Friday, March 30, 2012


Elizabeth Schofield, Ayia Irini: the Western sector. Keos, 10. Darmstadt: Verlag Philipp Von Zabern, Pp. xix, 224; 84 p. of plates. ISBN 9783805343336. €86.00. Contributors: Contributions by Jack L. Davis and Carol Hershenson and Architectural Drawings by Whitney Powell-Cummer.

Reviewed by Vassilis P. Petrakis, National Hellenic Research Foundation (

Version at BMCR home site

[The volume's contents are included at the end of this review]

The tenth volume in the illustrious series of monographs publishing the results of Caskey's excavations at Ayia Irini on the island of Kea (Cyclades) deals with the so-called Western Sector, a cluster of buildings situated immediately to the west of the site's most imposing building, known as 'House' A, the subject of an earlier monograph by the same author.1 Based on a core of substantial study by the late Elizabeth Schofield, and supplemented by excellent editorship, this volume publishes architecture and deposits from the entire cluster, dated to the final Middle Bronze Age phases (Period V) and to the early Late Bronze Age (Period VI, contemporary with the Late Minoan IA/Late Helladic I; Period VIIa, with early Late Minoan IB/Late Helladic IIA; Period VIIb, with late Late Minoan IB/Late Helladic IIA/IIB transitional and Period VIIc, Late Helladic IIB). Material from the Late Bronze Age III phases, which was found in some quantities in the Western Sector, is not included, but will be dealt with in separate monographs.

It is important for the reader to bear in mind the long history of this volume. Parts of it, especially the publication of House C, began life as parts of Schofield's (then Milburn) doctoral dissertation.2 An important part had been completed before the author's untimely passing in 2005.3 Davis's involvement in this volume is not simply editorial. Originally responsible for the publication of the Period VI site, he was an early collaborator on this publication, and had placed all relevant notes at Schofield's disposal when he could no longer continue in this project due to other commitments. It is difficult not to think that, with his initial involvement and now editing, Davis should have co-authored the book, as was Schofield's original intention (p. vii). However, his decision to release this work under her single authorship deserves praise.

The structure of the volume follows the Western Sector's topography, dealing separately with different structures and areas in seven substantial chapters (flanked by a short Introduction on the topography of Western Sector and Conclusions). The description of artefacts and building techniques follows closely the author's publication of House A, to which the reader is referred. The focus of the volume is clearly on the architecture and on the identification of the successive building episodes. The text is always very effective and the organisation is quite user-friendly. Chapters II and V-VIII present and discuss individual buildings ('Houses') and room complexes (the so-called 'Infill') and typically begin with a short and comprehensive introduction, a presentation and interpretation—room/area by room/area—and a final synthesis, which attempts to outline the history of each area. This 'formula' is only not followed where it would have been ineffective: the complexity of the situation in the so-called 'Central Block' (Chapter III) suggested that a chronological account of the area's arrangement be placed at the beginning of the chapter. The 'Spring Chamber' and the adjacent 'Western Square' (later succeeded by the 'Platform') form the most 'fragmentated' part of the volume, but even this seems too strong a word: the absence of a final synthetic section here does not inhibit comprehension by any means. Pottery, terracotta, stone, metal and other finds, selectively used in the text to support chronological matters and the interpretation on the function of spaces, are always listed separately at the end of each chapter. Finds are shortly described, numbered continuously through chapters II-VIII and always accompanied by references to Plates. Plans, photographs and drawings are all of outstanding quality.4 The choice of concordances for the Appendices I-III is also very reasonable, listing unstratified finds separately (avoiding assumptions as to their assignment) and giving essential information from those wishing to pursue any aspect further, digging into earlier reports and primary excavation data. The presentation, as a whole, is impeccable.

An important general impression gained by reading through this masterful presentation is that there is no single uniform account of the architectural history of the Western Sector as a whole. Rather, we should think of different successions of architectural episodes creating histories in the Plural. The construction, re-construction and reorganization follow individual trajectories in most cases. However, there are features which affect the overall structure of the Western Sector: besides the natural contour of the slope and the fortification wall, the stepped 'Spring Chamber' (and the 'Platform' associated with it) is a so-far unparalleled feature, whose short life (Periods VIIa and perhaps VIIb at best) is quite intriguing. Perhaps its end can be associated with a contamination of the source by saltwater following a tectonic event (p.56), but the reasons for its late construction remain to be discussed. 'House' C is definitely one of the most important buildings in Ayia Irini, sharing many architectural refinements with 'House' A and second in size only to it in Period VI.

