Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.01.37

Lorenza Campanella, Il cibo nel mondo fenicio e punico d'Occidente: un'indagine sulle abitudini alimentari attraverso l'analisi di un deposito urbano di Sulky in Sardegna. Collezione di Studi Fenici 43.   Pisa/Roma:  Fabrizio Serra Editore, 2008.  Pp. 286.  ISBN 9788862270762.  €395.00.  

Reviewed by Adam Rabinowitz, University of Texas at Austin (
Word count: 2374 words

[Table of contents is listed at the end of the review.]

It is fitting that the first (and visually most prominent) word of the title of Lorenza Campanella's ambitious and well-conceived monograph is not "ceramica" but "cibo" ("food"). Although the core of her study is a traditional catalogue of the pottery and finds recovered from the fill of a cistern in the Phoenician and later Punic settlement of Sulcis in Sardinia, she sets out to consider not only the typological and chronological aspects of the material, but the ways in which it was used. Since the majority of the pottery in this deposit can be associated with the storage, preparation, service and consumption of food and drink, Campanella situates her study of the assemblage firmly in the broader context of the "foodways" of the Phoenician, and later Punic, inhabitants of the Western Mediterranean. This general work, like the catalogue that follows, presents material dating from roughly the mid-8th century to the 1st century BC, with a particular focus on the period between the end of the 5th century and the late 3rd century BC. Both contextual discussions and catalogue are abundantly illustrated with line drawings and high-quality (but only black-and-white) photographs. Admirably, the work includes appendices that integrate the results of the study of the faunal remains from the same fill and residue analyses carried out on some of the vessels. A brief synthetic discussion of the imported Greek pottery forms the subject of another appendix, rounding out the holistic publication of the deposit.

Most publications of pottery seek to relate assemblages to their general social and cultural contexts, but these aspects are often treated summarily in the introduction or conclusion to the catalogue, which is seen as the main event. Not so here. Before encountering the deposit mentioned in the title of the book, the reader is treated to an extensive and detailed discussion of literary and archaeological evidence for foodstuffs, food production, and trade in food in the western Phoenician and Punic worlds. This is a bold move, and it serves two purposes. First, and most successfully, it brings together scattered evidence not only from Sardinia but also from the Near East, Spain, and Sicily to illuminate a subject that is often shortchanged in discussions of Phoenician and Punic culture. Second, Campanella seeks to use this synthetic discussion as a framework for the close analysis of the material in the catalogue. Her stated goal is a functional analysis of the coarse- and cookware that forms the bulk of the catalogue, an analysis that is intended to shed light on the relation of the pottery to technologies and practices of food preparation and consumption at this particular site during a particular time-period (p. 16). That the work ultimately falls short of this second goal is due largely to the nature of the deposit under analysis: since the material came from an unstratified midden fill that formed over the course of several centuries in a disused urban cistern, it does not lend itself to fine-grained contextual interpretation.

A very brief resumé of select food studies introduces the first half of the book, which deals with evidence for the production and consumption of food and drink in the Phoenician and Punic world as a whole. This half of the book is divided into three subsections (chapters 3, 4, and 5), each of which examines food in Phoenician and Punic culture from a different angle.

Chapter 3 will perhaps be the most familiar to most readers: it assembles the literary and archaeological evidence for the production, processing, and trade of foodstuffs, divided into broad economic categories (agriculture and domestic animals; wild animals and fish; wine). In addition to a useful review of disparate evidence for food processing and trade, the chapter provides discussions of food production in the context of Phoenician/Punic interactions with indigenous populations, and of the origins of certain food-related technologies. Campanella identifies, for example, the Greek and later Roman term clibanus with the vertically-oriented, open-roofed oven known to Phoenicians as the tannur (pp. 48-49).

This reader found the next chapter disappointingly brief and schematic, especially by comparison to the preceding and following chapters, but this is perhaps a function of the available evidence. Chapter 4 deals with the social context of food production and consumption, primarily on the basis of iconographic evidence. "Pasti collettivi" (group meals) receive particular attention, although the iconographic focus of the discussion emphasizes the formal aspects of commensality (tables, couches, accoutrements) without reference to the social contexts of communal dining in the Phoenician/Punic world.1

Chapter 5 is the most comprehensive and coherent of the three. Here individual foods and drinks are considered systematically and categorically, and the literary and material evidence work best together. Each type of food is treated separately, and evidence for the physical remains of the food itself, its representation in art, and its storage and preparation is presented. The casual reader will find a wealth of interesting information in this chapter, while the more serious researcher will be grateful for the overview and comprehensive bibliography. There are several places in this chapter where Campanella presents material that partially overlaps the discussions in the preceding chapters, however, and the reader should be prepared to skip back and forth between this chapter and the others for a complete picture.

