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Basalt bowl decorations: Stylistic conventions during the Late Chalcolithic period of the southern Levant
Rivka Chasan  1, *@  , Danny Rosenberg  1@  
1 : Zinman Institute of Archaeology
Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, 199 Abba Khousy Ave. Mount Carmel, Haifa, 3498838 -  Israël
* : Auteur correspondant

The Late Chalcolithic period of the southern Levant (ca. 4,500–3,900 calBC) marks increased social complexity, new cult and burial customs, technological developments and a rise in craft specialization. One of the most prominent products of the specialized industries is meticulously made basalt bowls with either a flat or fenestrated pedestal base. Unlike preceding periods, many of these bowls were decorated. This mirrors the notable rise in symbolic expression that occurred during this period and was observed in other realms of material culture as well (e.g. figurines, pottery decoration and copper items).

Comprehensive analysis of the Late Chalcolithic basalt bowl decorations indicates the presence of stylistic and morphometric conventions and strict guidelines which dictated the adornment of basalt bowls during this time span. Decoration was dominated by incised symmetrical and acute triangles that were filled with hatches and placed upside down along the interior rim. Other elaborate incised designs (complex combinations of various motifs) and carved raised bands were less common. The incised triangles and raised bands were formed following a set of strict patterns and convey a common interregional group identity while elaborate external decorations contrast and exhibit a certain level of individuality and exclusivity.

While it is unclear why these conventions were adopted, the decoration's general stylistic uniformity and widespread distribution, with limited interregional morphometric variation, indicates that there was increased interaction between dispersed settlement sites, which enabled these similarities to exist and reinforced the utilization of common designs. The repetitiveness and communal nature of some of these designs further suggests that these motifs had great importance and were part of a shared symbolic system that was followed and maintained during the Late Chalcolithic period. The strong association between these designs and basalt vessels further suggests that the decorations' social or symbolic values were directly linked to the function and value of the basalt bowls and that these codes were shared and accepted throughout the southern Levant, transcending previously proposed regional boundaries.

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