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Theses and Dissertations

Name:Hasan J. Ashkanani
Professor:Robert H. Tykot

Interregional Interaction and Dilmun Power in the Bronze Age: A Characterization Study of Ceramics from Bronze Age Sites in Kuwait


The Dilmun civilization appeared in the Mesopotamian sources as a land of Eden and a supplier of ivory, copper, pearls and dates whose boats reached Ur ports. After the collapse of the Akkadian power in the second half of the third millennium BC, Dilmun underwent some notable changes in different aspects of life. The presence of planned residential settlements with notable architectural features and numerous burial complexes and ‘Royal Mounds’ in Bahrain marked great economic growth and socio-political development in the early second millennium BC, suggesting the emergence of a stratified social hierarchy.

Furthermore, these changes suggest that a centralized administration existed that controlled this growth through various means. Thus, this inquiry seeks to explore whether the distribution of Barbar wares was one of the mechanisms used to control the economic growth of the Dilmun trade network. Also, this study seeks to explore whether a connection between the presence of non-local wares and far-distance staples in elite contexts on Failaka Island can be used to infer the pronouncement of status, power, and prestige.

A non-destructive portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) spectrometer was utilized to examine the chemical composition of 304 ceramic sherds and clay samples along with petrographic thin section analysis, as a complementary tool to investigate the mineralogical composition of Dilmun wares and non-local pottery of the first third of the second millennium BC. Based on seven trace elements (Rb, Ba, Sr, Nb, Y, Z, and Th) obtained from pXRF, the chemical composition of Dilmun pottery was homogenous and was apparently made from a single source and then possibly produced at a centralized location. However, petrographic thin section results showed that Dilmun pottery could be subgrouped based on the clay and temper used as well as the ancient production technique (e.g. firing temperature). The petrographic analysis supported the pXRF sorting of samples into groups, differentiating between Dilmun and Mesopotamian wares and confirming the non-local wares as outliers. The results suggest that Barbar wares were preferred at Dilmun sites while non-local materials were controlled and their presence minimized. While specific craft recipes and standardization of Barbar wares could not be established, the preference for raw materials from Bahrain proper could.