MOVE-IN Louvain' incoming post-doc fellow in AEGIS Research Group
Defining the regional characteristics of Final Neolithic and Early Bronze Age pottery in Attica (Date of award: 28/03/2014 )
Situated between mainland and island-defined archaeological entities, Attica has traditionally been treated as a transitional borderland between what is perceived as ‘Helladic’ versus ‘Cycladic’ culture. Most discussions of social and cultural interactions in the southern Aegean have so far assumed a peripheral role for Attica during the Final Neolithic (4100-3100 BC) and the Early Bronze Age (3100-2000 BC). This is mainly an accident of investigation, due to the lack of systematic research focusing on the stylistic character of FN-EBA material culture excavated at sites within this region. Among the archaeological evidence from Attica, pottery is the most abundant artefact type and its presence at all the excavated sites provides considerable research potential for detailed inter-site comparisons. This thesis systematically describes, summarises and presents a large body of FN-EB II pottery from Attica. Two as yet unpublished ceramic assemblages in southeastern Attica provide the principal case studies: Kontra Gliate (also known as Kiapha Thiti) and Mine 3 at Thorikos. The stylistic characteristics and variation within and between these ceramic assemblages are defined in terms of time and space, and the relationships between fabrics, forms and surface treatments are explored. In addition, smaller assemblages of pottery from other FN-EB II sites in Attica and the surrounding islands were studied with the same methodology, for the first time allowing detailed comparisons: the Agora of Athens, the Kitsos Cave, Thorikos Velatouri, Plakari on Euboea, Kephala on Kea and Kolonna on Aegina. The analysis explores Attica’s stylistic connections with neighbouring areas, i.e. Boeotia, Euboea, the Cyclades, the Saronic Gulf and the northeastern Peloponnese, and defines site-specific and regional variants of FN-EB II pottery styles. The thesis concludes by suggesting an interpretation of the patterns of pottery production and consumption in Attica during the FN-EB II periods.
Project title: ‘Underground Mycenaeans: the archaeology of the prehistoric mining community of Thorikos (Attica, Greece)’
Thorikos is a key site in our understanding of Aegean and Mediterranean prehistory; it is a mining and metallurgical site, a settlement, a cemetery with monumental funerary architecture, not to mention a well-sheltered port. Even after more than a century of research at the site, there are several questions concerning prehistoric Thorikos that remain unanswered. The most important concerns the identity and the nature of control over the Lavrion metal ores. It has been argued, for example, that the construction of monumental Mycenaean tombs on the acropolis should be associated with the presence of an elite that profited in power and prestige from mining and metallurgical activities (Laffineur 2010: 712). The issue of control over the Lavrion in prehistory, however, despite some attention (Broodbank 2013: 370), still remains unclear due to the lack of systematically published data on prehistoric Thorikos. Moreover, the size and the nature of prehistoric settlement on the Velatouri have not yet been established. These are some of the issues currently explored in the frame of the Belgian School at Athens (campaigns 2012-2017), in which I am a ceramic specialist.
My project aims to shed light on mining activities and settlement patterns at Thorikos, with the specific intention to produce a series of publications on the prehistoric pottery excavated at the site. The main set of archaeological data which forms the basis of the project comes from Mine 3, an exploitation context explored by the Belgian School at Athens from 1976 to 1983. Mine 3 is one of the largest prehistoric mines in Europe and thus far the oldest mine in the Lavrion with evidence for exploitation inside the gallery going back as early as the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, also known as the Early Bronze Age II period (Spitaels 1984: 162-171). Moreover, in my thesis I have suggested a possible date for the existence of open-air mining activities already during the 4th millennium BC, the Final Neolithic period, a suggestion based on the recovery of a substantial quantity of pottery of this phase during the excavation (Nazou 2014: 241-243). For my thesis, I studied all the pottery from the mine dated to the Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age and this manuscript is currently being prepared for final publication for Peeters publishers in Leuven. Moreover, Mine 3 has also produced the largest pottery assemblage dating to the advanced Middle and Late Bronze Age hitherto found at Thorikos. Only a small selection of this assemblage was published by P. Mountjoy (1995), who simply selected the largest sherds that were easier to identity.
The present project, however, aims to study all the pottery that can be dated to the Middle and Late Bronze Age from Mine 3 following a new methodology developed in my doctoral research. I will first attempt to highlight the stylistic character of the Middle and Late Bronze Age pottery from the mine, clarify its chronology and shed some light on the activities and functions that can be deduced from the assemblage. The interpretation of the nature of the pottery deposited in the mine is a matter of intense debate: can the large number of tripod cooking pots found within, for example, be associated with the heating of the water in the context of mining activities, a well-known practice in later mining contexts, as has been argued by Mountjoy (1995: 197)? Does the large number of drinking vessels from the mine that can be dated to the LH III period suggests a use of the mine as a refuge or as a cult place, a theory put forward by Mussche (1998: 39)? I hope that a fuller systematic, statistical and diachronic study of the style, chronology and quantities of the Bronze Age pottery can help to answer these questions more convincingly than previous research did.
