Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.12.31

E. Andrikou, V.L. Aravantinos, L. Godart, A. Sacconi, J. Vroom, Thèbes. Fouilles de la Cadmée, II.2. Les tablettes en linéaire B de la Odos Pelopidou: le contexte archéologique. La céramique de la Odos Pelopidou et la chronologie du linéaire B.   Pisa-Roma:  Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, 2006.  Pp. 257; figs. 66, pls. 77, tables 7, plans 7.  ISBN 88-8147-395-X.  €185.00.  

Reviewed by Georgia Flouda, Greek Ministry of Culture (
Word count: 1788 words

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The second part of volume II of the series Thèbes: Fouilles de la Cadmée is devoted to the archaeological context of the important deposit of 238 Linear B tablets excavated in 1993-1995 in Pelopidou Street in modern Thebes.1 It is divided into three sections: the study of the Mycenaean pottery, the publication of Byzantine and Turkish period ceramic finds, and an essay on the chronology of the Linear B documents discovered so far on the mainland and Crete.

In the main part of the book, Eleni Andrikou presents the Late Helladic III pottery from the three out of the eight trenches that also produced tablets (Trenches IV, V, VI). Despite the significant disturbance of the LH III layers in later times, she has managed to distinguish three strata (3-1, numbered from bottom to top) and the corresponding deposits of pottery. The latter are summarily correlated in the Introduction with the architectural features of the exposed surface as well as with other finds, such as carbonised seeds and fruits and Linear B tablets. Plans 1-3 supplement the analysis of the stratigraphic sequence. However, marking the deposits on Plan 1A as well would have aided the reader in understanding the excavation context.

The classification of pottery into three categories according to the fabric and its treatment (cooking ware, coarse ware, and fine ware respectively) forms the basis for its systematic study in Chapter 2 ("The Pottery"). This starts with the description of the fabric of the vessels of each deposit, the uniformity of which supports the recognition of a local pottery workshop. Table 2 (p. 12) illustrates the classification of the material according to fabric category.

In the following Sections 2.3-2.5, each deposit is treated separately. The individual shapes of each category are discussed and, where possible, the Furumark Shape and parallels from other mainland sites are given. In addition, the author comments upon their representation according to their percentages, which are also summarized in several tables.2 Special attention is paid not only to diagnostic features but also to problems of attribution of sherds to specific shapes. Moreover, characteristics of decoration and shapes common to plain and decorated ware are emphasized. Although the layout is clear enough, the treatment of the 2nd and 3rd category (fine and coarse ware) pottery in common is sometimes confusing. At the end of each subsection, the motifs are discussed according to Furumark's classification and, in some cases, are also assigned to chronological periods. The detailed stylistic analysis of each deposit concludes with a synopsis presenting the author's conclusions and dating the pottery on the basis of comparative material from Boeotia and other LH III sites.

Section 2.6 treats specifically the fragments of bases that were embedded in Floors 1-5. Section 2.7 discusses the examples of pictorial pottery, most of which are dated by Andrikou to LH IIIC Middle (Deposit 1a) and are attributed to local workshops. Among them, cat. no. 359 is to be stressed for its originality, since it depicts a frontal helmeted soldier attacking with an axe. The presence of nine examples of Handmade Burnished ware among the Pelopidou street assemblage (Deposits 1c, 1b) is also remarkable, since it proves for the first time their local production in Thebes (Section 2.8, pp. 53-54).3 Almost all of them belong to open vessels, mainly flat-based jars and bowls for storage in the houses, which were built in LH IIIC Early (3rd building phase). It should be emphasized that the latter offer so far the most systematic evidence of habitation on the Kadmeia hill during the LH IIIC Early and Middle phases, since the excavation of the Pindarou and Antigonis Street sites remains unpublished. Last, but not least, Section 2.9 treats the typology and technical characteristics of the flat and convex tiles from Deposits 2b and 1c, which can be compared to the examples from the Electrai Gates area of the Kadmeia and the fortress of Gla.

Through the accurate and meticulous study of all categories of the selected pottery, Andrikou dates the three successive occupation phases of the site to LH IIIA2, LH IIIB2 and LHIIIC Early-Middle respectively. By briefly reviewing the evidence from mostly unpublished rescue excavations she provides the comparative material for correlating the assemblage under consideration to other contemporary Theban sites and, also, delineates the evolution of occupation during the late Mycenaean period.4 The most interesting outcome of the study is that it firmly establishes the contemporaneity of the destruction deposits of Pelopidou Street Stratum 2 with the buildings that have provided administrative documents (p. 57). Nevertheless, the lack of a detailed topographical plan of the Kadmeia hill leaves the reader without visual orientation regarding the location of the Pelopidou Street excavation and the rest of the LH III sites.

