BMCR 2009.09.59

Die handgemachte geglättete Keramik Mykenischer Zeitstellung. Tiryns, Bd. 15

, , Die handgemachte geglättete Keramik Mykenischer Zeitstellung. Tiryns, Bd. 15. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2007. x, 129; 38 p. of plates. ISBN 9783895005497. €39.00.

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

Although the term “handmade and burnished ware” (HMBW, or, in German, hggK: handgemachte geglättete Keramik) denotes, technically, all pottery manufactured by hand and burnished, it more narrowly and more commonly refers to a class of pottery occurring in LH IIIB-C simultaneously with standard Mycenaean wheel-made pottery. This 15th volume in the Tiryns series publishes all handmade and burnished pottery from the excavations of the Lower Citadel of Tiryns. However, it is the HMBW from LH IIIB-C that is most common and most significant, and it rightfully gets the lion share of the attention.

The significance of the HMBW from LH IIIB-C is that it features prominently in the debate regarding the end of the Bronze Age.1 Since this ware is markedly different from the Mycenaean pottery with which it is found, in manufacturing method as well as in repertoire of shapes, it is generally taken as evidence for a foreign element — whether invaders, foreign “guest workers”, or slaves — at Mycenaean sites, although some scholars have suggested that it represents local household production in a time of crisis and diminished palatial production.2 Kilian does not hesitate to engage in the debate and sides squarely with those who see an association with a foreign population; in this volume he cites mostly connections with southern Italy.3

One of the problems with HMBW is that it manifests itself quite differently at different sites: it is usually locally made, as at Korakou, Mycenae, Tiryns (p. 9), and Aigeira in Achaea, but can be imported as at Kommos; it may consist exclusively of non-Mycenaean shapes, or it may also imitate Mycenaean shapes as at Tiryns (p. 52) and Mitrou; it may make its initial appearance at a site as early as LM IIIA2 (Kommos) or as late as LH IIIC Early (Korakou), and may last throughout the LH IIIC period as at Tiryns (pp. 48-49) or disappear after LH IIIC Early as at Korakou and the Menelaion; and close parallels have been cited with wares from northwestern Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria-Romania, and Sicily and southern Italy.4 With the careful study and final publication of the full assemblage of diagnostic HMBW fragments from the excavations between 1976 and 1983 in the Lower Citadel of Tiryns (which yielded the largest deposit of this ware found and studied to date), we now have another important piece of a complex puzzle.

The present volume was prepared by Kilian, but since he passed away before bringing the volume to press, Mühlenbruch edited the manuscript and brought it to publication. As is usual in these cases, it was not certain which additions and improvements Kilian may have had in mind; the foreword suggests that Kilian probably intended to add more references and plates (p. IX) and this reviewer feels that the volume could certainly have benefited from more numerous and exhaustive citations. Moreover, the cited bibliography, with very rare exceptions (e.g. p. 70 note 599, referring to a work by the author himself) basically stops in the late 1980’s and is thus far from up-to-date. More substantially, in the 16 years that passed between Kilian’s completion of the manuscript and the publication of the present volume (p. ιχ the LH IIIB2-IIIC strata from the Lower Citadel were redated by U. Meinhardt and T. Mühlenbruch, based on their study of the stratigraphy. This necessitated changing many of the dates assigned by Kilian (p. 81), leading to frequent question marks set in square brackets in the text when the find context could not be dated securely (e.g. p. 11, nos. 13 and 18; p. 13 no. 69; p. 26, no. 254, etc.). In the catalogue, these doubtful cases are listed with Kilian’s name in brackets after the date (e.g. nos. 9, 11-13, 18, 22).

