In the 19th century, as human sciences evolved, scholars decided to divided human society into periods according to the technological advancement achievedduring that era. Thus such names as; the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age came to be. Pottery in the Southern Levant was developed ca. 5500 BCE during the Neolithic Age, giving this period the name Pottery Neolithic.
There were three major technological advances in the production of pottery in the Ancient Near East. The use of clay was already known in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic era, ca. 8200-5500 BCE. However shaping vessels and firing them, began only in the 6th millennium. These vessels were hand made, usually by forming long rolls of clay and constructing the vessel one step higher at a time, however other methods are also known. The second major advance was the use of the wheel in the production of pottery. The third development was the use of moulds in order to produce finer pieces of pottery such as oil lamps with rich decorations on them.
As any Ancient Near Eastern archaeologist can testify, pottery and pottery sherds are among the most valuable finds in an archaeological excavation. The reasons for that are; pottery was one of the most commonly used artifacts in ancient times and up to the early 20th century. Pottery is non-organic and as such it endures through time and can be easily found during excavations as intact vessels or pottery sherds. The stratum excavated can be dated by the pottery found in it. This is the most basic and fundamental tool for dating archaeological periods.
The father of modern archaeology and the Seriation and Typology of artifacts is Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942). While excavating in Egypt, Petrie noticed the nuances in pottery from site to site. He than realized one could notice the development and change of artifacts from various sites and thus place them in chronological order, giving a relative chronology to the site in which they were found.
Since then and as Ancient Near Eastern archaeology developed, more and more pottery assemblages and variants were found and added to our knowledge. As technology progresses, more and more tools are added to the archaeologist's arsenal of dating archaeological strata and artifacts, such as C14, dendrochronology, and thermoluminescence. However pottery typology remains as important now as it was in the beginning of the 20th century.
During archaeological excavations pottery is mostly found in sherds. The most important part of a ceramic vessel is the rim, since it is often difficult to distinguish one vessel from another through examining bases, handles, or body sherds, unless these display a special characteristic. The rims however tend to vary from vessel to vessel and from period to period. In professional literature, pottery vessels will appear half drawn in section, so that the section of the rim can be fully viable.