Another question concerns the contacts of Thorikos with the rest of the Aegean during the 2nd millennium BC; imported vases amongst the mine assemblage will help to shed light on the single and multi-period connections of Thorikos with neighbouring areas. The finds from Mine 3 can hence provide a starting point in order to unfold the complex network of miners, metallurgists, traders and consumers in the Aegean, and help us explore the links of the Thorikos mining and metallurgical community with other prehistoric sites. The relationships with the nearby settlement of Ayia Irini on Kea, for example, are expected to have been close in terms of technological and stylistic similarities, most likely continuing a trend of short-range intense maritime interaction among Eastern Attica and Kea, which I documented in the earlier (Neolithic-Early Bronze Age) material discussed in my thesis. Long-distance relationships with other parts of the Aegean such as the Argolid and Crete, however, may also be attested in the assemblage. Using the evidence for imports at Mine 3, my study will contribute to a reconsideration of the role of Thorikos in Aegean networks of material culture exchanges.
A special effort will be made to identify ceramics that played a role in the metallurgical process in the assemblage, something which is also understudied at Thorikos. Some of the unpublished coarse pottery excavated from the mine, for example, could have been used in metallurgical activities in the nearby settlement and subsequently dumped or discarded in the mine. A detailed examination of the pottery should clarify links between mining and/or metallurgical activities. In addition, a stylistic and typological study of the material will clarify the multi-dimensional character of the ceramic assemblage excavated from Attica’s earliest mine.
In order to contextualise the ceramic data of Mine 3, several other major datasets will be used as comparative evidence. First, other contexts from Thorikos itself will be integrated into the study: the pottery excavated by Stais and re-studied by Papadimitriou (forth.) and the prehistoric finds of Servais on the acropolis (1967), which were never fully published. Moreover, the settlement of Ayia Irini on nearby Kea, which has been systematically published (Davis 1986; Overbeck 1989; Willson Cummer and Scofield 1984; Scofield 2011), will provide parallels for the study and allow the investigation of the relationship of Thorikos with the metallurgical community of Ayia Irini. Thus the project is expected to shed light on the diachronic and close interaction of the Thorikos community with the neighbouring island community of Ayia Irini, as well as on interactions with other, more distant, parts of the Aegean, such as Crete and the Argolid. The project will thus adopt a bottom-up approach to ceramic data and reconstruct a complex prehistoric network comprising not only the Aegean, but the whole Mediterranean.
Broodbank, C. 2013. The making of the Middle Sea: a history of the Mediterranean from the beginning to the emergence of the Classical World. New York: Oxford University Press.
Cummer, W. Willson and E. Schofield 1984. Ayia Irini :.House A. Mainz am Rhein : Philipp von Zabern.
Laffineur, R. 2010. ‘Thorikos’, in E. H. Cline (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean (ca. 3000-1000 BC), 712-721. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Davis, J. L. 1986. Ayia Irini: period V. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern.
Mountjoy, P. A. 1995. ‘Thorikos Mine no 3: The Mycenaean Pottery’, Annual of the British School at Athens 90: 195-228.
Mussche, H. 1998. Thorikos: a mining town in ancient Attika. Gent: Belgian Archaeological School in Greece.
Nazou, M. 2014. Defining the regional characteristics of Final Neolithic and Early Bronze Age pottery. PhD dissertation, University College London.
Overbeck, J. C. 1989. Ayia Irini : period IV: Pt. 1: The stratigraphy and the find deposits. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern.
Spitaels, P. 1984. ‘The Early Helladic Period in Mine no 3 (Theatre Sector)’, in H. F. Mussche, J. Bingen, J. Servais and P. Spitaels (eds.), Thorikos VIII (1972-76), Rapport préliminaire sur les 9ͤ , 10ͤ, 11ͤ and 12ͤ campagnes de fouilles, 151-174. Ghent: Comité des fouilles Belges en Grèce.
Papadimitriou, N. forth. ‘Ceramic material from Valerios Stais’ excavations at the prehistoric settlement of Thorikos’, in in R. Docter and R. Laffineur (eds.) Thorikos 1963-2013: 50 Years of Belgian Excavations. Evaluation and Perspectives (Athens/Lavrio 7-8 October 2013). BABESCH Supplements. Leuven: Peeters Publishers.
Schofield, E. 2011. Ayia Irini :.the Western sector . Darmstadt : Verlag Philipp von Zabern.
Servais, J. 1967. ‘Les fouilles sur le haut du Vélatouri’, in H. F. Mussche, J. Bingen, J. Servais, J. de Geyter, T. Hackens, P. Spitaels and A. Gautier (eds.), Thorikos III (1965), Rapport préliminaire sur la 3ème campagne de fouilles, 8-30. Bruxelles: Comité des fouilles Belges en Grèce.
Université catholique de Louvain
Place B. Pascal 1