Coarse Slabs Figs

Sixty-five fragments, representing at least 18 large slabs, were encountered throughout the dump and inside the kiln.142 In the dump, 62 fragments were widely distributed throughout the three soil strata, occurring in 37 out of 138 pails, or in more than one out of every four pails.143 In the kiln channels and firing pit an additional 3 fragments were encountered. Only 3 of those 65 slabs were restorable to some extent (60, 61, C 10073; Fig. 43). This is a remarkably poor recovery rate in view of the fact that the slab fragments were easily identifiable among the dump material by their shape, fabric, and surface finish. Perhaps their fragmentary condition is a result of many fragments having been reused. Similar coarse slab fragments, many with curved edges, have been found elsewhere at Kommos, but they have not yet been studied.144 An unusually large concentration of 10 slab fragments was found in the light brown stratum east of the kiln.145 It is possible that these had been reused as blocking material for the presumed eastern entrance to the firing chamber (see above, p. 33).

One of the slabs is sufficiently preserved for us to recognize its semicircular shape (61). Since other fragments have finished edges we know that they were square or rectangular. The remaining specimens, an estimated 10 or so, have curving edges, and may have been either semicircular or circular in shape (60).146 All are made of a coarse red fabric, which differs from the kiln fabrics described above and resembles that of cooking pots. Their top and sometimes also bottom surfaces are covered with a fine pale buff slip, which was polished to a luster at least on two curved, fragmentary slabs (60, C 10073). Fine concentric or spiral striations are visible on the top surface of 60. Remnants of fine clay adhere to the top of 60, and to the top and bottom surfaces of C 10073. There is no evidence that these slabs were fired in this kiln.

  1. Sakellarakis and Sapouna-Sakellaraki 1991, p. 144, fig. 121.
  2. No comprehensive study of the Kato Syme chalices has appeared, but a few have been illustrated in preliminary reports. In particular the base of the chalice shown by Lembesi (1976a, fig. 9) is very close in its overall shape and molded decoration to 59. For other examples, see Lembesi 1976a, fig. 8; 1979, pl. 224:a; 1990, pl. 134:b; 1991a, fig. 6; 1991b, pl. 173:c, f, g; 1994, pl. 206:c.
  3. Most of these have been in ventoried: 60 (C 8935), C 10011, C 10052, C 10073, C 10136, C 10147, C 10213, C 10214, C 10284, C 10285, C 10303, C 10407, 61 (C 10599).
  4. Slab fragments have been found in the following units of the dump: trench 87B, pails 82, 83, 105B, 106, 108, 111, 112A, 112B, 116, 116A, 116B, 116C; trench 90C, pails 86, 94; trench 91B, pail 46; trench 95A, pails 76, 94, 110, 136, 139, 140, 146, 147, 148, 150, 156, 157, 160, 165, 166, 178, 188, 189, 198; trench 95B, pail 175; trench 95C, pail 203; trench

97C, pail 40. In the kiln: trench 95A, pails 100, 111, 114.

  1. Blitzer 1995, p. 521.
  2. Trench 87B, pails 82, 83.
  3. Square or rectangular:

C 10136, C 10284, C 10285, C 10303. Semicircular or circular: 60, C 10011, C 10073, C 10213, C 10214. The remaining inventoried slabs do not have preserved edges, and their original shape cannot be determined. Other examples with straight or curving edges have not been inventoried.

The primary function of these slabs is a matter of conjecture, and it may not have been the same for all morphological varieties. It seems unlikely that they served as lids or baking trays.147 Because of their large size, flat shape, and fine buff slip, it is more likely that they were originally produced as slabs for wedging clay. While wedging of large quantities of clay probably was done by foot on the floor, the slabs may have served for the final wedging of small quantities of clay for the manufacture of small or medium-sized serving vessels or even for the formation of coils or vessel appendages.148 It seems unlikely that the potter would have gone through all this effort just to prepare a flat, smooth surface for wedging. However, for lack of a better explanation, this is proposed as a possible function for the semicircular slabs.

An alternative interpretation is that they served as bats placed on top of the wooden or clay heads of potters' wheels. Square bats are still used on turntables by some traditional potters on Cyprus.149 Circular bats have been found in the archaeological record, and also in present-day traditional pottery workshops in Greece, where they are used on turntables as well as on potters' wheels.150 Since square bats exist there is no reason why semicircular slabs could not have been used for this purpose as well.

Figure 43. Slabs C 10073 (top and bottom views) and C 8935 (60).

T. Dabney

Figure 43. Slabs C 10073 (top and bottom views) and C 8935 (60).

