Qurayyah Painted Ware designates a beautiful pottery that is typically painted in two colors with intricate geometric patterns and stylized depictions of animals. These vessels have been found as far north as Gezer in Israel and Amman in Jordan and as far south as Tayma and Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia. Researchers have long suspected that this painted pottery was exported from northwest Arabia (most likely from Qurayyah itself) to major sites in the southern Levant, especially the southern Negev copper mining site of Timna, where it was dated to the late 14th to 12th centuries BCE.

At Qurayyah, we excavated one of the site’s many kilns to determine when and where this pottery was first produced. Surprisingly, the pottery we found was significantly older than the dated examples from Timna. Radiocarbon dating of the kiln’s fuel materials showed that this pottery was first produced toward the end of the Middle Bronze Age and the beginning of the Late Bronze Age (c. 17th–15th centuries BCE). This earlier ware, which we now term Standard Qurayyah Painted Ware, features finely painted geometric, floral, and animal designs that tend to be limited to lion, gazelle, and ibex. Our petrographic and neutron activation analyses have confirmed that this earlier pottery was produced locally and then exported to major trade centers in the southern Levant and North Arabia.

From the 14th to 12th centuries BCE, Qurayyah’s painted pottery showed further stylistic developments, with decoration featuring a much broader range of animals—including bulls, deer, ostriches, dogs, jerboa (desert rodents), and large lizards—as well as human figures (possibly warriors or hunters) that wear skirts and are armed with daggers. This style represents the Qurayyah Painted Ware identified at Timna and other Late Bronze and early Iron Age sites in the southern Levant and previously identified as “Midianite Pottery.”

Qurayyah continued to produce painted pottery through the Iron Age (c. 11th–6th centuries BCE), with the camel gradually becoming a favorite decorative element. The last examples of Qurayyah Painted Ware date to the fourth century BCE, by which time animal and other figurative decoration had been abandoned in favor of purely geometric designs.