Even though the kiln produced light-on-dark patterned pottery, and there is no evidence that it ever fired vases decorated with dark-painted motifs on a lustrous buff ground, there are compelling reasons for dating its lifetime to the advanced and final stages of LM IA, as they are now defined at Kommos.
Until recently, the LM IA phase at Kommos was poorly known through a few stratified contexts on the Hillside and Hilltop. In their publications of this material, Betancourt and Watrous divided LM IA into two stages: early LM IA, also called "Transitional MM III/LM IA," and late LM IA.157 Since 1991, newly excavated stratified remains from Building T and House X have much expanded the number of known LM IA deposits, so that we now can propose the existence of three distinct LM IA stages at Kommos. These have been named early, advanced, and final LM IA, in order to retain the maximum flexibility of terminology and to allow for the elaboration of more stages in the future.158 The evidence for this new LM IA chronology is largely unpublished, and will be presented by J. B. Rutter and the present author in an upcoming article on Kommian Neo-palatial chronology. In the following paragraphs, a short overview is given of the pottery characteristics of each LM IA stage at Kommos, and their correspondences with the LM IA stages identified at other sites. Subsequently, the advanced to final LM IA dating of the kiln will be argued on the basis of the kiln stratigraphy and of the stylistic correspondences shown by the kiln vases and their associated pottery with the ceramic assemblages
on-light assemblage. Following the logic of Warren's terminology, we would need to name all three LM IA stages at Kommos "MM IIIB-LM IA transition," since all have substantial numbers of dark-ground vases in addition to lustrous dark-on-light ones. Third, while Warren (Warren and Hankey 1989, p. 61) was unable to differentiate between dark-ground pottery of MM IIIB and MM IIIB-LM IA transitional deposits, distinctions between MM III and LM IA dark-ground vases can be made at Kommos (see below), and thus there is for us no compelling rationale for retaining a hyphenated designation. In the light of these considerations, we have opted for a simpler terminology.
To the early LM IA stage at Kommos, as presently defined, are assigned some floor deposits from the Hilltop (SHT 23, SHT 24, and SHT 28: Kommos II, pp. 50, 124-129) as well as from Building T. In addition, it is possible that a few floor deposits from the Central Hillside published by Wright (1996) were closed in early LM IA, but these need more study. In Room 42 of Building T, an early LM IA floor deposit was stratified below an advanced LM IA floor. To advanced LM IA can be dated one floor deposit from House X and some from Building T. In Rooms 20 and 22 of Building T, advanced LM IA fills were stratified below final LM IA floors. To the final stage are assigned a few floor deposits from Building T. The LM IA fill published by Watrous may also belong, at least in part, to this final stage (Kommos III, pp. 1-2). The LM IA material from House X and Building T as well as stray finds in the later Building P are as yet unpublished. I thank J. B. Rutter for allowing me to refer to these.
of the newly established LM IA stages. The mid to late LM IA dating of the kiln assemblage is supported also by specific ceramic links with "transitional" as well as "mature" LM IA pottery from other central Cretan sites and Akrotiri.
The criteria for the new early LM IA stage defined at Kommos are based solely on evidence from floor deposits, and they correspond to some degree to those outlined by Betancourt.159 Thus we share with Betancourt the view that the earliest LM IA stage at Kommos is most appropriately marked by the first occurrence of lustrous dark-on-light patterned vases carrying motifs other than tortoise-shell ripple. These vases have unusual fabrics and appear to be nonlocal.160 The locally made early LM IA pottery, as identified by its relatively soft, pale fabrics, continues the MM III tradition of light-on-dark patterning, but with some changes. Betancourt noted that, in contrast with earlier practice, the dark coating of early LM IA vases often has a dilute appearance and frequently has been fired red rather than the black or dark brown that was common in MM III. He also pointed out that conical cups with flattened rims (type B) are smaller than in MM III.161 To Betancourt's criteria we add the disappearance of plain ledge-rimmed conical cups (type A) in early LM IA, the appearance of monochrome convex-sided conical cups (types P and Q), and the marked increase in popularity of type V and W cups decorated with retorted spirals.162 Hooked retorted spirals appear for the first time and may represent a typical LM IA Kommian feature.163 In addition, there is a distinct trend
C 6654 has light-on-dark dot rosettes on the shoulder and a dark-on-light frieze of lunettes and solids on the shoulder, as well as a zone with a thick wavy band at the level of the body's maximum diameter. It may be dated early in LM IA. Elsewhere on Crete the appearance of lustrous dark-on-light painted pottery with motifs other than tortoise-shell ripple also has been taken to mark the beginning of LM IA (Warren and Hankey 1989, p. 61).
C 6648, C 9432, C 9434, and C 9648 from Building T. Cup no. 1899 illustrated by Betancourt (Kommos II, pl. 97) is not monochrome coated but carries remnants of white paint splashes on the interior, paralleling 17 from the kiln dump. Its context is mixed MM III-LM IA in date. For spiral-decorated conical cups from good MM III contexts, see Kommos II, nos. 564, 1617, 1619 (cf. Wright 1996). For examples from contexts datable to early LM IA according to the present criteria, see Kommos II, nos. 879, 1616, and unpublished C 9431, C 9646, and C 9647 from Building T. Many more have not been catalogued. Two cups dated by Betancourt to MM III and six dated to early LM IA in fact come from mixed MM III-LM IA contexts (Kommos II, nos. 1615, 1618, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912). Of these, nos. 1907, 1908, and 1910 have the dilute dark coating characteristic of LM IA vases.
