BMCR 2005.04.62

Mochlos IB. Period III. Neopalatial Settlement on the Coast: The Artisan’s Quarter and the Farmhouse at Chalinomouri. The Neopalatial Pottery

, , , Mochlos IB : period III, neopalatial settlement on the coast, the artisans' quarter, and the farmhouse at Chalinomouri, the neopalatial pottery. Master and use copy. Digital master created according to Benchmark for Faithful Digital Reproductions of Monographs and Serials, Version 1. Digital Library Federation, December 2002.. Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press, 2003. 1 online resource (xviii, 207, pages, 59, 28 pages of plates) : illustrations (some color).. ISBN 9781623030186 $80.00.

[With the reviewer’s apologies for the lateness of this review.]

This book is the second in a three-part series that makes up the first volume of publications of the Greek-American excavations in the Bay of Mochlos in northeast Crete. Various sites have been excavated. The majority of the efforts have focused on the islet of Mochlos located just off the coast of the modern settlement of Mochlos at the western end of the plain. The islet has a Minoan and historical settlement as well as cemeteries that were first excavated by Richard Seager in the early 1900s. New excavations have been carried out since 1990 under the joint directorship of Jeffrey S. Soles of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Costis Davaras of the Greek Archaeological Service (24th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities) and the University of Athens. The spectacular finds showed beyond a doubt that the islet contained a small but very prosperous Minoan harbor town with a variety of international contacts. The same team also excavated a Minoan craft production area and cemetery on the mainland coast opposite the islet as well as the remains of an isolated farmstead at Chalinomouri, some 4.5 km to the east at the other end of the Mochlos plain. The three parts of the first volume focus on the Artisans’ Quarter and the Chalinomouri farmhouse. Whereas volume IA deals with architecture, tombs, and overall interpretation, and volume IC with small finds, volume IB is concerned with the Neopalatial pottery from these two small sites. The authors decided to publish the ceramic assemblages from the Artisans’ Quarter and Chalinomouri first because, unlike the islet settlement, these are basically one-period sites destroyed at the end of the Neopalatial period and not significantly disturbed by Late Minoan III reoccupation. The pottery from their destruction horizon can be expected to be homogeneous in date and is used here to provide a first characterization of the last Neopalatial ceramic phase at Mochlos. In addition, a small number of Late Minoan IA and Late Minoan IB pottery fragments from earlier architectural phases are presented.

The authors have done a very good job of publishing this pottery in a concise and well-organized fashion. Chapters one and two are devoted to fabric analysis; chapter three presents the pottery by shape and decoration; and chapter four addresses issues of surface decoration, function, production locales, and dating. Appendix A provides distribution data of the pottery by room, and Appendix B reports on the petrographic study of a purported sample of potter’s clay. The book ends with a useful concordance of excavation and publication numbers for objects published in Volumes IA, IB, and IC (Concordance A) and with a list of published objects per room and context (Concordance B). The reader should keep in mind, however, that the final Neopalatial assemblage published here represents only part of the total range of pottery used in the Mochlos area at that time. The islet settlement with its elite quarters used somewhat different varieties of pottery, as occasional references to that material indicate. We must wait for the publication of the islet material to gain a complete overview of the final Neopalatial pottery assemblage in the Mochlos plain, and especially of its elite styles.

The 650 vases and fragments published here are characterized primarily by fabric, shape, and decoration, and occasionally by manufacturing practices. The study of the fabrics is very thorough, and one can only rejoice in the fact that this is becoming increasingly customary in Cretan pottery studies, as petrographers Day, Joyner, and Relaki point out. Fabric analysis was done in two stages. Pottery specialist Kellee Barnard first sorted all the pottery into fabric groups based on macroscopic observations. Her groups were then evaluated by the petrographic team through a study of thin sections of 32 selected samples. Whereas this two-tiered procedure is sound and yielded very good results, one wishes that the results had been presented in an integrated fashion. In the present format, pottery specialist and petrographers have written separate chapters, each with a list of differently numbered fabric groups, fabric descriptions, and discussions. This divided presentation leads at the same time to a duplication and dispersion of information, making it difficult for the reader to piece the complete picture together. Petrographers and pottery specialist should have co-written a single chapter, presenting a single fabric typology with integrated fabric descriptions— both non-technical and technical—and a single set of discussions. Concordances of petrographic fabric samples, catalog numbers, and vessel shapes would also be useful.

