The international economy in the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean was probably based on the circulation of raw materials such as copper and tin. This may be concluded from the remains of three shipwrecks in the Mediterranean dating to this period, each of which contained large amounts of these metals.18 In addition, as is particularly clear from the wreck at Ulu Burun, various other raw material such as glass and ivory were traded, as well as a whole range of manufactured items.19 In contrast to
14 See, for example, Knapp 1985, 149-150.
15 Hirschfeld 1993, 313-315; 1996, 291-293.
16 Hankey 1967, 146-147. Catling (1980, 17-18) has raised the possibility that such ships first went to Ugarit, after which Mycenaean vessels were distributed to Cyprus.
17 On the importance of Cypriot middlemen in
Mediterranean exchange in the thirteenth century, see
Sherratt 1998, 296; 1999, 187.
18 For the wreck at Cape Gelidonya, see Bass 1967, 1991. For the Ulu Burun wreck, see Bass 1987, 1991; Pulak 1988, 1997. For a wreck excavated off the coast near Haifa, see Galili, Shmueli & Artzy 1986.
19 Among all the goods which are repeatedly mentioned by scholars as possible trade goods are wine, oils, precious stones and textiles; for an overview, see Cline 1994, 95.
many other trade goods, decorated pottery is not made of a material that is scarce and its relative significance among trade goods is difficult to assess. It has been suggested that pots travelled as space-fillers or ballast in Bronze Age ships which transported a more valuable cargo.20 However, the suitability of a breakable material such as pottery to serve as ballast or space fillers may be questioned.21 In addition, one of the results of my research is that Mycenaean pots served relevant roles in the societies of the Levant, Cyprus and Italy. It is unlikely that the supply of such a culturally significant class of artefact depended on available space in ships carrying other cargoes.
Due to the significance of Mycenaean pots in social strategies and cultural practices in the Levant, Cyprus and in the central Mediterranean, this class of pottery was exchanged and sought after in its own right. Even though a fair proportion of the Mycenaean ceramic vessels in all areas are dinner vessels, storage vessels are at least as numerous. It is likely that the significance of Mycenaean storage vessels in exchange processes was related to its contents, which probably consisted of wine, oils and unguents.22 Such substances appear to have moved in fairly large quantities all over the Mediterranean, as is clear from their frequent occurrence in the epigraphical record and from the distribution of a wide variety of small container vessels in clay, faience and stone.23 The exchange of these substances often had a kind of 'coals to Newcastle' effect, in the sense that unguents and oils often appear to have been exchanged for similar substances.24 It is possible that the containers added value and identity to these substances, as is also the case for modern perfumes. Small Mycenaean stirrup jars and flasks had been in use for very long periods at Deir 'Alla. Since it is likely that these had been refilled a number of times, it may well be that the ceramic containers themselves signalled the quality of their contents.
Mycenaean ceramic containers, dinner vessels and figurines were part of a body of manufactured objects that circulated widely over very large areas. A number of these objects may be recognised in the cargo of the Ulu Burun shipwreck: glass and amber beads, Egyptian scarabs and Mesopotamian and Levantine cylinder seals.25 A wide variety of objects of similar nature have been found in the Aegean,26 among which are the concentration of worn Cypriote and Levantine cylinder seals in Boeotian Thebes.27 In many contexts which have been investigated in detail in my study, similar objects were associated with Mycenaean pots: Cypriot ceramic vessels and wall brackets, Egyptian scarabs and amulets, Levantine cylinder seals, glass beads and bone combs. It is clear that there must have been substantial exchange of such objects, to which items of perishable material should probably be added. The importance of trade in such manufactured artefacts appears to have increased gradually as the volume and diversity of goods increased.28 Rather than depending directly on a trade in raw materials, Mycenaean pots appear to have been part of a growing body of manufactured objects that circulated widely and symbolised an international culture. As the results of my research indicate, the specific use of these symbols could vary among different places in the Mediterranean.
20 Artzy 1985.
21 McGrail 1989, 357-358; Sherratt 1999, 179 note 41.
22 Leonard 1981, 94-101; Shelmerdine 1984, 94.
23 Leonard 1981, 92-99; Cline 1994, 95-97.
24 Liverani 1972, 299-305.
25 Bass 1987, 1991; Pulak 1988, 1997, 243-250.
26 Lambrou-Philipson 1990a; Cline 1994, 133-233.
27 Porada 1981/1982.
28 Sherratt 1999, 176-178.
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