
collections from Lower Mesopotamia (Adams and Nissen, 1972;
Adams, 1981) now in the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
(Fig. 4). Sites sampled from the Akkad survey along the Tigris River include Jemdet Nasr (AS 203), along with one of its smaller satellite communities (AS 207). The southern sites within Adams' Warka survey are
in the hinterland of the major city Uruk. They are within the oodplain
of the Euphrates specically rather than along the lower Tigris, which
remains relatively little known. The 90 samples reect the diversity of
classic Late Uruk forms. These include a variety of grit-tempered bottles
and conical and droop-spout jars; small jars with nose-lugs and bands of
cross-hatch incision (CHB jars) on the shoulder, globular storage jars
with diagonal reserve-slip, hammerhead-rim bowls, and heavy ledgerim jars, along with the chaff-tempered beveled-rim bowl. We also

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024

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Fig. 5. Comparison of the elemental composition of wall cones, chaff-tempered BRB, and grit-tempered ceramics from Mesopotamia (upper), and Jebel Aruda (lower), across a normalized
prole of 27 elements.

included a number of clay wall cones; since these architectural adornments were manufactured by the tens of thousands, it is reasonable to
assume that they were made from clays located near the structures
whose walls they covered.
The ceramic samples and clay cones from the Adams surveys form a
relatively coherent cluster in PCA and discriminant function space, distinguished from most other regional groups based on higher chromium,
manganese, cobalt, and sodium content (Figs. 2 and 3). No compositional differences were apparent between samples from the different survey
areas and hereafter these are considered part of the same region. Further, there are no marked differences between clay wall cones and either the chaff-tempered or grit-tempered ceramic vessels, except that
the addition of grit temper appears to slightly increase the Cr content
of the vessels (Fig. 5a). Multivariate distance measures calculated across
27 elements dene a core reference group (N = 64) with signicant
(p 0.05) jack-knifed probabilities of group membership. Most of the
remaining samples from Lower Mesopotamia appear to be fringe members of this core group with few true outliers present in the sample.

5.2. Syrian Euphrates Jebel Aruda and Tell Hadidi

Located on the great northern bend of the Euphrates in northern
Syria, the site of Jebel Aruda has been interpreted as a Late Uruk colony
founded on virgin ground. Though over 800 km from the heart of Lower
Mesopotamia, the material culture and architecture at the site are
identical to those of the Uruk heartland, and present a compelling case
for a Lower Mesopotamian occupation in the area (van Driel and Van
Driel-Murray, 1983; van Driel, 2002). Extensive collections from
Aruda are currently housed in the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, which allowed us to take 76 small samples for chemical
analysis. Vessel forms include classic Uruk types, including bottles,
jars with cross-hatch band incision, nose-lugs, and droop spouts, as
well as beveled-rim bowls. Unfortunately, no ceramics of local Late
Chalcolithic style are available from the site, but clay wall cones were
again employed as a likely marker of local clay signatures.
Just across the Euphrates from Jebel Aruda, Tell Hadidi offered
the opportunity to establish a compositional signature for ceramics

Fig. 6. Comparison of mean elemental composition of ceramics from Lower Mesopotamia and sites on the Euphrates along a normalized prole of 27 elements. Only fairly minor
differences are apparent in their compositional proles, in spite of a separating distance of N800 km.

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024

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denitively produced along this stretch of the Euphrates. Tell Hadidi

