helens_daughter (helens_daughter) wrote,

Writing A Historical Knossos II: Early Minoan Pottery

One item I left off the list from my initial "Writing A Historical Knossos" post of two weeks ago is pottery.  That's because pottery is such a hugely important and complicated subject that it needs its own post--indeed, it's so complex that I will have to give the subject three separate posts.

Why am I writing these posts? Lately, I've been seeing a lot of bad writing about the Minoans.  Now I don't claim to be an outstanding writer, but I did spend a lot of time doing the research for Knossos and thought maybe sharing what I learned during the process might help somebody who would otherwise find the prospect too daunting.

Pottery, of course, is one of the ways in which archaeologists determine the dating of a site and establish a chronology.  Sir Arthur Evans established the basic Minoan chronology a century ago.  The main categories--Early, Middle, and Late Minoan--each have numerous subcatergories, which sometimes have additional subcategories.  I'm not a formal student of Aegean archaeology, so it's beyond my ability to get that detailed or technical, but I will cover the basics which any writer tackling this period should know:

Final Neolithic/Early Minoan I (3650-3000 B.C.)

What you ought to know about the whole Early Minoan period is that potters didn't use wheels; potter's wheels were invented in the Levant and made their way to Crete around the time the first palaces were erected.  Pots, cups, plates, and jugs were made by hand using the pinch pot method.  Here are the major types:

Pyrgos (EM I) is a patterned, burnished ware that's black, gray, or brown in color.  It was typically decorated with incised linear designs, possibly in an attempt to imitate wood.  Keep in mind that these early Minoans would have had wooden vessels, too, that haven't survived.


Incised/Scored Ware (EM I) features round-bottomed, dark jugs and bulbous cups and jars.  This style originated in north and northeastern Crete.  Its incised lines were more elaborate than Pyrgos ware, with vertical, horizontal, and herringbone patterns.

Early Minoan II (2900-2300 B.C.)

Potters start using colors on their ware beginning in EM II.

Koumasa (EM II) features geometric, slip-painted designs carried on from a south-central/northern Crete ware called Ayios Onouphrios Ware.  Koumasa is identified by its red or black designs on a white background.
beak spouted jug from southern crete, EMI 2600-2300 bce

Vasiliki (EM IIA-B) is named for the site where this ware was found.  Vasiliki Ware is characterized by the intentional mottling of its surface through the careful application of hot coals during the firing process and its elongated, elegant spouts.  This style could have been influenced by the use of similarly mottled stone cups in use during this period.


Early Minoan III (2300-2160 B.C.)

This period's pottery sees the introduction of checkered motifs, rosettes, spirals, and footed goblets.

In the next installment on the Middle Minoan period, we'll see the first wheel-thrown and polychrome vessels, the first pithoi, and the emergence of the Kamares and Floral Wares that accompany the rise of the Proto-palatial centers of Knossos and Phaistos.
Tags: archaeology, knossos, minoans, phaistos, pottery, sir arthur evans, writing
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded