Bryn Mawr Classical Review 98.6.21

J. Snyder Schaeffer, N.H. Ramage and C.H. Greenewalt, Jr., The Corinthian, Attic, and Lakonian Pottery From Sardis. Archaeological Exploration of Sardis Monograph 10. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997. Pp. xx, 151, 66 pls. $60. ISBN 0-674-17160-8.

Reviewed by John K. Papadopoulos, Antiquities, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California 90049-1687,

This volume, the tenth in the monograph series Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, is the first to be devoted exclusively to pottery from the site. Previous volumes in the series have dealt with coins, literary testimonia, epigraphy, glass, metalwork, as well as a number of volumes dealing with Byzantine and Turkish Sardis, the Lydian houses and the Byzantine shops. The volume under review does not present the local Lydian pottery, but some of the most easily identified and most prominent classes of Greek pottery of the Archaic period found in Sardis: the Corinthian, Attic and Lakonian. Although the volume was originally designed to describe the finds from the time when the excavations at Sardis were under the direction of George Hanfmann (1958-1975), the decision was taken to include more recent material, up to about 1990. The volume also includes some pottery from Sardis found by the Butler Expedition in 1910-1914 and 1922. Consequently, the volume provides as up-to-date an overview of these relevant classes of pottery as possible.1 The volume begins with the editor's preface (by Andrew Ramage), followed by the authors' prefaces and a list of abbreviations. It is worth adding that the three chapters are not in a strictly uniform style, and the authors were thus able to express themselves in their own way (see p. x); this is in keeping with the different classes of pottery presented.

The lineup is headed by the Corinthian pottery, written by Judith Snydner Schaeffer, even though the earliest vessel published in the volume is not Corinthian. Some 150 pieces of Corinthian and Corinthianizing pottery are presented (Cor 1-148 and Cor App. 1-2), most of it fragmentary. Individual pieces range in date from Late Geometric (Cor 1-3), through Early Protocorinthian (Cor 4-9), Middle Protocorinthian (Cor 10-25), Late Protocorinthian (Cor 26-51), Transitional (Cor 52-79), Early Corinthian (Cor 80-114), Middle Corinthian (Cor 115-138), to Late Corinthian (Cor 139-143). A number of fragments showing the influence of Corinthian pottery, but not manufactured in Corinth, are presented under the heading of "Corinthianizing," as are several pieces that are probably Corinthian but of unusual fabric (Cor 144-148). The catalogue of the Corinthian ends with the descriptions of two pieces, of uncertain whereabouts, penned by George Henry Chase in 1914, from the Butler Expedition. Among the shapes represented, the kotyle is the most common, accounting for over a third of the Corinthian material from Sardis, and this necessitated a special discussion on kotylai with linear decoration (pp. 8-15). In comparison to the kotylai, skyphoi were rare, with only two pieces catalogued. Together, aryballoi and alabastra represent about a quarter of all the Corinthian, and there are also several kraters, oinochoai, pyxides, and a phiale or plate. The catalogue itself comprises the bulk of the text (pp. 16-62). Individual entries are long; each piece is fully described in a prose style not commonly used for ceramic studies of this sort. Such length seems unwarranted for a class of pottery that is, in the main, fragmentary and of fairly pedestrian character, composed of recurring types (such as kotylai, aryballoi and alabastra) that are well known and fully documented in other publications.2 The catalogue is preceded by an introduction (pp. 2-4), which briefly touches upon the question of the import of Corinthian pottery, though it hardly exhausts the subject. The short section on chronology (pp. 4-5), follows the traditional -- or conventional -- dating proposed by K. Friis Johansen, modified and refined by Humfry Payne, Tom Dunbabin, Nicolas Coldstream and Darrell Amyx. Here there is much rehearsal of material presented in earlier publications with nothing substantially new added. This is followed by brief accounts under the headings "Distribution of finds at Sardis" and "Stratigraphy" (pp. 5-7) that do little to contextualize the material, and there is nothing on the function/use of the pottery in question, and nothing on contemporary pottery and other finds that accompany the Corinthian (see further below). Moreover, although the author alludes to Corinthian pottery that was not catalogued (see, for example, Table 2, p. 6), the reader is nevertheless left wondering as to the precise quantity and nature of the material not catalogued. This is an unfortunate oversight for pottery deriving from an excavated site.