After a foreword by Maran, in which the major conclusions are anticipated, and an introduction, which briskly summarizes the history of the scholarship on HMBW (until the 1980s), the book briefly covers the types of handmade burnished wares in the EH III, MH, and early Mycenaean periods (pp. 3-6). The characteristics of these wares are briefly summarized, with emphasis on firing technique and appearance of the fabric of the sherds: EH sherds are reddish-brown or black, with a black core and hard fired heavy fabric; MH sherds are hard fired with blue-gray core; and early Mycenaean handmade and burnished sherds have a yellowish surface, a fine fabric, and are also hard fired. These pages thus give useful guidelines for distinguishing handmade burnished sherds from various periods in the field; most notable is that all pre-LH IIIB handmade burnished sherds are fired hard, whereas the following section on the manufacturing technique of LH IIIB-C HMBW (pp. 6-9) makes clear that these sherds are, in contrast, fired rather soft. This is due to a relatively low firing temperature (p. 7). In general, the firing process is described as primitive: from the widely varying colors of the core and fabric of the sherds it can be deduced that the pottery was fired in a simple charcoal kiln, which could not be closed off from oxygen completely, and that the firing process was uneven and barely controlled (p. 7). Importantly, the relative softness and other characteristics of core and fabric are taken as diagnostic indicators for HMBW, even if the distinctive burnishing is absent: fragments of 4 figurines (471, 472, 474, 476) are treated as HMBW because of their firing and tempering (pp. 8, 45). Since softness of fabric is treated as one of the diagnostic characteristic for HMBW, it would have been useful had a MOHS number for the sherds been included in the catalogue entries or in this section on manufacture. The quality of manufacture is otherwise high: the individual coils with which the vessels are made are smoothed together so that they are no longer discernible (p. 8); burnishing – by fingernail, wood, or bone – was done mostly horizontally and sometimes both horizontally and vertically in narrow (less than 0.5 mm.) bands (p. 8). Decoration, if present, consists of applied bands, horizontal, vertical, or in wavy lines, either smooth or decorated with finger imprints (p. 8); five sherds have barbotine decoration.

On page 9 starts an exhaustive list of all attested shapes in HMBW at Tiryns. The range of shapes is impressive, comprising 30 different vessel types as well as spools, spindle whorls, and various figurines. The author cites south Italian parallels, especially from Broglio (Sibari), for many of the shapes. Most shapes are typical household shapes: small and mid-size barrel-shaped vessels used for storage or cooking dominate the assemblage (40%); lids (indicating storage), cooking vessels, amphoras, and various drinking vessels and bowls make up another 46% of the assemblage (p. 49), and spindle whorls ca. 14%. The presence of HMBW spindle whorls and spools is tentatively linked to economic hardship (p. 40) rather than to the presence of a foreign population (p. 42; but see p. 78: “Die Spinnwirtelformen nicht-italischer Art wie mykenische Idole der hggK zeigen eine vollendete Absorbierung fremder Minoritäten in der neuen spätmykenischen Gemeinschaft an.”). A HMBW psi-figurine with polos hat dates to LH IIIB Early (p. 44) and thus constitutes evidence for the early date at which HMBW makes its appearance at Tiryns, as well as for the early imitation of Mycenaean shapes in HMBW and the integration of the foreign minorities into Mycenaean society (pp. 75, 78).

The following section on chronology (p. 46) suggests that Late Bronze Age HMBW is attested at Tiryns between the middle of LH IIIB and Submycenaean, with sudden peaks during LH IIIC Early, when the material makes up 30.6% of the total assemblage, and Submycenaean (p. 46 and fig. 1). It is of course significant that HMBW was introduced at Tiryns well before the destruction of the palace, so that its appearance is not associated with the citadel’s destruction. The chronological analysis is followed by a discussion of the spatial distribution. HMBW occurs both in exclusively domestic contexts and in rooms with an official function such as the “House of the Priestess” (p. 50) but is in LH IIIB2 absent from the higher-class houses in the palace area (p. 74) and in LH IIIC from official cult contexts (pp. 50-51 and 74).

From p. 50 onwards a series of brief sections discusses the importance of the material in a wider context. About 9% of the HMBW from Tiryns imitates or is inspired by Mycenaean shapes, such as the lid, the hydria, the cooking pot, and the tub (p. 52); in turn, HMBW also influences Mycenaean wheel made shapes such as the angular krater (p. 53). The Italian connections are treated on pages 54-55 (“Italian Imports, Italian Influences”): four vessels are imported from southern Italy, and up to 82% of the locally made HMBW shows possible parallels with south Italian vessels (p. 54). In fact, in a review of HMBW at other Mycenaean and Aegean sites (pp. 56-69) Kilian suggests that the material from Korakou, assigned by Rutter to a Bulgarian or southern Romanian tradition, actually has closer parallels with Italian material (pp. 58; 75). The remaining 9% of the handmade burnished material from Tiryns, among which are pieces with barbotine slipped decoration, is influenced by northwest Greek traditions (p. 55). Kilian explains the presence of HMBW at Tiryns as evidence for foreign (i.e. southern Italian) “guest workers”, craftsmen who constitute a small minority in Mycenaean society and are unattached to the palatial or elite sphere (p. 80): a thesis similar to that of Bankoff et al.5

A catalogue consisting of more than 488 LH IIIB-C sherds and an additional 80 handmade burnished sherds dated to EH and MH takes up pp. 81-125. The catalogue is organized by shape, following more or less the listing earlier in the book, and lists for each sherd the color (of surface and in most cases of the fabric at section and the core), the degree and type of burnishing, the tempering, and the date. Sizes are not given, but since all entries are drawn to scale, this is unproblematic. The thickness of vessel walls can be deduced from the drawings as generally falling between ca. 8 and 12 mm, although thicker and thinner sections occur as well (notably, the ca. 1 foot tall amphora no. 198 has a section of only ca. 6 mm).

