Sidon: Protogeometric and Geometric pottery

Symbolisms and social implications of wine consumption with Greek vessels in the Levant 

In the past, the early Iron Age Greek pottery in the Levant has been seen as evidence for Greek presence in the eastern Mediterranean. Today, this pottery is understood to represent special drinking vessels that were used by the local Levantine population and in some cases was full of symbolism. 

The find assemblage of Greek pottery in Sidon


Following the recent excavations by Claude Doumet Serhal over the course of the last two decades, Sidon ranks among the find sites alongside Tyros, al Mina, and Tell Ta’yinat, with the largest quantity of Iron Age Greek pottery in the Levant. An interesting aspect in the use of Greek pottery in Sidon is that it was continuously imported into this Phoenician city from the protogeometric to the late Geometric period. Another important aspect is the repertoire of vessel shapes which suggests an export-oriented strategy on the part of the Greek workshops. During the early Iron Age the Phoenicians often used plates with concentric semi-circles made on Euboea and seldom also discovered in the Aegean. Over time the skyphos became the most popular shape of Greek drinking vessels in the Orient. The change displayed in the material culture of Sidon must be seen against the backdrop of cultural exchange in the area of social rituals of wine consumption.

Contexts


The new finds from Sidon are particularly important because for the first time in the Levant it is possible to study a fairly large find assemblage of Greek pottery in its context as a result of modern excavations. The pottery was discovered in sealed cult contexts suggesting a ritual use. Furthermore, for the first time a statistical evaluation as well as a comparative study of the Greek and Phoenician pottery from the same contexts was carried out. A series of radiocarbon analyses is planned that would not only provide a solid absolute chronology for the Iron Age stratigraphy of Sidon but would also continue the correlation of the Levantine and Aegean chronology. 

Social and ideological connotations


The latest Greek Geometric pottery from Sidon dates to the period of the adoption of the symposium in the Aegean, a period of reciprocal cultural exchange. The iconography of a large krater from Sidon is particularly important for our perception of Greek pottery in the Orient. Its symbolism might be better understood against the background of local oriental religious ideologies.