Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


12 September 2012

Elizabeth Schofield, 2011. KEOS Volume X, Ayia Irini: The Western Sector, Darmstadt: Philipp von Zabern.

Hardback, 224 p., 84 plates, 31x22,5 cm., ISBN: 978-3-8053-4333-6

Reviewed by Iro Mathioudaki, BA, PhD, Α. Papandreou 48, Marousi 15122, Athens
(iro.mathioudaki [at]


The new Keos volume is concerned with the area designated the Western Sector, which covers a large part of the prehistoric settlement, the fortification wall, the spring chamber and its access.  The book is divided into nine chapters covering seven architectural units, preceded by a short introductory chapter and followed by the conclusions. An illuminating foreword by Jack Davis presents a biography of the late Elizabeth Schofield as well as a history of the Western Sector. The very fact that she was able to complete so much of the present volume before her death is a great achievement in itself.

Chapters III (The Central Block, p. 29), IV (The Spring Chamber and its access, p. 53) and VIII (The Infill between Houses C and EJ, p. 159) are particularly indicative of the character and the function of the area. The largest part of the volume is dedicated to the detailed architectural description of every unit and the catalogue of the finds, which contains over 2600 entries. The concluding chapter offers a good synthesis of the information presented in the previous chapters taking into consideration the circumstances under which it has been written. The phase plans of Plates 3-7 illustrate the successive architectural operations comprising, in Schofield’s words, “an amalgamation of walls of various periods” (p. 192).

The book should be viewed in connection to the previously published work on Keos and especially that of House A (Cummer and Schofield 1984), which covers the same time span. It offers a helpful overview of periods VI and VII of Ayia Irini adding significantly to aspects of intra-site chronology, i.e. the division of periods VI and VII into sub-phases and relevant architectural operations. The volume enhances and clarifies the role and character of the Western Sector, which was “carefully planned to create a terraced route leading toward the water” (p. 192). It is also a source of useful comparanda for inter-regional studies taking into consideration that Ayia Irini is one of the few sites where imports from the Mainland, Cyclades, Crete and the South-East Aegean are attested together in large quantities.

The finds are catalogued according to houses, rooms and deposits representing mainly periods VI and VII of Ayia Irini. The pottery finds are presented according to their provenance (i.e. Cycladic, Mycenaean/Minoan, Mainland) and ware categories. The presentation of the local wares is not so clear, though; sometimes these are referred to as local, sometimes simply as Cycladic. The pottery of every room is helpfully divided according to context (i.e. Room W.5 A, W.5 B etc.), which is also made clear in the Plates for the reader’s convenience. The parallel cited are very few and mostly from the publication of House A and other works in the Keos series. This is justified by the fact that the original intention was to publish the pottery analysis in a second volume (see Foreword, p. viii). Due to the special circumstances under which the volume was published, the absence of  statistical analysis and  tables with percentages etc. is understandable.  This was also prevented by the fact that “only a fraction of the pottery from any excavation unit remains” (Foreword, p. viii). However, more drawings of vases would have been desirable. The lack of discussions on the function of different areas, i.e. identification of the domestic or special character of units according to finds is also justified by the character of the publication; nevertheless, this is an important aspect which should be dealt with in the future. Some information on the subject, though, is offered on p. 193.

The contextual analysis according to stratified deposits of Ayia Irini VI and VII offers unparalleled ‘snapshots’ of synchrony, whose value should be appreciated in future studies of relative chronology. Of special interest is the destruction deposit of period VIIa found in Room W.50 (p. 59, Pls. 51-53) and the destruction deposit on the floor of Room C.2B dating to period VIIb  with an interesting Aiginetan Matt-painted amphora found together with a Cycladic piriform jar and an askos of the Acropolis Burnished ware (p. 144, Pls. 69-70). The contexts of Rooms W.21B (p. 176, Pl. 78), W.22B (p. 179, Pl. 79) and W.23A (p. 182, Pls. 80-81) are attributed to the same destruction horizon and are indicative of the pottery of Ayia Irini VIIb. Even smaller deposits like those of Rooms W.44B (p. 47 and Pl. 47), J.5A (p. 94, Pls. 56-57), J.6C (p. 95, Pl. 58), W.5A (p. 117-118, Pl. 62), C.3A (p. 146, Pl. 71) and W.9E (p. 173, Pl. 77) offer valuable data concerning the simultaneity of certain Mainland, Cycladic and Minoan wares. In Room C.3A (p. 146, Pl. 71), for example, a Minoan oval-mouthed amphora (cat. no. 1715) is found with a decorated Mainland (i.e. Boeotian) krater (cat. no. 1716) and an Aiginetan krater (cat. no. 1718).

The value of these ‘snapshots’ in terms of relative chronology will be appreciated in the future, since the identification of several wares and the terminology used for the early Mycenaean period is constantly being improved (see Lindblom 2007, Zerner 2008 and Sarri 2010). Thus we might be able to identify stylistically Mainland and Cycladic wares, especially those of Aiginetan (i.e. cat. nos. 6, 9, 774, 826, 1027, 1442, 1821, 1829-1830) or Argive origin (i.e. cat. nos. 775, 1486 and 1827) and trace their continuity into the Late Bronze Age in the company of Mycenaean style vases. The identification of more vessels from Akrotiri, Thera is also to be expected, like the piece already referred to as a possible Theran import (cat. no. 1981); the same could be argued for cat. nos. 1982-1985. The catalogued pots from the Western Sector offer important evidence on trade and network patterns within the Cyclades and South-East Aegean (note, for example, cat. no. 2119 of possible Naxian origin and cat. no. 759 of ‘uncertain’ but probable Dodecanesian origin). Petrographic studies are, of course, needed here, but relevant data might be offered by the work of Gorogianni, Fitzsimons and Hilditch and the Ayia Irini Northern Sector Archaeological project (Kea Update 2010, p. 4).

The new Keos volume is particularly useful for intra-site chronology adding to the information for the division of phases VI and VII of Ayia Irini. For this subject the reader should also consult the work of Cummer and Schofield (1984, 141), Schofield (1984) and Davis and Cherry (1990, 194). Evidence of a second destruction prior to period VIIb  are assigned to a late phase of period VI or to VIIa (see particularly Room W.50). The division of period VI in sub-phases is also supported stratigraphically in Room EJ.1 (p. 105) with EJ.1A representing the “lower stratum of period VI” (Pl. 62) and EJ.1B the “upper deposit of period VI” (Pl. 63); the same stratigraphical horizon is located in Room EJ.3 (p. 106-107); deposit EJ.3A comprises the “lower deposit of period VI” (Pl. 63) and EJ.3B the “upper period VI deposit” (Pl. 64). Of special interest is also deposit A of Room W.4 (p. 169, Pl. 76) assigned to period VI, since it would support the existence of an even earlier part of phase VI contemporary with the MM IIIB period and possibly Phase 4 of Akrotiri, Thera (cf. Nikolakopoulou et al. 2008). The pottery of Deposit A of Room W.4 seems stylistically synchronous to the middle levels of Room L.21 (Davis and Cherry 1990, 194 and Figs. 3-4) representative of an earlier part of phase VI. The consequences of the attribution of the very early part of phase VI to the Middle Bronze Age acquire a pan-Aegean character.

The volume also works as an excellent example for the publication of large architectural units and contexts of multi-phase settlements. The example of presenting mainly whole pots, i.e. inventoried vessels and small finds, and a few sherds where this is needed in order to illuminate aspects of chronology could be broadly used for the publication of large sites of diachronic use. The information is dense and there is a lot to digest in the future. The book is a key reference point and a major contribution to our knowledge of the Late Bronze Age Aegean.


Cummer, W.W. and E. Schofield 1984. Ayia Irini: House A, Keos III, Mainz von Zabern.

Davis, J.L. and J.F. Cherry 1990. “Spatial and Temporal Uniformitarianism in Late Cycladic I: Perspectives from Kea and Melos on the Prehistory of Akrotiri”, in D.A. Hardy (ed.), TAW III(1), pp. 185-200.

Kea Update. An Annual Newsletter 2010. Research and publication of the University of Cincinnati excavations at Ayia Irini and Kephala, Kea, Greece.

Linbdlom, M. 2007. “Early Mycenaean Mortuary Meals at Lerna VI with a Special Emphasis on their Aeginetan Components”, in F. Felten, W. Gauss  and R. Smetana (eds.), Middle Helladic Pottery and Synchronisms, Wien, pp. 115-135.

Nikolakopoulou, I., F. Georma, A. Moschou and F. Sophianou. “Trapped in the Middle: New Stratigraphical and ceramic evidence from Akrotiri, Thera”, in Α.C. Renfrew, N. Brodie, G. Gavalas and J. Doole (eds.), Orizon. A Colloquium on the Prehistory of the Cyclades, Cambridge, pp. 311-323.

Sarri, K. 2010. Orchomenos IV. Orchomenos in der mittleren Bronzezeit, München.

Schofield, E. 1984. “Destruction Deposits of the Eastern Late Bronze Age from Ayia Irini, Kea”, in Α. MacGillivray and R. Barber (eds.), The Prehistoric Cyclades: Contributions to a Workshop on Cycladic Chronology, Edinburgh, pp. 179-183.

Zerner, C.W. 2008. “The Middle Helladic Pottery, with the Middle Helladic ware from Late Helladic deposits and the potters’ marks:”, in W.D. Taylour and R. Janko (eds.), Ayios Stephanos. Excavations at A Bronze Age and Medieval Settlement in Southern Laconia, BSA Suppl. 44, pp. 177-298.


Παρακαλούμε τα σχόλιά σας να είναι στα Ελληνικά (πάντα με ελληνικούς χαρακτήρες) ή στα Αγγλικά. Αποφύγετε τα κεφαλαία γράμματα. Ο Αιγεύς διατηρεί το δικαίωμα να διαγράφει εκτός θέματος, προσβλητικά, ανώνυμα σχόλια ή κείμενα σε greeklish.