was an important urban center during the 3rd2nd millennia BCE,
and this era is represented by clear evidence of ceramic production
(Dornemann, 1979, 1988, 1992). Exposed in Area F, it includes the remains of a 2nd millennium BCE kiln and a downslope scatter of charcoal,
ash, and large sherdssome warped and overredinterpreted as
wasters that were rejected by the potters after having been misred
in the kiln (Mason and Cooper, 1999:136). Petrographic analysis of
33 sherds from Area F (including strata not associated with the kiln)
concluded that the bulk of the pastes represent variations of local
Euphrates sediments (Mason and Cooper, 1999). These ceramics are
thus linked to local Euphrates clay by their production context, style,
and mineralogy, and provide an invaluable indication of the chemical
composition of clays along the Euphrates. In addition, excavations encountered a small amount of MiddleLate Uruk ceramics at the site
(Area R), which would be nearly contemporary with Jebel Aruda. Courtesy of the Milwaukee Public Museum, we analyzed 36 vessels from Tell
Hadidi, including 12 examples of MiddleLate Uruk pottery from Area R
and 24 Middle Bronze sherds previously analyzed via ceramic petrography. We note, however, that none of the pieces from production contexts which were submitted for INAA were obvious wasters.
The ceramics from our sites along the Syrian Euphrates form a single
compositional group that includes Late Uruk ceramics from Jebel Aruda,
along with MiddleLate Uruk ceramics from Tell Hadidi. Again, minimal
differences are apparent between the presumed locally produced clay
wall cones and ceramic vessels (Fig. 5b), and our core reference group
(N = 107) includes examples of both.
All these clay objects, however, are also very similar in composition
to the reference group for Lower Mesopotamia as dened above. Materials from the two areas are strongly overlapping in both PCA and discriminant function space (Figs. 2 and 3a), and a substantial number of
the Euphrates core members also have some signicant probability of
membership in the Lower Mesopotamia core group. Overall, only slight
differences can be seen in the mean compositional proles of ceramics
from Lower Mesopotamia, Jebel Aruda, and Tell Hadidi, primarily in sodium, potassium, and arsenic content (Fig. 6) which could reect differences in weathering of sediments or post-depositional contamination
rather than differences in clay.
Our immediate question was whether this compositional similarity
represented a substantial trade between Lower Mesopotamia and this
Uruk colony (across a distance of more than 800 km upriver), or whether the clays in the two regions were strongly similar. The 2nd millennium production debris from Tell Hadidi favors the second alternative, as
these locally produced vessels from the Euphrates are chemically very
similar to ceramics from Mesopotamia. Specically, ceramic pastes
identied by Mason and Cooper (1999) as representing textural variations of local Euphrates sediments (Petrofabric Groups 13) align with
one or both of the Mesopotamia and Euphrates reference groups,
while petrofabrics considered heavily modied or possibly exotic
(Groups 5 and 6) do not match either group. This homogeneity along

the Euphrates, while inconvenient, should not come as a surprise.

Prior studies of riverine and terrace sediments report considerable mineralogical homogeneity along the Euphrates drainage (Berry et al.,
1970; Phillip, 1968), and emphasize the long distances that clasts are
carried by this great river (Trifonov et al., 2013).
Based on this high degree of similarity between Lower Mesopotamia
and the Euphrates, it seems reasonable that they should be considered
as part of the same geochemical region in the future. However, for this
study, we have maintained their separate (if overlapping) status in
order to evaluate further whether any evidence of actual exchange between the regions might be discerned.
5.3. Tell Brak
During the later 4th millennium BCE, Tell Brak was one of the largest
sites in Upper Mesopotamia, with settlement reaching an area of 130 ha
in the mid-4th millennium BCE (Late Chalcolithic 3), reduced as a result
of the Uruk expansion to perhaps 50 ha (LC 45). The site has been the
focus of excavations since Mallowan (1947) uncovered the famous Eye
Temple in the 1930s. Extensive excavations by David and Joan Oates,
Roger Matthews, Geoff Emberling, and most recently Augusta McMahon
(Oates and Oates, 1993, 1994, 1997; Oates, 2002; Emberling et al., 1999;
Emberling and McDonald, 2001, 2003; McMahon et al., 2011) have documented a long and complex history of construction and occupation.
For our purposes, the important ndings come from the large sounding in Area TW, which preserves a series of in situ deposits spanning the
4th millennium BCE. These document a long, indigenous Late
Chalcolithic sequence at the site (TW Levels 2014), with initial contact
and exchange with Lower Mesopotamia in the later part of the Middle
Uruk period (TW Level 13). The subsequent Late Uruk levels (TW Levels
1211), however, reveal a marked cultural discontinuity. The assemblage is entirely lower Mesopotamian in style including Uruk-style architecture (using riemchen bricks), ceramics, glyptic, and complex
tokens. Emberling (2002) further argues that the Eye Temple was
remodeled at this time, with the fourth level built and decorated to include features of Lower Mesopotamian origin. The conclusion is that
Uruk elements thoroughly replaced the local material culture and architectural traditions over a sizable portion of the site, suggesting that
Lower Mesopotamian populations intruded into the area during the
Late Uruk, establishing some sort of colony. The site is well positioned
to control overland NS trafc from the Tigris to Anatolia, and Algaze
suggests that the intrusion of a Lower Mesopotamian presence there
was aimed at exploiting highland resources for the alluvial market
(Algaze, 1993:46).
Our 95 ceramic samples from Tell Brak were drawn from collections
curated at the University of Michigan; they come from large Uruk pits
(TW Level 12), part of the southern occupation of the site. The area is
characterized by typical tripartite Uruk buildings, with the large pits
being typical of Uruk sites (for another example, see H. Wright et al.,
1989). These include 75 vessels with classic Late Uruk forms, such as

