Thomas M. Brogan & Erik Hallager (eds), 2011. LM IB Pottery: Relative Chronology and Regional Differences. Acts of a Workshop Held at the Danish Institute at Athens in Collaboration with the INSTAP Study Center for East Crete, 27-29 June 2007, (2 vols) [Monographs of the Danish Institute at Athens, Volume 11], Athens: The Danish Institute at Athens.
Hardback, 656 p., colour and b/w illustrations throughout, maps, drawings, 28x21 cm, ISBN 978-87-7934-573-7
Reviewed by Evi Gorogianni, Senior Lecturer, University of Akron Ohio (eg20 [at] uakron.edu)
Destructions and abandonments are key components of the archaeological record as they furnish primary deposits for relative chronologies, the tools for reconstructing life in the past, and occasionally, especially in times when the written record cannot provide help, evidence for writing “political” history. The Late Minoan IB period (hereafter, LM IB) is a prime example of a period rife with the complexities inherent in this kind of exercise. Not surprisingly, a wide divergence of opinion exists on diverse topics, among which are the synchronization of individual site sequences and the role of destruction events in the reconstruction of political history of a rather intriguing period, particularly since the subsequent period is characterized by significant cultural and geo-political shifts (i.e., LM II). Was LM IB a period of economic prosperity and political stability (Warren 2001, Christakis this volume), or was it one of fragmentation and destabilization, trends that ultimately lead to the supposed Mycenaean takeover (Driessen & Macdonald 1997)? In similar cases of wide divergence in the scholarly ranks, the usual admonition for future research projects found in the literature has to do with more excavations, which would furnish more data. In this particular case, however, the archaeological evidence for the period is abundant, and yet this very abundance may have promoted selective processes in the publication of deposits that target fine wares, which do not necessarily capture the range of developments during this period (see Brogan, pp. 40-41) and do not promote the production of synthetic works, with notable exceptions (Driessen & Macdonald 1997).
The two-volume publication of the 2007 conference at the Danish Institute in Athens aspires to clarify the elusive character of LM IB. Since, as the editors and several presenters underline repeatedly, LM IB is both a style and a chronological period, the goals of the conference focused on elaborating these two facets of the construct (p. 41). On the one hand, emphasis was placed on capturing regional variation by highlighting the distinctive traditions and differences in preferences in both production and consumption across the island. On the other hand, presenters, especially those working at sites that preserve phasing, concentrated on documenting the characteristics in the ceramic assemblages and refining synchronisms with other sites both near and distant, in order to gauge the relation of site-specific phasing to wider “historical” processes. Last but not least, the conference aimed at the publication of complete, stratified assemblages that document the full gamut of wares rather than extremely selective samples of mainly decorated pottery which has been the disciplinary norm in the past (e.g. Hatzaki, this volume; see also Gorogianni forthcoming).
The richly illustrated papers reflect the structure of the conference sessions and are organized into sixteen pairs consisting of a longer presentation and a shorter response, each pair followed by a transcript of the discussion that followed the paper. This final element is invaluable, since the discussion conveniently draws out the issues and documents the diversity of opinion that still persists in scholarly ranks. In regards to the composition of the publication, the volumes are supplied with a comprehensive introduction (Brogan), two indices, a shape illustration index (pp. 647-649) and a general index of sites, shapes, motifs and key words (pp. 650-656), as well as bibliography (pp. 13-38) and closing arguments (Niemeier).
Western Crete is represented by two papers: the first discusses two building complexes, the Daskaloyiannis complex and the GSE in Plateia Hagia Aikaterini, in Khania (Andreadaki-Vlazaki), and the second presents the Minoan Villa at Nerokourou (Kanta). These sites were differentially affected by destructive events at the end of LM IA, underwent a few architectural modifications during LM IB, and were both destroyed at the end of LM IB (Khania by a serious conflagration [pp. 56, 58], and Nerokourou apparently by earthquake [p. 615]).
LM IB contexts from Knossos are discussed in four different papers focusing on the Royal Road deposits (Hood), the deposits from the Stratigraphical Museum Excavations: North Building (Warren), the Southwest Houses (Macdonald), and the transformation of the LM IB Marine Style into LM II marine motifs (Hatzaki). All contributions show that LM IB for Knossos was a single phase which ended with a destruction toward the very end of LM IB.
Four papers elaborate on other important sites in North-central Crete. Evidence for the end of LM IA, or the beginning of LM IB, is provided by the workshop at Zominthos (Traunmueller), archaeological data from which showcase the difficulties of stylistic dating as it is dependent on painted wares. Similarly, an early LM IB phase (along with a later one) is documented from an urban area bordering the palace at Malia, Abords Nord-Est (Van de Moortel). At Galatas Pediada (Rethemiotakis & Christakis) the houses of the town which survived the LM IA earthquake were destroyed in mature LM IB, and the very end of LM IB is illustrated in the deposits from the kitchen of a nice building discovered at the Liouni plot in Poros (Banou).
The Mesara, primarily its western part, provides much food for thought, especially the sites of Hagia Triada and Kommos. Hagia Triada is represented by two papers: one on the deposits from the Complesso della Mazza di Breccia (Cuccuzza) and the other from the Villaggio (Puglisi). The deposits from the Villaggio, according to Puglisi, afford us greater resolution into the latter part of the period, as he has found evidence for three sub-phases. Similarly, at Kommos there is evidence for three phases (early, late, and final) which correspond rather well with the Hagia Triada sequence (Rutter). These sequences have close connections to single-phase-LM IB sites in the area, such as the Phaistos Houses at Chalara and Hagia Photeini (Palio) destroyed during LM IB Final and LM IB Late, respectively, and the Minoan Villa and ceramic workshop at Pitsidia (Chatzi-Vallianou) destroyed during a late phase of LM IB. The Eastern Mesara, a lesser-known territory, is represented by a paper on the site of Skinias (Mandalaki), a country house destroyed probably during LM IB final.