toward simplicity in the dark-ground decorative repertoire. Monochrome coated vases are much more frequent in early LM IA than before. Poly-chromy has become rare, and the range of light-on-dark motifs is much smaller, being largely restricted to thick retorted spirals. Auxiliary bands are fewer.164
The trends noticed in early LM IA continue in the second, or advanced, stage of LM IA, along with some changes. The most dramatic shifts are the disappearance of conical cups with flattened rims and the enormous popularity of type C cups with convex sides and straight or rolled-in rims (Fig. 32: 5-7; see above, pp. 66-67). These type C cups are smaller and thinner-walled than MM III and early LM IA type C cups and are produced in finer fabrics. The other unpainted conical cup types in this stage (D, E, F) likewise are thinner-walled and have finer fabrics than before. Straight-sided cups decline in popularity, being now only as frequent as teacups. There also are changes among the pouring vessels. New in advanced LM IA is the collar-necked jug, while the small, medium-coarse, and crudely fashioned bridge-spouted jar that was common at the site in MM III and early LM IA now disappears.165 Light-on-dark patterned decoration is even simpler than in early LM IA. Polychromy is now entirely absent, and dark monochrome coating is even more prevalent than before, occurring on all straight-sided cups and on most teacups. White-painted designs are restricted to thick retorted spirals on all vases except on kalathoi, which often carry reed or arc patterns. Dilute dark paints, often fired to red hues, are found even more frequently than before. For the first time, lustrous dark-on-light painted designs appear on vases that have soft, pale fabrics resembling those of the kiln pottery.166 The range of dark-painted motifs is small, consisting mostly of tortoise-shell ripple, running and retorted spirals, single horizontal wavy bands, and plant designs. Motifs are often arranged in multiple registers, but plant designs may be free-floating over the entire vessel surface. The new ornamental scheme replaces dark-ground schemes on fine bowls, and is popular on teacups as well. Other shapes continue to be decorated in the light-on-dark tradition. The well-executed, intricate dark-on-light patterns polished to a soft luster represent an increased labor investment in comparison to the simplified light-on-dark motifs.
In the final stage of LM IA, as shown by the stratified deposits, lustrous dark-on-light painted pottery has greatly increased in popularity, now being found also on bridge-spouted as well as tubular-spouted jars, jugs, and rhyta. Multiple-register arrangements are still common. The range of motifs has been expanded to include multiple horizontal wavy lines and running spirals with stems ending in blobs or with foliate stems. Unlike before, tortoise-shell ripple is rare. Dark-ground decoration now is limited to conical and straight-sided cups, and to a shrinking number of closed vases. A small but persistent change can be observed in the shape of type C conical cups. Convex-sided examples with rolled-in rims continue from advanced LM IA, but alongside these are many type C cups with straight-flaring walls and straight rims, much resembling type C cups of LM IB. In fact, these straight-flaring cups differ from LM IB type C cups only by their thicker walls and somewhat coarser fabrics. Straight-sided cups have almost disappeared in final LM IA, while teacups, now dark-on-light patterned as a rule, have much increased in frequency. Medium-coarse side-spouted cups and amphoras with stylized dark-on-light patterned plant designs make their first appearance in final LM IA, but stratified examples are rare.
There is some evidence for determining the relative length of the LM IA stages, as well as their degree of proximity to earlier and later pottery phases at Kommos. Frequent admixtures of MM III pottery in early LM IA deposits indicate that these were formed in the beginning of LM IA. Conversely, the mixing of final LM IA and LM IB pottery in several otherwise homogeneous deposits is suggestive of the close proximity of final LM IA to LM IB. The chronological position of the advanced stage of LM IA is less certain, however. Some abrupt changes, such as the total disappearance of the previously popular conical cup with flattened rim, or the sudden rarity of MM III material, suggest that it is somewhat removed in time from the early LM IA stage. On the other hand, shifts between advanced and final LM IA are gradual rather than abrupt, suggesting that the two stages are close in time. Taking as a guide the number of architectural phases at Kommos that can be assigned to each LM IA stage, one may suggest that the final stage, which includes two architectural phases in Building T, was about as long as the two earlier stages combined, each of which is represented by only one architectural phase.
The relative lengths of the Kommian stages proposed on the basis of stratigraphy are supported by their correspondences with the two LM IA stages defined by Warren for Knossos and many other sites on Crete and in the southern Aegean, and identified also at Akrotiri.167 There is strong evidence linking both the early and the advanced LM IA stages at Kommos with Warren's MM IIIB/LM IA transitional stage. First of all, the impoverished range of polychrome and light-on-dark painted motifs in early LM IA at Kommos is comparable to that ofWarren's transitional stage.168 But more important, in both the early and the advanced LM IA stage at Kommos the most frequent motif among lustrous dark-on-light patterned vases is tortoise-shell ripple, a pattern that also is predominant in Warren's MM IIIB/LM IA transition.169 All of the lustrous dark-on-light painted vases in early LM IA, and at least some of those in advanced LM IA, are thought to come from outside the western Mesara, thus reinforcing the link of the two Kommian stages to transitional MM IIIB/LM IA elsewhere (see above, pp. 90-91). Knossian dark-on-light painted vases exhibit a much larger variety of motifs than those of the advanced LM IA stage at Kommos, and they occur on shapes other than just bowls and teacups, but this may merely reflect the fact that lustrous dark-on-light patterning developed earlier at Knossos than it did at Kommos.
The final stage of LM IA at Kommos in many ways corresponds to Warren's mature stage as identified at Knossos and elsewhere.170 In both stages, dark-ground decoration and tortoise-shell ripple patterns have become rare, and the range oflustrous dark-on-light motifs has been further expanded, running and retorted spirals being among the most popular motifs.171 The straight-sided cup has almost disappeared in favor of the teacup,172 and the collar-necked jug is a prominent variety among jugs.
Was this article helpful?