Fig. 7. Comparison of mean elemental composition of Uruk-style and local (Late Chalcolithic) pottery from Tell Brak across a normalized prole of 27 elements.

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024

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bottles, cross-hatch band jars, jars with nose-lugs, diagonal reserve slip,
and droop spouts. It is noteworthy that the pastes of these Uruk-style
vessels appear nearly identical to those of Lower Mesopotamia, generally buff in color with angular white and gray grit temper. In addition, we
sampled 20 chaff-tempered vessels of the local Late Chalcolithic style,
including bowls with hammer-head or ledge rims.
The ceramics from Tell Brak form an internally consistent composition group, with no evidence of subdivisions and very few outliers. Notably, local Late Chalcolithic samples present a compositional prole
very similar to that of the Uruk-style material from Tell Brak, with
only slight differences in mean values for sodium and arsenic (Fig. 7),
despite the difference in temper, suggesting that these Uruk-style
forms are also of local manufacture. Further, both Uruk-style and Late
Chalcolithic vessels are well-represented in our core reference group
(N = 76) for the site. As a group, the vessels from Tell Brak are substantially lower than those of Lower Mesopotamia in many of the trace
metals, as well as in sodium content; they differ from Susiana in higher
rare-earth element content.
5.4. Nineveh
Nineveh is an important 4th millennium center on the Tigris
(Campbell Thompson and Mallowan, 1933; Algaze, 1993:37). Located
at a juncture between the Tigris River and major east-west overland
routes, Nineveh would have been an ideal transshipment point where

overland trafc could be easily funneled downstream. Thus, it was highly desirable to sample ceramics from this site: if the presence of Urukstyle ceramics represented an actual trade in ceramic containers, that
evidence should be forthcoming at Nineveh. Collections from
Mallowan's 30 m-deep sounding at Nineveh are curated by the British
Museum, which granted us permission to sample 33 Uruk-style vessels
from Nineveh. The sample from Nineveh includes some classic Uruk
forms such as small jars with nose-lugs, punctate and/or appliqued decoration; jars with droop spouts; small bottles; and beveled-rim bowls,
although the larger forms seem underrepresented in the collection
(drawings in Gut, 1995).
Compositionally, our sample from Nineveh is internally variable.
There are strong outliers on individual elements and at least three samples are obvious outliers on the rst two principal components. Apart
from these, the Nineveh samples appear to form a somewhat coherent
group that may be the basis of a regional composition group. Owing to
the small group size, multivariate assessment was based on a subset of
8 regionally discriminating elements (Al, Ca, Na, Sc, Cr, Mn, La, Th)
and apparent matches carefully screened using the compositional prole. The ceramics of this proto-group are quite similar in composition
to those of Tell Brak, the site's relatively close neighbor, but with higher
average concentrations of Cr.
Two potential ceramic production sites in the Tigris region of northern Iraq are of interest here, as points of comparison, although they predate the Late Uruk period. Rothman and Blackman (2003) suggest that

Fig. 8. Portion of the Susiana plain showing location of sites and river clay samples cited in the text.
Base map courtesy Abbas Alizadeh.