The second half of the book begins with the next chapter, in which is presented the catalogue that forms the core of the work. A brief introduction describes the excavation, the deposit in question ("unità stratigraphica 500"), the methodology of the study of the ceramics, and the organization of the ceramic catalogue. The material was recovered from a cistern that was used as a midden after it went out of use in the early Punic period, and since the resulting deposit was unstratified (with joins between sherds found at various levels of the fill: p. 94), the assemblage represents a chronological arc of more than five hundred years. Apart from some stray prehistoric sherds, the earliest pottery in the deposit can be dated to the late 8th century, while the latest belongs to the Roman period. The largest group of vessels, however, can be dated between the end of the 5th century BC and the end of the 3rd century BC.

The catalogue itself is organized first by provenience, with sections for handmade prehistoric material, Phoenician and Punic wheel-made pottery, and imported pottery. Within these sections the ceramics are divided along broadly functional lines and grouped under the basic rubrics "cooking", "transport and storage", "food preparation" (that is, before cooking), and "consumption"; finally, the members of each group are arranged according to a conventional typological approach in which vessels of similar shape are listed together. The ceramic portion of the catalogue is followed by a section dedicated to the instrumenta associated with food production and then, somewhat awkwardly, by all the other objects from the deposit, classed by function.

Campanella makes a noble and largely successful effort to integrate illustrations with entries more fully than is customary for ceramic catalogues; here, rather than having to flip to the back to a set of plates and a separate set of line drawings, both separated from descriptive text, the reader has access to photographs placed near the entries for the vessels represented and to line drawings grouped by type in full-page illustrations interspersed with pages of text. This system can be frustrating: both the entries and the illustrations are identified only with the (non-consecutive) inventory numbers of the finds (all of them in the form CRON 500/XXX), rather than any independent system of sequential numeration, and the entries provide no information about the location of associated illustrations, which are sometime separated by several pages. As a result, the reader is not entirely free of the need to flip back and forth. Nevertheless, this organization makes it easier to associate the physical attributes of vessels with their chronology and interpretation.

The catalogue entries themselves provide only basic information about dimensions, Munsell color of fabric and gloss, and date. The interpretive meat is found in the brief summaries that preface each of the typological sections. In keeping with Campanella's stated goals, these discussions are concerned with functional questions as well as typological information, dating and comparanda. Taken together, they provide an excellent overview of the way these vessels were used, and the relation between their functions and their physical characteristics: for instance, shallow 4th-century pans were invariably finished with a glossy red slip that acted as a "non-stick" surface for solids cooked in oil (p. 98), while signs of burning are present only on one side of a certain group of late 3rd-century globular lidded cookpots, indicating that they were placed against and not over a heat source, presumably for slow simmering (p. 112).

The ceramic portion of the catalogue concludes with a discussion of the imported wares. The presentation of the amphorae and other coarseware includes several observations of interest, such as the identification of most of the amphorae as transport vessels for wine (p. 198) and the extended treatment of a Corinthian louterion with a pattern in grit on its inner surface, either to help with washing or for use in food preparation (pp. 200-203). But in the rest of this part of the catalogue, the reader must again confront problems with the integration of material and analysis. The fineware had already been published by Tronchetti, and for substantive discussion of function, chronology, and statistics, the reader must turn to a separate appendix provided by that author. The observations in the appendix are thought-provoking -- Greek fineware imports in the assemblage are almost entirely composed of cups and other sympotic pottery, while such vessels are absent from the funerary record at Sulcis (p. 246) -- but the distance between catalogue entries and interpretation can be frustrating.

Both the following section on instrumenta and the appendices on faunal remains and residue analysis are noteworthy for the light they shed on culinary practices. In the former are presented several large fragments of ceramic ovens and braziers, including a piece of the rim of a tannur of the type described in chapter 3. The deposit's lack of stratification makes it difficult for Wilkens, the author of the archaeozoological appendix, to draw detailed conclusions about the role of animals in diet and economy, but the assemblage has several interesting features, such as canine bones bearing butchering marks (p. 249), which may represent either consumption or private religious ritual (p. 257). The section on residue analysis also highlights practices that are generally of low visibility in the archeological record: all but one of the cookware sherds analyzed, for instance, showed traces of resin or pitch (and sometimes wax), which may indicate that cookware was routinely given an impermeable lining (pp. 262-263). Traces of fish identified in the residue analysis also provide an important reminder of the bias created by excavation methodology. Very few fish bones are recorded in the faunal sample, which was hand-collected and therefore skewed toward the bones of large mammals. Residue analysis, on the other hand, suggests that fish were cooked in many of the vessels in the small set of samples analyzed.

