Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Peter Pavuk, Barbara Horejs, Mittel- und spätbronzezeitliche Keramik Griechenlands. Sammlung Fritz Schachermeyr, Faszikel III. Denkschriften der philosophisch-historischen Klasse, 439; Veröffentlichungen der Mykenischen Kommission, 31. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2012. Pp. 226. ISBN 9783700170860. €59.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Jeremy B. Rutter, Dartmouth College (

Version at BMCR home site


This third fascicule in a series publishing the late Professor Fritz Schachermeyr's teaching collection of prehistoric pottery from the eastern Mediterranean is devoted to Greek pottery dating from the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. Peter Pavúk presents 52 sherds and one complete pot of Middle Bronze [MB] and early Late Bronze [LB] date from seven sites in central and southern Greece (three in the east-central Greek mainland inclusive of Euboea, two in the Peloponnese, one on the island of Aegina in the middle of the Saronic Gulf, and one on the Cycladic island of Paros; 89-129, Map 3). Barbara Horejs describes a further 35 sherds from handmade LB vessels recovered from six sites in northern Greece (four in central Macedonia, one in Thessaly, and one in the Spercheios River valley of northernmost east-central Greece); 131 Map 4, 146-171). Virtually all of the pottery in question is illustrated by line drawings (Figs. 14-24, 30-37). A handsome set of 22 plates present large-scale photographic images of all 88 pieces in color, with close-up details of the exterior surfaces of 24 selected pieces intended to highlight the colors of clay grounds and paints as well as the surface treatments and even something of the fabrics (Pls. 1-2, 13-14).

As has been characteristic of previous fascicules in this series, the authors accompany their catalogues of fragmentary pottery with essays on related topics. Pavúk's first such contribution discusses the development, classification, and distribution of Gray Minyan ware, arguably the most distinctive and in some regions also the most commonly occurring of all MB ceramic categories on the Greek mainland (13-39). In a second essay, he surveys the terminal MB and earliest LB phases—Middle Helladic [MH] III and Late Helladic [LH] I-IIA, the so-called Shaft Grave era in the Argive heartland of the mainland Greek Bronze Age—in regions slightly further to the north, namely the Corinthia and central Greece (40-88). Horejs contributes considerably briefer essays, one summarizing the current state of scholarship on LB pottery from Macedonia and Thessaly (130-143), and a second on the relative and absolute chronology of the central Macedonian LBA (144-145).

The six chapters outlined above are introduced by brief forewords from the series editor, Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy (7-8) and the two authors (9), as well as by a short introduction jointly written by the latter in which the book's organization is previewed and the value of teaching collections such as Schachermeyr's in Vienna, and others located in Athens, Thessaloniki, and Ankara, is stressed (11-12). An English summary of the book's contents is provided at the end of the German text (172-175), followed by keys to the densely dotted distribution Maps 1(17), 5(140), 6(141), and 7 (155), those to the last three amplified by bibliographical references. The book closes with a 20-page bibliography; there is no index.

Horejs's principal contribution in the lengthier of her two essays is to provide an update, insofar as the LBA pottery of Macedonia and Thessaly specifically is concerned, of the 1997 overview of these regions published by Andreou, Fotiadis, and Kotsakis.1 The special value of this update lies in the fact that it consists largely of a précis of Horejs's much more detailed investigation of Macedonian handmade LB pottery in her 2007 monograph on the quite recently excavated LB ceramic sequence from the important central Macedonian site of Ayios Mamas (prehistoric Olynthus).2 As stressed by Horejs, with the publication of the LB ceramic sequences from Kastanas by Hochstetter (1984), from Toumba Thessalonikis by Kiriatzi (2000), and from Ayios Mamas by herself, the typology and technology of the handmade pottery of LB central Macedonia are now exceptionally well-documented, as is the wheel-made Mycenaean pottery of this region, thanks to the work of Reinhard Jung. Interestingly, almost all of the scholarship on the pottery in question has been published in either German or Greek.3 A second helpful feature of Horejs's essay are distribution maps of the distinctive Bronze Age cooking pots known as pyraunoi (138 Fig.28, top right; 140 Map 5), of Mycenaean pottery from sites throughout the northern Aegean (141 Map 6), and of wishbone-handled shallow bowls in the northern Aegean and central Balkans (155 Map 7).4

Horejs's much briefer contribution on LB Macedonian chronology makes clear how Bernard Hänsel's excavations at Kastanas in the later 1970's laid the groundwork for the currently accepted system and also explains why his later excavations at Ayios Mamas in the mid-1990's were necessary to establish when the local LBA began (145 Table 20). She persuasively argues that attempts to raise the date for the beginning of the Protogeometric era (the beginning of the Iron Age) by up to 40-50 years on the basis of dendrochronological samples excavated at Assiros must be rejected.