Fabric types are grouped into two very broad categories. Fine fabrics include pieces that do not surpass 2 mm. in length and take up less than 10% of the entire mass. Coarse fabrics have inclusions with larger maximum sizes and greater densities. Within the fine and coarse fabric categories, variations are noted. Fine vases with intricate pattern-painted decoration are generally finer than those that carry simple decoration or are unpainted. Among coarse fabrics, smaller shapes such as small jars, basins, and trays are said to have medium-coarse fabrics, whereas large storage vases have very coarse fabrics. It is clear from Barnard’s study that fabric type and vase type also correlate to some extent. So her coarse fabric type 2 is especially used for amphoras and other large closed vessels. It would have been useful to note the exact range of inclusion densities per vase type at Mochlos so that we would know to what extent the potter controlled the fabric recipe of each vase type. Such data would help to characterize pottery production traditions and would provide more criteria for identifying the final Neopalatial ceramic phase at Mochlos. This reviewer has observed quite precise correlations between fabric textures and vase types at Kommos in the western Mesara plain in south-central Crete. Moreover, fabrics there become progressively finer from the Middle Minoan IB phase through the Late Minoan IB phase. If such data were recorded at more Minoan sites, one would be able to study supra-regional developments and flow of information between potters.

Fabric analysis revealed that over 90% of the pottery published in Mochlos, Vol. IB is made of fine fabrics and coarse phyllite fabrics of type 1. The remainder is produced from no fewer than 12 different coarse fabric types. Two types (6 and 7) can be identified by their granodiorite inclusions as coming from the Isthmus of Ierapetra. Most other coarse fabrics, including type 1, as well as the fine fabrics, derive from a phyllite-quartzite series found in the Mochlos area and also in the adjacent areas of Kavousi and the Bay of Mirabello. Day et al. make the interesting observation that phyllite and granodiorite fabrics were not perceived by potters as functionally different, since they were used to produce similar vase types (p. 31). The only off-island imports found in the Artisans’ Quarter and at Chalinomouri are a small number of vases made of fabric types 10-12, which most probably derive from the Cyclades and elsewhere in the Aegean. The rarity of pottery imports at these two sites contrasts with their reported abundance in the elite quarters of the islet of Mochlos.

It must be pointed out that the term “local ” is used ambiguously in this pottery study since it is as yet impossible to distinguish with confidence the products of the Mochlos potter’s workshops from those of the nearby Mirabello area. Petrographic analyses alone did not identify fabric recipes specific to Mochlos, while, in terms of shape and decoration, high-quality fine decorated pottery and coarse phyllite vessels from Mochlos are generally indistinguishable from those found in the Bay of Mirabello. Only incised and relief lily decoration are overwhelmingly limited to jars from Mochlos and most probably signify local product ion (figs. 37-40). It is suggested that cylindrical bridge-spouted jars painted with lily motifs may be Mochlos products as well (p. 103), but the occurrence of similar jars at Gournia makes this proposition uncertain (p. 65, note 144). The authors’ argument that the morphological and decorative standardization of many utilitarian fine and coarse vases at Mochlos is indicative of local production is unconvincing since large batches of similar pottery could have been carried here by boat from workshops in the Bay of Mirabello. Five such conical and ogival cups were among two small groups of nine vases found in the vicinity of kiln B at Mochlos and may represent local products newly fired at the time of the destruction (p. 103; cf. Volume IC, pp. 81, 95). However, this interpretation too is uncertain because one of the cups as well as the four larger vases associated with the cups are highly fragmentary, and there is no mention of the absence of use wear.

