BMCR 2014.06.04

Vessels and Variety: New Aspects of Ancient Pottery. Acta Hyperborea, 13

, , , Vessels and Variety: New Aspects of Ancient Pottery. Acta Hyperborea, 13. Copenhagen: Tusculanum Press, 2013. xii, 319. ISBN 9788763537513. €40.00 (pb).


This volume is a collection of papers derived from a 2010 workshop in Crotone, Italy whose goal is to encourage a wide range of methods and theories applied to pottery analysis. The volume presents eleven articles spanning the Iron Age to Roman periods in the Mediterranean and is divided into such themes as production and distribution, iconography, regional studies, and museum collections. This volume serves as the latest installment of Acta Hyperborea, and is the first in the series to ensure all articles are peer-reviewed.

The first essay by Jan Kindberg Jacobsen, “Consumption and Production of Greek Pottery in the Sibaritide during the 8 th Century BC”, presents an analysis of two aspects of cultural and material interaction between indigenous populations and Greeks in Calabria in the eighth century BC. The author explores an increase in the amount of Oinotrian- Euboean pottery (locally manufactured pottery which resembles Euboean shapes and styles in the Middle to Late Geometric periods) found during excavations at Timpone della Motta and other sites as well as the importation of Corinthian and Iapygian pottery to the Sibaritide via indigenous networks along the Ionian coast. He suggests that the appearance of such imported pottery might reflect an indigenous presence in the colony. This chapter clearly demonstrates the sophisticated consumption of various pottery styles, including local, foreign, and mixed.

Hanne Thomasen’s chapter, “A Reinterpretation of the Early Protocorinthian Globular Aryballos”, explores the production, distribution, and use of these vessels. Through discussion of Greek sanctuaries situated near sailing routes, the author suggests that globular aryballoi may have been “dedicated by travelers from the West visiting the sanctuary to pray for a safe journey” (35). Thomasen suggests that the globular aryballos may have been an invention of Corinthians living in the west (40), a claim which, as noted by the author, can only be substantiated by clay analyses.

Søren Handberg, Peter J. Stone, and Jane Hjarl Petersen’s article, “Uncommon Tastes: The Consumption of Campana A Pottery in the Southern Levant and the Black Sea Region” explores the economic and social significance of such pottery in these two regions. The authors discuss various forms of Campana A recovered from both regions and note some overlap in the range of forms due to date of importation or the diverse preferences of the local populations (60). The authors posit that Campana A, “was marketed to, or chosen by, specific individuals.” (67) in both the Southern Levant and Black Sea regions. This paper presents a concise explanation for the reciprocal exchange of Campana A pottery alongside the broader market economy, accounting for its limited distribution to those, “who could travel, who knew Delian merchants or who received visitors from abroad” (73).

In “The Mystery of the Seated Goddess: Archaic Terracotta Figurines of the Northeastern Peloponnese” Signe Barfoed examines the significance of handmade figurines dating from the seventh to fifth centuries BC found throughout the Peloponnese. The presented study focused on material recovered from Nemea, Prosymna, Argos, Tiryns, Tegea, Perachora, Corinth, and Solygeia. The author suggests that changes to the manufacturing technique, posture, and breast-band on figurines can facilitate exploration of their chronological development. Such changes are attributed to a transformation of the figurine, from depicting the goddess Hera to a generalized female divinity.

Annette Rathje’s chapter, “The Ambiguous Sex or Embodied Divinity: A Note on an Unusual Vessel in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek”, explores the meaning of relief representations of human genitalia found on Etruscan vessels from the Late Iron Age/Orientalizing period. Rathje compares a horizontal ring askos with an anthropomorphized handle from the collection of the Glyptotek to similar representations on vessels from Sovana, Tarquinia, Orvieto, Novilara, Vetulonia, and Tolle. She concludes that such vessels served a funerary function among the Etruscan elite and that, “What matters is nakedness, as nakedness is somewhat magic.” (118). In this manner, she suggests that such images represent deities of the Etruscan pantheon.

