Pigments on Late Bronze Age painted Canaanite pottery at Tel Esur: New insights into Canaanite–Cypriot technological interaction

Golan Shalvi, Shlomo Shoval, Shay Bar, Ayelet Gilboa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ceramics and pigments of Late Bronze Age (LBA) painted Canaanite pottery were studied using ceramic petrography and three microbeam methods: pXRF, LA-ICP-MS and EPMA. The analyses focused on specimens from Tel Esur in Israel's northeastern Sharon Plain, which has yielded a well-preserved assemblage of the 15th/14th centuries BCE. We studied painted jars, biconical jugs and a bowl decorated with black, red or two-colored geometric patterns. The petrographic analysis revealed that the majority of the painted vessels were produced on the southern Levantine coastal plain. The microbeam analyses demonstrated the use of ferromanganese and ferric-iron pigments for the black and the red decorations respectively. The adoption of the manganese-based technique in Canaanite workshops seems to be an early LBA technological progress, which facilitated the production of black decoration while firing vessels in an oxidizing atmosphere; it explains the sharp increase in the production of two-colored Canaanite pottery during that period. Ferromanganese ore sources for the black pigment are rare in Canaan and absent from its coast; this required importation of raw ore from external sources. The analogous use of the manganese-based technique for black decoration on Cypriot wares suggests that both pigments and technology were transferred from Cyprus to Canaan, highlighting a ‘new’ aspect in the multi-faceted Cypro-Canaanite liaisons of this period.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102212
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Black and red decorations
  • Ceramic and pigment analyses
  • Cypro-Canaanite liaisons
  • Iron and manganese ores
  • Technology transfer
  • Trade in pigments
  • pXRF, LA-ICP-MS and EPMA


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