Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


15 October 2010

Colour in Minoan faience

M.S. Tite, Y. Maniatis, D. Kavoussanaki, M. Panagiotaki, A.J. Shortland & S.F. Kirk Journal of Archaeological Science 36.2 (February 2009): 370-378.


The microstructures and chemical compositions of some 15 faience objects from Crete spanning the period from Middle Minoan IIIA through to Late Minoan IA are determined using analytical scanning electron microscopy. The Minoan faience is compared with replicate faience beads produced in the laboratory using various combinations of manganese, copper and iron as colorants. The alkali contents of the replicate beads are varied so that the colorants are present both as ions in a glass phase and as particulate oxides. These data are then used to try to infer the original colour of the Minoan faience, the great majority of which has suffered severe weathering during burial. The results suggest that instead of the present day ‘hallmark greys and browns’ and ‘subtle greens and blues’, Minoan faience originally exhibited a wide range of colours, including bright turquoise blue, purple and violet, and pale yellow-green and greenish turquoise.


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