Moulding Clay to Model Sealand Society: Pottery Production and Function at Tell Khaiber, Southern Iraq

  • Daniel Calderbank

Student thesis: Phd


The mid 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamia is defined by the ebb and flow of power politics, with the Old Babylonian state, the Kassite state, and the kings of the Sealand, vying for power over the southern alluvial plains. Although widespread sociopolitical instability is acknowledged during this period, the scarcity of archaeological and textual evidence has often seen it labelled as a “Dark Age” in Mesopotamian history. Recent excavation at the site of Tell Khaiber (2013-2017), southern Iraq, provides the first material to be reliably associated with this Dark Age, and more specifically to the period of Sealand control. This thesis attends to the pottery assemblage from Tell Khaiber as a means of assessing the everyday lives of a community adapting to this upheaval. This research examines the pottery assemblage on multiple analytical levels, synthesising a vast body of textual, archaeological, scientific, and material data. Firstly, a comprehensive Sealand period typology is subjected to stylistic comparison on both a local and (inter)regional level, in order to assess the shifting networks of interaction at play during this period. The thesis then turns to a detailed analysis of pottery production, focusing particularly on production techniques, the standardisation of the product, and the scale of the industry. Finally, various pottery use-contexts are established, and the distribution of these activities are mapped onto Tell Khaiber’s public building. Since these multi-faceted pottery engagements articulated with the (re)production of Sealand society and economy, this research provides unparalleled insights into the everyday workings of this poorly understood state system.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorStuart Campbell (Supervisor) & Lindy Crewe (Supervisor)


  • Pottery
  • Kassite
  • Tell Khaiber
  • Sealand
  • Mesopotamia

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