Fig. 13 Coarse incised ware (GR1a)

All the fragments of incised coarse ware seem to belong to medium-sized wide-mouthed jars, with or without vertical handle.43 The few incised handles we recorded have a somewhat flat or rectangular, rather than cylindrical section.

It is worth noting that a relatively high proportion of the incised fragments (about 20 percent) were found in MH IB-II levels. This is not surprising, since at other sites (for instance, Lerna and Asine) this cat egory is present already during the transition from EH III to MH I. The Aspis evidence, however, shows that this class survives until MH IIIB, since almost 50 percent of the incised fragments found in the southeast sector belong to this late phase.

  1. 2 Gold mica coarse ware (GR2)
  2. 2.1. Fabric

This group differs from GR1 in its method of manufacture and its fabric, which is not as coarse-tempered and contains sparkling inclusions of gold mica; as it has been widely described,44 I shall not provide a lengthy description. The surface treatment is different from that of GR1: the vessels are usually well smoothed (perhaps by using a piece of cloth, or a brush?), but burnishing is rare. Traces of "wiping" are particularly visible on the inner face of the vessels. Firing must have been better controlled than in the local group, for the biscuit is harder and there is usually no difference in color between the core and the surface. In general, the profile of the vessels is more regular and their articulations at the rim and base sharper.45

43 See, for instance, GOLDMAN 1931, 179, fig. 250; HOWELL 1992, 55, 147, fig. 3.22 (MH I), 64, 182, fig. 3.60 (MH II).

44 See for instance ZERNER 1978, 189-90; 1986, 65-6; 1988, 5; Rutter 1989, 12; Maran 1992b, 185-6.

45 This point has been stressed by MARAN (1992b, 144-5).

Three sherds of this group have been submitted to chemical and petrographic analyses. The chemical analysis shows that these fragments display a remarkable compositional homogeneity. The petrographic analysis has confirmed their Aeginetan provenance, on the basis of their volcanic inclusions and in comparison with pottery and clays from Aegina.46

2.2.2. Quantitative data

According to the available statistical data - which, as I stressed earlier, must be treated with caution - this group represents about 7 percent of all the coarse wares in phase II, and about 14 percent in phase III. within the total ceramic assemblage, the proportion of GR2 is less than 2 percent in phase II, and less than 4 percent in phase III.47 For the reasons stated above, we have no reliable data for phase IV.

Nearly 500 sherds of this group were kept for study out of a total number that may not have exceeded 3,000. Only one complete vessel was found.

The range of shapes is very close to those made in the local coarse wares.

Here too, the wide-mouthed jar is the most frequent type. It represents between 35 and 62 percent of the recognizable types in this group. The minimum number of vessels seems to vary between 60 and 70. In absolute terms this is, of course, smaller than the number of similar vases in the local coarse ware. It is, however, relatively high if one takes into account the relative frequencies of the two wares. From a typological point of view, the rim of the GR2 wide-mouthed jars is often not as broad as in those belonging to the local group, but in the GR2 jars the inner surface of the rim forms a sharper angle. The lip is generally rounded, but thickened or flattened lips are not uncommon (Fig. 15). One single example of a slightly concave inner rim, coming from a MH IIIB context, confirms that this is a late feature. Indeed parallels at Kiapha Thiti48 and Korakou49 date to LH I. The gold mica jars also differ in the form of the base. In this fabric, jars are often provided with a splaying flat

46 Kilikoglou et al. 2003, 133. 48 Maran 1992b, 188 n. 375.

Quantitative data are available only from Kiapha Thiti, 49 Davis 1979, 251, fig. 11.245-9.

where the percentage of gold mica coarse ware is some where between 3 and 8% of the total assemblage (MARAN

tened base, which sometimes forms a sort of flange on the edge. Raised conical bases also occur, while these are entirely absent from the first group (Fig. 16) .50 Finally, since no complete vessels of this type have been recovered, we do not know whether handleless examples (similar to those attested in the local coarse ware) exist in the gold mica fabric.51

Fig. 18 Rim-handled jar from HM floor deposit beneath the Aphrodision (GR2)
Fig. 20

50 Similar observations about the shape of rims and bases are provided in MARAN 1992b, 187; characteristic profiles in Dietz 1991, figs. 24, 25.

