Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2013.02.41 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.02.41

Walter Gauß, Michael Lindblom, R. Angus K. Smith, James C. Wright (ed.), Our Cups Are Full: Pottery and Society in the Aegean Bronze Age. Papers Presented to Jeremy B. Rutter on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday.   Oxford:  Archaeopress, 2011.  Pp. xxvii, 392.  ISBN 9781905739394.  $70.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Judit Haas-Lebegyev (

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

The Festschrift under review was presented to Jeremy B. Rutter on the occasion of his 65th birthday and additionally marked his retirement from Dartmouth College. In the introduction, James C. Wright gives a personal account of Jeremy B. Rutter, followed by his extensive bibliography. Rutter’s main research field is Aegean Bronze Age pottery and its wider implications for society of the time. His wide research interests from the Early Bronze Age until the Submycenaean period, covering mainland Greece, Crete and the islands, are also reflected by the 38 papers of the volume.

The papers are arranged according to the author’s name in alphabetical order resulting in a loss of thematic unity. For the sake of a better overview, a selection of papers are summarized below grouped according to various aspects of ceramic research, such as chronology, typology, functional analysis, contextual analysis and regional contacts, starting with papers on methodology.

In her paper on Aegean Bronze Age ceramic studies of the last 40 years, Susan Sherratt gives a summary of the different approaches and directions of the field in a rather personal tone. She stresses Rutter’s influential role in two fundamental approaches: first, by focusing on how the function of pottery relates to food preparation, drinking and eating practises, and the change in those habits, he pointed out the importance of seeing the human being behind the pot; second, he emphasized the influence of other crafts in the development of ceramic forms and decoration schemes. Through the study of cross-craft interactions, Rutter was one of the first who drew attention to the potential of this approach to shed light not only on industries working with perishable materials, but also on broader questions such as technology and its adoption, cultural practices and regional interconnections. Another of Rutter’s contributions to Aegean pottery studies is emphasizing the importance of quantitative methods. This contribution is apparent in the paper on the excavation of Mycenaean Tsoungiza in which James C. Wright and Mary K. Dabney show how quantitative data can help to interpret the depositional history of mixed strata.

Many papers concentrate on chronology, and especially on the interpretation of problematic chronological phases and transitions. William Cavanagh and Christopher Mee examine the gaps in the Early Bronze Age sequence of Laconia, namely the Early Helladic I and III periods. Based on recent work in the region and the application of seriation, a slow, gradual evolution is suggested instead of sudden jumps. With the use of relative and absolute chronological methods, Michael Lindblom and Sturt W. Manning date the two shaft grave fills at Lerna to the mid- to later 17th century B.C., contemporary with the Late Minoan IA Mature volcanic destruction level at Akrotiri. They suggest that this rich ceramic assemblage found in a geographically important location can serve as a tool to date other deposits of the Late Helladic I/Late Cycladic I period. The Egyptian evidence for the Late Helladic IIIA2–IIIB transition is the centre of inquiry of David A. Aston’s contribution. Based on a re-examination of contexts he argues that the transition did not take place until the reign of Ramesses II, around 1280-1260 B.C.E., which means a lengthier LH IIIA2 period. This argument gives further support to the tripartite division of the phase outlined by Salvatore Vitale who, in a separate contribution, examines the relative chronological sequence of the Late Helladic IIIA2 phase based on pottery assemblages from Mitrou and its wider mainland context; he concludes that LH IIIA2 can be divided into three sub-phases in continental Greece. Philip Stockhammer presents a thorough analysis of Aegean-type pottery from the LH III A and B periods found at Megiddo in the excavations of the Oriental Institute Chicago, with the aim to establish an absolute chronological sequence of the site. He also briefly discusses the functional aspects of the amphoroid kraters in 13th and 12th century Megiddo, which he argues could have been used in non-elite feasting contexts as containers of wine or, with straws added, vessels for drinking beer. Joseph Maran examines the ways in which the palatial period was remembered in the LH IIIC period Argolid. By applying the concept of communicative and cultural memory developed by Jan Assmann, he argues that the break caused by the end of palatial rule selectively suspended the communicative memory within the highest level of society; this led to a situation in which core characteristics of the palatial past, though it had just recently ended, seemed so distant that it immediately became the focus of cultural memory. There is a striking contrast between the uninterrupted memory on the level of everyday culture, and an incomplete or even non-existent memory at the highest levels of palatial political and religious power.

