Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.08.17

Michael Kerschner, Ireen Kowalleck, Martin Steskal, Archäologische Forschungen zur Siedlungsgeschichte von Ephesos in geometrischer, archaischer und klassischer Zeit: Grabungsbefunde und Keramikfunde aus dem Bereich von Koressos. Ergänzungshefte zu den Jahresheften des Österreichischen Archäologischen Institutes in Wien; Heft 9.   Wien:  Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut, 2008.  Pp. 192.  ISBN 9783900305499.  €55.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Alan M. Greaves, University of Liverpool (

[A translation of the title and table of contents are given at the end of the review.]

The main focus of this book is 144 pieces of pre-Hellenistic pottery found in mixed contexts during excavations at the Roman period Vedius Gymnasium in Ephesos, including a sherd-by-sherd description of each piece. The book also includes extracts from the previously unpublished notes and photographs of Joseph Keil, who excavated here between 1926 and 1929, and brings them into a general consideration of the archaic and classical period settlement of Ephesos.

Predictably, the book starts with the presentation of references in classical literature to the location of ‘Koressos’, a district of Ephesos mentioned in the works of the Roman period authors Athenaios, Strabo and Pausanias (pp. 11-19). These sources are used to establish the central research question of the book, namely where was this ‘Koressos’ that is mentioned in the texts? There follows a brief justification of the choice of title for the book, and the decision to include the name of ‘Koressos’ in it (pp. 19-20).

The new pre-Hellenistic pottery presented here was found in 2001 and 2005 across five trenches in the Vedius Gynmasium on the north-western promontory of Panayir Dağ hill, within the northern bounds of the Roman city (pp.21-23). All of these contexts, however, were disturbed and the excavator (Steskal) concludes that these deposits are best interpreted as levelling-off deposits from the Geometric to Classical periods that presumably originated nearby. This typifies the problem of ‘keyhole’ excavations of the earlier periods of major classical sites on the west coast of Turkey that are often covered by the ruins of more substantial Hellenistic-Roman period settlements and it is the source of the book’s main limitation: the lack of a secure closed context for any of the finds.

There follows an extensive analysis and discussion of the 74 pieces of geometric and archaic pottery from Steskal’s excavations by Kerschner (pp. 23-74). The earliest pottery from the Vedius Gymnasium deposits dates from the second quarter of the eighth century BCE and every sherd is given detailed consideration with colour plates at the back of the book that illustrate every piece. A similarly detailed discussion of the 70 pieces of Attic and atticizing pottery from the Gymnasium site follows by Ireen Kowalleck (pp. 75-107), including graphs and statistical analysis of the different ceramic forms and fabrics.

The book concludes with a series of discussions about the implications of these new finds for our understanding of the location and nature of settlement in pre-Hellenistic Ephesos (pp. 109-126). Despite the lack of any secure context of discovery there is a wide range of shapes but with a relatively low proportion of imported wares present. The range of pottery forms present implies that they originated from a domestic context, rather than a funerary or ritual one. Combined with the findings of Joseph Keil’s excavations on the northern slope of Panayir Dağ, the important conclusion is drawn that this area of the city must have been a settlement quarter in pre-Hellenistic times.

The pottery discussions are exemplary and Kerschner and Kowalleck contextualise the finds by expert use of comparanda from East Greece, Attica and beyond, with particular attention being paid to establishing the dating and typology of the pieces. When combined with Keil’s largely unpublished earlier work, this allows the authors to draw important new conclusions about early Ephesos and to clarify the debate about the precise location of settlement activity in the area at this time.

The authors are well aware of the lack of secure context for the artefacts under discussion and are at pains to always remind the reader of the limitations that the lack of secure context places on any interpretations that maybe inferred from the ceramic data. Although the origin and nature of the Archaic and Classical pottery of Ephesos can be illuminated by such analysis, the ratio of Greek and Greek-style pottery can never be adequately balanced with comparative understanding of the contemporary non-Greek styles in their original contexts, because these are now lost and the contemporary non-Greek forms may not have been identified as a result. This is an important point because the blanket assumption that Ionian cities such as Ephesos were predominantly Greek in character cannot be simply accepted without careful justification and it is therefore a shame that no closed contexts were discovered. The result is a frustrating situation for the archaeologist, reminiscent of the Al Mina scenario in which a self-evidently important site can never be properly understood in terms of its cultural and ethnic composition because of the limitations of the available archaeological evidence. In this case, although Steskal’s excavations used modern recording methods, it is the nature of the deposits themselves that limits our ability to derive meaningful interpretations from them and no amount of diligent analysis by Kerschner and Kowalleck can correct this fundamental deficiency.

Based on scant textual references the authors have convinced themselves that they have identified the location of ‘Koressos’. The fact that the book begins, rather than ends, with a discussion of the question of the location of ‘Koressos’, and that this discussion includes an admixture of factual historical accounts and consciously mythologizing ones, somewhat undermines the otherwise careful consideration of the archaeological artefacts and their contexts (or lack thereof) that the authors have gone to such pains to create. That such a fatuous pseudo-historical question should be set up as the raison d’être for the detailed and intrinsically valuable archaeological work that follows suggests the extent to which the authors under-value the real importance of their own work and the potential their findings have to create new lines of debate that go beyond tradition problems of literary interpretation.