51 The same question is asked by ZERNER (1988, 5) in connection with the material from Lerna.

52 Another almost complete example was found on the south-

In fact, most of these jars were probably provided with one vertical handle from the rim to the shoulder, and they may therefore be better characterized as rim-handled jars. In the Aspis material this type is represented by one rim fragment with an attached handle (Fig. 17) and about 100 vertical roll handles (but not a single strap handle) that may belong - at least in part - to such vessels. one complete vase of this type has been found in the lower town of Argos, in connection with MH habitation remains excavated by F. Croissant below the Aphro-dision (Fig. 18).52 This type - which is more frequently shoulder-handled - is widely attested at most MH sites, especially in late contexts, for example at Lerna,53 Asine,54 Mycenae (Circle B),55 Korakou,56

cup (GR2)

east foot of the Aspis (Tzafas plot) in a MH III-LH I con text (Divari-Valakou 1998, 91, 100, fig. 16).

54 Nordquist 1987, 172, fig. 50.8.

55 Mylonas 1973, pl. 172b.

Fig. 21 Bowls with incurved or carinated walls (GR2)

Fig. 21 Bowls with incurved or carinated walls (GR2)

Tsoungiza,57 Kiapha Thiti58 and Eleusis.59 In the Aspis settlement it is found already in MH IB-II levels: a little more than 17 percent of the total number found belongs to these phases. The type becomes much more frequent during the two subsequent phases; the finds from Korakou and Tsoungiza confirm that it remains very popular in LH I.

As in the first group, small jars or cups are the second most frequent type (Fig. 19). However, the total number of fragments and the minimum number of vessels are, relatively speaking, much lower (about 30 percent). These small jars usually have a sharply offset rim and one vertical roll handle,60 but the only complete example (recovered from a grave)61 has a slightly concave everted rim and its handle is oval in section (Fig. 20). There is only one example, belonging to a MH IIIB context, of a ring handle set vertically upon the rim. This type of handle appears rarely in coarse ware,62 but is well attested in fine or semifine monochrome burnished or matt-painted cups from late MH contexts.63 A characteristic feature of these small jars or cups is the presence of one or two small plastic pellets at the top of the shoulder (Fig. 19).64

Approximately 10 fragments belong to wide open bowls with slightly incurved or carinated walls and thickened lip. Two of them are provided with a raised hoop handle,65 found frequently in Minyan ware (Fig. 21).

The remaining types are represented by only one example each: a miniature conical cup with a vertical roll handle (Fig. 22),66 a small flat-bottomed lid (Fig. 23),67 a small fragment from a strainer68 and two frag-

60 Cf. Zerner 1988, fig. 21.6-9; 1990, 28, fig. 21.

61 Touchais 1978, 800, fig. 40.

62 Examples in Korakou (Blegen 1921, 31, fig. 45 middle) and Eutresis (GOLDMAN 1931, 177, fig. 245.5, 6), most probably in gold mica fabric.

63 For instance, at Asine (Frodin and PERSSON 1938, 273, fig.

189.1; Dietz 1991, 163, fig. 48 [AB-7, 8, 12]) and Mycenae,

64 Cf. Frodin and Persson 1938, 283, fig. 194.2-4 (gold mica fabric?); Zerner 1988, fig. 21; 1990, 28, fig. 21.

66 Cf. Zerner 1990, 27, fig. 14 (coarse burnished).

67 Cf. Frodin and Persson 1938, 283, fig. 194.6 (gold mica fabric?).

68 Strainers or "brasiers" in coarse ware (not specifically in gold mica fabric) are reported from numerous MH sites, namely Korakou (Blegen 1921, 31, fig. 45), Eutresis (Goldman 1931, 179, fig. 250.3) and Pefkakia (Maran 1992a, pl. 62.9, 10).

