BMCR 2010.03.51

The LMIII Cemetery at Tourloti, Siteia: The ‘Xanthoudidis Master’ and the Octopus Style in East Crete

, The LMIII Cemetery at Tourloti, Siteia: The 'Xanthoudidis Master' and the Octopus Style in East Crete. BAR International Series 1917. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2009. 106. ISBN 9781407304007 £31.00.

[Disclaimer: Constantinos Paschalidis is a colleague of the reviewer at the National Archaeological Musem. He and the reviewer have collaborated both inside and outside the museum.]

The “LMIII Cemetery at Tourloti, Siteia” by Constantinos Paschalidis is a worthy contribution to Cretan archaeology. The ongoing investigation at Tourloti has proven that the site was part of an important network of settlements, which probably formed a major LM III centre in Eastern Crete. Yet, apart from the publication by Metaxia Tsipopoulou and Lucia Vagnetti on a LM IIIC tub larnax ( SMEA 41, 1999, 123-143), there has been no other thorough work on the finds from the site.

The book consists of three chapters. The first chapter starts with a review of the investigation of the area of Tourloti. It also describes the structure of the study. The site Plakalpona at Tourloti is located in Eastern Crete, behind the Mochlos port, on the road to Petras and Palaikastro, as one proceeds from the Mirabello Gulf. The site was first identified and excavated by Richard B. Seager in 1900. A few years later, Stefanos Xanthoudidis reported a group of copper alloy weapons and tools. Chance discoveries and rescue excavations since then, revealed a group of wealthy LM III chamber tombs. There are three main groups of vases discussed, the ones that derive from the two chamber tombs excavated in 1984 by M. Tsipopoulou and N. Papadakis respectively, and a group of vases, found during agricultural work, which were handed over by a peasant, M. Fygetakis, to the Archaeological Service. All vases are currently held in the Siteia Archaeological Museum, Crete. The significance of this particular group of finds rests on the fact that they give a clearer picture of the commercial and cultural contacts between Tourloti and Mycenaean Knossos on the one hand, and the rest of the Aegean during the post palatial period on the other.

The introduction of the site is followed by a brief description of the chamber tomb excavated by Tsipopoulou. The tomb constitutes an example of the commonest type of burial on Crete in the LM III period, with the roughly circular or elliptical chamber, a domed roof and a short dromos. All other tombs of the site are of the same architectural type and size. Two vases are presented here: a three-handled piriform jar of a Knossian workshop and a trefoil spouted jug.. Parallels of these vases are held in the National Archaeological Museum, discussed in an appendix at the end of the chapter. From the chamber tomb excavated by Papadakis comes a larger group of finds, with the prevalent pottery shape being the globular stirrup jar. Among them is a stamnos or amphora used as an ash urn, with the burned remains of a man and a child, discussed in the last chapter. Finally, the so-called Fygetakis group includes six vases, namely stirrup-jars and jugs. For each of the finds, including some jewellery, there is a detailed description and extended discussion on their chronology and parallels. The chapter ends with a brief conclusive section on the significance of Tourloti through its finds during the LM III period.

Chapter two focuses on the stirrup jar that can be identified as having been painted by the “Xanthoudidis painter”. Two more stirrup jars that were discovered in old excavations at Mouliana—a site close to Tourloti— are attributed to the painter , and a third one, now in the Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, allegedly comes from Siteia, Crete. All four vases share the same stylistic features, in shape and decoration. There is also a further artistic relationship of the painter to vases and larnakes of other workshops in Eastern Crete. Discussion continues on the chronology, features and the distribution of the Octopus Close Style to the rest of the Aegean.

Paschalidis manages successfully to establish this new “old” artist, the “Xanthoudidis Painter”, and through his known body of work, to highlight the contacts of Eastern Crete with the rest of the Aegean. It is not often that we find in international bibliography the identification of a Late Bronze Age vase painter based on stylistic evidence; this is rather the policy of colleagues dealing with later periods. By the conventional name “Xanthoudidis Painter”, the author pays tribute to Stefanos Xanthoudides, one of the greatest Greek archaeologists of the previous century. Xanthoudides was the first to write a handbook on Minoan civilization ( Cretan Civilization); he excavated the Mouliana tholos tombs and studied the clay larnakes from Cretan tombs, discussing their origin, use and significance. In the words of Paschalidis: “His work on the representation of the octopus on “ceramic monuments” makes him a pioneer in the history of the motif’s study”. The identification of the group of stirrup jars studied here, from Tourloti, Mouliana and the Goulandris Collection, as works of the same painter, would not be easy without his work.

The third and last chapter is a contribution by Dr. Photini J. P. McGeorge, an anthropologist-archaeologist, well respected in her field. The discussion on the double cremation of a 25-year-old man and 6- or 7-year-old child inside an amphora from the chamber tomb excavated by Papadakis,—a burial practice unusual but not unknown for that period—brings into question the theory that cremation was only used for adults in LM IIIC; it could rather be that cases of cremated children may have passed unrecognized due to lack of anthropological studies in the past.

One of the criticisms of the study, which the author himself admits in the very first chapter, is that, in the absence of petrographic or other analysis, any conclusions concerning the vases’ provenance are based on morphological and stylistic criteria. Given the fact that the sampling of intact vases for any sort of analysis would be destructive, this is all that could be done in this case.

The two summaries, in Greek and in Italian, are meant to serve a broader audience. The various photographic images and details of the vases, as well as the drawings made by Paschalidis, complete a good piece of work on Minoan pottery. Such a work is often a good place for a concise up-to-date bibliography, although in this case, out of immoderate zeal, it is perhaps a little too extended; nevertheless, there is everything here for all those interested on the distinctive pottery types, excavations and burial practices of LM III Crete.