Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


1 May 2018

Retrieving capacity data from crushed lead vessels: an example from the House of Lead, Mycenae

S. Aulsebrook Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry 15.3 (2015): 201-211

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The poor preservation of many Mycenaean lead vessels, most of which have been found crushed within layers of settlement destruction debris, limits the quality and quantity of information that potentially can be recovered from these artefacts. This problem has substantially hampered investigation into their social function and status during the Late Bronze Age on the Greek mainland, despite their appearance at many major sites. Using the example of a lead vessel found within the House of Lead at Mycenae, this article presents a mathematical method for the reconstruction of vessel capacity from five basic measurements that are often still retreivable even from crushed specimens: their weight, rim circumference, width of the rim, thickness of the rim, and thickness of the body. Vessel capacity is an important, yet often neglected, metric that directly relates to the use of these objects. Results from this model are compared against those derived from pottery assemblages to strengthen the argument that the most common form of lead vessel was a non-portable, multi- functional storage solution. Evidence from the ceramic corpus suggests that some form of standardisation existed regarding vessel capacity, and further exploration of this issue is needed to gauge the degree of its relevance to the metal assemblage. The wider application of this model will enable the integration of another dataset into this debate, and allow better engagement with these lead vessels from the perspective of their intended users.


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