Points of criticism in such a magnificent volume can only be minor. The editors have noted certain discrepancies between Schofield's text and the field sheet marks and made the elegant editorial decision to leave them uncorrected, but explicitly noted in Davis' Foreword (p. ix: a list every reader should carefully check). However, these points should have been cautioned in the text itself, even as footnotes, since casual readers might not read the Foreword at all. Conclusions could also have been differently structured, in order to make it easier for the reader to grasp what the general picture is in a clear way, avoiding the outline of the progress of Schofield's views with extensive excerpts from unpublished papers that could have been included in an Appendix. It is not really critical to note that, with the exception of a few notes on the comparison between 'Houses' A and C, the challenge of placing the architectural histories of the Western Sector within the development of Periods V-VII Ayia Irini, or the whole southern Aegean in the early Late Bronze Age, is largely left for the interested reader. One might also have expected the Conclusions to have incorporated more discussion of the stratigraphic evidence on the distinction of pre- and post-destruction Late Helladic IIB pottery (for some interesting deposits from the 'Infill' see pp.165-166, 168), but this can always be discussed elsewhere and in a much more liberal format. Schofield, Davis and Hershenson put at our disposal a vast amount of reliable data so well-presented that they illuminate enormously a difficult and complex part of this important settlement. This is already an amazing feat. Every Aegeanist should be grateful.

No reasonable criticism can possibly obscure this reviewer's opinion that Keos X is a major scholarly as well as editorial achievement, and a true progress in our knowledge of one of the key sites for understanding the material correlates of the 'Minoanisation' of the southern Aegean extra-Cretan cultures. Beyond any reasonable doubt, this posthumous publication should be in every library with a serious interest in Aegean prehistory. Moreover, meticulous work by the editors managed to transform it into the truly monumental swansong Liz Schofield's career deserved.

Table of Contents

Foreword [by Jack L. Davis] (vii)
Abbreviations (xiii)
Bibliography (xv)
List of Plates (xvii)
I. The Western Sector
II. House F (3)
Introduction (3)
Room F.1 (4)
Rooms F.2-F.5 (5)
Room F.6 (9)
Terrace Z.1 (9)
Summary and Discussion (10)
Catalogue (15)
III. The Central Block (29)
Introduction (29)
Chronology of Construction (30)
Description of Spaces (31)
Catalogue (40)
IV. The Spring Chamber and Its Access (53)
The Town Wall and the Spring Chamber (53)
The Spring Chamber (53)
The Western Square (53)
Alley W.40 (56)
Alley/Drain W.47 (57)
The Platform: Spaces W.48-W.51 (58)
Spaces W.41-W.43 (61)
Courtyard W.44/W.45 (61)
Room W.46 (61)
Catalogue (62)
V. House J and Its Environs (77)
Introduction (77)
Rooms J.1 and J.2 (77)
Room J.3 (79)
Room J.4 (80)
Room J.5 (81)
Room J.6 (81)
The Stairway (82)
Cupboard Beneath the Stairs (83)
Room J.7 (83)
Space W.53 (84)
North and East of House J (85)
House J: Summary and Discussion (85)
Catalogue (88)
VI. House EJ and Its Environs (101)
Introduction (101)
West of House EJ (101)
House EJ (102)
Summary and Interpretation (111)
Catalogue (114)
VII. House C and Its Environs (135)
Rooms C.1-C.4 (135)
The Eastern Terrace (138)
Alley AC and Space W.19 (139)
Rooms W.13 and W.14
Rooms W.10/W.11
Room W.12
Room W.15/W.18
VIII. The Infill Between Houses C and EJ (159)
Room W.4 (159)
Room W.6 (160)
Room W.7-W.9 (160)
Room W.20-W.22 (162)
Room W.23, W.24 and W.25 (164)
Room W.33 (166)
Summary and Interpretation (167)
Catalogue (169)
IX. Conclusions (191)
Appendix I. Unstratified Finds (197)
Appendix II. Inventory and Field Numbers to Catalogue Numbers (201)
Appendix III. Publication Room Numbers to Excavation Room Numbers (211)
Index (213)
Plates 1-84


1.   W. W. Cummer and E. Schofield Keos III. Ayia Irini: House A, Mainz: von Zabern 1984.
2.   E. Milburn Aegean pottery from Late Bronze Age Houses at Ayia Irini in Keos, Doctoral Dissertation, University of Cincinnati 1965.
3.   Obituary by G. Cadogan, 'Elizabeth Schofield, 1935-2005' American Journal of Archaeology 110 (2006), 157-159.
4.   Although the 'logical', 'zoom-in' succession of Plates is 1a to 2 and back to 1b, Plate 2 still needed a full-page print to be legible and this would demand an extra plate sheet.

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