Several sites from East Crete are discussed since they preserve LM IB deposits clearly stratified over LM IA, and provide clear evidence for two sub-phases within the period: Mochlos town and the Artisans’ Quarter (Barnard and Brogan), Pseira (Betancourt), Palaikastro: Levels XI and XII (Hemingway, MacGillivray, and Sackett), and Zakros palace (Platon). Of these, only Mochlos preserves evidence for an early LM IB phase (and for a final one), whereas the rest seem to be affected by a late LM IB destruction and then a second destruction at the very end of the period. Apart from these sites, there are others which experienced LM IB as a single phase and were used by people belonging to different levels of the social hierarchy, such as the Minoan Villa at Makrygialos (Matzourani), the country house at Karoumes (Vokotopoulos), which probably belonged to independent farmers, the town of Papadiokampos (Brogan, Sofianou & Morrison), and the Palace and Houses at Petras (Tsipopoulou & Alberti).
Finally, there are four papers that deal with issues not easily classified within the general regional structure that the volumes follow. Tournavitou discusses the evidence from the terraces around the peak sanctuary of Hagios Georgios on Kythera, while Cadogan reviews LM IB style artifacts recovered from sites in the Levant, before discussing the evidence from Myrtos-Pyrgos. Christakis expounds on the evidence for storage in sites across the island, which not only shows that choices in storage containers were affected by regional trends but also illustrates the increased emphasis on storage in elite contexts in LM IB (at least in the early part of the period), which supports a general picture of prosperity and intense mobilization of resources (pp. 252-253). Similarly, Nikolakopoulou discusses the evidence for storage jars from Akrotiri on Thera. Mountjoy examines four types of the Special Palatial Tradition (hereafter SPT), which offer glimpses into the ceramic development between LM IB and LM II. Finally, Knappett comments on the issues of regional identities versus homogenization, time depth in areas, and technological practices, the latter of which is one of the issues that was not addressed adequately in the other papers of the volume.
From the summary of the papers so far, it is evident that one of the strong points of this two-volume set is the up-to-date presentation of LM IB deposits, which is extremely useful for reference. There are a number of problems beyond regional stylistic variation which complicate the efforts of sequence correlation, and the contributors had to account for things such as: issues of context (palatial, elite, or non-elite); the longevity or brevity of the use-life of objects, including the issue of heirlooms; local idiosyncrasies (e.g., the predilection for plain wares at Palaikastro, or preferences for type A cooking pots in East Crete); questions about distributions of wares that have been used as synchronization devices, such as the SPT; and terminological variation (which the editors of the volume laudably chose to preserve, yet overcame by including a useful index of shapes and their equivalencies, see pp. 647-649).
In the reviewer’s opinion, the publication succeeds in making significant strides in the process of overcoming these ever-present hurdles and offer readers with a good (yet not uncomplicated) point of departure for pan-Cretan synchronisms without running the risk of oversimplifying this extremely complex issue. Even though syntheses of synchronisms, such as the ones found in Warren’s and Rutter’s papers (see p. 195 and pp. 340-343, respectively), do not align completely, it is obvious that the groundwork has been laid. The volume is also successful in highlighting the existence of a commonly shared vocabulary of style that probably emanated from Knossos, even though there are instances where specific styles (e.g., blob cups, see Warren, pp. 194-195) might have been invented in other areas of Crete. In addition to this widespread koine, the conference documents the parallel existence of variability in preferences at the level of the region (e.g., preference for Abstract Banded, Spray painted or Dip and Run style in East Crete, or for the white ground aesthetic and for motifs like the dotted wave in West Crete, or for specific shapes and decorative motifs on pithoi), site (e.g., site preferences in Mesara, or in East Crete), and workshop (e.g., possible shape specialization at Zominthos).
A less developed theme in the papers is the reconstruction of exchange networks, a deficiency to which the editors admit (Brogan, pp. 50-51). Yet traces of a very complex exchange system are evident in most papers. This system has strong connections on the regional level; however, as the papers on Karoumes and Papadiokampos aptly illustrate, proximity to supplier is not always the defining factor in procurement choices.
From the point of view of an historian of archaeology this is a most interesting volume as it represents a kind of “state of affairs” in Cretan archaeology. Most of the papers employ analytical methods that focus on stylistic analysis, an understandable focus considering the conference’s emphasis on chronological sequences and synchronisms. Yet there are signs of a gradual yet steady increase in the application of other analytical approaches, such as macroscopic fabric analysis (most papers), quantitative approaches (Tournavitou; Warren; Christakis; Betancourt; Tsipopoulou & Alberti) ceramic petrography (Barnard & Brogan; Brogan, Sofianou & Morrison), and technological approaches to the study of ceramics (Traunmueller; Van de Moortel; Knappett; Tsipopoulou & Alberti; Vokotopoulos). The volume also incorporates the whole gamut of archaeological voices from the LM IB legends (in the sense that they helped define the period) to younger scholars who are still in the process of writing their doctoral treatises (at least at the time of the conference). It is well worth the read to anyone interested in this time period.
Driessen, J.M. & Macdonald, C.F., 1997. The Troubled Island: Minoan Crete Before and After the Santorini Eruption, Liège: Université de Liège, Histoire de l’art et archéologie de la Grèce antique.
Gorogianni, E. 2013. ‘Site in Transition: John L. Caskey, Ayia Irini and Archaeological Practice in Greek Archaeology’, Aegean Archaeology 10 (2009-2010), 105-120.
Warren, P.M., 2001. ‘Review of Driessen & Macdonald 1997’, American Journal of Archaeology, 105: 115-118.