Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Polixeni Adam-Veleni, Eurydice Kefalidou, Despoina Tsiafaki (ed.), Κεραμικά εργαστήρια στο Βορειοανατολικό Αιγαίο (8ος – αρχές 5ου αι. π.Χ). Ημερίδα ΑΜΘ 2010/ Pottery workshops in northeastern Aegean (8th – early 5th c. BC). Scientific meeting AMTh 2010. Έκδοση Αρχαιολογικού Μουσείου Θεσσαλονίκης, 21. Thessaloniki: Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, 2013. Pp. 256. ISBN 9789609621137. €20.00.

Reviewed by Emmanouil Kalkanis, Thessaloniki (emmanouil.kalkanis@gmail.com)

Version at BMCR home site

This homogeneous set of case studies and archaeological research includes 22 articles: 20 are written in Greek, two in English. Given the number of the contributions, this review intends to give an overview of the volume, not a critique of each contribution. The volume, which, in a sense, may be considered an overall report of several excavations that took place during the last few decades – or even earlier – near Thessaloniki, is organised into two sections. The first is dedicated to pottery workshops as they developed and spread from the east to the west of Northern Greece. The second and longer part examines the pottery itself. Whether local pottery production was related to simple craft activity for household needs or to commerce and exchange, the papers work from the shared premise that these workshops have a long tradition, though our knowledge for their function is still quite limited and, thus, no easy conclusions can be made.

Despoina Tsiafaki's paper serves as a comprehensive preface to the volume and frames the whole collection. By presenting an outline of pottery production in Northern Greece, she offers a useful account that not only stresses the geographic and chronological framework, but also the scientific context for the following essays. She devotes the bulk of the introduction to a brief overview of the whole volume. This is certainly useful for readers navigating through the collection. Still, I would have welcomed further reflection from the editors on the individual essays.

The second introductory essay, written by Michalis Tiverios, attempts to classify the pottery that was manufactured in the coastal areas of Northern Greece during the Geometric and Archaic period. The pottery produced in this area is classified into four groups: colonial (vessels made by potters who were trained in one of the great workshops of the ancient Greek world), semi-colonial (vessels that maintain only some features of the first group together with local influences), indigenous pottery (a clearly local tradition), and local (vessels that combine features of both the 'colonial' and 'indigenous' groups).

Next, Jacques Perrault, Francine Blondé, and Katerina Peristeri remind us of the results of the excavations from 1985 to 1989 of a Late Archaic period pottery workshop on the southwestern coast of the island of Thasos (Phari). Although the discussion has been published several times by the excavators already, this new reading improves our understanding of the organisation and function of regional pottery workshops in Northern Greece (e.g., the architectural remains related to pottery production are particularly interesting).

John K. Papadopoulos shares some further thoughts on the Early Iron Age potter's kiln at Torone, initially published over 20 years ago. The Torone kiln, which is an important Late Geometric kiln, is discussed in the context of pottery workshops in the northeast Aegean. For instance, the social context in which the potters worked seemed to play a major role in keeping the boundaries of the traditions of handmade and wheelmade pottery 'well defined and thereby rendering their coexistence possible' (47). These results highlight several interesting developments in the study of this pottery workshop. Additionally, the inclusion of a comprehensive list of the kiln pottery—which was rather diverse in terms of fabric and technique—is a great asset to the reader, facilitating easier cross-reference.

Next, Electra Anagnostopoulou-Chatzipolychroni offers a comprehensive presentation of the findings from a series of excavations that took place along the coastal area of ancient Mendi. Among the remains of pottery workshops, five kilns are dated to the first decades of the 5th c. BC. The most characteristic finds of these kilns were local painted pottery and transport amphorae sherds. The morphological similarities of the latter with the Thasian amphorae, the amphorae of the so-called 'Thasian circle', and the amphorae from the northern Aegean may lead to the assumption that the production of local transport amphorae had adopted the same types as the most important wine-producing centers. This seems to have been the case until the known types of amphorae from Mendi emerged as dominant in the region. Small circular kilns, workshop-related objects, sherds from 5th c. BC, amphorae and other finds from the Hellenistic period also demonstrate the uninterrupted activity of the pottery workshop during the 5th and 4th centuries.

Dina Kousoulakou briefly examines a pottery workshop excavated to the south of the modern village of Potidaia, which had been in use from the Archaic to the Roman period. Although the pear-shaped kiln was found empty, its deposits contained several sherds from painted vessels; many were imported from Corinth, while others could have been manufactured there. A comprehensive presentation of archaeological research related to an Archaic workshop that was part of the ancient settlement situated in Karabournaki, Thessaloniki. Despoina Tsiafaki and Eleni Manakidou show how chemical and petrographic analyses were used in order to confirm the suspicion that the discarded material found at the site belongs to the same type of pottery they call 'eggshell pottery' (because of its extreme delicacy). The authors also discuss the workshop's organisation and activity and the length of the production period, as well as the possibility that other groups of pottery, such as 'monochrome ware' could have been produced here.

After a brief overview of the pottery workshops in ancient Methoni, a long essay by Evangelia Stefani reviews the pottery workshops at Lefkopetra on the southeastern slopes of Mount Vermion. The excavation revealed workshop and manufacturing activities. Eight pottery kilns were found on site, six of which are presented in detail here. The first three pear-shaped kilns possibly date to an Iron Age phase or immediately after, while the remaining three, which were circular and very well preserved, date to the Late Archaic and Classical periods. As Stefani argues, the finds provide important evidence for research into the economic and social profile of local development rhythms in ceramic production models in the Northern Greek regions especially during formative periods but also the Iron Age and the Archaic era. The author also stresses that the importance of these kilns should be related not only to the prosperity of this particular place but also to the technical knowledge that led to pottery production on an organised basis.

