Friday, September 21, 2012


Laura Danile, La ceramica grigia di Efestia dagli inizi dell'età del ferro all'alto-arcaica. Monografie della Scuola archeologica di Atene e delle missioni italiane in Oriente, XX, 2/1. Atene: Scuola archeologica italiana di Atene, 2011. Pp. 238; xxxiv p. of plates. ISBN 9789609839792. €70.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Søren Handberg, Aarhus University (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is at the end of the review.]

This volume is the first in a planned series of monographs devoted to the excavations at Hephaestia on Lemnos, undertaken by the Italian School of Archaeology at Athens. The aim of the volume is two-fold: First, the volume includes an extensive initial typology of Early Iron Age grey ware ceramics on Lemnos, which is based on a single deposit of an embankment fill of a recently excavated part of an Archaic fortification wall at the isthmus. Second, it adds substantial new evidence to inform the ongoing debates concerning inter-Aegean networks in the post- Mycenaean period.

In the first two chapters, the author sets the stage for the study of the grey ware from Hephaestia. Chapter 1 reviews the evidence for inter-regional communications in the Aegean after the collapse of the Mycenaean palaces, emphasizing the role of Euboea and the northern Aegean. Chapter 2 clearly presents the complex terminology employed in discussions of Bronze and Early Iron Age grey wares such as Grey Minyan Ware, Aeolian and Anatolian grey wares.

Chapter 3 begins with a brief but informative historiography of the archaeological explorations on the island undertaken by the Italian School of Archaeology since 1926, albeit with long periods of interruption. The remainder of the chapter covers the contextual and stratigraphic evidence of the embankment fill that was excavated along a stretch of an early Archaic fortification wall, possibly of the agger type, in the years 2003-2007. The fill contains thousands of pottery fragments dating to the period from the late 11th to the early 7th century BC, mostly pertaining to grey ware pottery, and as such the deposit forms the basis of Danile's study. The exact depositional circumstances by which the fill containing earlier material ended up alongside the later Archaic wall are not, however, well understood from the descriptions provided. But as the author points out, the final interpretation of this important structure has not yet been offered.1

Chapter 4, which contains detailed catalogues of the various ceramic groups from the embankment fill, forms the bulk of the volume. The catalogues comprise grey ware (159 entries), Protogeometric amphoras (11 entries), so- called beige ware (32 entries), G 2-3 ware (10 entries) and some impasto pottery and fragments with a brown gloss. All of the classes are grouped and discussed according to form. The detailed catalogue is preceded by discussions of the reduction firing technique and the incised decoration that is occasionally found on the grey ware. The chapter also includes a very useful estimation of the absolute numbers of the different shapes, something which has often been omitted from primary publications of ceramic assemblages, although the method by which these numbers are obtained is not explained in detail. Unfortunately, the stratigraphic sequence observed during the excavation of the embankment fill appears to be artificial, as there are several joining fragments across the different layers. It is more likely to represent a secondary dump than accumulated layers, which the author also acknowledges. Consequently, it is not possible to obtain a relative development of the grey ware, and the proposed chronology therefore rests on comparisons with grey ware from well-defined contexts elsewhere. Here, Danile provides ample references to published comparanda. Several of the grey ware shapes have not previously been identified on the island and are presented for the first time in this volume. Overall, the catalogues and the discussion of the different shapes are informative, and all the ceramics included are well illustrated; one might only regret that the presence of repair holes, which are visible on some of the illustrated pieces (figs. 26 and 42), are not included in the catalogue descriptions. 2

Chapters 5 and 6 place the grey ware from Hephaestia in the larger context of grey ware from other parts of the island and the rest of the north Aegean and western Anatolia. Chapter 6 picks up and continues the discussion from Chapter 1 of interAegean communications. Contacts (of an obscure nature) with Euboea in the second half of the 10th century BC appear most evident from similarities between Danile's Type I krater and the Black Slipped skyphos on Euboea, which, according to the author, represents the only known parallel outside Lemnos. The chapter also includes a survey of grey ware at sites in the Thermaic Gulf, a small part of southern Thrace, the north Aegean islands and western Anatolia, and the author suggests the presence of imports from Lemnos at several sites (e.g., at Torone, Kavala and Thasos). The survey also emphasizes that there is still relatively little published evidence for Protogeometric grey wares in the Aegean. In addition, the chapter updates Bayne's survey of grey ware in the area, information which scholars with a particular interest in grey ware will appreciate.3