The second chapter, by Nancy Ramage, on the Attic pottery avoids many of the difficulties of Chapter 1. Ramage states early on that more than 600 fragments of Archaic and Classical Attic pottery were found in a period of 33 years of excavation (1958-1990). This is described as a paucity of material, "in contrast to the abundance of sixth- to fourth-century Lydian sherds found at Sardis" (p. 65). Following a brief introduction (p. 65), the author discusses imports and trade relations in a penetrating format (pp. 65-68), that provides a good coverage of the relevant archaeological and historical issues and bibliography. A list of Attic black-figure and red-figure painters and groups follows (pp. 68-69), as does a section on "Condition, Findspots, and Stratigraphy" (pp. 69-71). In the latter, the author provides much relevant detail, including a very useful table giving the distribution of Attic finds by sector (p. 70, Table 1). There is detailed contextual discussion on, for example, an Attic amphoriskos (Att 158), the earliest surviving black-glaze piece imported from Athens, the Corinthian, Ionian and East Greek material with which it was found and its chronological implications. This reader also appreciated the discussion on a sealed context (pp. 70-71) in which over 50 pots were found (two of them Attic), mainly consisting of local Lydian wares. The deposit as a whole, and the Attic pieces in particular, provided the best evidence for dating the destruction with which they were associated: the attack of the Persians in 547/46 B.C. There is a further section on graffiti and dipinti (p. 71), an overview of shapes (pp. 71-72) and an important section on the reuse of Attic fragments (pp. 72-73), that is, pieces altered to serve a purpose other than that for which they were originally intended. A total of 586 Athenian pieces from the 1958 through 1990 excavations are presented, in addition to 38 pieces from the Butler expedition, in the Catalogue (pp. 74-127). The descriptions are judicious, providing as they do detail where it is needed (e.g., for the Merrythought cup, Att 54, pp. 83-84),3 and a more circumscribed coverage elsewhere. The range of Attic pottery represented is of interest: Attic black-figure amphorai (Att 1-17), hydriai (Att 18), olpai (Att 19-20), lekythoi (Att 21-34), dinoi (Att 35-39), column-kraters (Att 40-43), lekanides (Att 44-45), a wide variety of cups, including Komast, Siana, Merrythought, Little Master, Droop and Cassel cups (Att 46-78), skyphoi (Att 79-87), plate (Att 88), as well as indeterminable shapes (Att 89-90). This is followed by the Attic Black Pattern pottery, mostly floral band cups (Att 91-107). The Attic red-figure includes a pelike (Att 108), a possible oinochoe (Att 109), lekythoi (Att 110-112), askoi (Att 113-114), head vases (Att 115-116), kraters (Att 118-123), lekanides (Att 124-125), cups (Att 126-129), skyphoi (Att 130-135) and a fish-plate (Att 136). There is even greater variety among the Attic black-glaze (Att 137-586). Smaller quantities of Attic black-figure, red-figure and black-glaze are presented among the material from the Butler expedition, as are two Athenian Geometric vessels (Att App. 1-2). The latter consist of an Early Geometric one-handled cup, the earliest vessel published in this volume, and a Middle Geometric II skyphos, both now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Together, these two vessels provide important information on the export of Athenian pottery in the Geometric period. The chapter ends with the results of a chemical analysis, by Richard Jones, of some pottery from Sardis, including Attic and local Lydian wares (pp. 128-130). Noteworthy is the presence of suspected Klazomenian black-figure and contemporary Chiot pottery.

The final chapter, by Crawford Greenewalt, Jr., presents the small, but not unimportant quantity of Lakonian pottery found at Sardis through 1993 (pp. 133-140). Some 16 pieces are catalogued, including Lakonian II cups (Lak 1-4), Lakonian black-figure cups (Lak 5-8), Lakonian kraters (Lak 9-15), and an additional black-figure cup found by the Butler expedition (Lak App. 1). In his concluding remarks, Greenewalt notes that the quantity and quality of the Lakonian pottery from Sardis is consistent with the distribution of Lakonian in the eastern Aegean and western Anatolia, and does not reflect the close ties between Lydia and Sparta that Herodotos reports for the reign of Kroisos.4 Here, as in the previous chapters, the mechanisms by which one class of pottery reached Sardis is separated or detached from the other classes. An approach that considers all the imported pottery collectively could potentially lead to conclusions of a more far-reaching nature. And this begs the question: if each individual class of pottery is to be treated separately, why publish it together?

The volume as a whole ends with the customary concordance (pp. 141-146) an index (pp. 147-151), which is very detailed, and photography credits (p. 152). The plates, 66 in all, many combining line-drawings with photographs, are of good quality and the volume itself is well edited and handsomely produced. The only shortcoming is the fact that the first volume in the monograph series from Sardis fully devoted to pottery fails to mention, however succinctly, the other classes of pottery found at the site to date. It is only in Chapter II that local Lydian and East Greek wares are mentioned, albeit indirectly, and this reviewer was left wondering as to the other classes of imported pottery, including other Greek wares, found at the site. A brief account by way of an introductory chapter, or even a few words in the Editor's preface, would have done the trick. Similarly, more could have been said on how the various classes of pottery that were published related to one another; the volume as it stands shares more in common with a Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum volume than it does with one dealing with material from a controlled excavation. This having been said, the volume will quickly find its place as an important reference tool in any archaeological library.  


1. Some of the pieces discovered during the excavations at Sardis under the direction of Howard Crosby Butler are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, others are in the Art Museum, Princeton, while a number of pieces have been lost. The latter, known from earlier descriptions, are also included in this publication.  

2. Also in the realm of unnecessary detail is the table (pp. 18-19), which outlines Munsell Soil Color Chart readings of Corinthian pottery, with chronological distribution (Table 3). Munsell designations are invaluable for providing a shorthand way of representing the color of an individual piece. Although these readings avoid the vagaries of "buff," "reddish yellow" and so on, they are nevertheless approximations and, as such, provide a false sense of scientific precision.  

3. Although this interesting pot is fully published elsewhere, see bibliography on pp. 83-84, and especially N.H. Ramage, "A Merrythought Cup from Sardis," AJA 87, 1983, 453-460.  

4. For the distribution of Lakonian pottery see especially, C.M. Stibbe, Lakonische Vasenmaler des sechsten Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (Amsterdam 1972) and M. Nafissi, "Distribuzione della ceramica laconica," in F. Pompili, ed., Studi sulla ceramica laconica. Atti del seminario, Perugia, 23-24 febbraio 1981 (Perugia 1986) 149-172; id., "Distribution and Trade," in C.M. Stibbe, Laconian Mixing Bowls: A History of the Krater Lakonikos from the Seventh to the Fifth Century B.C. (Amsterdam 1989) 68-88; see further J.K. Papadopoulos, Antike Kunst 35, 1992, 104, n. 126. Greenewalt sees stronger evidence for Lydian-Spartan interchange in the lydions with Lakonian-style painted decoration found in Italy and Sicily, though he quickly adds that these could equally reflect interchange between Sparta and Ionia.