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024


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Tepe Gawraa small site located just up the Khosr River from
Ninevehwas a center for the production of impressed ware (a sandtempered ne ware with impressed or appliqu decoration) during
the late 5th through early 4th millennia BCE. This interpretation is
based on the presence of a kiln in phase XI (Rothman, 2002:100),
along with wasters with cracked or crumpled walls, or with distorted
shapes (Tobler, 1950:1467). Further up the Tigris, Shelgiyya appears
to have been a large-scale manufacturing center for the contemporaneous Sprig Ware, again based on dense ceramic deposits and the presence of many kiln wasters as well as the uniformity of its ceramic
paste (Rothman and Blackman, 2003:13). Published data on the
GAWRA-1 and SPRIG-1 sources (Rothman and Blackman, 2003), when
adjusted for interlab differences, indicate that neither of these groups
are a close match to Nineveh. SPRIG-1 is signicantly more enriched
in Cr and Ba than Nineveh, while GAWRA-1 is much higher in calcium,
among other, more subtle differences. This variation suggests that, for
now, we cannot identify a unifying compositional signature for this
stretch of the Tigris River.
5.5. Susiana Plain
Geographically, the Susiana Plain represents an eastward extension
of the alluvial Mesopotamian plain. By Middle/Late Uruk times, this
region had become part of the Mesopotamian world, an extension
eastward of the culture and institutions prevalent in the lowlands of S.
Iraq (Algaze, 1993:13). Ceramic assemblages are nearly identical
between the regions, and there are conspicuous similarities in glyptic
practices, accounting procedures (tokens, balls, bullae and tablets) and
iconography, and monumental and religious architecture. Further, the
material culture is clearly homogenous across the plain, with Mesopotamian traits present from the largest centers to smaller sites. Algaze

(1993:14) interprets this similarity to indicate that Susiana was culturally as much a part of the Mesopotamian world as the alluvium itself,,
either through long-term interaction or colonization.
For comparative material from the Susiana Plain, we are very fortunate to be able to draw on analyses of mid-4th millennium pottery conducted by Royal Ghazal (Ghazal et al., 2008) working in collaboration
with the archaeometry team at MURR. Their Uruk sample focused on
two typesthe chaff-tempered BRBs and the grit-tempered crosshatch band (CHB) jarsutilizing collections now housed at the Oriental
Institute and the University of Michigan. By Late Uruk times, the Susiana
Plain was divided into an western area apparently administered from
Susa, and an eastern area under Chogha Mish, with a 15-km wide noman's land in between (Johnson, 1973). The Ghazal-MURR sample
comes primarily from two sites in the eastern area of the plan: the
large town of Chogha Mish (Alizadeh, 1985, 2008) and the small rural
center of Tepe Sharafabad (Wright et al., 1989), of which the former is
considered a major ceramic production center during Late Uruk
times. Compositional analyses indicate that these two sites can be
distinguished as closely parallel reference groups (Ghazal et al., 2008),
apparently representing distinct drainages (Fig. 8). Given the strong
similarity in their signatures, however, we combine the sites into a single N. Susiana macrogroup for interregional comparisons.
For the more south-westerly area of the Susiana Plain, we draw on
ceramics from Abu Fanduweh (Alden et al., 2014; Ghazal et al., 2008)
and Susa (Emberling, 1997; Neff et al., 1997). Based on analysis of
microstylistic variants in ceramics and nds of wasters and kilns at the
site, Johnson (1973:107) had proposed that Abu Fanduweh was a center
of ceramic production for the Susiana Plain during the Middle Uruk period, a role that suggests it was located near good quality clays. The
available sample consists of BRBs along with grit-tempered vessels of
classic Late Uruk forms. For Susa, our primary sample comprises 18

Fig. 9. Comparison of mean elemental composition of local clays and pottery from the Susiana Plain across a normalized prole of 27 elements. A. Clays from the Shaur River north of Susa
relative to Early Dynastic I jars from that site; B. Clays of the Dez River east of Tepe Sharafabad relative to grit-tempered (CHBJ) and chaff-tempered (BRB) ceramics from that site.
Data on Susa vessels from Emberling (1997) and Neff et al. (1997); data on Tepe Sharafabad from Ghazal et al. (2008).

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024

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Fig. 10. Distribution of Late Uruk ceramic samples from (A) Mesopotamia and (B) Syrian Euphrates relative to CI ellipses for reference groups, on discriminant function axes. Apparent nonlocal samples are labeled.