Helle Salskov Roberts’ chapter, “The Myth of Iphigenia in the Literary and Pictorial Tradition of Greece and Magna Grecia” compares images of the sacrifice of Iphigenia preserved on pottery (and, to a lesser extend wall frescoes, mosaic floors, and sculpture) with literary descriptions. She associates images of Iphigenia found on pottery from Greece and Magna Grecia with scenes from Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis. Drawing on the frequency of depictions of the letter scene introduced by Euripides, Roberts believes that potters modeled their depictions of Iphigenia after the main characters and scenes from stage performances (141). This conclusion is supported by images of Iphigenia associated with representation of a stage as well as actors masks.

In “’Head Hunting’ in Cyprus”, Lone Wriedt Sørensen proposes that Archaic period Cypriot painters chose to decorate pottery with heads and faces in response to demands from consumers. The author questions whether such depictions represent Greek/Phoenician depictions of Humbaba, Gorgons, or Medusa or were local creations, possibly associated with rites of passage marking transitions in age-grades. Likewise, because of the multicultural nature of ancient Cyprus, the author emphasizes that such painted heads may have been perceived in different ways by diverse populations.

In “A Figure-Decorated Plate from the Sanctuary on the Timpone Della Motta,” Sine Grove Saxkjær demonstrates that this plate is unique among indigenous pottery from excavations at Timpone della Motta and that depictions of horses were widespread yet infrequent in seventh-century BC southern Italy. Saxkjaer suggests that the vessel is a local product whose iconography may represent the dedicator of the vessel; the scene may be associated with an as-yet unknown myth or historical event. Overall, she believes that the decoration communicated social identity rather than served a religious function.

In “Materiali Greci e Coloniali della Prima Fase dell’Antica Kroton dallo Scavo del 2009 nel Quartiere Settentrionale: Osservazioni Preliminari” by Domenico Marino, Margherita Corrado, Francesco Cristiano, and Gloria Mittica, the preliminary results of excavation of fifth to third century BC contexts at Contrada Vela di Crotone are presented. A summary of the material culture recovered includes imported early and middle Protocorinthian vessels as well as sub-geometric colonial vessels. The authors then demonstrate that potters at Crotone manufactured vessels imitating Ionic type skyphoi.

Kristine Bøggild Johannsen’s “Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Collection of “So-Called Arretine Vessels” Reconsidered” investigates seventeen fragments of red-gloss pottery included in Thorvaldsens Museum in Denmark. Originally classified by Ludvig Müller prior to 1848, this assemblage remained uncritically evaluated. Using epigraphic, stylistic, and morphological observations, the seventeen Arretine artifacts are associated with known workshops. This re-evaluation confirms that Müller’s use of the term, ”so-called Arretine” reflects uncertainties in his identification at the time of classification. As a result, the author suggests an abandonment of the term “so-called Arretine vessels” in favor of new descriptions using contemporary terminology and types. Finally, a comprehensive catalogue presents the assemblage.

Stine Schierup’s “Al Mina Pottery in the National Museum of Denmark” catalogs a collection of fifty-eight sherds and three complete vessels recovered from Al Mina during the 1936 and 1937 excavations. Vessel morphologies suggest this assemblage dates from the Late Geometric Period and is predominantly composed of drinking cups. Using this limited assemblage, Schierup concludes that East Greek material was more frequent than Cycladic and Euboean materials at Al Mina, and that the presence of imported Corinthian pottery attests Corinth’s limited role in the initial development of the site.

Overall, Vessels and Variety presents diverse approaches to material culture studies of fired-clay artifacts. Each chapter includes numerous illustrations and photos highlighting the key points discussed in the text. However, few chapters include maps illustrating the spatial relationships between sites mentioned in the text. Furthermore, many of the illustrations lack any form of scale, leaving the reader guessing as to the dimensions of the artifacts referenced in the text. Many of the studies presented explore limited assemblages or even single objects. The chapters generally follow the four themes of the volume (Production and Distribution; Iconography; Regional Studies; and Museum Collections); however, Saxkjær and Marino et al.’s papers, although well presented, do not necessarily fit well with a “Regional Studies” theme. In conclusion, this volume contributes to the existing literature and will serve as an adequate resource to archaeology students and professionals alike.