BMCR 2021.08.17

Die vermeintlich pergamenische Importkeramik in Ephesos

, Die vermeintlich pergamenische Importkeramik in Ephesos: Studien zur Typologie, Provenienz und Herstellungstechnik von so genannter Weißgrundiger Ware, Applikenkeramik und Pergamenischer Sigillata. Oxford: Archaeopress Archaeology, 2020. Pp. 314. ISBN 9781789696097 $68.00.

Die vermeintlich pergamenische Importkeramik in Ephesos combines archaeological and archaeometric analyses to examine the Pergamene table-ware imports to Ephesos: white-ground lagynoi (and other forms), “Applikenkeramik,” and Pergamene sigillata. These are the main Hellenistic wares attributed to Pergamon, and Lätzer-Lazar’s conclusion, after detailed stratigraphic and petrological studies, that most of those found in Ephesos are in fact Ephesian products could mark a major shift in our perspective of Hellenistic Asia Minor if it is accepted. The original study was the author’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Cologne in 2013.

Brief chapters on research questions, methodology, the history of research on Hellenistic fine-wares at Ephesos and at Pergamon, and a history of the two sites from ca. 160 B.C. to the Augustan reforms in 29/28 B.C. provide background for what follows. Lätzer-Lazar’s investigation therefore began with a detailed synopsis of excavation areas (Chapter 4) — what each area is, when it was excavated and published, the stratigraphy (or lack thereof) and date, and individual assessments of the catalogue entries. The first section on the Agora (Staatsmarkt) mentions the buildings revealed in the 1988 excavation and enumerates 39 fragments of white-ground pottery, perhaps 3 fragments of Pergamene sigillata, and no finds of vessels with appliqués (all these are essentially without context). The chapter continues with the well-stratified 1st-century A.D. agora well published by Meriç in 2002; the civic basilica built ca. A.D. 11-13, the late 3rd c. B.C. stoa that preceded it, and a later phase over the basilica; the Tetragonos Agora with the early Imperial robbing trenches and the Sentius dump; the Prytaneion; the Embolos including the Hellenistic fountain, the heroon dated ca. 75-50 B.C., the nearby octagonal tomb now dated in the last quarter of the 1st c. B.C., and the Kuretes Hall; Hellenistic and early Roman levels below Terrace House 1; Terrace House 2 (discussed by apartments); and finally the late Hellenistic-early Imperial habitation block at M1. Several of these areas have well-documented recent contexts as well as very generally recorded finds from earlier excavations. Most are dated in the 1st century A.D.; only rarely are the contexts pre-Augustan. The order of discussion in this chapter determined the organization of the pottery catalogue, and each catalogued piece (except the first 50 items from early excavations) is discussed here with fuller information about its attribution than what appears in the catalogue. Although the catalogue informs this chapter, it appears that the reverse is not true: none of these contexts was used to determine the date of any item.

Another central chapter (5) defines a ware-group as sharing similar fabric, matching surfaces, related decorative motifs, and a standard set of vase forms. The ware-groups are discussed in turn, and include the history of their investigation and a description of the numerous shapes identified within each. The chapter most critical for this study is next (6), a discussion of the methods and results of the macroscopic and thin-section analyses of 58 (53?) sherds selected to represent the three groups.[1] It is in this chapter that we learn the results of the investigation—that some catalogued pieces were made in Ephesos, but that others are indeed Pergamene imports. The basis for distinguishing 10 groups originating from the two regions is the different geological environments, volcanic around Pergamon, metamorphic and sedimentary in the vicinity of Ephesos, and comparison with samples collected by R. Sauer from sites along the coast of Asia Minor. Chapter 7 interprets the results of the previous chapters and weaves the various strands together. Finally, a summary also speculates on the relations or interconnections between the workshops of Pergamon and Ephesos.

