A new “Safi paper” has just appeared
, spearheaded by Kent Fowler, on identifying the age and sex of potters based on fingerprints.
The full title of the article is:
Fowler, K. D., Walker, E., Greenfield, H. J., Ross, J., and Maeir, A. M. 2019. The Identity of Potters in Early States: Determining the Age and Sex of Fingerprints on Early Bronze Age Pottery from Tell eṣ-Ṣâfi/Gath, Israel. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.
Here’s the abstract:
The organization of craft production has long been a marker for broader social, economic, and political changes that accompanied urbanism. The identity of producers who comprised production groups, communities, or workshops is out of reach using conventional archaeological data. There has been some success using epidermal prints on artifacts to identify the age and sex of producers. However, while age estimates are well developed, determining the sex of ancient potters is complicated by similarities between the prints of adult women and adolescents of either sex. Forensic research indicates that a combination of ridge breadth and density would best identify the age and sex of individuals. To this end, we propose an identification framework to classify fingerprints grounded in experimental and forensic research. In this study, we classify 38 fingerprints on Early Bronze Age (EB) III pottery from the early urban neighborhood at Tell eṣ-Ṣâfi/Gath, Israel. Mean ridge breadth (MRB) and mean ridge density (MRD) are used to distinguish the age and sex of prints after accounting for the shrinkage of calcareous fabrics used to make four type of vessels. We apply a modified version of the Kamp et al. (1999) regression equation to the MRB for each individual print. The MRD data are correlated to comparable data from populations with appropriate ancestry to infer sex. When the results are combined, our analyses indicate that two thirds of the
fingerprints were likely made by adult men and teenage boys and the remainder by adult women and adolescent girls. This result suggests that men or women were not exclusively making pottery at early urban centers in the Levant. This pattern contrasts a fingerprint study of post-state urban pottery production during the EB in northern Mesopotamia, which suggested women no longer made pottery after cities and states were established in the region.