At the end of the text, before an up-to-date bibliography there is an extensive catalogue in which a selection of pottery is discussed according to deposit and fabric category. The latter is illustrated by 24 plates of carefully executed drawings and by 52 plates of photographs.

Joanita Vroom's study of the medieval and post-medieval ceramic finds from 12 rubbish pits and a well on Pelopidou Street ("Byzantine Garbage and Ottoman Waste") updates our knowledge of the Byzantine period habitation of the eastern side of the Kadmeia hill (on p. 181 it is erroneously referred to as the western side). Vroom treats the pits "in order of the alphabetical name and number they received during the excavation". Their content is discussed in broad terms and stratigraphic indications are provided where available. Again, more emphasis is given to the typology and decoration of the ceramic finds. Sections 4 and 5 consist of a catalogue and discussion of eighteen complete vases, mostly narrow-necked jugs, which might have served "for pouring water in a basin during (hand) washing".

The last sections are characterized by a special focus on the contemporary written sources and a synthetic approach, which provides fresh perspectives for an integrated socioeconomic study of the city of Thebes in the Middle Byzantine and Turkish periods. The decorative ware from pits Beta-1 and Theta in particular gives Vroom the opportunity to recall the flourishing economy of the city during the 12th century AD. Concerning the deposit of lead-glazed and unglazed table ware ceramics, she suggests that they represent the production of a local potter's workshop in the Late Medieval and Turkish period. The imports from Turkey, tin-glazed Iznik and Kütahya wares (which date from the 16th to the 18th century A.D.), as well as a window glass from pits Gamma and Delta indicate that Thebes in the Turkish period was prosperous. One of the most interesting ideas of Vroom's paper lies in the suggestion that the pits may have been used as organized communal sanitary facilities, as can be deduced from the chamber pots and spouted jugs recovered in them.

In the third part of the book ("La Chronologie du Linéaire B"), V.L. Aravantinos, L. Godart and A. Sacconi offer a chronicle on the discovery of Theban Linear B tablets from 1964 to 2005.5 However, the generic use of the term "archive" should have been avoided, as it obscures the different administrative purposes of the various groups of tablets.6 As far as the nature of the Pelopidou Street group of tablets is concerned, its classification as formal archives should in my opinion remain tentative until the full publication of the excavation and of the exact plans of tablet findspots.7 The evidence of scribal activity in situ does not mean that the tablets discovered so far are not part of "deposits" treating current transactions. Although it can perhaps be justified by the vagaries of preservation, the lack of inscribed clay labels definitely proving the systematic storage and filing of documents or the delivery of sets of texts from other areas of the palace and its surrounding district is notable. Last but not least, there is not so far any evidence of scribal interaction between the Pelopidou Street building and the other contemporary sites of the Kadmeia. On the other hand, the character of the buildings suggested by Eleni Andrikou, "storage areas for agricultural products", leaves open the possibility of interpreting the building complex as a multifunctional administrative department dedicated to the collection and storage of various goods.8

Of special interest is the discussion of the chronology of the Oidipodos Street nodules, which have been initially dated by their excavator to the end of LH IIIB1. The mention of the anthroponym a-e-ri-qo both on a page-shaped tablet excavated in 2005 in the Room of the Pithoi of the New Kadmeion and on nodule TH Wu 76 reinforces the dating of the Liagas plot set of documents to the end of LH IIIB2. In fact, it is also stressed that the pottery of the lower stratum which produced the nodules also presents common traits to the LH IIIB2 Pelopidou street pottery assemblage.9

After a brief review of the chronology of the mainland Linear B documents and inscribed transport stirrup jars in Section 2, the authors comment on the dating of the Cretan documents. Regarding the final catastrophe of the Knossian palace, they adhere to Mervyn Popham's dating (early LM IIIA2 period, ca. 1375 B.C.), which in their opinion finds support from the Egyptian diplomatic documents (p. 250-251). Thus, they envisage the palatial centre of ku-do-ni-ja dominating part of the island during the LM IIIB.10 Nevertheless, the disappearance of the Keftiu after the reign of Amenophis III is but one of the parameters of this issue under debate.11 Finally, the contribution of Aravantinos, Godart and Sacconi ends with the analysis of the theories put forward in order to explain the catastrophes caused at the end of 13th century B.C.. The hypothesis of seismic activity which devastated mainland palatial centres seems to be still valid, considering the latest excavation results from Midea and Thebes.12 The destruction of the LH IIIB2 mainland administrative centres led in turn to internal conflicts, which resulted in the collapse of the palatial system.