The essential sections are placed after the text and bibliography: there are 20 high-quality color plates showing object, microphotograph of the thin section, and stereoscopic photo of the break, followed by plates of profiles of varying quality and unknown but varying scales arranged by ware and shape (all previously published), and very useful color plates of other catalogued pieces. The catalogue forms the final section of the volume, an unusual placement that facilitates consulting it. (Note that the catalogue also contains examples of Ephesian black-glazed gray ware and ESB, as well as pieces previously published as Knidian relief ware and Knidian gray-ware.)[2]

The three wares being investigated are well known and each has previously been the subject of detailed study at Pergamon.[3] That some might be Ephesian imitations was first suggested by Mitsopoulos-Leon on the basis of similarity of fabric to other Ephesian fine-ware, and supported by the discovery of molds for appliqués in the upper layers of the Basilica.[4] The hypothesis was confirmed by chemical analysis of two fragments of Ephesian appliqué-ware and two of ESB with applied medallions, from the Sentius deposit in the Tetragonos Agora; the accompanying typological and iconographic study illuminated Ephesian appliqué-ware.[5] These observations were expanded in 2003 by Rogl’s examination of appliqué-decorated sherds (most are probably Ephesian), of fragments of late West-Slope decoration with Ritzdecor and white dots, and of Knidian cups, some of which also have appliqués.[6] The white-ground vessels (and relief bowls) from Terrace House 2 were also published in detail.[7] Most of the pieces in these studies, and numerous others, have been reexamined and reclassified by Lätzer-Lasar, whose task has been to establish groups based on thin-section analysis and to begin to explain how the products of Ephesos and Pergamon can be related, chronologically, morphologically, and socially.

This book is thus based on a quarter century of research, with increasingly refined analyses of stratigraphic context, fabrics, and decoration. On this occasion some 608 sherds were examined and ascribed to 20 fabric groups using a stereomicroscope, and the groups were “proofed” by petrographic examination of 53 pieces, which were reclassified into 10 groups (p. 116, Table 3). Unfortunately, the catalogue entries identify the pieces only as belonging to one of the three ware-groups or to another group,[8] and Table 3 omits the catalogue (or inventory) number of the samples. (Sampled pieces are identified in the catalogue entries and some in footnotes, and one may see the actual pieces on pls. I-XXVII.) The thin-section analysis showed that white-ground vessels and appliqué-ware could be attributed to the same Pergamene source (Scherbentyp C, 12 pieces) and that some “Pergamene sigillata” was probably related (Scherbentyp I). Other examples of white-ground vessels and appliqué-ware are likely Ephesian (Scherbentyp A, 20 examples; D, three examples), as are the remaining “Pergamene sigillata” samples (Scherbentyp J, which is related to A; H is most like eastern sigillata B). Apparently, the initial stereoscopic groupings can not be used, because there is no record of them in the volume.

Other weaknesses emerge when one attempts to use the book for research. All of the chapters are meticulously documented with the latest reference, but references in the catalogue are essentially limited to the other Ephesian and Pergamene publications listed above, and to Rotroff 1997.[9] Lists of comparanda are lifted “en bloc” from one entry to others.[10] White-ground pottery is the largest category in the catalogue (521 of 780 pieces, p. 120, Fig. 3) because, as the author explains, even the body sherds are very diagnostic. All white-ground vessels have customarily been treated as a single ware at Ephesos, as they are here, but there is good reason to consider different shapes as separate wares, as Rotroff did in the Athenian agora. No consideration seems to have been given here to the implication of context-groups: the similarity of all the white-slipped thymiateria from the Basilica (pointed flange between body and pedestal, outturned rim) is striking evidence that they date to the 1st century A.D.; the same is true for those from the 2002 agora well. One may compare the white lime-slipped thymiateria with polychrome decoration made in Corinth from the Augustan period through the 2nd century A.D.[11] Such vessels are not part of the same tradition as the white-ground pitchers with brown-slipped decoration, which are dateable to the later 2nd and 1st century B.C. (and almost unknown at Corinth). Also, unlike the pitchers, which are often imported, the thymiateria are local,[12] not only at Ephesos but also in Athens and Corinth. Spool-shaped Hellenistic examples, with a very shallow, flaring bowl, come from Athens (Rotroff 1997, no. 1567, p. 398, fig. 95, pl. 123) and Delos (EAD XVIII, a source not consulted here). Vessels with pointed flange between body and pedestal, cup-shaped bowl with horizontal rim, and probably polychrome decoration, are Augustan and later.

Die vermeintlich pergamenische Importkeramik in Ephesos has thus taken some essential steps towards establishing that neither white-ground wares nor “Applikenkeramik” are exclusively Pergamene, and that Ephesos produced both categories as well. Until the chronology of Pergamene and Ephesian workshops can be placed on a surer footing, however, and until the role of other cities of Asia Minor and the neighboring islands is taken into account, it remains premature to assess the nature of the relationship between Ephesos and Pergamon.