In the final chapter, Chapter 7, Danile offers a summary of the grey ware from Hephaestia and convincingly argues that the local ceramic production continued uninterrupted from perhaps as early as the Late Bronze Age until the 6th century BC. In doing so, she substantiates and augments earlier claims of continued occupation at Hephaestia after the Late Helladic period, thus filling in a pre-existing chronological gap in the island's history. The importance of this realization is underlined by the fact that, apart from Troy, Hephaestia is the only place in the north Aegean where a continuation from the Late Bronze to the Early Iron Age can be traced (although architectural evidence is still lacking). The author's study of the chronology of the grey ware from other sites suggests that the dates that have previously been ascribed to some grey ware on Lemnos might be too low, even though most shapes can still only be broadly dated. Furthermore, the author places not only the grey ware, but material cultures of the island as a whole in the north-Aegean koine (a term whose meaning generally remains unclear) of the Early Iron Age. Here, especially the Protogeometric amphoras decorated with concentric circles portray trade relations to the Euboean sphere in Thessaly, the Chalcidice peninsula, the north Aegean islands and the Aeolian mainland.

The volume concludes with an appendix on the chemical analyses of a sample of the ceramics from the embankment fill undertaken by N. Zacharias and M. Kaparou and written in English. The main aim is to group the pottery according to clay fabrics and to ascertain firing temperatures. This is an important part of ceramic studies today, and it is commendable that such a study is included in the volume. Through the combined use of a scanning electron microscope and x-ray fluorescence analysis, it is possible to divide the ceramics into three different groups (A-C) based on chemical features (although fragments of a krater, cat. no. 6, appear to be represented in both group A and B). Some interesting observations emerge from this study. If the groupings can be related to workshops, as the authors hint at, it seems that one workshop (or a succession of workshops) exclusively produced reduction-fired vessels, whereas another produced both reduced and oxidized vessels of the same shape. The study also indicates a degree of correspondence between the samples taken from the pottery and the samples obtained from clay beds on the island. Along this line of argument, the idea of two early workshops existing at Hephaestia is intriguing and worth pursuing in more detail. In this regard, it would have been desirable to include a geological map showing the location of the four different samples taken from clay beds. The question of different workshops and their productions (and other questions could be raised) represent "missed opportunities" as they are not discussed at any length, and Danile's study could have benefitted from considering the results of the chemical analyses in more detail; this would certainly form an ideal topic for a future study.

The volume ends with summaries in Greek and English. This reviewer noticed only a few insignificant editing mistakes, and some readers might miss a geographical index.

Overall, the author is to be commended for this prompt publication of a large body of ceramics from an important context, which, especially in regard to the grey ware pottery of the northern Aegean and the Aeolian area, is in short supply (with the exception of Troy). With the volume in question, Danile adds an important piece to the large puzzle of understanding the cultural development that took place in the north Aegean in the Early Iron Age. The evidence presented will certainly stimulate further discussions within the field, and the volume will no doubt be essential reading to all scholars interested in the Early Iron Age Aegean.

Table of Contents

Prefazione (E. Greco)
1. L'Egeo Settentrionale tra Inizi Etá Del Ferro ed Etá Arcaica: Status Quaestionis e Prospettive di Ricerca
2. La Ceramica Grigia nel Nord Egeo
3. Gli Scavi di Efestia
4. I Materiali di Efestia
5. La Ceramica Grigia negli Altri Contesti dell'Isola
6. La Distribuzione della Ceramica Grigia nel Nord Egeo
7. La Ceramica Grigia di Efestia: Alcune Considerazioni
Appendix. Archaeological Pottery from Lemnos. A Technological Case Study
Ellenco delle Illustrazioni


1.   For another recent discussion of the fortification wall, see R. Frederiksen, Greek City Walls of the Archaic Period 900-480 BC. Oxford monographs on classical archaeology. Oxford; New York. Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. 59, 148-149
2.   For a recent discussion of how ancient pottery repairs might reflect socio-economic conditions, see P. Guldager Bilde, P. and S. Handberg, "Ancient Repairs on Pottery from Olbia Pontica", American Journal of Archaeology 116.3 (2012), pp. 461-481.
3.   N. Bayne, The Grey Wares of North-West Anatolia in the Middle and Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age and their Relation to the Early Greek Settlements. Asia Minor Studien 37. Bonn 2000.

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