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024


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vessels of Early Dynastic I date (ca. 29002800 BCE); all are large, not
easily transported jars with rim diameters up to 50 cm, and so probably
of local manufacture (Neff et al., 1997).
Prior analyses of the Abu Fanduweh material suggest that it is distinctive from the N. Susiana corpus (Alden et al., 2014; Ghazal et al.,
2008), but relatively diffuse as a composition group, in part owing to differences between chaff-tempered and grit-tempered vessels. Addition
of the Susa material conrms that the grit-tempered vessels form a
more coherent subset, but the S. Susiana group still broadly overlaps
other reference groups on the rst two principal components. Group renement based on 8 discriminating variables resulted in a core group of
45 samples, which overlaps somewhat with other reference groups,
particularly Nineveh, on discriminant function axes. Compositionally,
S. Susiana differs from the more northerly material in having higher average concentrations of Cr and Co (Alden et al., 2014), although not as
high as Mesopotamia.
Resolution of the compositional complexities of the Susiana Plain are
beyond the scope of the current paper. Certainly, Berman's (1986) large,
early NAA study of ceramics from the plain had indicated an absence of
clear-cut divisions in clay composition, while Ghazal et al. (2008) demonstrate clear intersite variation. Our current, small sample of clays from
the region illustrates some of the difculties of attempting to divide up
this landscape into geochemical subunits.
Under the direction of Abbas Alizadeh, clays from three of the rivers
crossing the plain were selected by a local potter as suitable potting
clays; six samples of these were then red and submitted for INAA.
These include clays from two strata along the Balaroud River on the
northern edge of the plain (ICS-01, ICS-02), from the Dez River (ICS-3,
ICS-4) ca. 7 km south-east of Tepe Shafarabad, and from the Shaur
River (ICS-05, ICS-06) 7 km north of Susa (Fig. 8). In addition, we have
data on several soils and clay objects (including an unred BRB and
clay from the bank of the Atij River) from Abu Fanduweh (KS-01KS-09).
Based on their source areas, each of these rivers should carry distinctive sediments. The Seasonal Balaroud drains off sandstones of the nearby Tertiary Mio-Pliocene Agha Jari Formation, while the Dez River gets
its sediments from deep in Mesozoic limestone regions and the metamorphic thrust belt of the high Zagros, and the Karkheh and Shaur Rivers carry sediments from both Tertiary and Mesozoic formations.
Modern clays along these rivers, however, suggest that compositional
differences among the drainages are not strong. Strata from the same location differ as much or more than clays from different drainages
(Fig. 3b), suggesting that there is both spatial and temporal variation
in these clays. As these rivers have meandered and changed their course
over millennia, they have potentially created broad swaths of mixed
clay resources (Fig. 8); all the same, ooding events may have deposited
clay sediments with distinctive signatures, depending on the severity of
the ood and source of oodwaters.
Further, relative to local ceramics, all the riverine clays (ICS samples)
have signicantly higher concentrations of many elements, but the degree of enrichment varies by element, suggesting it is not a simple dilution issue such as could be caused by adding a uniform temper to the
ceramic pastes. In general, the clays are higher in the alkali and rare
earth elements compared to ceramics from nearby sites, but lower in
K and Na (Fig. 9). Because of this relative enrichment, the northern
river clays score in the range of our southern ceramics on both principal
components and discriminant axes (Fig. 3b), again suggesting that spatial and temporal variation may confound any straightforward division
of Susiana.
6. Evidence for interregional exchange
The datasets and compositional reference groups delineated above
enable us to examine inter-regional exchange among key areas involved in the Uruk expansion. Specically, we now have robust, wellcharacterized reference groups for Mesopotamia, the Syrian Euphrates,
Tell Brak, and N. Susiana, while Nineveh and S. Susiana remain less well

characterized. For the most part, these group are compositionally distinct, the exception to this regional variation involves ceramic vessels
from sites along the Euphrates Riverextending from Jebel Aruda on
the Big Bend of the Euphrates downstream to the Lower Mesopotamian
alluviumwhich differ only slightly in composition.
Apparent outliers to these local groups were examined for their t in
the other reference groups, using the Mahalanobis distance statistic to
assess the probability of group membership. Where group sample
sizes permitted, distances were assessed across the full suite of 27 elements, while a subset of 8 variables was used to assess membership in
the smaller reference groups (Nineveh and Abu Fanduweh). In addition,
all possible matches were visually assessed by examining the compositional prole of the case in question relative to the mean vector for the
reference group. Relatively few are secure indicators of inter-regional
exchange (Table 2).