Being able to pinpoint the products of specific workshops is a desirable goal in present-day pottery studies because it would allow one to study with greater precision the organization of production, the circulation of pottery, and the relationship of producer to consumer. Chemical analysis may not be helpful because the fabric recipes of the Mochlos potters may be chemically indistinguishable from those used in the Mirabello area. Nevertheless it would be worthwhile to carry out a pilot study of plausible control groups, such as the deposit of potter’s clay from the Artisans’ Quarter, the jars with incised and relief lily decoration, and even the vases thought to have been fired in kiln B. Another and probably more profitable approach would be microstyle analysis, which attempts to distinguish the output of a specific potter or closely-knit group of potters by identifying sets of morphological, decorative, and manufacturing details that result from learned practices and motor habits. Successful microstyle studies have been carried out by Whitelaw et al. on Early Minoan pottery from Myrtos Fournou Koriphi and by Thomas on Mycenaean kylikes from Zygouries.1

The two fabric chapters of Mochlos,Vol. IB are followed by the main part of the publication: a very large third chapter, co-written by Barnard, Brogan, Nicgorski, M. E. Soles, and J. S. Soles, with a catalog of vases as well as discussions of shape, decoration and, occasionally, manufacturing practices. Since it is the primary goal of this study to characterize the final Neopalatial ceramic phase at the Artisans’ Quarter and Chalinomouri and the authors consider the find contexts to be chronologically homogeneous, they do not list the vases by context but arrange them in a single shape typology. Presentations of the pottery by context can be found in Mochlos, Vol.IA. Minoan archaeology does not have a standard, agreed-upon way of organizing a pottery catalog. A frequently used principle of organization is by surface decoration, in what can be characterized as an art historical approach. Vases with intricate pattern-painted decoration typically are listed first, followed by dark monochrome coated and unpainted vessels.2 This approach has the advantage that the reader gains an immediate overview of the range of decorative patterns that characterize a ceramic phase as well as their distribution over vase shapes. Since intricately decorated pottery usually is of higher quality than simply decorated or plain pottery, this kind of catalog also allows the reader to quickly distinguish quality classes in the pottery. The disadvantage of this approach is that vases of the same shape but with different decorative schemes (e.g. light-on-dark vs. dark-on-light patterned) are presented under different headings, which leads to a fragmented view of the functional categories in the pottery.

The present volume opts for organizing vases into a shape typology. This approach seems to be most appropriate since the large majority of Minoan pottery was made to be functional and does not seem to claim artistic merit. A morphological typology has the advantage that it arranges vase types de facto into functional categories (drinking, eating, pouring, storage, transport, cooking, and special uses), giving the reader a clear overview of these categories and the various vase types serving those functions. The disadvantage of this approach is that information on quality classes and types of surface decoration is more fragmented than in an art historical catalog. The authors of Mochlos, Vol. IB deal with the fragmentation of decorative patterns by summarizing them in the last chapter and in figures 57-59. Whereas some shape typologies begin with large coarse vessels, such as pithoi, and end with fine decorated open shapes,3 the authors of the present volume opt for the opposite order, beginning with small open shapes, and ending with large closed shapes, cooking vessels, and miscellaneous unidentified vases. This approach is to be preferred, because small open shapes are usually the most sensitive chronological markers, changing appearances most often perhaps because they are most prone to breaking. By presenting them first, one allows the reader to grasp the main characteristics of a pottery phase more quickly.

More than 45 morphological types and subtypes are identified among the final Neopalatial ceramic assemblages of the Artisans’ Quarter and Chalinomouri. Each type is introduced by an in-depth discussion of its morphological characteristics, subtypes, range of fabric types, decorative patterns, function, and comparanda in east and central Crete. The function of a vase type is assessed on the basis of its intrinsic characteristics and, in exemplary fashion, of its distribution within the three buildings as well as its associated finds. The frequency of vase types in each room of the buildings under study is illustrated with tables and bar charts (Appendix A). Traces of burning resulting from use are mentioned, but it would have been good to have in addition systematic reporting of all use wear on vase types. Each discussion section is immediately followed by a catalog of vases of this type. The authors have made a laudable effort to provide copious amounts of examples for each type and subtype. The catalog is well-organized and straightforward to use. The vases preserve the order of the Mochlos excavation numbers, which will make it easy for future scholars to find them in the Mochlos collection. Individual vase descriptions provide brief information on shape, preservation, dimensions, fabric, and decoration, as well as occasionally bibliography. A major shortcoming is the erratic reporting on the burnishing of vases. As a rule, high-quality Late Minoan vases decorated with intricate dark-painted patterns on a light ground have polished or burnished surfaces. One expects this to be the case also at Mochlos. Instead, pattern-painted rounded cups, collared jugs, bridge-spouted jugs, piriform bridge-spouted jars, side-spouted jars, strainers, and small stirrup jars of high quality are never described in this volume as burnished, whereas most pattern-painted horizontal-handled bowls of Type A, alabastra, beaked jugs, and cylindrical bridge-spouted jars are listed as burnished. The reported distribution pattern of burnishing is highly unusual, and is likely to be due to surface wear. This cannot be verified in the catalog because the degree of wear has not been systematically noted.