T. Dabney

  1. Blitzer has suggested for similar slabs found elsewhere at Kommos that they had served as lids for large basins (Blitzer 1995, p. 521). However, no trace of a handle has been found on any example from the dump, not even on 60, which has its center preserved. Also, the fine buff slip would not have been necessary for lids. Having been made of a coarse red fabric, the slabs might have been used as baking trays. However, the lack of any indication of secondary burning (e.g., blackened or mottled surface) on any of the fragments goes against this interpretation.
  2. Traditional methods of wedging large quantities of clay by foot movements on the floor are described in ethnographic studies (Hampe and Winter 1962, pp. 27-28, pl. 1:5; Voyatzoglou 1984, pp. 133-134; Blitzer 1984, p. 148; Blitzer 1990, p. 681, pl. 100:d; Rice 1987, p. 119, fig. 5.2).
  3. London 1989a, p. 72, fig. 1; 1989b, pp. 223-224. Square bats are used on square turntables. Elsewhere on Cyprus, traditional potters have round turntables with round bats.
  4. The first scholar to relate clay discs from Minoan contexts to the bats used by modern Cretan potters was Xanthoudides (1927). However, his twelve clay and stone discs from Gournia, Tylissos, Knossos, Phaistos, and Aghia Triada have since been reinterpreted by Evely (1988) as wheelheads, because they have central depressions, ridges, grooves, or raised rims. Evely (1988, pp. 89, 97-100) himself identifies only three or four clay discs from Phaistos and Mallia as bats. Being Protopalatial in date, they are older than the slabs from Kommos. Also their fabric is different, being a coarse "pithos" fabric, while the Kommos slabs have a coarse red fabric resembling that of cooking pots. For present-day examples from Greece, see Betancourt 1985, pl. 6:B; Voyatzoglou 1984, p. 135; Fiandra and Pelagatti 1962, pp. 15-16, 18, figs. 1, 3, pls. II:1, V:1; Hampe and Winter 1962, p. 17, figs. 12-14, pls. 4, 5, 43:1-2, and passim.

Figure 44. Modern bat (Diam. ca. 0.65 m) supporting unfired basin (center) in workshop at Thrapsano,

1994. A. Van de Moortel

Figure 44. Modern bat (Diam. ca. 0.65 m) supporting unfired basin (center) in workshop at Thrapsano,

  1. A. Van de Moortel
  2. G. A. London (pers. comm.).
  3. Evely 1988, p. 89.
  4. Most bats shown in ethnographic studies have diameters ranging between 0.30 and 0.40 m (Hampe and Winter 1962, fig. 14; Fiandra and Pelagatti 1962, figs. 1, 3). Such were also the diameters of most bats observed by the author in a traditional workshop at Thrapsano in 1994.

A bat used to support a pithos on the wheel, drawn by Hampe and Winter (1962, fig. 13), has a diameter of about 0.50 m. Bats of about 0.65 m in diameter have been observed by the author at Thrapsano supporting lekanes that were drying before being fired (Fig. 44).

Only a few Minoan clay discs identifiable as bats have been published to date. Minoan bats are circular in shape, and, like the Kommos slabs, they have a smooth, slipped top surface and a rougher bottom surface. Modern examples are fixed to the wheelhead by means of wet clay. Bats provide a smooth and level surface on which the potter can throw his vessel. After a pot is finished, it can be lifted from the wheel, complete with the bat on which it has been shaped, so that no strain needs to be applied to the still wet vessel walls. Bats may be made of clay, wood, or stone. Clay bats are especially appreciated by present-day traditional potters, because their porous clay surface allows the base of the pot standing on it to dry more quickly, and more in step with the rest of the pot, than it would on a stone bat.151 However, the fine slip of the Kommian bats would have reduced their porosity.

The curved slab fragments from Kommos are 0.025 to 0.030 m thick, and if they belonged to circular slabs they would have been about 0.65 m in diameter. They would have been much larger and thicker than the published Minoan bats, which are only 0.18 to 0.30 m in diameter and 0.019 to 0.023 m in thickness.152 Bats with diameters of roughly 0.65 m are still used by traditional Cretan potters for the manufacture of large basins, or lekanes (Fig. 44), but would not have been needed to make any of the vessel shapes found in the kiln or dump at Kommos.153 It has been tentatively suggested above that the large slabs from Kommos may have been bats for wheels with short vertical axles, set low to the ground (see above, p. 34). No wheelheads have been found at Kommos, but they may have been carried off after operations ended, or else they may have been made of wood. However, all this is a matter of conjecture until the rounded slab fragments can be further mended to show that they belonged to circular bats.

Dark-on-Light Patterned Vases (62-70; Fig. 38)

Fragments of about 20 vases carrying dark-painted decoration on a lustrous light-colored surface were mixed in with the kiln dump pottery, and one was found inside the rubble mound on which the kiln had been built (62). About 15 of these vessels have unusual fabrics and seem to come from other areas of Crete (e.g., 67, 68, 69, 70). The remainder resemble the kiln products in fabric, but are unlikely to have been fired in this kiln because each one is unique. It is possible that these vases were produced elsewhere at Kommos or in the Mesara, but our present knowledge of central Cretan fabrics is insufficient for determining their origin. Only those examples that shed light on the dating of the kiln material have been catalogued. They will be discussed below, pages 98-102. Fragments with simple linear designs or others that do not have known comparanda have been omitted.

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