THE EARLY IRON AGE GREEK POTTERY IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

The social context of wine consumption

Investigations of cultural exchange during the early Iron Age in the Mediterranean traditionally focuses on pottery which in the past has often been viewed as evidence of human mobility. However, other social aspects of consumption have often been neglected.

Neutron activation analyses


The starting point of a new study of the protogeometric and Geometric pottery in non-Aegean-Greek contexts, i.e. in Greek colonies and non-Greek cities, is the determination of origin based on Neutron activation analysis (NAA). A total of around 350 pottery sherds and vessels from various find sites of the western and eastern Mediterranean have been analyzed by Hans Mommsen.

Wine consumption as a social and intercultural instrument


The function of the pottery will be discussed in its social, cultural, or ritual contexts on the basis of the results of the NAA. Aspects of wine consumption as a social instrument in a period shortly before or during the institutionalization of the symposium in the Mediterranean will be central to the discussion. Since the majority of the protogeometric and Geometric pottery in the Mediterranean consists of drinking vessels, the study will focus on social and ritual contexts of ancient drinking customs as a link between various Mediterranean cultures. The aim is the analysis of the social and, if necessary, the symbolic function of the corresponding pottery in Phoenician, Punic, and Greek colonial contexts. A group of early Iron Age transport amphorae from the northern Aegean are of particular importance because they represent the earliest transport vessels of the Aegean following the Bronze Age.

The find sites


The project is focused on protogeometric, Geometric, and early Archaic pottery from various northern Aegean colonies (Thasos, Argilos, Mende) and indigenous settlements of the same regions, such as Sindos and Kastanas, whose material culture exhibits a close connection to central and southern Greece. Over 80 vessels of various northern Aegean wares were sampled and analyzed. In addition, Geometric pottery from find sites in the Balkan hinterland was analyzed, such as for example from the mid-course of the Axios and in particular from Koprivlen along the mid-course of the Nestos in Bulgaria (16 samples). From Klazomenai and Teos in the eastern Aegean ca. 40 fragments of drinking vessels of varying types and dating to the submycenaean to Archaic period were analyzed as were several northern Aegean protogeometric or sub-protogeometric transport amphorae. Transport amphorae of a similar type were sampled on many other find sites, not only in the northern Aegean (Thasos, Argilos, Sindos, Kastanas) but also in central Greece. A large number of earlier types of these amphorae are known from Elateia and Kynos in Locris which has been taken as evidence that the earliest amphorae of this type were produced in central Greece. 23 amphorae were analyzed at both find sites.

Pottery of Aegean origin or Aegean type was sampled in the earliest colonies of Italy (Pithekoussai, Cumae) and Sicily (Naxos) as well as also in Sarno, an indigenous Campanian find site with culturally mixed material culture (about 60 samples). Because the earliest Greek pottery following the late Bronze Age was not used by Greeks but instead by Phoenicians in the eastern and western Mediterranean, 25 samples of protogeometric and Geometric pottery were analyzed from both large Phoenician metropoleis, including a few skyphos fragments from the old excavations of Paul Courbin in Ras-el-Bassit along the northern Syrian coast. 22 fragments of mid- and late Geometric vessels from recent excavations in the Phoenician colony of Utica were also analyzed. These pieces represent the earliest Greek pottery discovered in North Africa. The final stops of this Mediterranean periplous are Huelva and Malaga in Spain and Sulci in Sardinia where mid- and late Geometric pottery was consumed alongside indigenous, Punic, and western Mediterranean wares in Phoenician colonies.