Illustrations of vases are plentiful and well organized. Drawings are generally of excellent quality, showing irregularities in shape and decoration, as well as details of wall thickness that convey information about techniques of vessel formation. However, the dimensions of the drawings sometimes differ substantially from those given in the catalog, changing the appreciation of vessel proportions, e.g. the rim diameters of rounded cups IB.199, IB.202, IB.208, IB.219, and IB.220. Other inconsistencies are few and do not detract from the clarity of the information (e.g. IB.273 has its section on the left instead of the right, and IB.204 has its handle drawn at the profile instead of at the section). Very few omissions can be noted, such as cooking pot IB.508, which should have been drawn because it is of extraordinary size and has unusual characteristics in its shape and plastic decoration (p. 81). The black-and-white photos are useful for providing a sense of fabric types and surface finish as well as condition of preservation. Beautiful color paintings on the frontispiece of two intricately decorated fine vases help the reader to appreciate the appearance of this high-quality pottery.

Minoan pottery never received a generally accepted classification of the kind developed by Furumark for Mycenaean pottery. Instead, various scholars devised their own typologies. This situation has resulted in a proliferation of terms that often confuses non-specialists. The present authors sensibly use existing typologies as much as possible and usually create their own subtypes only when these do not yet exist elsewhere. Divisions into subtypes are generally well supported by the data, but some problems must be noted. The term “horizontal-handled bowl” is misleading, because knob-handled bowls also have horizontal handles. Moreover, “horizontal-handled bowls” of subtype A encompass a great variety of body shapes, including examples without preserved handles, and would have been more aptly described as “convex-sided bowls.” Because of their variability they are better considered as a subgroup than a subtype.

The reader needs to be aware that the pottery catalog includes not only complete and restorable vases but also single fragments. Many of these fragments predate the final Neopalatial destruction horizon, but others are said to belong to it. Whereas the inclusion of fragments in the catalog in itself does not pose a problem, the authors should have done a better job of separating complete and restorable vases found on floors from fragments when discussing final Neopalatial pottery characteristics. True floor deposits only consist of complete and restorable vases that can be reasonably assumed to have been in use at the time of the destruction. Single fragments or highly fragmentary vases found on floors may belong to vases that were previously used in those rooms, as the authors believe, but they are equally likely to have come from the building’s destroyed walls and roof or to have been reused as fragments. In all these cases, they may well belong to an earlier ceramic phase and thus should be used with extreme caution when establishing the characteristics of the final Neopalatial pottery phase. For the same reason, fragments should not have been included in the frequency charts per room given in Appendix A. By doing so, even though they clearly separated fragments from complete and restorable vases in the charts, the authors are likely to have inflated the numbers and misrepresented the range of vase types used in these rooms. Fragments and complete/restorable vases also should not have been considered together in discussions of room function (e.g., p. 80).

