Introduction

1. Financial support during the 1993-1995 period when the kiln was excavated was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (grants 411-88-0020-X6 and 410-94-1091-X1, 2), by the Institute for Aegean Prehistory, founded by Malcolm Wiener, and by the University of Toronto through the Vice President for Research and International Relations and the Dean of Arts and Science, as well as by Mr. Lorne Wickerson. A shorter, preliminary version of this monograph has appeared as Shaw et al. 1997.

Kommos is a Minoan and Greek site located near the southern end of a long strip of north-south shoreline of the Mesara Plain in south-central Crete. Excavation by the University of Toronto through the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, with the cooperation of the Greek Antiquities Service, has been carried out since 1976, with pauses for study and publication.1

During the Minoan period there was a medium-sized town (MM IB-LM IIIB, ca. 1900-1250 b.c.) spread out over a hillside and hilltop and north of there for a still unknown distance. South of the town, and separated from it by a broad east-west paved road, were three large successive civic buildings ("AA," "T," and "P," respectively) of which the first two (AA, T) featured palatial central courts, like the one at Phaistos, for which Kommos was the harbortown. The third, P, comprised a series of six long, parallel galleries that may have housed ships of the Mesara fleet (Shaw and Shaw 1999). The kiln under consideration in this book was built within the South Stoa of Building T during LM IA (Fig. 1).

During the ensuing Greek period the character of the site changed, from that of a town with civic structures to a rural religious shrine of which the earliest of three successive temples ("A") was built ca. 1020 b.c. during the Subminoan period. It was followed by "B," ca. 800 b.c., and in turn by "C," ca. 375/350 b.c. All three, as well as other buildings connected with them, were constructed over the earlier Minoan remains. The Kommos site was deserted about a.d. 200 and was subsequently covered by drifting sand.

Publication has paralleled excavation. The most recent preliminary report is Shaw and Shaw 1993. A series of successive volumes is also emerging. The first volume, in two parts, contains studies of the Kommos area, its ecology, and Minoan industries, as well as the Minoan houses on the hillside and hilltop (Kommos I.1, 2). The second, by Betancourt, examines the Middle Minoan pottery from the houses (Kommos II), and the third, by Watrous, Late Minoan pottery and trade (Kommos III). In press is The Greek Sanctuary (volume IV), and in preparation is a volume on the Minoan civic area (volume V).

Concerning the LM IA kiln itself, comparative study suggests that it is a type of cross-draft channel kiln popular during the Neopalatial period. As discussed by Shaw in Chapter 1, its good state of preservation allows us to speculate about its original internal layout and use, as well as about its roof.

In and around the kiln a large mass of broken pottery was found, which in all likelihood represents the waste of the kiln operation. A first study of this material is presented here in Chapter 2 by Aleydis Van de Moortel. It aims: (1) to provide the reader with a detailed understanding of the stratigraphy; (2) to give an overview of the vase shapes and varieties produced in this kiln; (3) to establish its date; and (4) to discuss evidence for some manufacturing practices and aspects of the organization of production that have become apparent thus far. More specifically, standardization of shapes and the relation of fabric texture to vessel shape are addressed, and peculiarities of vessel formation, surface finish, and decoration pointed out. Clues regarding the scale and mode of pottery production at this facility are investigated. Future research will focus on analyzing idiosyncrasies of the manufacturing process in greater detail. Since this is the first time that a large amount of Minoan pottery has been found in association with its production facility, we have the unprecedented opportunity to document the specific technological, morphological, and decorative profile of a body of pottery produced at a known locale. With this profile we might be able in the future to study the spatial distribution and consumption of Kommian pottery at other sites, and to reach a better understanding of the production decisions taken by the potter or potters of a single locale in relation to the available technology as well as to environmental, economic, social, and political conditions.