A list of abbreviations, 32 plates with drawings, and 6 plates with BW photos complete the book. A full bibliography is not given separately, since all bibliographic entries are fully given the first time they appear in a footnote — a system which can occasionally lead to a rather distracting search back through footnotes when only a laconic “a.O.” (“am angeführten Ort”) is given instead of the full reference (e.g. in note 44, p. 9, where the a.O. must refer to note 41 on p. 6).

Despite these quibbles, this is a high-quality, solid publication, with dense and useful overviews of the material, compact discussions, clear conclusions, and an invaluable catalogue with drawings and plates. As we expect from a Tiryns volume, the quality of production is high. This is an important publication in its own right, making the complete assemblage of the HMBW material from Tiryns available, as well as an invaluable addition to the ongoing debate regarding the tumultuous last phase of the Bronze Age.

Table of Contents: Vorwort IX
Einfürung 1
Ältere Traditionen geglätteter Keramik 3
Macharten der mykenischen Zeit 6
Herstellungsort 9
Formen 9
Häufigkeit in der Phasenfolge der mykenischen Besiedlung 46
Zeitlicher Rahmen der Formen 47
Funktion 49
Lokalisierung im mykenischen Siedlungsverband 50
Einflüsse mykenischer Drehscheibenkeramik 52
Auswirkungen auf die mykenische Drehscheibenkeramik 53
Italische Importe, italisch beeinflusste Formen 54
Lokale und nordwestgriechische Formen 54
Handgemachte geglättete Keramik in mykenischen Territorien 56
Handgemachte geglättete Keramik in Gebieten expansiver Ausbreitung mykenischer Kultur 66
Handgemachte geglättete Keramik und mykenische Kontaktzonen im Südbalkan 70
Archäologisch-historische Interpretation der handgemachten geglätteten Keramik 72
Katalog 81
Abkürzungsverzeichnis 127


1. Although HMBW and its implications were discussed as early as 1969 (J. Bouzek. 1969. “The Beginnings of the Protogeometric Pottery and the ‘Dorian Ware’,” OpAth 9, 41-57 and E. French. 1969. “The First Phase of LH IIIC,” AA 84, 133-136), the debate on its significance for the end of the BA effectively started in 1975, when an article by Rutter in the AJA (J.B. Rutter. 1975. “Ceramic Evidence for Northern Intruders in Southern Greece at the Beginning of the Late Helladic IIIC Period,” AJA 79, 17-32) led to a reply by Walberg (G. Walberg. 1976. “Northern Intruders in Myc. IIIC?” AJA 80, 186-187) and a counter reply by Rutter (J.B. Rutter. 1976. “‘Non-Mycenaean’ Pottery: A Reply to Gisela Walberg,” AJA 80, 187-188); a new series of articles appeared in the 1990s in the JMA, starting with Small (D.B. Small. 1990. “Handmade Burnished Ware and Prehistoric Aegean Economics: An Argument for Indigenous Appearance,” JMA 3, 3-25), followed by a reply by Rutter (J.B. Rutter. 1990. “Some Comments on Interpreting the Dark-surfaced Handmade Burnished Pottery of the 13th and 12th Century B.C. Aegean,” JMA 3, 29-49), a new interpretation by Bankoff et al. in 1996 (H.A. Bankoff, N. Meyer, and M. Stefanovich. 1996. “Handmade Burnished Ware and the Late Bronze Age of the Balkans,” JMA 9, 193-209), and replies by Genz (H. Genz. 1997. “Northern Slaves and the Origin of Handmade Burnished Ware: A Comment on Bankoff, et al.,” JMA 10, 109-111) and Small (D.B. Small. 1997. “Can We Move Forward? Comments on the Current Debate over Handmade Burnished Ware,” JMA 10, 223-228). German language scholarship on HMBW is dominated by Deger-Jalkotzy (S. Deger-Jalkotzy. 1977. Fremde Zuwanderer im spätmykenischen Griechenland, Vienna and S. Deger-Jalkotzy. 1983. “Das Problem der ‘Handmade Burnished Ware’ von Myk. IIIC,” in S. Deger-Jalkotzy (ed.), Griechenland, die Ägäis und die Levante während der ‘Dark Ages’ vom 12. bis zum 9.Jh. v. Chr., Vienna, 161-178) and Kilian (e.g. K. Kilian. 1978. “Nordwestgriechische Keramik aus der Argolis und ihre Entsprechungen in der Subapennin-facies,” in: Istituto italiano di preistoria e protostoria (eds.), Atti della XX riunione scientific in Basilicata, 16-20 ottobre 1976, Florence, 311-320).

