Mass-produced ceramic serving vessels have a 6,000-year history in the Middle East. The vessels shown here resemble conical bowls of the third millennium BC, but they are actually the products of a much more recent tradition: Potters in Qom, a city in northern Iran, made them in 1973 to hold yogurt. Curator Henry Wright and former curator Richard Redding collected a dozen of these small bowls during their archaeological fieldwork in the region. These simple forms were thrown “off the hump”—a technique in which a potter places a large hump of clay on the rotating potters’ wheel and rapidly shapes many similar vessels. Like sixth millennium BC “bevel rim bowls” (see Day 78), these yogurt cups are an example of a disposable technology. Most cups like this were probably discarded after use, unlike these carefully curated museum specimens.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.