Mycenaean repertoires

As is clear from the discussions in chapter 2, the Levant has the most sites with Mycenaean pottery, but the density is highest in Cyprus, as is the absolute number of pots. A common characteristic of the distribution pattern in all areas is that everywhere a large number of sites has produced very few Mycenaean finds, while only a few sites have yielded substantial quantities of it. Several large urban centres along the Levantine coast have produced large amounts of this pottery; however, it also occurs in quantity at sites in the interior of the Levant. This was not the case in Cyprus, where extremely large quantities of Mycenaean pottery have been found exclusively at sites near the coast. Just as the coastal cities of the Levant, all Cypriot urban centres with major deposits of Mycenaean pottery are towns which played important roles in regional and supra-regional trade networks. In Italy, too, the places which have produced substantial quantities of Myceanean pottery can be understood as nodes where international and regional exchange systems coincided.1 In comparison with the Levant and Cyprus, however, clear shifts in time can be noted with regard to the sites in the central Mediterranean with large quantities of Mycenaean pottery. The unequal presence of large quantities of Mycenaean pottery, which is characteristic of all areas, suggests that everywhere this pottery was imported in only a few places, after which it was distributed through regional exchange networks.

In Cyprus, a few LH I-LH IIA pots have been found, while some contemporary Minoan pottery is also present on the island. An increase in the Aegean imports in the island may be noted during the LH IIB and especially during the LH IIIA1 ceramic phases, of which substantially more finds have been made, even in places far away from the coasts.2 From LH IIIA2 onwards, large quantities of Mycenaean pottery reached all parts of the island. This remained the case until an advanced stage of LC IIC, when pottery in Aegean style began to be produced on the island itself and Aegean imports diminished.

The chronological pattern in the presence of Mycenaean pottery in the Levant is similar to that in Cyprus, but not exactly the same. LH I vessels are absent in the Levant and only a few pots have been found assignable to LH IIA.3 A few isolated contemporary Minoan pots have also been found. LH IIB and LH IIIA1 finds occur somewhat more often in the Levant, but the quantities are very small, Ugarit possessing a relatively 'large' amount of six Aegean pots dating to these stylistic phases. Substantial amounts of Mycenaean pottery begin to arrive in the Levant only during LH IIIA2. Apparently, in the early stages of the import of Mycenaean pottery, the Levant lagged somewhat behind Cyprus. The chronological pattern for the presence of Mycenaean pottery is similar for the

Marazzi 1988, 6-7. 168; Steel 1998, 286.

Nicolaou 1973, 56; Astrom 1973, 123; Cadogan 1973, 3 Re 1999, 411.

Levant and Cyprus at the end of the 13th century BC, when Mycenaean-type vessels seem to have been imported from peripheral areas of the Aegean world, such as the Dodecanese and probably Cyprus.4 As in Cyprus, Mycenaean-type pottery appears to have been produced in the Levant at the end of LB II.5 LH IIIC-type pottery, which is abundant in Cyprus, occurs only at a restricted number of sites in the Levant, mainly in the southern coastal plain.6

A completely different chronological pattern in the presence of Mycenaean pottery can be observed for the central Mediterranean. Large quantities of LH I and LH II pottery have been discovered on the Aeolian islands, as well as on Vivara (site no. 342). In addition, a range of sites along the Apulian coast have produced smaller quantities of contemporary Mycenaean pottery.7 Even though the number of sites with LH IIIA finds in Italy is somewhat higher than those with earlier Aegean finds,8 there is a concentration of LH IIIA2-LH IIIB finds in a few centres such as Taranto-Scoglio del Tonno (site no. 314), Thapsos, Cannatello (site no. 334) and Lipari. A sharp increase in the import of Mycenaean pottery during LH IIIA2, such as is visible in Cyprus and the Levant, is clearly lacking in the central Mediterranean. The extensive local production of Mycenaean pottery which has been demonstrated for various sites in the central Mediterranean appears to have been a feature from LH IIIB onwards.9

Even though there are some differences between Cyprus and the Levant in the presence of Aegean pots from the various stylistic phases, it is clear that the chronological pattern in the import of Mycenaean pottery in these areas is roughly similar. Both areas reveal the sequence of introduction, growth and decline, that has been outlined by Gerald Cadogan.10 In contrast, the central Mediterranean shows a more disjointed pattern, with distinct regions and sites gaining prominence during specific periods. On this basis, it is likely that the cultural significance of Mycenaean vessels fluctuated more through time and space in the Italian region than in Cyprus and the Levant.