Vase types used at Mochlos at the end of the Neopalatial period are in general closely comparable to those of contemporary sites in central and east Crete. The most common drinking vessels are the utilitarian conical cup and larger convex-sided cup. At Mochlos, this larger cup has an ogival profile with sharply undercut lower body and well-finished outturned rim. Similar ogival cups have been found in significant numbers only at Palaikastro in east Crete. A larger cup type with a roughly conical body and vertical coil handle from Mochlos also has good east Cretan comparanda (fig. 3). It has been grouped together with conical cups but should have been listed as a separate type. High-quality clay drinking vessels are much more rare. In this class, the dark-on-light pattern-painted large rounded cup with a single vertical handle and an everted rim, often pulled into a spout at a 90-degree angle to the handle, has entirely replaced the earlier straight-sided cup. One rounded cup has an exceptional decoration in the form of a row of ships (IB.202), which is discussed in much greater detail in Mochlos, Vol. IC, Chap. 1. It may be pointed out that the extreme standardization of conical and ogival cups in shape, decoration, manufacture, and dimensions is paralleled at Kommos and A. Irini on Kea, where it is interpreted as indicative of a high degree of routine on the part of the potter and highly organized mass production.4 At Kommos there is also clear evidence that the local potter specialized in specific vase shapes. Capacities of conical cups from Mochlos center around 10- 11 cl., which is much larger than the 6-6.5 cl. average observed at Knossos and Kommos. Ranges of dimensions and proportions of these and other vase types are simply listed in the text. Even though these dimensional data provide very welcome information, they would have been better presented in bar charts, with descriptive statistics such as the mean, standard deviation and coefficient of variance, to make the various vase types more easily comparable with each other and with data reported from Kommos and A. Irini. The highest-quality eating or serving vessels at Mochlos are intricately painted fine convex-sided bowls usually provided with horizontal coil handles. Their patterned decoration always occurs on the exterior; it should be pointed out this is characteristic of high-quality bowls from the Late Minoan IB phase onwards. Many bowls are similar in shape to rounded cups, whereas others have thickened rims or ledge rims. One wonders if the highest-quality rounded cups from Mochlos, most of which do not preserve handle attachments and have banded interior bodies rather than the customary dark monochrome interiors, are not in fact bowls (IB.199, IB.200, IB.217, IB.220, IB.221). The remaining open vessels consist of utilitarian basins, vats, and scoops.

Among the closed vases, jugs are much more common pouring vessels than bridge-spouted jars. All standard types (beak-spouted, collared, bridge-spouted and trefoil-mouthed) are present, but the bridge-spouted jug should in fact have been listed as a subtype of the collared jug. High-quality beaked and collared jugs are pattern-painted. Bridge-spouted jars are always of high quality and come in two subtypes with piriform and cylindrical (or rather, barrel-shaped) bodies, the latter being typical for the Mochlos and Mirabello areas. Closely related to bridge-spouted jars are high-quality small side-spouted jars of a common east Cretan type with two horizontal coil handles and tubular spouts. The term “side-spouted” is actually a misnomer and should be reserved for single-handled vases with a spout set at 90 degrees to the handle. “Spouted pyxides” would be a better term for the Mochlos vases. No serving sets of high-quality cups, bowls, and pouring vessels with similar decoration have been identified. Other popular closed vases of high quality with good east Cretan comparanda are tall alabstra, small three-handled stirrup jars, and waisted strainers. The function of these strainers is unknown, but the find of olive stone impressions in the floor around the only complete strainer (IB.357) is most interesting and appears to support Andreadaki-Vlazaki’s interpretation of their use in the production of aromatic oils and unguents. Utilitarian closed vases include jugs, large coarse stirrup jars, amphoras, and storage jars of the usual types. The two most common pithos subtypes at Mochlos are merely larger versions of hole-mouthed and piriform jars, so the same terminology should have been applied instead of naming them pithos types A and B. The number of lids found at Mochlos is unusually large, but the types are common. Four small types would have been used to cover small closed vases, and two large types were suitable for closing jars and pithoi. The authors reasonably reject Betancourt’s and Barber’s interpretation of Mochlos type B lids as spinning bowls because of the absence of any tell-tale wear marks.

Vessels in cooking pot fabrics are listed as tripod cooking pots, cooking dishes, cooking trays, stands, scuttles, and fireboxes. Cooking bowls should have been included here rather than with bowls since their burning marks show that they were used for cooking (p. 53). The observed use of buff-colored fabrics for some cooking vessels is unusual and should be further investigated. This reviewer has noted a similar phenomenon among Protopalatial cooking vessels from Kommos but believes that the buff color is a result of firing conditions since both buff and deep red colors occur on the same vases. As elsewhere in east Crete by the end of the Neopalatial period, globular cooking pots of type A have almost entirely replaced the straight-sided type B pots. Numerous cooking dish fragments were found, confirming its reconstruction as having a circular to ovoid shape. The authors propose a distinction between type A and B rim profiles, type A being outturned, and type B convex. It seems, however, that both rim types may occur on the same ovoid cooking dishes. This would explain why convex Type B rim profiles are much more numerous than the concave Type A ones. The authors’ observation that tripod trays made of cooking pot fabrics never show burning marks and may not have been used for cooking but rather for holding hot foodstuffs is interesting and should be tested at other sites. Cooking dish and tray fragments are especially prominent in the Mochlos kilns and may have been used in the construction of the kiln domes. One should also consider the possibility that they were spacers and fire supports. Being made of cooking pot fabrics, these fragments would have been ideally suited to withstand repeated high firing temperatures. Stands, scuttles, and fireboxes are quite rare. Stands have attached bowls used as lamps, incense burners, or perhaps as offering stands. Scuttles (or braziers) and fireboxes are of common Neopalatial types, the scuttles having only slighted indented rims, in contrast to the sharply indented rims of Protopalatial examples, and the fireboxes having multiple holes instead of a single large central hole.