Two papers focus on the chronological definition of the transition from the Bronze to Iron Age. The phase known as ‘Submycenaean’ is still a much debated period, the existence of which was even put into question by Rutter himself in a well-known paper published in 1978;1 in it he argued that it is distinguished by LH IIIC Late only in terms of functional aspects of the ceramic production (LH IIIC Late was destined for domestic use while Submycenaean ware was made for funerary purpose), but the two were contemporaneous. John K. Papadopoulos, Brian N. Damiata and John M. Marston review the evidence from funerary and settlement contexts, concluding that it still remains difficult to trace this stylistic phase in settlement contexts, which can mean that it was either of very short duration (less than 50 years), or it was a concurrent style which overlapped with LH IIIC Late and Early Protogeometric; in the second part of the paper the three authors present new absolute dates to the recently published important Iron Age settlement of Torone in Chalkidike. Anna Lucia D’Agata makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of the Cretan equivalent, the Subminoan phase. The existence of this ceramic phase was, at least for Central Crete, also put in doubt, but based on careful analysis of closed deposits, the author is able to define the Subminoan phase as divided by two subphases; its morphological features are characterised by no radical change in the pottery repertoire, but by persistent and slightly transformed elements.

A number of papers discuss specific classes of pottery, focusing on their development, function and distribution. A good example is Malcolm H. Wiener’s contribution on the mysterious mass-produced Minoan conical cups. The appearance, distribution and utilization of these vessels throughout their long history from the Prepalatial period (EM III–MM I) until their widespread diffusion in the Late Minoan I period are discussed. The author suggests an Egyptian inspiration not only for their shape and function (containers for offerings), but also for their manufacture on the potters’ wheel. During their apogee in the LM I period conical cups were omnipresent; they fulfilled a wide variety of functions and were present in great numbers even outside Crete in the Aegean islands, thus representing the clearest evidence of Minoization. Philip P. Betancourt analyses a group of small handmade pouring vessels, the so-called Diagonal Line Class juglets of the Middle Minoan IA period, based on excavation data from Hagios Charalambos. The importance of these vessels lies in the fact that they can be considered an early example of precious oil containers which were traded for their contents at considerable distances within Crete. In the Late Bronze Age, the most well known and widely distributed container for scented olive oil is the stirrup jar. Based on finds from Mycenae, its origin, distribution and function is reconsidered by Elisabeth French in light of modern scientific techniques, such as Neutron Activation Analysis and residue analysis. Through a stylistic analysis of different types of small-sized stirrup jars imported to Cyprus, Giampaolo Graziadio demonstrates that, besides the dominance of Mycenaean trade, Crete had also a considerable role in the scented oil trade directed to Cyprus. Patrick M. Thomas takes a closer look at the most common Mycenaean drinking vessel, the kylix. He suggests that the angular kylix and shallow angular basin (Furumark Shapes 267 and 297), which after the Minoanizing rounded shapes of the Early Mycenaean period became popular in the Late Helladic IIIA and B, may perhaps be interpreted as reflections of an indigenous Helladic tradition. Moving outside Greece, Assaf Yasur-Landau, Eric H. Cline and Inbal Samet present an intriguing analysis of a goblet type so-far only known from Tel Kabri in Israel, the so-called “Kabri goblet” produced in the Middle Bronze Age (17th and 16th centuries B.C.E.). Of a deliberately archaic form and decoration, this vessel type, as a probable marker of local identity, was a common drinking ware in feasts in palatial, domestic and funerary contexts. Thanks to a growing interest in manufacture processes, cooking and storage practises (also partly supported by the use of scientific techniques such as organic residue analysis and ceramic petrography), unpainted fine and coarse wares are getting more attention. A good example is the paper of Bartłomiej Lis and Štěpán Rückl on the subject of impressed pithoi dating to the transition from the Late Bronze to Early Iron Age from East Lokris and Phokis.

