In each of the three areas which have been the focus of this study, Mycenaean pottery is completely different from the products of the local and regional potting-industries. In the Levant, during the Late Bronze Age, potters had returned to using a slow wheel for ceramic production and painted decoration was not very common.55 In Cyprus, even though a standardised wheel-made ceramic industry developed during LC IIC, pottery generally was handmade and comprised a comparatively restricted range of vessel types.56 Painted decoration, mostly consisting of abstract patterns, had a long history of the island, but most of the fine wares were left plain. In the central Mediterranean, the local impasto was also hand-made, with a plain burnished surface or with incised decoration.57 In comparison with the local pottery in each of these areas, the imported Mycenaean pots represented high-quality products: they were hard-fired, often elaborately painted and they came in a wide range of pot shapes. It is likely that these physical properties of the Mycenaean pots played a role in their attraction for consumers in the Levant, Cyprus and the central Mediterranean. Likewise, we may assume that Myce

54 South & Russell 1993, 306; Steel 1998, 291 note 43 in 56 Sherratt 1991, 191-193; 1994a, 37. particular. 57 Vagnetti 1999, 137.

55 Leonard 1989, 20; Franken 1992, 149-152.

naean pots could fulfil specific functions which were relevant, such as storing oil or drinking liquids. However, as has become clear in all the preceeding chapters, Mycenaean imports had a significance in each of the three areas that went far beyond their physical and functional characteristics.

In Cyprus the cultural significance of Mycenaean pots originated in élite practices in the coastal centres. The imported ceramic vessels, which were of better quality than native wares, were used by élite groups to distinguish themselves. This was the case especially for Mycenaean dinner vessels, which could directly be included in élite cultural practices such as ceremonial dining. The élite connotations of this class of pottery ensured that it became a symbol of a cosmopolitan lifestyle. As such, Mycenaean pottery could be an active component in the sumptuary strategies which defined relations between various social groups on the island. On a local level, this is visible for example in the concentration of Mycenaean pictorial kraters in a restricted number of tombs in Enkomi. On a regional level, the symbolism of Mycenaean pottery is apparent from the presence of a wide repertoire of such pots at smaller, secondary and tertiary sites. The active role of Mycenaean pottery in social competition led to emulation and redefinition of the status of these objects.58 As a result, we can see that during LC II Mycenaean vessels gradually became available to many groups everywhere on the island. The end result of this process was that Mycenaean-type pottery became such an integral part of the Cypriot material record that it eventually was incorporated into the local ceramic industry.

In the Levant the cultural significance of Mycenaean pottery originated not so much in practices of the ruling élite, but in its use by various groups among the urban populations. For such groups, the use of these imported items created possibilities to define their position in the complex social fabric of the Levantine city-states. The specific association of some people in the Levant with large quantities of Mycenaean pottery among other imports in funerary rituals shows that this pottery could be an active part of sumptuary strategies on a local level. Sites in the Levant situated far away from the coast have produced a far smaller range of Mycenaean vessels. This can be taken as evidence for an active role of Mycenaean pottery in strategies of restricted distribution, which defined oppositions between urban and rural population groups. Whereas in Cyprus Mycenaean pots were used to enhance the interdependence between primary centres and secondary and tertiary sites, the same pots were used in the Levant to emphasise differences between different types of settlement. Outside the large urban centres, Mycenaean pottery did not become an integral part of the material culture. As a result, the Mycenaean pottery had a limited effect on the local potting industry, which, in contrast to Cyprus and Italy, initially incorporated only a few container shapes.

In the central Mediterranean the presence of various classes of Mycenaean pottery was related to the importance of overseas contacts in this area. As such, the cultural significance of Mycenaean pottery originated with the social groups on the coast who operated regional networks of maritime exchange. There is evidence that, initially, Mycenaean pots were symbols of relations with an international world. This indicates that the imported nature of the vessels was of prime importance for their significance. The presence of a varied body of Mycenaean pots in one tomb at Thapsos and in a grave at Torre Santa Sabina shows that this class of pottery could be an active component in funerary strategies on a local level. The concentration of large amounts of LH IIIA2 and LH IIIB pots at a few sites such as Taranto-Scoglio del Tonno and Lipari shows that strategies of restricted distribution on a regional level were at work as well. In a later period, when there is evidence that élite groups in southern Italy monopolised Mycenaean-type drinking vessels, it is clear that the appreciation of Mycenaean pots became intrinsically related to local cultural practices. The diminished significance of the im

58 Cf. Bourdieu 1984, 208-225; Appadurai 1986, 21, 5657;

ported nature of the Mycenaean pots is reflected in the development of local manufacture and exchange of Mycenaean-type pottery in various parts of the central Mediterranean.

It is obvious that the cultural significance of different types of Mycenaean pottery was not the same everywhere. Mycenaean pots may be considered as 'added value products'.59 Neither the material of which these pots are made nor elaborate techniques of manufacture endowed these pots with intrinsic value. Susan Sherratt has suggested that Mycenaean vessels acquired significance through association with objects of different material, in particular metals and textiles.60 The range of Mycenaean vessels distributed in the Mediterranean, albeit limited in comparison to the Aegean, consists of different pot shapes and types of decoration. Not all parts of this repertoire can be related to metals or textiles. The stirrup jar, for example, which is one of the most frequently occurring vessel types everywhere, is a purely ceramic form.61 Likewise, the decoration of most pots consists either of simple lines or of floral and abstract patterns which have a long history in Aegean (vase) painting.62

Instead of a general association with objects of other materials, value seems to have been added to Mycenaean pots through their incorporation in varying social strategies and cultural practices on a regional and local level. In Cyprus, the importance of metal production and international maritime exchange gave products associated to these activities a special significance.63 The parallels between Mycenaean pots and metal vessels or between decorative motifs on ceramics and textiles, then, can also be understood as an aspect of the specialised production for an external market. As also seems to have been the case for pictorial pottery, this specialised production aimed specifically to enlarge the suitability of Mycenaean pots to be associated with Cypriot social strategies.

In all three investigated areas, Mycenaean vessels and figurines were part of symbolic cultic and funerary ceremonies. The acquisition of symbolic meanings is a general characteristic for manufactured objects that are imported into foreign cultural contexts.64 This may have been the case in particular for objects made from material with little intrinsic value such as pottery. The variations in the cultural meanings that consumers attached to Mycenaean pots may be considered as the rationale behind the distribution of this pottery in the Mediterranean. Because of these variations, Mycenaean pottery could serve in strategies on a supra-regional level, the mechanism of which was the long-distance exchange of goods.

59 Sherratt 1994a, 62-63; 1998, 294-296.

60 Sherratt 1999, 186-189.

61 Haskell 1985, 222-223.

62 Crouwel & Morris 1985, 98.

Knapp 1996a, 19-22.

Thomas 1992, 35-36; Strathern 1992, 177; Van Dongen 1996, 12-14.

This page intentionally left blank

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment