Use And Form

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of Minoan kilns, which seem to be of different dates. The first type comprises structures that are hemispherical or circular, with or without a stoking channel; these generally date to LM III. The second type, normally found in Neopalatial contexts, comprises those with multiple parallel channels leading out from a firing pit; these function as cross-draft kilns, with the draft being drawn across the firing chamber.19 In plan, this second type is rather like a hand, with the palm representing the firing pit and the fingers the channels. The Kommos kiln belongs to this second type, of which there are single examples in Crete at Gouves,20 Aghia Triada,21 Kato Zakros,22 Kokkino Froudi,23 Mochlos,24 Phaistos,25 and Vathypetro,26 as well as four examples at Knossos.27 The number of channels in these kilns varies from two to five. One of the problems in the past has been that it was usually unclear what actually had been fired in such kilns, for few wasters (with the exception of the Aghia Triada kiln) and no pottery dumps have been reported in connection with them. It has been suggested variously that pottery, lime, and even faience, glass, or metals may have been produced within them.28 The use of the Kommos kiln is made clear by the pottery within it, by the pottery dump outside of it, and by wasters nearby. No traces of lime or metallurgical debris were found within it.29

How the upper portion of the kiln and the pottery to be fired within it were arranged, however, remains uncertain, although some proposals can be made. First, one of the wall tops between the channels (Fig. 14 at a), is,

  1. For kiln typology, see Evely in press, pp. 298-312. Evely includes a third "type," a miscellaneous collection. Many of the kilns at sites enumerated below are described in detail in his catalogue on p. 304. I am most grateful to him for providing me with a pre-publication copy of his text, and to Peter Day and Vassilis Kilikoglou for discussions about up-draft and cross-draft kilns.
  2. Vallianou 1997, p. 337, pl. CXXXVIII:a.
  3. Levi and Laviosa 1986; Tomasello 1996.
  4. Platon 1977, esp. pp. 344-351; 1980.
  5. Chrysoulaki 1996.
  6. Soles 1997, p. 427.
  7. Tomasello 1996. Of MM IIB date, this is the earliest of, and perhaps a prototype for, the Cretan channel kilns. Its firing chamber includes two supporting "islands" with channels alongside, and so differs from the later examples cited in the text.
  8. Marinatos 1952, p. 270, and

1956, p. 298.

  1. Hood 1958, p. 24, fig. 6:b; Warren 1980-1981. Recently discovered at Miletus were a number of kilns, of which two had channels (Niemeier 1997, p. 349 and pl. CXLVI:a). One (g), not well preserved, had at least four and as many as six channels. In plan the second, better preserved one (c), differs from the Minoan palm/fingers type being dealt with here, however, in that the channels are at right angles to the kiln's width and the firing pit is connected to the kiln's interior by a long, covered channel along one of its sides.
  2. Evely in press, pp. 300, 309311. He notes that the only reports of large amounts of wasters come from LM contexts at known or suspected kiln sites, but that these are unpublished.
  3. This does not mean, however, that lime or metal could not, under certain circumstances, have been cooked or melted within the firing pit of a kiln such as that found at Kommos.
Community Garden Drawing
Agia Triada Reconstitution
Figure 22. Restored plan (a) and reconstruction (b) of kiln at Aghia Triada. From Di Vita, La Rosa, and Rizzo et al. 1984, figs. 203-204
Temporary Kiln For Black Pottery
Figure 23. LM III pottery kiln at Stylos. J. Rutter

as mentioned earlier, covered by a uniformly smooth coating of clay plaster. We assume that the other wall tops terminated in a similar manner. On this basis one can argue that the pottery was simply placed on the wall tops between channels, or else spanned the channels, since there was probably not an upper floor or grate such as that proposed for the kiln from Aghia Triada, where a partial grate was found,30 and as shown in the restoration by the Italian excavators in Figure 22:b.

It is possible, however, that some of the rough stone slabs recovered from the channels (Fig. 20) spanned them, as in the LM III kiln at Stylos (Fig. 23).31 Also, some of the fragmentary coarse terracotta slabs or bats recovered from the kiln (C 10052, C 10073),32 as well as some pithoi (below, 58), basins (54, 55), and large bowls (27), could have temporarily spanned the 0.25 m gaps, with other pottery stacked on top of them. Nevertheless it is curious that no spanning elements were found in situ, if they had been left in place by the potters, especially in the undisturbed area where the plastered upper wall (see above) is preserved intact. Also, since clay imprints were not found on the tops of the channel dividers, any terracotta or stone slabs placed there were apparently not stabilized by clay as were the slabs in the Stylos kiln.

At least some of the small stone slabs mentioned above were probably once built into the clay and rubble roof of the kiln.33 While there is only indirect evidence to show that the kiln was "roofed," this must have been the case, as the analyses presented here show that the process of oxidation-reduction-oxidation was used certainly for the dark-painted vessels, as discussed below in Chapter 3. Such close control of the atmosphere of a kiln is not possible in one with an open top, perhaps covered only by broken sherds. The provision of an aperture at the eastern end of the roof would have guided the draft from west to east over the kiln load. Such a design makes much more efficient use of heat than do up-draft kilns.