The concluding chapter of this volume, by Barnard, Brogan, and Soles, begins with a discussion of the relationship of decorative schemes and motifs to vase shapes and fabric types. While this summary is very useful, it discusses the decoration of vases in terms of “artistic trends” (p. 102), as if they are works of art. In fact, since most Minoan pottery is highly repetitive in its decoration, it was probably intended to be daily tableware without any artistic pretense. Just as nowadays one would not evaluate the artistic quality of a Sears dinner set, it seems inappropriate to assess the majority of Minoan pottery in this way. The observed increase in the schematic quality of final Neopalatial decorative designs at Mochlos is more likely to be a result of economizing behavior on the part of the potter than of a change in artistic ability or intent. This reviewer also takes issue with the authors’ statement that Mochlos pottery is in general provincial (p. 102). The term “provincial” assumes that certain sites, and especially Knossos, were trendsetters in terms of pottery production and that the rest of Minoan Crete produced pottery of derivative styles and lesser quality. In fact, apart from the Late Minoan IB elite styles (Marine, Floral, Abstract, and Geometric Styles), of which the production locale has not been established with certainty, the majority of high-quality pottery of this ceramic phase is repetitive and limited in its decorative repertoire at any Minoan site, including Knossos. Moreover, it is clear that innovation did not always come from Knossos and was certainly not always inspired by the elite styles. East Cretan patterns such as the row of painted lilies on bridge-spouted jar IB.338 (fig. 26) or shapes such as the waisted strainer represent high-quality regional products that are not in the least bit inferior to most Knossian output. Rather than judging the output of outlying areas “provincial,” one would do better to consider them regional styles operating more or less on an equal footing.

A related issue is the authors’ use of the terms Marine and Floral Style to refer to any high-quality vase decorated with marine or floral motifs, such as jug IB.327 or bridge-spouted jar IB.338 with painted lilies. By doing so, they in fact blur the distinction between motif and style. It is much more useful to restrict the terms Marine and Floral Style to a specific class of top-quality vases with marine and floral motifs which share similar, very carefully prepared fabrics, well-thrown shapes, well-smoothed and carefully polished surfaces, and motifs executed in similar style. Belonging to a single microstyle group, these vases are likely to be the products of a single workshop or of a close-knit group of workshops. Abiding by the strict definition of those terms allows one to distinguish true Marine or Floral Style vases from others with similar motifs but different execution, which are likely to have been produced by different workshops. Thus it is possible to investigate the relationship between the various workshops. Among the Mochlos pottery published here, only fragment IB.619, possibly a stirrup jar, is a good candidate for being a true Marine Style vase. The schematic quality of the octopus on stirrup jar IB.369 suggests that it is an imitation. The second section of the concluding chapter includes a functional analysis of the pottery assemblages found in each room. The authors make the interesting observation that more cooking was done and perhaps more people were being fed at the Artisans’ Quarter than at the Chalinomouri farmhouse. This conjures up ideas of a labor force paid by rations, a notion supported by the abundance of conical and ogival cups at the Artisans’ Quarter (e.g. 52 in room A.2), and their rarity at Chalinomouri.

