5.0 Discussion

5.1 Fabric versus typology

Twelve of the twenty-one samples were assigned to Fabric 1; these included several different kinds of bowls and a storage jar (Figure 9: 9-19). The unfired figurine and simple press mould (both examined in thin section), and probably the remaining figurines as well, were also made from this fabric. The eight samples with shell temper, assigned to Fabric 2, were all cooking pots (Figure 9: 1-8, Figure 10). The shell appears to have been added deliberately, in order to produce a specific paste for this type of vessel. The use in cooking pots of shell and other tempers consisting of calcium carbonate is well known, both ethnographically and archaeologically, and it has been suggested that this improves thermal shock resistance. See, for example, Steponaitis (1983) on the advantages of shell temper; also Rice (1987, 407) and for a recent review, West (1992). Only one thin section was assigned to Fabric 3, the dolomitic sand fabric. This was from the fragmentary bowl, bearing the potter's mark (Figure 9: 20, Figure 11).

5.2 Source of raw materials

The silty clay used in Fabrics 1 and 2, which dominates the ceramic assemblage from the Lachish workshop, can be identified as a wind-blown deposit known as loess. Examination of the geological reference sample of loess revealed a very similar silty material to that observed in the pottery sherds. For further details about loess and loess fabrics see Goren (1996, 54, and references listed therein). Loess is available in some quantity to the west and south of the Lachish area (Porat 1986/7, fig. 1), but studies carried out by Arlene Rosen suggest a potential source in the wadi deposits immediately adjacent to the site. Rosen identified a substantial deposit of loess within 200-300 metres of the cave (1986, 58, 129-31, map 3, fig. 17), along with some evidence that the deposit had been exposed during the Late Bronze Age (ibid., 65). Thus, it may have provided a convenient source of raw material for the potters.

The shell temper added to form Fabric 2 is distinctively rounded and polished, and bears no indication of any adhering matrix, suggesting that it came from a geologically recent, unconsolidated deposit such as a raised beach. X-ray diffraction analysis of shell from the sample of unfired clay recovered from the workshop showed it to be composed of aragonite, rather than calcite. This also suggests that the shell is modern rather than fossil.We are grateful to Arlene Rosen for her suggestion that beach deposits dating to the Pliocene period (Pleshet formation), which outcrop approximately 10km to the west of Lachish, may represent the source of this raw material.

The distinctive dolomitic sand fabric of the fragmentary bowl bearing the potter's mark can be identified as belonging to the Moza Clay-Dolomitic Sand Group discussed by Goren (1996). Thus, contrary to our initial expectation, rather than being a local product of the workshop, it is probable that this vessel and its potter's mark originated in the Judean Mountains (ibid., 51). This particular bowl is the only sample tested that appears not to have been made at Lachish.


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