Pottery Found Korakou
  1. 2.4. Decoration ments of closed vases: one from a necked jar (Fig. 24) and one that seems to belong to a beaked jug (not illustrated).
  2. 2.4. Decoration only plastic decoration is found in this group, consisting exclusively of knobs and pellets, placed on the shoulder of jars. Plastic decoration is therefore more standardized than in the first group.
  3. 2.5. Potters' marks one feature specific to this group of coarse ware is potters' marks. The Aspis excavations provided four examples of such marks, all of them from the southeast sector. In three cases, all from a MH IIIB context, the mark is placed underneath the base: one or three small cuts along the baseline - which is quite frequent at Asine69 and attested elsewhere as well70 - or one small circle in the center (Fig. 25). In the fourth example, found in a MH IB-II context, the mark (two little cuts) is placed on the shoulder and combined with a plastic knob (Fig. 26).71 If we accept M. Lind-blom's idea that some arrangements of pellets may be considered potters' marks,72 we could add one more example, also from a MH IB-II context: three pellets on the top of the shoulder of a jar, placed in such way that they resemble a human face (Fig. 27).

Though very few, these examples of potters' marks seem to confirm the observation made by Carol Zerner, namely that the marks are placed on the shoulder of the vases in the earlier MH phases and underneath their base during the later phases.73

3. Discussion

This brief overview confirms that the Aspis material shows no exceptional features. As the study of this ware is still at a preliminary stage, I shall conclude with a few remarks which, I hope, will provoke some further discussion.

The first point of interest is, of course, the existence of two groups of coarse ware side by side. Before I discuss this point further, I would like to stress the fact that - contrary to the impression one receives when reading publications of this material -distinguishing between the two groups with the naked eye, and even with the help of a magnifying glass, is often quite difficult, being dependent on the light, on the time of the day, and on the strength of one's eyes. For instance, most of the thick-walled feet belonging to jars recovered in the southeast sector display all the characteristics of the local fabric, and yet they contain fine sparkling inclusions that resemble gold mica, though the latter are usually much bigger. Further analyses are necessary in order to establish the exact petrographic composition of the fabrics.

The Aspis is not the only site where local coarse ware and Aeginetan gold mica coarse ware coexist.

69 Fifteen examples (LlNDBLOM 2002, 37-8, fig. 4.3).

70 At Mycenae (Circle B, O 205, drawing in DlETZ 1991, 226, fig. 71 [KC-1]), Korakou (Davis 1979, 251, fig. 11.251), Kiapha Thiti (Maran 1992b, pls. 20.663, 33.1011).

71 Cf. Zerner 1988, fig. 21.4, 5; Lindblom 2002, 38, fig. 4.1.

72 Lindblom 2002, 33.

73 Zerner 1986, 65.

Among other sites excavated since the proposal of this distinction, or where material has been subsequently studied, Asine, Lerna, Tsoungiza and Kiapha Thiti provide at this point the best parallels. In Tsoungiza, Aeginetan gold mica coarse ware is reported as "extremely unusual".74 In the other settlements, the amount seems to vary between 1 and 12 percent, while at Asine, S. Dietz notes its steady increase from MH II to IIIB.75 The data from Aspis seems to confirm this general pattern, although in terms of quantity, Aspis receives rather fewer coarse-ware imports than most other settlements.

In most of these settlements, it appears that the coarse vessels imported from Aegina are most frequently one-handled ovoid jars. This is the case also in the Aspis. But if one looks at the entire assemblage from the Aspis, two observations can be made. First, this shape is also the most popular one made in the local coarse ware. Second, the entire repertoire of the local coarse and imported gold mica wares is very similar, with the exception of some local (and late) improvisations in the first group.