[1] The outcome of a further examination of 127 fragments using portable XRF is still awaited.

[2] For the latter, no. 646 and nos. 282, 283, 776, pls. LXIV, LXI and LXV, respectively.

[3] J. Schäfer, 1968. Hellenistische keramik aus Pergamon (Pergamenische Forschungen 2); G. Hübner, 1993. Die pergamenische Applikenkeramik von Pergamon. Eine Bildersprache im Dienst des Herrscherkultes (Pergamenisch Forschungen 7); J. Schäfer, 1962. “Terra Sigillata aus Pergamon,” AA, pp. 778-802; C. Meyer-Schlichtmann, 1988, Die pergamenische Sigillata aus der Stadtgrabung von Pergamon (Pergamenische Forschungen 6).

[4] V. Mitsopoulos-Leon, 1991. Forschungen in Ephesos IX.2.2, Die Basilika am Staatsmarkt in Ephesos, Kleinfunde, 1. Keramik hellenistischer und römischer Zeit, nos. C13 – C 17, pp. 58-59, 64, pls. 67-69.

[5] S. Zabehlicky-Scheffenegger and G. Schneider, 2000. “Applikenverzierte Gefässe aus Ephesos,” RCRFActa 36, pp. 105-112.

[6] C. Rogl, 2003. “Späthellenistische Applikenkeramik und Verwandtes aus Ephesos,” ÖJh 72, pp. 187-206.

[7] E. Dereboylu, 2001. “Weißgrundige keramik und hellenistishe Reliefbecher aus dem Hanghaus 2 in Ephesos,” in F. Krinzinger, ed. Studien zur hellenistishe Keramik in Ephesos, (ErghÖJh 2), Vienna, pp. 21-44.

[8] Thin-section numbers also appear in the 53 relevant catalogue entries; not all of these pieces are illustrated.

[9] S. I. Rotroff, 1997, Athenian Agora XXIX, Hellenistic Pottery: Athenian and Imported Wheelmade Table Ware and Related Material, Princeton. Other occasional references (and references to Rotroff 1997, which were clearly cut and pasted into the entries) are incomplete, e.g., Warner Slane 1997, 358 (a page of catalogue entries of Pergamene skyphoi), pl. 50 does not tell the reader that only nos. FW 499-FW 500, and FW 502-FW-503 had applied ivy-leaf decoration or that the former also had incised leaves or that the skyphos rim-form is different.

[10] Nos. 4, 6, 12, 13, 27, 28 are handles dated to the late 2nd-early 1st c. B.C. by parallels in the Athenian Agora – but the latter reference is incomplete (nos. 1525, 1548 and 1545 also appear in figs. 93, 94, and pls. 120, 121; the three handles have different profiles; only one is a white-ground vessel; and 1548 comes from a context dated 50 B.C.-A.D. 50). The same block of Athenian parallels and date are given for nos. 47, 52 (from the Agora well), 177 (from the Basilica, but apparently not published), 257 (Tetragonos agora), 401-403 (Prytaneion), 529 (Terrace House 1), and 607, 612, 614, 618, 623, 631 (Terrace House 2).

[11] K. S. Wright, 1980, “A Tiberian Pottery Deposit from Corinth,” Hesperia 1980, p. 152, no. 64, pl. 30; K. W. Slane 1991, Corinth XVIII.2, The Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore, Roman Pottery and Lamps, p. 66, nos. 143, 144, fig. 13 (with polychrome decoration on a white lime-slip); K. W. Slane 2017, Corinth XXI, Tombs, Burials and Commemoration, Corinth’s northern Cemetery, p. 100, 104, 111, 208-209, nos. X-5, X-6, X-28 (four examples), QQ-7, pl. 62. Apart from the oft-cited thymiaterion from the 3rd-century figurine deposit in the South Stoa published by Davidson, I am not aware of any thymiateria from Hellenistic strata at Corinth.

[12] Five thymiateria were sampled, nos. 152, 215 (PIE 12-43, 12-47, Scherbentyp G, pls. XXIII, XXIV), 187, 416 (PIE 12-46, 12-45, Scherbentyp A1, pl. VIII), 234 (PIE 12-36, Scherbentyp A2, pl. X), and all are attributed to Ephesos.