The study presents the Prehistoric pottery of Tell Hassan, a small site situated in the Hamrin valley, central-eastern Iraq, on the medium course of the Diyala river, one of the main feeders of the Tigris that flows down from the Zagros mountains. Before the erection of a dam on the Diyala that transformed the valley into a water basin, in the years 1977-1979 the area was the object of an international salvation project that resulted in a number of excavations and surveys. The Hamrin valley revealed itself as a complex system: a sort of ‘microcosm’ that, though with uniquely distinctive characters, participated in the chronological and cultural evolution of Mesopotamia.
Concerning the prehistoric period, the Samarra and Halaf traditions show typical local characters, and certainly their reciprocal relations were not simply based on a plain succession through time. Tell Hassan was excavated by the University of Turin and the Centro Scavi di Torino per il Vicino Oriente e l’Asia, and revealed four levels of a small Halaf village, followed by a Ubaid 3 phase.
From the four Halaf levels a huge number of sherds and complete vessels emerged, all characterised by a high technical quality often supported by the presence of monochrome, bitonal or polychrome painting. If a low variability is detected through the stratigraphic sequence, interesting differences in the material exist in connection to its horizontal distribution: the vessels found in the western, central and eastern areas, although belonging to the same Late Halaf milieu, show variations in both shape and decoration. Such differences are stylistical rather than functional, as confirmed by the fact that the common pottery, especially the storage and the coarse ware, are the same in the entire site. Moreover, some complete vessels, still found in situ in stratigraphical connection with the rest of the pottery, show strong affinities with Samarra pottery and with the cultures of Chalcolithic Iran.
The possible reasons of such phenomena are discussed also in connection with the external comparisons that show a complex network of relations with the other sites of Hamrin valley and of Greater Mesopotamia. Together with a stylistical analysis of the decoration and a tentative exploration of the creative spirit of the potters of Tell Hassan, the study proposes a point of view on the coexistence of different cultural instances in one site and on the role of the Hamrin basin in the relationship among the different prehistoric cultures of Mesopotamia. In a current moment so dark for the research in Iraq and other areas of the Near East, the publication of this ceramic corpus aims to contribute to the progression of studies on Mesopotamian Prehistory.