Mycenaean or Mycenaean-type pottery in its wider context is the subject of several papers. P. A. Mountjoy presents a review of Mycenaean IIIC pottery groups found in Near Eastern sites which were assigned to Cyprus by Neutron Activation Analysis. At the transition from the Bronze to Iron Age at several areas in the Levant, locally made Mycenaean-style painted and unpainted pottery production started. One of the best examples of this practice is known from Tel Kazel in Syria where, with the help of petrographic examination, Reinhard Jung has distinguished the production of standardized Mycenaean plain ware probably associated with immigrants coming from the Aegean at the beginning of the Post-palatial era.

Another large group of papers examines closed ceramic assemblages, which besides chronological questions, can shed light on feasting practices, ritual authority and trade. Thanks to long-term excavations, our picture of Kolonna on Aegina, one of the most important settlements of the Middle Helladic period, is becoming clearer. The so-called Large Building Complex must have been the main residential building of the site that remained in use from the MH I/II until the beginning of the Late Helladic period. This building and its stratigraphic sequence is treated by Walter Gauß, Michael Lindblom and Rudolfine Smetana in a preliminary form. Another important Middle Helladic settlement is located on the Aspis hill in Argos. A. Philippa-Touchais and G. Touchais present ceramic material of a dump from a house burnt by a fire, which dates to the oldest occupational period of that site (MH I-II); this offers a good example of a well-dated assemblage of domestic equipment of the time.

The social role of pottery is maybe the most apparent in feasting contexts, when pots were used for the preparation and consumption of food and drink in a formal setting. Based on the material record of Tsoungiza and Lerna, Daniel J. Pullen attempts to identify contexts and accompanying sets of pots that can indicate feasting in Early Helladic II Greece. Marta Wiencke provides a complementary view focused on the material expressions of ritual and ceremony available from Lerna, stressing the significance of the House of the Tiles. Distribution studies of Middle Minoan utilitarian collar-necked jars show that these were closely associated with the palace of Phaistos at the end of the Protopalatial period, but they were also found in great numbers in the Kamares cave. For this reason, A. Van de Moortel suggests that their presence points to a strong palatial involvement in the cave cult, and the decline in depositions after the Protopalatial period can be consequently explained with decreased involvement of the palace. Melissa Vetters gives a contextual analysis of terracotta throne models found in both settlements and graves in the Late Helladic III A and B periods. The author interprets them as tokens of Mycenaean religious ideology, which also explains their swift decline after the fall of the palaces.

Another type of closed context is the well-known Uluburun shipwreck. N. Hirschfeld examines its Cypriote ceramic cargo and argues that the wide assortment of the vases that were originally packed in pithoi suggests that they were acquired not at their manufacturing site but on the way to one or more trading hubs on Cyprus or the Levantine coast.

This Festschrift is remarkably rich in content, a volume full of insightful papers which illustrate well the many new directions of research in Aegean pottery studies. This is a proper tribute to Jeremy B. Rutter.