These theoretical weaknesses are more than offset by the general quality of the work in all other regards. In particular, the presentation of the unpublished works and photographs of Joseph Kiel is very interesting and much more could have been made of this. The integration of the Kiel material into the consideration of the new finds provides an important new context in which to consider the Vedius Gymnasium material and it is highly relevant to the arguments and evidence being put forward by the authors. Given the rising interest in the study of archaeological methods and histories, this focus will be of value to many readers, and full publication of Keil’s results within the contemporary historical context of his time will be of genuine value.

This book is the most useful work currently available on the archaic and classical settlement history of Ephesos. The fact that it is not more content-rich is due to the paucity of the evidence available for this crucial period in the city’s history, the remains of which are, presumably, smothered by the Hellenistic-Roman city and/or the silt of the Cayster River, and not due to any lack of effort on behalf of the authors or the excavators. Its great achievement is to provide some form of archaeological, rather than just literary, evidence for the possible location and character of the community that built the much better understood and intensively researched Artemision – a welcome departure that will allow for a better understanding of that world-famous monument.

The production of the book is generally of a very high standard. There are occasional editorial errors, such as errors with some of the references to illustrations in the text, but these do not detract the reader from the general argument. There is extensive use of colour and the reproduction of the illustrations is of a very high standard. The inclusion at the back of the book of two-page summaries in English and Turkish is also a useful and very welcome addition (pp. 129-32).

In conclusion, this is a thoroughly researched and well-presented book. It catalogues every fragment in meticulous detail, but the problems of a lack of context for these fragments and the authors’ over-reliance on literary sources to justify the significance of their otherwise excellent work remain. One cannot help but think that it might have made a better article or web site than a book, as a 190-page book to discuss 144 fragments of pottery from mixed contexts does seem excessive. The inclusion of selected extracts of Keil’s unpublished photographs and notebooks also inevitably makes the reader realise that their full publication and reappraisal is now long-overdue. Although of addressed to a limited academic audience interested in the archaeology of archaic and classical Ionia, this book is an essential work and a valuable addition to our understanding of early Ephesos.

Table of Contents (Translated from the original German by the reviewer)

Archaeological Research into the settlement history of Ephesos in the Geometric, Archaic and Classical periods: Excavation finds and pottery finds from the area of Koressos.

Foreword by the authors 7
Foreword by the leader of excavations at Ephesos 9

I. Introduction (Martin Steskal)
I.1 Research history and literary evidence 11
I.2 Choice of title 19

II. The excavation finds in the Vedius Gymnasium (Martin Steskal)
II.1 Trench 1/02 21
II.2 Trench 2/02 22
II.3 Trench 3/02 22
II.4 Trench 4/02 22
II.5 Trench 2/03 23

III. The pottery finds in the area of Koressos
III.1 Geometric and Archaic pottery (Michael Kerschner) 25
III.1.1 Findspot, meaning and selection of the pottery finds 25
III.1.2 East Greek pottery 26
III.1.3 Imports from beyond the Aegean 57
III.1.4 Catalogue 58

III.2 Attic and atticizing pottery (Ireen Kowalleck) 75
III.2.1 Findspot, meaning and selection of the pottery finds 75
III.2.2 Attic Black Figure pottery 76
III.2.3 Attic Red Figure pottery 77
III.2.4 Glossy ware 78
III.2.5 Sherd Types 89
III.2.6 Attic imports and atticizing imitations from the East Aegean, i.e. local/regional production 92
III.2.7 Catalogue 99

IV. The pre-Hellenistic settlement history of Koressos. Archaeological finds and historical implications.
IV.1 The testimony of the Geometric and Archaic pottery and their findspot to the settlement history of Ephesos (Michael Kerschner) 109
IV.1.1 The findspots in the old and new excavations 109
IV.1.2 The range of finds and its testimony to the importance of the site in the Geometric and Archaic eras 114
IV.1.3 The area of Koressos in the settlement pattern of early Greek Ephesos.

IV.2 The testimony of the classical pottery finds and their findspot to the settlement history of Ephesos (Ireen Kowalleck)

IV.3 The chronology of the pottery finds and its historical implications (Michael Kerschner, Ireen Kowalleck, Martin Steskal)118
IV.3.1 The beginnings of settlement around the middle of the 8th century BC and the question of locating the ‘Old Ionian city’ (Michael Kerschner). 120
IV.3.2 The continuity of settlement in the 6th century BC and the presumed synoikism under Croesus (Michael Kerschner, Martin Steskal) 123
IV.3.3.The continuity of settlement in the 5th/4th centuries BC (Ireen Kowalleck) 124
IV.3.4 Prospect (Martin Steskal) 126

German Summary 127
English Summary 129
Turkish Summary 131

Abbreviations used in citations 133

Index of abbreviations used in the text and catalogue 138

Plates 139

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