6.1. Lower Mesopotamia

Few outliers exist in the Mesopotamia data set, and only one extreme outlier appears to be of non-local origin. A single ne, red-paste
jar (URUK_40) recovered from WS-274 appears distinctively different
from the Mesopotamian group in both elemental make-up and paste
characteristics (Fig. 10a). Its compositional prole is most similar to
clays from Tal-e Geser on the Ram Hormuz plain in southwestern Iran,
although the vessel cannot be securely assigned to that group based
on multivariate probabilities of group membership. Reciprocal exchange between Mesopotamia and the Ram Hormuz plain has been
established, however. Alden et al. (2014) report three vessels from
Tal-e Geser which appear to have originated in Mesopotamia. One of
these vessels (TG-13, a small cup of Late Susa II/Proto-Elamite date) is
contemporaneous with the Late Uruk period, while a second (TG-73,
Late Susiana 2) is substantially earlier, suggesting that direct exchange
between the two regions was on-going. Remaining outliers appear to
be fringe members of the Mesopotamia group, with more extreme
values of characteristic elements such as Cr and Co.
Evidence for possible imports from the Euphrates sites was also evaluated. Eight southern vessels have a signicant probability of group
membership in the Euphrates reference group, but in all but one case,
they have a higher probability of membership in the local Mesopotamia
group. (The one exception has relatively low probabilities of membership in both.) Thus, we attribute these signicant probabilities to similarities in raw materials, rather than trade, and conclude that there
was a minimal movement in ceramic vessels from north to south
along the Euphrates during Late Uruk times.
Finally, ve beveled-rim bowls (URUK_79, _80, _85, _87, and _89)
appear to be outliers of the Mesopotamia group in discriminant function
space (Fig. 10a); all are signicantly lower in Cr, Co, and Na content (elemental hallmarks of Mesopotamian ceramics), but are still assigned to
that group by the multivariate distance measures. We ascribe the reduced concentrations to the lack of grit in these chaff-tempered vessels.

Table 2
Evidence for interregional exchange of ceramics during the Late Uruk period.

Uruk era sample

Lower Mesopotamia
Jebel Aruda
Tell Hadidi
Tell Brak
N. Susiana
S. Susiana





Source area(s)

Ram Hormuz (?)

Unknown; Mesopotamia
Nineveh; Mesopotamia (?)
Lower Mesopotamia; Tell Brak

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024

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Fig. 11. Distribution of Late Uruk ceramic samples from (A) Tell Brak and (B) Nineveh relative to CI ellipses for reference groups, on discriminant function axes. Apparent non-local samples
are labeled.