In the final part of the concluding chapter the authors propose a relative dating for the pottery from the Artisans’ Quarter and the Chalinomouri farmhouse. This part of the discussion is problematic. Three construction phases are identified in buildings A and B of the Artisans’ Quarter, and dated to the Late Minoan IB ceramic phase (p. 2). However, the dating evidence for the first and third construction phases is not clearly presented. The discovery of Theran ash in the foundations certainly shows that the initial construction postdates the volcanic eruption, but it is not clearly stated whether the latest associated pottery fragments date to the post-Theran stage of the Late Minoan IA phase or to an early stage of Late Minoan IB. This foundation pottery should have been discussed separately from the fragments found on top of the first floors or in outside areas sealed by floors of the second architectural phase (p. 105). Pottery fragments datable to an early stage of Late Minoan IB were identified among these first floor accumulations, providing a terminus post quem for the second construction phase. No pottery evidence is given at all for the date of the third construction phase. Likewise, no evidence is provided to support the authors’ opinion that the Chalinomouri farmhouse was constructed later than the buildings of the Artisans’ Quarter (p. 106). It should be standard practice to publish information about the latest pottery found below floors of buildings as dating evidence for their construction.

The authors’ relative date of the final Neopalatial destruction horizon at Mochlos is bound to be controversial. Even though they consider the latest ceramic features in these levels to be final Late Minoan IB in style in east Cretan terms, they believe that these are contemporary with an early stage of the Late Minoan II phase in north-central Crete. The repercussion of this interpretation is that the destructions which swept Crete at the end of the Neopalatial period would not have occurred simultaneously over the entire island but happened in east Crete with some delay. In ceramic terms, this early stage of Late Minoan II, preceding the appearance of the Ephyraean goblet, would have been a regional north-central Cretan style contemporary with the final stage of Late Minoan IB in east Crete rather than an island-wide ceramic subphase. Several arguments are advanced in support of this interpretation. The authors believe that the Late Minoan IB destruction horizon at nearby Pseira predates that at Mochlos because its characteristic ceramic features correspond to those of earlier Late Minoan IB architectural phases at Mochlos, such as smaller rounded cups with running spirals and vases with added red bands. However, those stylistic differences are not very pronounced. In fact, rounded cups from Pseira, even though generally smaller, reach 14 cm. in rim diameter, and overlap with most rounded cups from the final Neopalatial destruction at Mochlos. Pseira also shares with the destruction horizon at Mochlos the presence of ogival cups and it has, in contradiction to the authors’ claim, at least one horizontal-handled bowl that is similar in shape and decoration to the Mochlos bowls and even includes the slightly larger reserved space above the base band.5 The authors’ claim that the absence of elite-style vases from the building BS/BV at Pseira supports an earlier destruction date is invalidated by the fact that several well-known Marine, Floral, and Abstract Style vases were found in destruction levels elsewhere at that site. If Pseira was destroyed somewhat earlier than Mochlos, it cannot have been by many years.

The authors base their claim that Late Minoan II styles had already begun in north-central Crete at the time of the Mochlos destruction on the purported prevalence of the large rounded cup, horizontal-handled bowl, and squat alabastron in the destruction horizon at Mochlos — shapes which they believe are well represented in Late Minoan II assemblages in north-central Crete but not in Late Minoan IB contexts in central or east Crete. Their argument echoes Betancourt’s 1985 criteria for identifying the Late Minoan II phase, but these must now be revised in the light of the stratified Late Minoan IB finds from Kommos and Chalara (Phaistos), and of the very recent publication of pottery from the South House at Knossos, to which the authors of Mochlos, Vol. IB had no access.6 The rounded cup is not merely well represented in Late Minoan IB levels at Chalara and the South House, as well as in the late stage of Late Minoan IB at Kommos, it is the predominant high-quality drinking vessel in those central Cretan assemblages, as it is at Mochlos, and it displays a similar range of sizes, shapes, and decorative patterns as at Mochlos. Visual comparison is somewhat marred by the fact that several cups from Mochlos have been drawn with rim diameters that exceed by 1 to 2 cm. the dimensions given in their catalog descriptions, which creates the impression that they are generally larger than the cups from the other sites (IB.199, IB.202, IB.208, IB.218). Similar large spouted rounded cups were found in the Late Minoan IB destruction level at Nirou Chani in north-central Crete.7 Horizontal-handled bowls in fact are rare at Mochlos, with only seven fragmentary examples published, but they are common in Late Minoan IB levels at the three central Cretan sites and are similar in their range of body and handle shapes, sizes, and comparable in their decorative patterns to those from Mochlos. Similar bowls were also found at Nirou Chani. In contrast, Late Minoan II rounded cups and bowls from the Unexplored Mansion at Knossos are larger on the average, the cups with rim diameters of 14-15 cm and the bowls of 17-18 cm. The body and handle shapes of Late Minoan II cups and bowls are much more uniform, and their painted patterns are markedly different from those of the Mochlos cups and bowls. The third shape said to be indicative of an early Late Minoan II date of the Mochlos destruction horizon, the squat alabastron, is indeed uncommon in Late Minoan IB assemblages at the central Cretan sites, but the same is true at Mochlos, with only two examples published, of which one is a Late Helladic IIA import contemporary with the Late Minoan IB phase on Crete (IB.305). In sum, there is not a single valid reason to date the destruction at Mochlos later than a late stage of Late Minoan IB in central Cretan terms. What is more, the absence at Mochlos of the latest decorative features found on Late Minoan IB cups from Kommos, Knossos, and Nirou Chani — the replacement of the rim band with a half-foliate band or the row of pendent scales or multiple festoons below the rim band in combination with a plain upper body — could be taken to argue that Mochlos was destroyed some time before Nirou Chani and Knossos and before the end of the Late Minoan IB phase at Kommos. A date early in the Late Minoan II phase for the Mochlos destruction horizon would have been acceptable only if it included ceramic features that do not occur before the Late Minoan II phase in north-central Crete and thus must postdate the Late Minoan IB phase there. But this is obviously not the case.