In each of the three areas under consideration, decorated fine wares constitute the majority of the Mycenaean repertoire. In the Levant and Cyprus, Aegean coarse ware vessels are almost exclusively large transport stirrup jars, which may be of Minoan origin.11 In Cyprus, these vessels are relatively widely distributed, with notable concentrations at Kourion-Bamboula (site no. 122) and Enkomi. In the Levant, this type of vessel is limited to large urban centres on the coast.12 In the central Mediterranean, coarse ware stirrup jars comparable to the vessels in Cyprus and the Levant have been found in Broglio di Trebisacce and in Scoglio del Tonno-Taranto (site no. 314).

Much larger quantities of Aegean-type coarse ware date to the earliest period of Mycenaean pottery in Italy and have been discovered on Vivara (site no. 342) and Filicudi (site no. 321). This type of

4 Courtois 1973, 149-164; see also chapter 2.

5 Lambert, McLaughlin & Leonard 1978, 119; Leonard et al. 1993, 119; Killebrew 1998, 162.

6 Killebrew 1998, 163. Scientific analysis of the LH IIIC-type pottery from Ashdod (site no 222) and Tel Miqne (site no. 225) indicates that all these so-called 'Mycenaean IIIC:1b' pots were produced in the Levant itself, see Asaro, Perlman & Dothan 1971; Gunneweg et al. 1986; Sherratt 1998, 302.


8 Vagnetti 1999, 139.

9 Jones & Vagnetti 1991, 132-133, 140. A few locally made sherds decorated with LH/LM IIIA patterns have been identified at Broglio di Trebisacce (catalogue X: nos. 1005, 1135, 1204, 1278), see Vagnetti & Panichel-li 1994.

10 Cadogan 1973, 168-169.

11 Catling et al. 1980, 92-93; Day & Haskell 1995 (both with extensive bibliography)

12 Leonard 1994, 46-47.

pottery included a range of shapes, among which were storage and dinner vessels.13 Smaller quantities of Aegean coarse ware pottery have also been found in Punta le Terrare (site no. 306) on the Apulian coast and in Monte Grande (site no. 334) in Sicily. Together with matt-painted pottery of Middle Helladic tradition, this coarse ware circulated alongside decorated fine wares of LH I and LH II type. The presence of matt-painted and coarse ware pottery in Italy should be related to the relatively large body of Aegean ceramics from the early Mycenaean period in this area in general. However, it also indicates that Mycenaean pottery arrived in Italy through a variety of contacts between Italic groups of people and inhabitants of the Aegean. Regional exchange networks in the two areas seem to have been interconnected. In Cyprus and the Levant, Mycenaean coarse and matt-painted wares are absent and small quantities of exclusively Mycenaean decorated fine wares circulated during the same period. This indicates that the Mycenaean pottery arrived in the eastern Mediterranean through different types of interconnections than in the central Mediterranean.

In the Levant the relative proportions of Mycenaean dinner and storage vessels varied between individual sites. At urban coastal centres such as Ugarit, Tell Abu Hawam (site no. 175) and Ashdod (site no. 222) a majority of Mycenaean dinner vessels has been found; elsewhere Mycenaean storage vessels were more abundant. Inland centres such as Hazor and Beth Shean (site no. 187) yielded far fewer Mycenaean dinner vessels and a relatively narrow range of Mycenaean storage vessels. In general, the Mycenaean repertoire in smaller centres in more marginal areas, such as Deir 'Alla, was restricted to a few storage vessels only. Primary centres in Cyprus, likewise, yielded a large body of Mycenaean dinner vessels in addition to storage pottery of the same origin. In contrast with the Levant, sites in the interior of the island could also possess a wide variety of Mycenaean pots from LH IIIA1 onwards, including both dinner and storage types. In the central Mediterranean, Mycenaean dinner vessels, in particular cups and kylikes, were part of the Aegean ceramic repertoire from the earliest period onwards. In certain periods, specific areas could exert preferences for particular categories of Mycenaean pottery, as is indicated by the abundance of LH IIIA2-LH IIIB storage vessels in Sicily. The widespread occurrence of Mycenaean dinner vessels in all three areas clearly shows that the ceramic vessels themselves were appreciated and not just the contents of containers.