Concerning the roof itself, while no definite fragments were found, the interior of the kiln above the channels was covered with a 0.10 m-

  1. Levi and Laviosa 1986, figs. 5, 9. For further discussion and a new reconstruction see Tomasello 1996, pp. 30-32, figs. 4-5. Partial grates have also been found in smaller, circular Minoan kilns of Evely's type 1(c) at LM IIIC Kavousi (Gesell, Day, and Coulson 1988, pp. 290ff., fig. 5) and LM IIIB Stylos (Davaras 1973, p. 75, fig. 1, pls. 39-42, and our Fig. 23). See also below.
  2. Some slabs may have fallen in from the upper parts of the channel dividers, as for instance from the top of the wall shown in Figure 14 where a slab is exposed, and others are clearly missing.
  3. "C" followed by a number indicates a particular object of clay in the Kommos general inventory list. For these coarse slabs, see pp. 85-87 below.
  4. A slight curve in the northern wall of the firing pit (Fig. 6: section E-E; Fig. 7) suggests that at least the roof of the pit curved inward.

Figure 24. Restored view of kiln from northwest. G. Bianco v j V

34. Similar deposits of red-brown clayey soil have been found in Minoan kilns at Zakros (Platon 1977, p. 346) and Vathypetro (Marinatos 1952, p. 272), as well as in the Iron Age kiln at Torone (Papadopoulos 1989, p. 17). Both Platon and Papadopoulos have interpreted the reddish soil as remains of the collapsed superstructure.

thick layer of reddish and light brown clay,34 and it is reasonable to suggest that this clay layer, as well as some of the reddish and brown clay fragments and stone found within the channels, is from a dome. The upper fills of the channels and the clayey layer in the firing pit included some earlier sherds, dating to MM IB/II, MM III, and early LM IA, as well as a worn lustrous dark-on-light patterned fragment (C 10307), which are not likely to have been part of the firing load (see below). Some of these may have been part of the superstructure; others could have been used as spacers separating the vessels being fired. Moreover, on the basis of the red clayey stratum found outside the kiln, the types of pottery found within it, and joins between that pottery and the pottery found within the kiln, it is argued below that here also may be remains of the dome, scattered to the sides of the kiln after the superstructure collapsed and the resulting accumulation had been leveled. The joins between the pottery in the kiln and that outside it suggest to Van de Moortel (Chapter 2, below) that part of the last firing load was removed and discarded on the kiln dump.

One must also inquire whether there was an intervening wall between firing pit and channels. There probably was not, for the western ends of the channels are so well preserved that part of such a wall would surely have been found had it ever existed. For that reason the roof shown in Figure 24 is made high enough on the west to accommodate the stoker/ potter and high enough on the east for the stacked pottery, as well as for the potter who would enter the chamber to place and, later, remove the pots.35 It seems clear that there must have existed a closeable vent on the eastern end of the kiln that would draw the draft through the kiln and could be sealed during the reduction phase of the firing cycle.36

From the kiln design, its pottery, and the analytical work presented below in Chapter 3, it is possible to reconstruct the steps that were likely followed in firing the pottery in this kiln.

  1. Dried pottery was placed by the potters over the channels. Larger pots (perhaps bowls and basins) may have been placed upside down, spanning the channels, with other pottery placed carefully above this, and other vases may have been placed on some sort of temporary floor made up of slabs, bats, or large sherds. The unpainted pottery, which did not require as high a temperature, may have been placed toward the eastern end of the kiln.
  2. The fuel was introduced into the firing pit and lit. This may have comprised brushwood, small pieces of wood, or olive pits.37
  3. More fuel was added, and the kiln taken gradually up to its peak temperature, with the open vent on the east and the stokehole creating a strong cross-draft. The temperature was judged by eye, from the color of the kiln load.
  4. When a reducing atmosphere was required, damp fuel was introduced into the firing pit as the temperature reached its uppermost, and both the stokehole and the eastern vent were sealed.
  5. During the final stage of cooling, the kiln apertures may have been opened up again for the second oxidation stage.
  6. When the kiln had completely cooled, the potters removed the pottery and discarded unwanted pieces on the kiln dump. At intervals the potter would have cleared out the firing pit and, as shown in Figures 13 and 19, renewed the clay lining of the channels whenever it had flaked off during use.
  7. The dome height is reconstructed as greater than 0.90 m in order to accommodate the potter and also to allow for the baking of typical MM III/ LM I pithoi.
  8. Van de Moortel also suggests that since the largest concentration of dump sherds was found east (rather than north or west) of the kiln, that there may have been a separate entrance into the firing chamber from the east such as in modern kilns at

Thrapsano (Voyatzoglou 1984, figs. 14-17) and Kentri (Blitzer 1984, figs. 18-3, 4).

37. Recent work by Jeffrey Soles and Costis Davaras at Mochlos, on the Cretan mainland, has revealed an industrial area including two small LM IB kilns, both with firing pits "full of olive pits, a fuel which is still used in kilns today" (Tomlinson 1995, p. 68); see also Soles 1997, p. 427.

chapter 2

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