In spite of issues of chronology and the interpretation of floor deposits, Mochlos, Vol. IB is a very good primary publication of the pottery from two smaller sites in the Mochlos area. With its well-organized format, copious amounts of pottery examples, very good illustrations, thorough discussions, and wealth of comparanda, it is an indispensable resource for Minoan pottery specialists and field archaeologists alike.


1. T. Whitelaw, P.M. Day, E. Kiriatzi, V. Kilikoglou, and D.E. Wilson 1997. “Ceramic Traditions at EM IIB Myrtos, Fournou Korifi.” In TEXNH. Craftsmen, Craftswomen and Craftsmanship in the Aegean Bronze Age. Proceedings of the 6th International Aegean Conference, Philadelphia, 1996 (Aegaeum 16), edited by R. Laffineur and P.P. Betancourt, 265-274; P.M. Thomas, 1997. “Mycenaean Kylix Painters at Zygouries.” Ibidem, 377-386. See also C. Morris, 1993. “Hands Up for the Individual! The Role of Attribution Studies in Aegean Prehistory.” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 3:41-66.

2. E.g., E.A. Catling, H.W. Catling, and D. Smyth 1979. “Knossos 1975: Middle Minoan III and Late Minoan I Houses by the Acropolis.” BSA 74: 1-80.

3. E.g., D. Levi, and F. Carinci 1988. Festòs e la civiltà minoica.Rome. Incunabula Graeca LXXVII.

4. For bibliography and detailed discussion of these dimensional data, see A. Van de Moortel, 2001. “Pottery as a Barometer of Economic Change.” In Labyrinth Revisited: Rethinking Minoan Archaeology, edited by Y. Hamilakis, 200-203. Oxford and Oakville.

5. P.P. Betancourt 1985. The History of Minoan Pottery, pl. 104K. Princeton.

6. Betancourt (supra, note 5) 150. For Kommos, see A. Van de Moortel 1997. The Transition from the Protopalatial to the Neopalatial Society in South-Central Crete: a Ceramic Perspective. PhD diss., Bryn Mawr College; L.V. Watrous 1992. Kommos III. The Late Bronze Age Pottery. Princeton. For Chalara, see O. Palio 2001. La casa tardo minoico I di Chalara a Festòs. Studi di Archeologia Cretese II, 244-422. Padua; and for the South House, P.A. Mountjoy 2003. Knossos. The South House, 97-105. Athens.

7. S. Xanthoudides 1922. “Minoikon megaron Nirou.” Archaiologike Ephemeris : figs. 19 (bowls) and 20 (rounded cups). This article is wrongly listed in the bibliography of Mochlos, Vol. IB as having appeared in the Praktika.