The repertoire of Mycenaean pot shapes in Cyprus and the Levant is roughly similar: only a few vessel types that occur more than five times in Cyprus are absent in the Levant, while there are no vessel types occuring in substantial numbers in the Levant that have not been found in Cyprus.14 As was observed in chapter 2, however, the proportions in which various Mycenaean vessel types occur in these areas may vary considerably. This shows that Cyprus and the Levant obtained Mycenaean pottery from a common source, but that choices were made with regard to which vessels to import. The concentration of Mycenaean ceremonial vessels and figurines in Ugarit shows that such choices were made at a local level in the urban centres of the Levant.15 The variations in the repertoire of Mycenaean pottery that have been observed between the primary centres in Cyprus indicates that this was also the case on this island. Because Mycenaean vessels became part of regional exchange networks in both Cyprus and the Levant, such local cultural choices had consequences for the regional distribution pattern of this pottery.

The fact that specific shapes occur more often in the east than in the Aegean may be taken as an indication that there was a specialised production and marketing of Mycenaean pottery for external

13 Panichelli & Re 1994. 15 See, also, Van Wijngaarden 1999c.

14 Gilmour 1992, 115.

markets.16 In contrast, the type of LH I-LH II pottery that is found in Italy encompasses a variety of cups and jars, which are not part of the Levanto-Helladic repertoire but reflect the ceramic range of shapes in various parts of Greece.17 Among the LH IIIA2 and LH IIIB pottery from Scoglio del Tonno-Taranto (site no. 314) there are several vessels which would fit into the Levanto-Helladic repertoire, such as a variety of piriform jars, an amphoroid krater and chalices.18 At most contemporary sites in Italy, however, such vessels are scarce. The LH IIIA2 and LH IIIB vessels in the central Mediterranean comprise a range of alabastra, jugs, cups and kylikes which, even though not absent in the eastern Mediterranean, are not part of the Levanto-Helladic repertoire but are frequent in Greece.19 In addition, Mycenaean amphorae, both small (FS 58-62) and large (FS 68-69), occur in substantial quantities in Italy, wheras they are completely absent in the east.

Even though sites in the central Mediterranean did receive some Aegean vessels that were specifically produced for overseas exchange, a much larger body of specialised products went to the east. The same phenomenon can be observed for other Mycenaean specialised ceramics. Only one conical rhyton has been found in the Italian area: in Nuraghe Antigori (site no. 348).20 Other ritual vessels are completely absent in the central Mediterranean. A concentration of Mycenaean pottery with pictorial representations has been found in Termitito (site no. 316),21 the only other specimens being three fragments from Taranto-Scoglio del Tonno (site no. 314).22 Only three Mycenaean figurines have been found in the central Mediterranean, one at Lipari (Catalogue VIII no. 501) and two more at Taranto-Scoglio del Tonno (site no. 314).23 Obviously, specialised production of Mycenaean pottery was not primarily aimed at Italy. The fact that some specialised vessels did end up in this part of the Mediterranean demonstrates the strong interconnections between exchange networks in various areas. The concentration of Mycenaean pictorial pottery at Termitito shows the influence of local cultural choices on the international flow of goods.

The presence of Mycenaean pottery in the Levant and Cyprus, then, was due to specialised production and marketing in international exchange. Archaeologically, these supra-regional strategies have resulted in a relatively clear-cut quantitative pattern of growth and decline in the presence of Mycenaean pottery and in a relatively homogeneous repertoire of pot shapes.24 In contrast, Mycenaean ceramic vessels arrived in the Italian area as part of much more diffuse processes, in which regional distribution networks within the Aegean and in the central Mediterranean were connected to one another. Here, we see a much more disjointed quantitative and geographical pattern in the presence of Mycenaean pottery, in addition to a less homogeneous ceramic repertoire. In all three areas, cultural choices made in key places in the inter-regional distribution networks, could substantially influence the circulation of Mycenaean pots.

16 Sherratt 1982, 183; 1999, 182-184; Jones 1986a, 599600.

17 Vagnetti 1991, 293-294.

18 Taylour 1958, 128-133; Biancofiore 1967, 44, 55; Fisher 1988.

20 Ferrarese Ceruti & Assorgia 1982, 172-173: no. 5.

21 De Siena & Bianco 1982, tav. XXII-XXIII; De Siena

22 Taylour 1958, 97: no. 70, 104: no. 99, 109: no. 116.

23 Taylour 1958, 115.

24 In this respect, it is interesting that both the quantitative pattern of Mycenaean pottery in the east, as well as the ceramic repertoire, become less homogeneous when the specialised production and marketing seems to have ended sometime during LH IIIC, see Sherratt 1991, 192; 1999, 184.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment