Khirbet Kerak Ware is the description commonly given to an important diagnostic ceramic type known from excavations of Early Bronze Age III strata in various Levantine sites.
Named after the south Levantine type-site of Khirbet Kerak (Beit Yerah), on the southern shores of the Sea of Galilee / Lake Kinneret (in which excavations the ware was first defined during the 1920s),Khirbet Kerak Ware is also known as Red Black Burnished Ware(sometimes hyphenated “Red-Black”) in west Syrian and Amuq Valley contexts. In Transcaucasia – from which area it seems ultimately to have originated – the ware is also referred to as Karaz orPulur Ware [Sagona 1984].
(top right) Khirbet Kerak Ware Ceramic Vessel, Bet Shean Stratum XII, Early Bronze III 2700-23000 BCE – University of Pennsylvania Museum 34-20-362
fabric and technique
Although clearly handmade, Khirbet Kerak Ware was nonetheless the product of craftsmen.
fired at a low temperature compared to other EB III ceramics
application of a heavy slip which was then highly burnished (see below, Decoration)
Khirbet Kerak Ware primarily consists of sinuous-sides (S-shaped) bowls with small bases, in the form of large carinated kraters, small carinated bowls, carinated jars, small deep cups, and several other, minor jar types. The reportoire also extends to cylindrical and biconical stands, hourglass-shaped cooking-pot stands (fenders?) and vessel lids. A number of oddly-shaped objects, conventionally termed “andirons” are also known.
heavy slip, highly burnished
final colour of the slip controlled by firing technique – outside of the vessel either completely black or black with an orange-red rim, the interior completely orange-red
sharply defined zones of red, black and light brown colour
surface decoration: a subtle plastic ornamentation in the form of raised ridges in triangular, spiral or other decorative forms, horizontal and vertical flutings made perhaps in imitation of metal fluting prototypes
variously described as raised ridging, ribbing or fluting
Notably absent at Cilician sites, but well-represented in the Amuq (Phase H), Red Black Burnished Ware can be traced to earlier traditions in northeastern Anatolia and the Kura and Araxes Valleys of Transcaucasia (modern Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan), where it is referred to as Karaz or Pulur Ware (Sagona 1984), and later in the southern Levant, where it is called Khirbet Kerak Ware (Esse and Hopke 1984). It is in this latter area (ancient Canaan) that the ware is particularly well-represented, though it is also found in significant quantities along the Syrian coast (at such sites as Ras Shamra – Ugarit and its neighbours) and in the Orontes River valley (the Amuq plain, Hama, Ghab).
As already noted, Khirbet Kerak Ware forms an important diagnostic ceramic for EBIII occupation layers in Levantine sites. The ware is significant in revealing an early transition towards to ceramic craft specialisation.
1965 “Yanik Tepe, Shengavit and the Khirbet Kerak Ware”, Anatolian Studies 15 (1965), pp.165-167.
1984 “Khirbet Kerak Pottery at Beth Shan: Technological Evidence for Local Manufacture”, MASCA Journal 3.1 (1984), pp.20-24.
1986 “Levantine Trade in the Early Bronze Age”, in Olin, J.S. & Blackman, N.J. (eds), Proceedings of the 24th International Archaeometry Symposium, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 1986, pp.327-339.
1952 “The Excavations at Beit Yerah (Khirbet Kerak) 1944-1946”, IEJ 2 (1952), pp.165-173, 218-229.
2000 “La céramique de Khirbet Kerak en Syro-Palestine : état de la question”, in Marro, C. & Hauptmann, H. (eds), Chronologies des pays du Caucase et de l’Euphrate aux IVe-IIIe millénaires. From the Euphrates to the Caucasus: Chronologies for the 4th-3rd millennium B.C. Vom Euphrat in den Kaukasus: Vergleichende Chronologie des 4. und 3. Jahrtausends v. Chr., Actes du Colloque d’Istanbul, 16-19 décembre 1998, [Varia Anatolica XI], De Boccard: Istanbul-Paris, 2000.
1999 “Complexity and Diversity in the Southern Levant during the Third Millennium BC: the Evidence of Khirbet Kerak Ware”, Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 12 (1999), pp.26-57.
2000 “Khirbet Kerak Ware in the Levant : the Implications of Radiocarbon Chronology and Spatial Distribution”, in Marro, C. & Hauptmann, H. (eds), Chronologies des pays du Caucase et de l’Euphrate aux IVe-IIIe millénaires. From the Euphrates to the Caucasus: Chronologies for the 4th-3rd millennium B.C. Vom Euphrat in den Kaukasus: Vergleichende Chronologie des 4. und 3. Jahrtausends v. Chr., Actes du Colloque d’Istanbul, 16-19 décembre 1998, [Varia Anatolica XI], De Boccard: Istanbul-Paris, 2000.
1984 The Caucasian Region in the Early Bronze Age, I-III, BAR Int Series S214, Oxford, 1984