The volume's conclusion would be the natural place to integrate the results of the analyses in the appendices with a summary of the information in the catalogue, and to connect both to the bigger picture of Phoenician and Punic food culture. But the conclusion, less than ten pages long, provides only general observations and is concerned mainly with quantitative information about the various functional types of pottery. This reader was left wishing for more extensive commentary on some of the patterns in the assemblage and their implications for diachronic developments in food preparation and consumption. One cannot help but feel, however, that the difficulty caused by the lack of stratification and the broad chronological range of the material might have been at least partially overcome through a greater engagement with the large body of theoretically-informed work on food and culture that has emerged over the last twenty years. The bibliography shows some striking gaps in this area, particularly in the Anglophone literature.2

The production quality of the book is high; the illustrations are crisp and plentiful and there are very few typographical errors. For the very high price of the volume, however, one might have expected a few color plates, which would have been particularly useful for some of the more representative vessels in the catalogue. A sturdier binding would also have been welcome: the volume's paper cover and spine are unlikely to hold up to library use. Most frustrating, especially given the problems with the integration of information discussed above, is the lack of an index.

The concept behind this book represents a step in the right direction. Campanella clearly put a great deal of thought into the ways in which she might most usefully present the ceramic assemblage, and her attempt to situate the objects within the contexts of their original use is admirable, if not entirely successful. Both the review of Phoenician and Punic food culture and the catalogue of ceramics present important, and often neglected, material, and should be consulted by anyone interested in food and material culture in the western Phoenician and Punic world. At the same time, one hopes that future efforts of this sort will more fully realize the potential of the integration of ceramic data with cultural interpretation, and create a richer picture of daily life -- and cuisine -- across the ancient world.

Table of Contents

Paolo Bernardini, Presentazione, 11

Premessa, 13

Capitolo I. Metodologia e obiettivi del lavoro, 15

Capitolo II. Storia degli studi, 17

Capitolo III. Produzione, distribuzione e commercio del cibo nel mondo fenicio e punico, 20

Capitolo IV. Consumo e convivialità: luoghi, produttori, fruitori, 50

Capitolo V. Gli alimenti, 56

Capitolo VI. La preparazione e il consumo degli alimenti. La problematica attraverso lo studio di un contesto specifico: l'US 500 dell'area del Cronicario di Sant'Antioco, 94

Capitolo VII. Considerazioni conclusive, 236

Appendix: C. Tronchetti, La ceramica greca dell'US 500, 243

Appendix: B. Wilkens, I resti faunistici dell'US 500, 249

Appendix: A. Pecci, Analisi dei residui organici assorbiti nei materiali dell'US 500, 260

Bibliografia e abbreviazioni, 265


1.   For example, mention of the Phoenician and Punic commensal and sympotic group known as the marzeah, which has received much attention in recent years as a potential model for the Greek symposium, is inexplicably absent (see, for example, J. C. Greenfield, "The marzeah as a social institution," Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 22 (1974), pp. 450-55; P. J. King, "The marzeah: textual and archaeological evidence," Eretz-Israel 20 (1989), pp. 98-106; J. Carter, "Thiasos and marzeah," in S. Langdon, ed., New Light on a Dark Age, 1997, pp. 72-112; H. Matthäus, "The Greek symposion and the Near East. Chronology and mechanisms of cultural transfer," in R. Docter and E. Moormann, eds., Classical Archaeology towards the Third Millennium: Reflections and Perspectives, Amsterdam 1999, pp. 256-60).
2.   The work of van Dommelen on cultural interaction and culture change in Sardinia, for example, does not appear (e.g. P. van Dommelen, "Ambiguous matters: colonialism and local identities in Punic Sardinia," in C. Lyons and J. Papadopoulos, eds., The Archaeology of Colonialism, Los Angeles 2002, 121-47). A relevant model for a more integrated approach to cooking pottery (and a useful comparative assemblage) might also have been found in Andrea Berlin's publication of contemporary coarseware from the site of Tel Anafa in Israel (A. Berlin, "The plain wares", in S. Herbert, ed., Tel Anafa II, i: The Hellenistic and Roman Pottery, JRA Supplement 10.2, 1997).

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