In conclusion, the book sets high standards. Typographical errors are few and the ample illustrations serve their purpose well. The three essays, aimed at a specialized audience, raise important points concerning the chronology of the Pelopidou Street building complex and provide useful comparanda. Atlhough more needs to be done in terms of the contextualization of the finds, Mycenaean and Post-Roman, the authors of the volume make a valuable contribution to Mycenaean and medieval studies by placing the Theban tablets in chronological context and elucidating the medieval and post-medieval history of the site.

Table of Contents

E. Andrikou, "The Late Helladic III Pottery"

J. Vroom "Byzantine Garbage and Ottoman Waste"

V. L. Aravantinos, L. Godart, A. Sacconi, "La Chronologie du Linéaire B".


1.   These were published in V. L. Aravantinos, L. Godart, A. Sacconi, Thèbes. Fouilles de la Cadmée, I. Les tablettes en linéaire B de la Odos Pelopidou, Pisa, 2001.
2.   The statistical evaluation of the individual shapes within each category could also have been supplemented with graphs.
3.   By scientific analysis; see p. 54 n. 3.
4.   However, a plan configuring the exact location of the relevant sites would be very instructive, since not all of them are indicated on Plan 1 at the end of the book (p. 238).
5.   It is basically an updated version of the introduction to the third volume of the Thebes series, see V. L. Aravantinos, L. Godart, A. Sacconi, Thèbes. Fouilles de la Cadmée, III. Corpus des documents d'archives en linéaire B de Thèbes (1-433), Pisa, 2002.
6.   On the term "deposit" and the criteria for identifying an assemblage of documents as an archive, see T. G. Palaima, The Scribes of Pylos. Incunabula Graeca Vol. 87, Roma, Edizioni dell'Ateneo, p. 180.
7.   For remarks on the supposed archival nature of the site, see the review by F. Rougemont of Thèbes. Fouilles de la Cadmée I and Thèbes. Fouilles de la Cadmée III, in TOPOI 11 (2001), 692. In the Aegean we lack direct evidence of the penultimate step of the book-keeping process, i.e., permanent documents on perishable materials. For that reason, J. Driessen has made a distinction between proper "archives" and the short-term central depositories that he named "pre-archives", e.g., the Pylian Archives Complex and the Knossian Northern Entrance Passage, see J. Driessen, "Data Storage for Reference and Prediction at the Dawn of Civilization?", MINOS 29-30 (1994-1995), pp. 243-246.
8.   See G. Flouda, "The administration of the collection and storage of goods in the Mycenaean palace states of southern mainland", unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Athens, 2006.
9.   See also N. Dakouri-Hild, "Breaking the Mould? Production and Economy in the Theban State", in N. Dakouri-Hild and S. Sherratt (eds.) 2005, AUTOCHTHON. Papers presented to O. T. P. K. Dickinson on the occasion of his retirement, Oxford: BAR International Series 1432, 211 n.13.
10.   On the LM IIIB site at Kastelli, see E. Hallager and M. Vlasaki, "New Linear B Tablets from Khania", in J. Driessen and A. Farnoux (eds.), La Crète Mycénienne. Actes de la Table Ronde Internationale organisée par l'École française d'Athènes 26-28 Mars 1991, BCH Supplément 30, 169-174 and E. Hallager and B. P. Hallager (eds.), The Greek-Swedish Excavations at the Agia Aikaterini Square Kastelli, Khania 1970-1987 and 2001, Vol. III: The Late Minoan IIIB:2 Settlement, Stockholm: Paul Aströms Förlag.
11.   On the latest contribution concerning Knossos during the Final Palatial and Postpalatial period, see E. Hatzaki, "From Final Palatial to Postpalatial Knossos: a view from the Late Minoan II to Late Minoan IIIB town", in G. Cadogan, E. Hatzaki and A. Vasilakis (eds.), Knossos: Palace, City, State, British School at Athens Studies 12, 121-126. For an introduction on the controversial date of the final destruction of the Knossian palace, see C. F. Macdonald, Knossos, London: The Folio Society, 2005, 203-207.
12.   In fact, the authors draw a parallel between this event and the destruction by earthquake of the Protopalatial centres of Phaistos, Monastiraki and Apodoulou at the close of the MM IIB period (p. 255-257). With regard to the LH IIIB1 destructions at Mycenae they advance the argument that they were caused by human intervention (p. 257).

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