Mycenaean lapidary craftsmanship: the manufacturing process of stone vases
Elise Morero The Annual of the British School at Athens 110 (2015): 121-146
The first substantial corpus of developed and complex stone vases emerged on the Greek mainland in the shaft graves of Mycenae (Middle Helladic III – Late Helladic I) and was certainly, in large part, of Minoan origin. However, a Mycenaean industry appeared in the Late Helladic III period, which suggests a link with Minoan technology. Indeed, there is an extremely strong possibility that expatriate craftsmen had gradually transmitted their knowledge to local Mycenaean apprentices. A technological study of a corpus of 24 stone vases from Mycenae, dated to the Late Helladic I/II–III, enables the identification and reconstruction of the manufacturing processes and techniques involved in mainland production. It appears to be the case that a great part of the Mycenaean know-how derives from contact with Minoan craftsmanship. However, if a large number of technical elements (use of tubular drilling for the hollowing process, production of the vessels in several parts) may come from a Minoan heritage, the Mycenaeans seem to have quickly developed their own approach – with their own technological emphases, serving purely Mycenaean forms. The vase, based on separately made elements, was a Minoan approach but became properly a mainland concept, which appeared far less commonly in other regions of the eastern Mediterranean. Similarly, the single-tool approach developed for the drilling process (for hollowing the interior of the vessels and for cutting the inlay decoration of the exterior), entirely based on the use of the tubular drill, is purely a native one and is uncommon among eastern Mediterranean vessel traditions. A technological study indicates also the possible coexistence of different types of organisation in the Mycenaean workshops. Thus, the manufacturing processes used, as well as the organisation of the production, are distinct from those of other eastern Mediterranean centres, including Crete.