Table of Contents

Introduction [vii]
Jeremy Bentham Rutter: Bibliography [xix]
Memorandum on the occasion of Jeremy B. Rutter’s retirement from Dartmouth College [xxiii]
Acknowledgements [xxiv]
Tabula Gratulatoria [xxiv]
List of contributors [xxv]
Abbreviations [xxvii]
David A. Aston, ‘The LH IIIA2-IIIB Transition: The Gurob and Saqqara Evidence Revisited’ [1-12]
Mario Benzi, ‘Daskalio (Vathy), Kalymnos: A Late Bronze Age I Sacred Cave in the East Aegean’ [13-24]
Philip P. Betancourt, ‘The Diagonal Line Juglets: New Evidence from Hagios Charalambos’ [25-30]
T.M. Brogan, Ch. Sofianou and J.E. Morrison, ‘In Search of the Upper Story of LM I House A.1 at Papadiokampos: An Integrated Architectural and Ceramic Perspective’ [31-39]
William Cavanagh and Christopher Mee, ‘Minding the Gaps in Early Helladic Laconia’ [40-50]
Anna Lucia D’Agata, ‘Subminoan: A Neglected Phase of the Cretan Pottery Sequence’ [51-64]
Jeannette Forsén, ‘Spoons to Fill the Cups’ [65-67]
Elizabeth French, ‘The Stirrup Jar: Does the West House Evidence Help or Complicate the Problems?’ [68-75]
Walter Gauss, Michael Lindblom and Rudolfine Smetana, ‘The Middle Helladic Large Building Complex at Kolonna. A Preliminary View’ [76-87]
Giampaolo Graziadio, ‘Cretan Perfumed Oils at Enkomi (Cyprus) in the 13th Century B.C.?’ [88-96]
Sean Hemingway, ‘Early Helladic Vases from Zygouries in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Cultural Ambassadors of an Early Age’ [97-103]
Stefan Hiller, ‘Palm and Altar’ [104-114]
N. Hirschfeld, ‘The Cypriot Ceramic Cargo of the Uluburun Shipwreck’ [115-120]
Reinhard Jung, ‘Mycenaean Vending Cups in Syria? Thoughts about the Unpainted Mycenaean Pottery from Tell Kazel’ [121-132]
V. La Rosa, ‘Preliminary Remarks about the Pottery of the So-called Grande Frana at Phaistos’ [133-139]
Michael Lindblom and Sturt W. Manning, ‘The Chronology of the Lerna Shaft Graves’ [140-153]
Bartlomiej Lis and Štěpan Rückl, ‘Our Storerooms are Full. Impressed Pithoi from Late Bronze/Early Iron Age East Lokris and Phokis and their Socio-economic Significance’ [154-168]
Joseph Maran, ‘Contested Pasts—The Society of the 12th Century B.C.E. Argolid and the Memory of the Mycenaean Palatial Period’ [169-178]
P.A. Mountjoy, ‘An Update on the Provenance by Neutron Activation Analysis of Near Eastern Mycenaean IIIC Pottery. Groups with Particular Reference to Cyprus’ [179-186]
John K. Papadopoulos, Brian N. Damiata and John M. Marston, ‘Once More with Feeling: Jeremy Rutter’s Plea for the Abandonment of the Term Submycenaean Revisited’ [187-202]
A. Philippa-Touchais and G. Touchais, ‘Fragments of the Pottery Equipment of an Early Middle Helladic Household from Aspis, Argos’ [203-216]
Daniel J. Pullen, ‘Picking out Pots in Patterns: Feasting in Early Helladic Greece’ [217-226]
Florian Ruppenstein, ‘Early Helladic Peak Sanctuaries in Attica?’ [227-230]
Robert Schon, ‘Vox Clamantis in Campo: Further Thoughts on Ceramics and Site Survey’ [231-241]
Maria C. Shaw, ‘A Decorated Minoan Pyxis from House X at Kommos’ [242-250]
Cynthia W. Shelmerdine, ‘The “Friendly Crater” from Iklaina’ [251-256]
Susan Sherratt, ‘Learning to Learn from Bronze Age Pots: A Perspective on Forty Years of Aegean Ceramic Studies in the Work of J. B. Rutter’ [257-266]
R. Angus K. Smith, ‘A Unique Late Minoan III Ring-shaped Vase from the Myrsini Asprospilia Cemetery’ [267-273]
Sharon R. Stocker and Jack L. Davis, ‘The Cyclades and Pylos: An Early Bronze Age Stone Pyxis from Ali Chodza’ [274- 281]
Philipp W. Stockhammer, ‘An Aegean Glance at Megiddo’ [282-296]
Patrick M. Thomas, ‘Mycenaean Tablewares and the Curious Careers of the Angular Kylix and Shallow Angular Basin’ [297-305]
A. Van De Moortel, ‘The Phaistos Palace and the Camares Cave: A Special Relationship’ [306-318]
Melissa Vetters, ‘Seats of Power? Making the Most of Miniatures—The Role of Terracotta Throne Models in Disseminating Mycenaean Religious Ideology’ [319-330]
Salvatore Vitale, ‘The Late Helladic IIIA2 Pottery from Mitrou and its Implications for the Chronology of the Mycenaean Mainland’ [331-344]
Martha Heath-Wiencke, ‘“Ceremonial Lerna”’ [345-354]
Malcom H. Wiener, ‘Conical Cups: From Mystery to History’ [355-368]
James C. Wright and Mary K. Dabney, ‘Interpreting Quantitative Analyses of Mycenaean Pottery’ [369-381]
Assaf Yasur-Landau, Eric H. Cline and Inbal Samet, ‘Our Cups Overfloweth: “Kabri Goblets” and Canaanite Feasts in the Middle Bronze Age Levant’ [382-392]


1.   J. B. Rutter 1978. ‘A Plea for the Abandonment of the Term “Submycenaean”, TUAS 3, 58-65.

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