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024


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6.2. Syrian Euphrates

Three large jars from Jebel Aruda (JEB_41JEB_44) are clear outliers
based on their multivariate distances to the local group centroid, and
appear to be of non-local origin (Fig. 10b). The rst two are from a domestic courtyard in the northern portion of the settlement, while the
third is from a southern area of domestic structures (plan in van Driel
and Van Driel-Murray, 1983). These samples have zero probability of
belonging to the Mesopotamia or Euphrates reference groups, and
their compositional proles are quite distinct from those wellcharacterized groups. Unfortunately, neither do they display clear
membership in any of our other established reference groups. Both
JEB_41 and JEB_42 are relatively low in trace metals, but are signicantly enriched in calcium and barium, while JEB_43 is an extreme outlier in
chromium (Cr = 1132 ppm) with correspondingly low values of the alkali and rare earth elements.
Many of the vessels from Jebel Aruda have a signicant probability of
membership in the Mesopotamia group as well as in the local Euphrates
group, but in most cases their local afliation is much stronger. One vessel, however, is worth considering as an actual import from the south: a
cross-hatch band jar (JEB_02) from the Jebel Aruda temple complex
with a very high probability of belonging to Mesopotamia (p = 0.89)
and only a 1% probability of matching the local Euphrates group.
Of the MiddleLate Uruk pottery from Tell Hadidi, only one vessel
(HP_5735) appears to depart markedly from the composition of the
local reference group. This cooking pot has a low probability of membership in the Tell Brak reference group when assessed across 27 elements
and is assigned to that group by discriminant analyses; however, the
match is not that close. Rather than being an import we suggest that
the vessel may reect modication of the local clay through the addition
of quartz temper. The sample shows a general dilution of all elements
measured via INAA, and generally parallels two 2nd millennium BCE
samples (HDD-05 and HDD-27) identied by Mason and Cooper
(1999) as having quartz temper (obtained through crushing local river
6.3. Tell Brak
Only two vessels from Tell Brak are clear outliers relative to the local
composition group (Fig. 11a); both are strongly enriched in chromium
but otherwise their compositions differ. The rst (TBK_48) is small jar
with a band of cross-hatch incision on the shoulder. The vessel is
assigned to the Nineveh group by discriminant analysis, and it falls
within the 95% condence interval ellipse for that group on both canonical axes as well as on the rst two principal components. Although it is
not possible to get an accurate probability of group membership given
the small size of the Nineveh reference group, a comparison of
TBK_048 with the mean prole for Nineveh is a fairly convincing
match. The second vessel (TBK_68) is a small, red-paste bottle. This
sample is assigned to Mesopotamia by discriminant analysis, but has
only a low probability (p = 0.035) of belonging to that group based
on Mahalanobis distance measures.
6.4. Nineveh
This site provides our best evidence of interregional trade of the data
sets examined here. Several samples appear to be non-local (Fig. 11b).
In particular, four Uruk-style jars with nose lugs (NIN_02, NIN_19,
NIN_20, and NIN_33) have a zero to very low probability of belonging
to the local Nineveh group. Three of these have a substantial probability
of group membership in the Mesopotamia reference group and are
assigned to that group by discriminant analysis. None of these show
any afliation with the Euphrates reference group, suggesting that
they are most likely imports directly from the south. The fourth
(NIN_20) appears more closely aligned with S. Susiana. In addition,
one relatively low-Cr bottle (NIN_13) has a higher probability of

belonging to the well-characterized Tell Brak reference group than to

the local Nineveh and may be an import from that site.
Other attributions to non-local sources should be treated with caution: given the small size of the Nineveh reference group, we may well
be underestimating the range of local compositional variation. For example, several other vessels display low probabilities of membership
in the Mesopotamia group when assessed across 27 elements and several appear to join the S. Susiana group, but in all cases these probabilities are roughly equivalent to the sample's afliation with the local
group, and a conservative reading of the evidence suggests a local
Overall, this small data set from Nineveh provides the highest proportion of non-local sherds of any site in the study, with evidence of exchange with both Mesopotamia as well as with highland neighbors.

6.5. Deh Luran and Susiana plains

In contrast with Nineveh, ceramic exchange between Mesopotamia
and the plains of Deh Luran and Susiana appears to have been minimal.
None of our samples from the WarkaAkkad surveys appears to have
originated in either region. Further, none of our Late Uruk samples
from S. Susiana or those from N. Susiana analyzed by Ghazal et al.
(2008) has a signicant membership in Mesopotamia reference group.
Long distance trade between Susiana and its neighbor to the east,
however, may have been higher. In an analysis of ceramics from the
Ram Hormuz plain, Alden et al. (2014) report that two (6.5%) of the
31 Late Uruk sherds sampled from Tall-e Geser have reasonable probabilities of belonging to the Abu Fanduweh composition group, suggesting that at least some vessels were imported to Geser from the Susiana.
No movement of vessels in the opposite direction, however, was