2. For the diffusionist argument that HMBW represents a foreign element in the population, see e.g. Rutter 1975 and 1990 (supra note 1), N.K. Sandars. 1978. The Sea Peoples: Warriors of the Ancient Mediterranean, 1250-1150 B.C., London, and N.K. Sandars. 1983. “North and South at the End of the Mycenaean Age: Aspects of an Old Problem,” OJA 2, 43-68, E. French. 1989. “Possible Northern Intrusions at Mycenae,” in: J.G.P. Best and N.M.W. de Vries (eds.), Thracians and Mycenaeans. Proceedings of the Fourth International Congress of Thracology. Rotterdam, 24-26 September 1984, 39-51, Deger-Jalkotzi 1977 and 1983 (supra note 1), H.W. and E.A. Catling. 1981. “‘Barbarian’ Pottery from the Mycenaean Settlement at the Menelaion, Sparta,” BSA 76, 71-82, B.P. Hallager. 1983. “A New Social Class in Late Bronze Age Crete: Foreign Traders in Khania,” in O. Krzyszkowska and L. Nixon (eds.), Minoan Society, Bristol, 111-119. H.A. Bankoff and F.A. Winter. 1984. “Northern Intruders in LH IIIC Greece: A View from the North,” JIES 12, 1-30. Bankoff et al. 1996 (supra note 1) linked the presence of HMBW in small quantities together with standard Mycenaean ware to the presence of northern slaves. Not everybody agrees that HMBW is not indigenous: Walberg (1976) and Small (1990 and 1997) have suggested that HMBW represents local Mycenaean household production in a time of general crisis and decline. The problem with this theory is that it fails to recognize the substantial differences between HMBW and Mycenaean ware not only in manufacturing method but also in shape and decorative schemes.

3. Kilian thus changed his mind about the origins of the HMBW from Tiryns: whereas in the late 1970s and early 1980s he sought a northwest Greek origin, citing parallels with wares from Epirus, in the present volume he focuses on the similarities between the HMBW from Tiryns and similar ware from the Apennine peninsula (p. IX). See e.g. Kilian 1978 (supra note 1) and K. Kilian, G. Hiesel, and H-J. Weisshaar. 1982. “Ausgrabungen in Tiryns 1980,” AA (1982), 393-466.

4. For Korakou, see Rutter 1975 (supra note 1). For Mycenae, see French 1969 (supra note 1). For Aigeira, see S. Deger-Jalkotzy and E. Alram-Stern. 1985. “Aigeira-Hyperesia und die Siedlung Phelloë in Achaia I: Akropolis. I: Die mykenische Siedlung,” Klio 67, 394-426. For Kommos, see L.V. Watrous. 1989. “A Preliminary Report on Imported ‘Italian’ Wares from the Late Bronze Age Site of Kommos on Crete,” SMEA 27, 69-80, and J.B. Rutter. 1999. “Cretan External Relations During Late Minoan IIIA2-B (ca. 1370-1200 BC): A View from the Mesara,” in W. Phelps, Y. Lolos, and Y. Vichos (eds.), The Point Iria Wreck: Interconnections in the Mediterranean ca. 1200 BC, Athens, 139-186. For two handmade dark burnished kylix stems from Mitrou, see J.B. Rutter. 2007, “How Different Is LH IIIC Middle at Mitrou? An Initial Comparison with Kalapodi, Kynos, and Lefkandi,” in S. Deger-Jalkotzy and M. Zavadil (eds.), LH III C Chronology and Synchronisms II. LH III C Middle, Vienna, 287-300. . For the Menelaion, see Catling and Catling 1981 (supra note 2). Northwest-Greek parallels: e.g. Kilian 1978 (supra note 1). Parallels with the Paracina and Meiana traditions in the Serbian Morava valley: Bankoff and Winter 1984 (supra note 2). Bulgarian-Romanian Coslogeni culture parallels: Rutter 1975 (supra note 1); South Italian and Sicilian parallels: Deger-Jalkotzi 1977, 1983 (supra note 1); Italian imports: Hallager 1983 (supra note 2) and Watrous 1989 (supra).

5. Bankoff et al. 1996 (supra note 1).