As his historical introduction to the topic makes clear, Pavúk is by no means the first Aegean prehistorian to take a particular interest in Gray Minyan since the term's entry into Greek archaeological literature after Bulle's 1907 publication of his excavations at Boeotian Orchomenos. But he may be the only one since Schliemann to have come to the Greek material after years of studying the very similar MB-LB gray ware of north-west Anatolia, by way of his 2005 dissertation at Tübingen on the early and middle strata of Troy VI, rather than proceeding in the opposite direction from Greece to the Troad. His assessment of the Greek ceramic categories variously termed True Minyan, Dark Minyan, Dark Burnished, Argive Minyan, and Dark Tempered Ware is thoroughly up to date. His approach to these variants of what is evidently a single tradition of dark- burnished fine wares eventually adopted for most open shapes from Thessaly (and even some coastal regions of central Macedonia) to the southernmost Peloponnese is noteworthy for making as clear as the evidence presently permits how much the gray-surfaced variants of this tradition differ from region to region in both their frequency and some aspects of their appearance. To this end, he has collected as much data as possible on the local rises and falls in popularity of the many distinct varieties of dark-surfaced Minyan (Tables 1-16), notwithstanding the numerous different ways in which excavators and pottery specialists have reported their data. Though these data are consequently all too often not directly comparable, as Pavúk concedes (37), they nevertheless allow the proportion of Gray Minyan to be evaluated stratigraphically at individual sites and make very clear in what regions of the mainland the True (Gray) Minyan of ceramic purists is most at home (17 Map 1; site key on 177). True Gray Minyan was evidently produced throughout much of central Greece. Pavúk is confident that western Boeotian products can be distinguished from eastern Boeotian ones (16), while central Euboea may represent yet another major production zone, with additional but lesser centers of manufacture possibly located in southern Thessaly, the Spercheios Valley, and Attica. Confirmation of the distinctions that Pavúk claims are possible on the basis of macroscopic examination, of course, will have to be provided by future programs of trace-element analysis, probably best undertaken in tandem with petrographic examination. Only then may it become possible to assess the extent to which Gray Minyan vessels were exchanged between the regions of its maximum popularity. But the finds of True Gray Minyan in small quantities in such locales as the Cycladic islands, coastal Aetolia, and southern Laconia already show that this fine wheel-made tableware, in several respects clearly imitative of metal containers, was quite widely traded. While True Gray Minyan appears to be invariably wheel-thrown, there are several other varieties of Gray or Dark Minyan that are either wheel-finished but coil-made or else entirely handmade. The application of more discriminating analyses of production techniques so as to identify distinctive vessel-forming traditions (or chaînes opératoires) is another method by which local schools of Minyan production may be isolated in the future, a method that has already been successfully applied (35 note 152) to the earliest Gray Minyan of the Early Helladic III period from Lerna.5

