Wadi Raba Pottery Imagery and Interpretations

In contrast to the Yarmukian, anthropomorphous imagery is very sparse in the Wadi Raba culture. The only known example is a carinated hole-mouth jar from Ein el Jarba with an applied image of a human figure with an animal headdress. This and similar items from Tepe Gawra are interpreted by Kaplan (1969:18) as the prototype of a figure related to a fertility cult concerned with the renewal of youth or the bringing of rain. Small clay animal figurines are known from a number of Wadi Raba sites, and we will refer to these later.

The Wadi Raba pottery assemblage is very rich and diverse (Orrelle 1993) and differs from the Yarmukian repertoire in elements of morphology and decoration. It includes a variety ofbowls, rounded, straight upright, V-shaped or carinated, with inverted, everted, or cutoff rims. A small thin highly fired carinated bowl of grit-free fabric, usually slipped and burnished in a deep glossy black or red is characteristic of this assemblage. This ware is usually referred to as dark-faced burnished ware after Braidwood and Braidwood (1960) and includes larger bowls and rare platters with inverted or rounded sides. Pedestaled bowls occur and are usually large and heavy. The typical Wadi Raba jar has a characteristic bow-shaped rim that appears in almost all of the assemblages assigned to this entity or its variants. Hole-mouth jars are also present, both large and small, and sometimes slipped and burnished. Pithoi have thickened triangular section rims, sometimes with knobs or lugs. Handles include characteristic large loop handles with splayed attachments, knob handles, and small pierced handles. Vessels stand on flat or disklike bases. In this assemblage, too, the highly decorated element is small, accounting for a very similar proportion to that in the Yarmukian (Orrelle 1993).Thereare,however,manymore categories and kinds of decoration. The broad range of surface treatments includes primary plain smoothed, slipped, slipped and burnished, and various incised, impressed, combed, painted, or applied plastic motifs. A red band around the inside and outside of vessel rims is a common feature (see Gopher and Gophna 1993).

The incised decoration consists of five main groups—the nested versus wavy line, various parallel lines, lunate, and raised incisions. The painted element is far less dominant and consists usually of single or more bands, often positioned on the point of carination (Orrelle 1993). There is a very small element of plastic decoration of raised rope type that will continue in the later Chalcolithic period. Occasional small nipple-like bosses appear as well. A striking expansion of the Yarmukian repertoire is seen in the variety of color in the pottery assemblage. In contrast to the Yarmukian red and white-buff, blacks, browns, reds, and oranges appear on Wadi Raba vessels in a variety of combinations and hues, some matte and some deeply lustrous from applied burnish. Black color which appeared on "rods"—phallic type artifacts in the Yarmukian (see Garfinkel 1995; Gopher and Orrelle 1996)—appears in small quantities on pottery vessels in the Wadi Raba assemblage.

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