Investigating the function of late-Neolithic ‘husking trays’ from Syrian Jazira through integrated use-alteration and phytolith analyses

Sergio Taranto*, Marta Portillo, Anna Gómez Bach, Miguel Molist Montaña, Marie Le Mière, Cristina Lemorini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The so-called husking tray is a pottery shape attested during the 7th and the first half of the 6th millennium BC in the Near East. These vessels are large trays with internal surfaces crossed by scored patterns. In this article we scrutinize the hypothesis that this type of ceramic forms were used for cereal-processing and bread baking, further supported by ethnographical and experimental evidence. Fragments belonging to this pottery form have been found at several archaeological sites in the Syrian Jazira. During the late Neolithic period the area was inhabited by societies based on agriculture as evidenced by storage facilities, harvesting and processing implements and archaeobotanical remains. The results of use-alteration and phytolith analyses from a selection of husking tray assemblages from settlements of this area Tell Sabi Abyad I, Tell Halula, Tell Kashkashok II, Khaneke, Tell Khazna II are discussed here. Use-alterations distributions over their surfaces showed patterns related to the detachment of plant foods such as ‘bread-like’ materials, according to experimentally-produced records. In turn, phytolith results indicated the nature of the plant material adhered to the vessel surfaces which is dominated by Pooideae grasses. Multicellullar or anatomical connected phytoliths from the husks of wheat and barley were common in these assemblages. Overall, these results suggest a functionality related to the processing of cereals into bread. This integrated approach further supports the hypothesis that husking trays were used for baking. In conclusion, it allows a better understanding of Late Neolithic culinary practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103694
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Bread-like products
  • Late Neolithic
  • Near East
  • Phytoliths
  • Pottery
  • Use-alterations


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