In his second essay, Pavúk surveys the evidence from central Greece for the transition from the MBA to the earliest stages of the LBA by reviewing the stratigraphic and ceramic sequences available from four individual sites representative of their respective regions: Eutresis (interior Boeotia), Kirrha (coastal Phocis), Korakou (coastal Corinthia), and Thermon (interior Aetolia). In a fifth sub-section of this chapter, he reviews some additional evidence from three further Boeotian sites – Orchomenos, Elateia (Drachmani), and Hyria (Dramesi) – as well as taking brief note of scattered early Mycenaean evidence from a number of other sites in Euboea, Locris, Phocis, and Attica. He leaves aside the sites of Pevkakia (coastal Thessaly) and Kiapha Thiti (interior Attica) as already covered in detail and relatively recently (1992) by Joseph Maran. His aim is to demonstrate how important the survivals of MH traditions are in the material culture of this large swath of central Greece well down into Mycenaean times. Lustrous-decorated pottery in the LH I style is rare at these sites, and even in LH IIA accounts for only a small percentage of their total ceramic assemblages. As a consequence, the early Mycenaean era in this region needs to be identified by what are effectively non-Mycenaean ceramic types, whether these are Minoanizing shapes in Gray Minyan Ware or late classes of matt-painted pottery such as the distinctive bichrome-decorated ware known as Mainland Polychrome Matt-painted. Previous overviews of central Greece in early Mycenaean times have claimed that there was a significant drop in settlement density during the LH I period, but Pavúk demonstrates convincingly that these have ignored such important indicators of LH I date as those cited above. He also makes the interesting observation that the distribution of Mainland Polychrome Matt-painted virtually duplicates that of late examples of True Gray Minyan, thus suggesting that vessels in these two very different wares may have traveled together as trade goods from their largely Boeotian centers of production. In addition, he notes that specific burial practices - for example, the preponderance of built rather than rock-cut chamber tombs – may likewise be characteristic of both the later MH as well as early LH phases in central Greece and thus constitute another element of continuity in material culture between the two periods. Particularly stimulating are Pavúk's suggested targets for future investigation (87-88). Can a minor but noticeable cultural divide between western Boeotia (centered around Orchomenos) and eastern Boeotia (centered around Thebes) be sustained? How is the apparently local school of pottery production centered at Dramesi in coastal eastern Boeotia that appears to imitate Aeginetan ceramic production in the earlier MH era to be evaluated, especially in comparison to evidence from the northeastern Peloponnese that puts Aeginetan ceramic influence at its height appreciably later, in the LH I period? What will more detailed analysis of the spread of Mycenaean decorated pottery into central Greece during LH I and LH IIA have to teach us about the process of Mycenaeanization in this region? For that matter, at what point between LH IIA and LH IIIA2, and why, does "Mycenaeanization" seem to be complete enough for regions such as Boeotia, Phocis, Locris, and even Attica to be considered fully "Mycenaean" in terms of their material culture? Are the changes in basic settlement organization and cemetery placement during the Shaft Grave era that were noted by Maran in 1995 as true of central Greece as they are of other regions?6


1.   S. Andreou, M. Fotiadis, and K.Kotsakis, "Review of Aegean Prehistory V. The Neolithic and Bronze Age of Northern Greece," AJA 100(1997) 537-597, esp. 576-586, reprinted in T. Cullen (ed.), Aegean Prehistory: A Review (Boston 2001) 259-319, esp. 298-308, and there supplemented by "Addendum: 1996-1999" (ibid., 320-327, esp. 323-326).
2.   B. Horejs, Das prähistorische Olynth: Ausgrabungen in der Toumba Agios Mamas 1994-1996 I: Die spätbronzezeitliche handgemachte Keramik der Schichten 13 bis 1 [Prähistorische Archäologie in Südosteuropa 21] (Rahden/Westfalen 2007).
3.   The numerous preliminary reports of the findings of the British School's excavations at Assiros during the 1970's and 1980's have not yet been supplanted by a final evaluation of the LB ceramics recovered at that site.
4.   Map 7 actually appears in Horejs's chapter containing her sherd catalogue, ostensibly because it accompanies three examples of wishhbone handles in the Schachermeyr collection from the site of Stivos. This map might have been better located between Fig. 28 where a complete wishbone-handled bowl is illustrated (bottom, middle) and the text on the following page (139) where pyraunoi, wishbone-handled bowls, and globular kantharoi are cited as the three "Leitformen" of Macedonian handmade LB pottery.
5.   M. Choleva, "The First Wheelmade Pottery at Lerna: Wheel-thrown or Wheel-fashioned?," Hesperia 81(2012) 343- 381 [cited by Pavúk as "Holeva, im Druck"].
6.   J. Maran, "Structural Changes in the Pattern of Settlement during the Shaft Grave Period on the Greek Mainland," in R. Laffineur and W.-D. Niemeier, POLITEIA: Society and State in the Aegean Bronze Age [Aegaeum 12] (Liège/Austin 1995) I: 67-72. For a very recent overview of the "Mycenaeanization" of Attica that appeared only after Pavúk's essay had gone to press, see S. Privitera, Principi, Pelasgi, e pescatori: L'Attica nella Tarda Età del Bronzo [Studi di Archeologia e di Topografia di Atene e dell'Attica 7] (Athens 2013).

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