7. Discussion
In general, the diversity of composition groups encountered within
the corpus of Uruk-style ceramics negates the idea that their visual similarities represents a substantial trade in Uruk ceramics (and their contents). Rather, in spite of shared forms and paste characteristics, the
Uruk-style ceramics found at Jebel Aruda and Tell Brak are of local manufacture, suggesting that potters trained in the southern tradition were
among those who helped found these northern settlements. Based on
fairly conservative measures, we identify only one vessel (JEB_02;
CHBJ) that appears to have moved from Mesopotamia to Jebel Aruda,
and one vessel (TBK_068; small bottle) that may have been transported
from Mesopotamia to Tell Brak. No convincing evidence of a reciprocal
(north to south) movement from either of these sites was found in the
present data set from Mesopotamia.
At the same time, Nineveh stands out as a nexus of trade, both northsouth and across the Jazira. Of our small dataset of Late Uruk vessels
from that site (N = 33), over 10% appear to be imports to the site,
with secure evidence of exchange with Mesopotamia (over a distance
of 700 km) and possibly also with Tell Brak (at a distance of
N200 km), as well. In this case, the vessels imported from Mesopotamia
appear to be nose-lug jars, while exchange within the Jazira is represented by a small bottle. The possibly greater role of Nineveh in movement of ceramic vessels would certainly reward further study.
Further aeld, we have fairly secure evidence of exchange in ceramic
vessels between Mesopotamia and the Ram Hormuz plain, with indications that the movement was two way. Further, one of the vessels recovered Tal-e Geser appears to have been transported during earlier
times, indicating that this long-distance exchange predates the Uruk
In summary, given the very small number of vessels involved, we
offer the following tentative observations:

Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024

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Late Uruk-style vessels were moving long distances between the Uruk
heartland and its apparent colonies, but not in great volume;
The types of vessels involved include jars and bottles (but these are
over-represented in our sample because their forms are so characteristic of the time period);
This movement involves all three of the Uruk colonies/enclaves examined here, but not the Susiana Plain; this latter omission may relate to
the sample selection from Susiana which focused in large part on ceramic production sites (e.g., Chogha Mish and Abu Fanduweh) perhaps less likely to import vessels;
Movement of ceramic vessels is asymmetrical, from Mesopotamia
outward to Jebel Aruda, Tell Brak, and Nineveh;
But small-scale, two-way and long-standing movement of ceramic
vessels also existed between Mesopotamia and Ram Hormuz Plain;
as well as among sites outside the plain (e.g., Tell Brak and Nineveh).
Relative to the expectations set forth at the beginning of this article,
we suggest that there is little support for a model of tribute or statecontrolled trade involving ceramic vessels or the commodities likely to
have been transported in such vessels, and that actual movement or exchange accounts for only a very small percent of the Uruk vessels sharing similar stylistic and formal traits. The evidence of these few
vesselsrepresented in domestic debris as well as temple contexts
and involving relatively utilitarian forms rather than elite gift
itemsfurther suggests that contact between the heartland and outlying regions was not under the direct control of administrative authorities. This, in turn, leaves open the possibility of multiple mechanisms
for sharing goods and ideas, ranging from itinerant potters (carrying
some of their wares from place to place), to nomadic groups (carrying
household goods from place to place), to independent merchants.
Although our sample sizes in this preliminary study are not large
compared with the distances involved, we anticipate that if interregional exchange were a major mechanism underlying the apparent
similarities in form and ceramic technology, we would capture at least
some indication of non-local ceramics in a given ceramic assemblage.
The results of this study, in addition to showing that movement of
pottery during the Uruk expansion was minimal, also suggest that exchange relations among parts of the Uruk world were variable. If our interpretations are correct, Nineveh played a special role in interregional
exchange. Overall, these ndings provide much food for thought for
how we conceptualize the types of interactions and contacts that
didand did nottake place in the Late Uruk world.
We gratefully acknowledge contributing museums and their curators for permission to conduct destructive analysis on samples in their
collections. In particular, we would like to thank the Oriental Institute
of Chicago, the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities, the Milwaukee
Public Museum, the British Museum, and the University of Michigan
Museum of Anthropology for facilitating this research. Special thanks
go to Lucas Petit, Alexandra Fletcher, and Carter Lupton for helping us
negotiate access and/or loan documents at their respective museums.
Abbas Alizadeh graciously shared data from the Susiana. Henry Wright
provided his inestimable expertise in selecting pottery samples for
analysis. Funding for this project was provided by NSF award 1005945
(Support of Coordinated, Regional Trace-Element Studies at the
OSU-RC) to PI Leah Minc. Last, and not least, we thank two anonymous
reviewers, Norman Yoffee, and Henry Wright for helpful comments on
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Please cite this article as: Emberling, G., Minc, L., Ceramics and long-distance trade in early Mesopotamian states, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.02.024