Part II begins with an essay on the sub-protogeometric tradition of the northeastern Aegean. Petya Ilieva's contribution focuses on a fine, well-purified and well-fired tableware of North Aegean origin, the so-called 'G 2-3 Ware'. Through a brief discussion of fabric, decoration, shapes, and chronology, she points out the importance of this ceramic style that seems to emerge in a "mixed cultural and demographic background of Greek settlers and native inhabitants in northeast Anatolian coastal sites and adjacent islands of the North-eastern Aegean" (129).

Next, Martin Perron briefly presents unpublished finds from the Greek-Canadian excavations at Argilos that revealed a great quantity of painted domestic ware of the 6th and 5th centuries BC. Although the shapes and decoration may have been inspired by pottery produced elsewhere in the Aegean, a specific category from this assemblage, the well-known 'waveline' or 'banded' ware, seems to have its origins in Ionia.

The Archaic cemetery of Agia Paraskevi near Thessaloniki, entirely excavated in the early 1980s, is described in the next essay by Theodoros Papakostas. Among the imported pottery from Corinth, Athens, and east Greece, the cemetery had also produced a significant amount of local pottery mostly consisting of the so-called 'Grey Ware'; the exaleiptron and the kantharoid kotyle are among the most popular local shapes.

Turning attention to the study of the potsherds found during the 1977 rescue excavation at Nea Kallikrateia in Chalkidike, Eurydice Kefalidou and Yannis Nazlis examine the sample material from a table, or plateau (Trapeza) that was part of an ancient settlement identified by recent research as one of the three colonies of Eretria in the Thermaic Gulf. This assemblage—sherds from more than one hundred different vessels dating from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age and the Archaic era—underwent elemental analysis in order to determine whether the distinct groups of pottery correspond to equally distinct groups in terms of clay composition.

The so-called 'pre-Persian'pottery, previously known only from the site of Olynthos, is the subject of another contribution. By showing that this group of pottery—comprising vessels with linear, floral, and geometric motifs—comes from both the settlement and the cemetery of Toumba in Thessaloniki, the paper offers a more comprehensive picture of its use and function than was previously available.

Katerina Tzanavari next presents the archaeological data of the first rescue excavation of the Lembet Table (Trapeza) at Polichni (in the western suburbs of Thessaloniki) that took place in 1993. The results allow us to ascertain that habitation began at an early phase of the Iron Age and stopped around the mid-4th c. BC. The so-called 'silverish' pottery, a ceramic group with painted Geometric decoration comprising exceptionally large storage shapes, and a characteristic shape of the so called 'Ionian eggshell' pottery of the Archaic era are both of particular interest here.

Vasiliki Saripanidi overviews the regionally made pottery that was found at the Archaic-Classical cemetery of ancient Sindos. Classifying the related vases into three categories on the basis of their decoration (burnished grey wares, vases with painted linear floral patterns, and glazed or semi-glazed wares), the author focuses on the origins of both shapes and decoration of each category. Regional potters seem to have produced a fairly wide range of hybrid shapes combining elements of different imported traditions on individual pieces. The final essay overviews the locally produced pottery from the cemeteries of Nea Philadelphia near Thessaloniki dating to the Iron Age and the Archaic era.

Two adequate indexes are at the back. Index A presents the most indicative shapes of all the pots that the volume discusses; the images are two-dimensional, interpreting only the outline of the pot. Index B gives a short description of the major types of local pottery presented here. Some of these types have been quite precisely determined on the basis of material, shape, and decoration, while others have been determined on the basis of a single criterion such as colour or decoration. Sadly, there is no English translation for these indexes. The abundant black-and-white illustrations and drawings of individual sherds are as elegant as can be expected for an edited volume of this size and scope. The translated (Greek) essays into (English) abstracts do not always do justice to the rich content of some of the essays. An English introduction would also be a great asset since the English summaries indicate the publishers' desire to reach a foreign audience.

Overall, the volume does justice to the pottery production in Northern Greece from the 8th to the early 5th c. BC, providing us with a fuller picture of an enormous quantity of material that certainly needs to be further studied and technically analysed. On one level, it re-examines previous paths and excavation findings through fresh eyes, while on the other hand it attempts to contextualize the subject matter within a broader comparative frame of northeastern Aegean archaeology. The main strength of this enterprise is the incorporation of evidence from different sites in order to offer a more holistic and complete view of the subject matter within a specific timeframe. In terms of writing style and research quality, there is not much to say given the quantity of the contributions. Besides, this would be unfair to the whole enterprise that successfully attempts to bring together many interesting insights. Thus, a few meticulously documented and illustrated contributions should not overshadow others that are not so carefully argued and contextualised. If one criticism should be made, is that some contributors raise as many problems as they resolve and leave one wondering what the further significance of their arguments might be.

Will this book find a wide and appreciative readership? The illuminating insights into such engaging matters would indicate yes. Though it is not a consistent volume, the compiled collection of worthy contributions reflects the growing research interest in this field from Greek—and non-Greek—professionals.

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