I think that these two points are important. They imply that the mainlanders did not import special forms that they themselves were not producing, but almost exactly the same forms that they were making at home. The difference, therefore, may be a matter of quality rather than function.

This proposal confirms the suggestion that Aeginetan coarse vessels may have possessed some special properties or specific qualities which made them highly desirable.76 It has been argued that their volcanic composition may have rendered them more resistant to thermal shock. As most of them are kitchen wares, this is a very plausible explanation. However, thermal properties are rather irrelevant in the case of table ware (of which there are only a few pieces). A higher degree of impermeability may also be proposed. In any case, further study, especially experimentation with making vases from Aeginetan clays, is needed in order to provide a satisfactory answer to this question. Chemical analysis using the chromatography technique could also provide some information on the possible function of these vases, which might have been special. At present, only one sherd of an Aeginetan coarse jar from Aspis has been selected for such an analysis,77 and the results are not yet available.

The possibility that the importation of Aeginetan coarse ware to the mainland may be attributed not only to utilitarian, but also to social reasons needs to be discussed. If a symbolic value, which has been proposed for the Aeginetan matt-painted ware,78 seems rather improbable in the case of household vessels, it is possible that some kind of social value was derived from the possession of imported and easily recognizable kitchen vessels - in the same way as a Fissler or Lagostina saucepan may be valued by a Greek housewife today! There is, however, an important difference between the two Aeginetan imported series, the matt-painted and coarse wares. The study of matt-painted ware from Aspis has suggested that imports from Aegina tend to decrease from MH I to IIIB. we may therefore infer that imported types are progressively replaced by local ones.79 In the case of coarse ware, the opposite trend can be observed, i.e., the number of imports increases, while similar types continue to be produced locally. In my opinion, this pattern strongly suggests a real need for imported coarse vessels; otherwise both series (Aeginetan matt-painted and coarse ware) would have undergone the same fluctuations.

In respect to the local coarse ware, it remains to be determined how "local" it is, first in terms of clay and, second, in terms of manufacturing technique. The physical and chemical similarities with some samples from Lerna suggest that the ware could have a regional rather than strictly local character. Here too, supplementary analyses are needed. In terms of shapes, the material from Aspis does not seem to reflect, for instance, the dichotomy that has been observed at Tsoungiza "between smaller rim-handled and larger shoulder-handled cooking pots"80 - at least, it does not at the present stage of study. This might be a local feature, but the matter requires further study.

Finally, the Aspis material, despite the fact that it is well stratified, confirms the view that coarse ware offers very few clues relevant to internal subdivisions within the MH period. The apparent fixity of the

74 Rutter 1990, 421.

75 See statistical diagrams in DlETZ 1991, 53, 59, 71, figs. 9, 13, 18.

76 Zerner 1993, 49-50.

77 The analysis has been carried out by O. DECAVALLAS

(Philippa-Touchais and Touchais 2002, 498).

78 PHILIPPA-TOUCHAIS, this volume.

79 Philippa-Touchais 2002, 37-9; and in this volume.

80 Rutter 1990, 451.

types throughout the period can be clearly demonstrated. Since most of these vessels were used for storing food or for cooking, this fixity suggests that there were no significant changes in the diet and in the way that food was prepared, not even during the final phase, i.e., during the transition from the MH to the LH period. There is perhaps only one indication of new cooking practices, suggested by the presence, among the coarse ware from this phase, of one single foot from a tripod cooking pot.81 This piece appears very exotic, not only because of its typically Minoan form, but also because of its fabric: it is the only fragment tempered with large quantities of silver mica inclusions.82 It confirms that Minoan coocking practices still had very limited impact in Argos during the transitional phase.

These are some of the questions that arise from the preliminary study of the coarse ware from the MH settlement on the Aspis. No doubt further questions will be revealed as research progresses.


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