It will be argued here that the kiln was in use from mid to late LM IA. This date is bound to be controversial, because the kiln produced light-on-dark patterned pottery, traditionally associated with the Middle Minoan phases of Cretan ceramics, and there is no evidence that it ever produced vases with dark-painted motifs on a lustrous buff ground, which were dominant on Crete at the time. The kiln's date is established on the basis of its stratigraphical position and of the stylistic fit of the kiln vases and their associated pottery within the newly revised LM IA chronology at Kommos. This new chronology is based on the results of recent excavations in Building T and in House X, which have much expanded the number of stratified LM IA deposits at the site. Instead of the two LM IA stages distinguished in the past by Betancourt and Watrous, we are now able to identify three stages.2 At present, these three LM IA stages have been established only at Kommos, and it remains to be seen whether they can be applied to other sites. We have decided to call these new stages early, advanced, and final LM IA. In doing so we eschew the terminology proposed by Warren and adopted by Betancourt, which distinguished a "Transitional MM III(B)/LM IA" stage in which light-on-dark patterned and lustrous darkon-light painted pottery coexisted, from a "mature LM IA" stage dominated by lustrous dark-on-light painted vases.3 Since at Kommos it now appears that light-on-dark patterned pottery was produced and consumed well into final LM IA, we prefer to adopt a strictly chronological dating

III.

3. Warren and Hankey 1989, pp. 61-65, 72-78; Warren 1991; see also p. 89, note 158 below.

terminology that does not make inferences about the stylistic composition of the assemblages of the various LM IA stages. The recently excavated LM IA deposits from Building T and House X are still unpublished, and it is felt that a detailed discussion of the new LM IA chronology at Kommos is beyond the scope of the present publication. It will be the topic of a separate article, which is currently being prepared by Jeremy B. Rutter and Aleydis Van de Moortel. At present, only a short description of the pottery characteristics of the three new stages will be given, and stylistic comparisons drawn with LM IA chronologies used at other Minoan sites and at Akrotiri.

The Kommos kiln was constructed in advanced LM IA—on top of an early LM IA destruction level—and its ceramic output as well as associated pottery fits stylistically into the advanced and final stages of LM IA. The ceramics also show specific links with "transitional" as well as "mature" LM IA pottery from other central Cretan sites and from Akrotiri. The absence of certain ceramic characteristics suggests that the Kommos kiln went out of use before the end of the LM IA phase, and thus within a generation or so of the volcanic eruption of Thera.

The excavated kiln structure with its associated pottery is a find of great importance for analytical ceramic studies on Crete. Its examination by an integrated program of analytical techniques is of value for our understanding of the technology and organization of ceramic production at the beginning of the Late Minoan period, for the study of pottery provenance and exchange, and ultimately for the design of analytical methodology.

In Chapter 3 Peter Day and Vassilis Kilikoglou present analytical data and interpretations pertaining both to the reconstruction of ceramic technology used in the production of pottery in the Kommos kiln, relating this to raw materials available in the vicinity, and to the establishment of a compositional control group. A combination of analytical techniques is used, including petrographic thin-section analysis, scanning electron microscopy, and neutron activation analysis. The characterization of the pottery has led to conclusions regarding the procurement and manipulation of raw materials, the decoration of the vessels, and their firing conditions. Both the clay matrix and aplastic inclusions have been connected to local geological deposits and other comparative pottery from the area of the Mesara. The variation in fabric according to shape and putative function is discussed. The range of firing temperatures has been documented by examination of vitrification microstructures and subsequent chemical analysis using the scanning electron microscope. These analyses show that the kiln was capable of firing in a reducing atmosphere, in order to achieve the iron-rich black decoration. Additionally, different firing regimes were found that are consistent with the typological groupings present in the pottery associated with the kiln. The latter finding implies the use of different firing conditions for various pottery types, either by different firing episodes or by the specific placement of vessels within one kiln firing.

Postburial alterations in elemental and mineralogical composition of the ceramics associated with the kiln have been investigated. These alterations have important implications for the study of pottery provenance by chemical analysis, as they show the selective alteration of composition according to the technology, mainly as a function of firing temperature. A detailed chemical and mineralogical study of this phenomenon and its implications is presented elsewhere (Buxeda i Garrigôs, Kilikoglou, and Day in press).

We hope that our study may contribute to a better understanding of Minoan kiln construction and use, ceramic technology, and the development of ceramic form and decoration in south-central Crete, and through analyses of the clay provide comparative material for future studies.

The Authors

1 May 2000

chapter i

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