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Dr Ilaria Caloi

Dr Ilaria Caloi

Dr  Ilaria Caloi

Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

Crete 2018 , International congress in Barcelona 2019

BREAKING WITH TRADITION?

THE ADOPTION OF THE WHEEL-THROWING TECHNIQUE

AT PROTOPALATIAL PHAISTOS: COMBINING

MACROSCOPIC ANALYSIS, EXPERIMENTAL

ARCHAEOLOGY AND CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION*

Abstract. In recent years, several studies have been undertaken on ceramic technology and there is now a general agreement among

scholar about the introduction of the potter’s wheel in Minoan Crete in (M)iddle (M)inoan IB (1900 BC ca.), corresponding to the

emergence of the First Palaces on the island. Most recent studies on ceramic technology of MM pottery from sites of northern and eastern

Crete have revealed that since the introduction of the potter’s wheel in MM IB, the wheel-fashioning technique (a combination of

hand-building and wheel) was the only forming technique used in Crete until the Late Bronze Age. On the contrary, in southern Crete

and especially at the palatial site of Phaistos, recent studies have shown that the wheel-fashioning technique was not the only technique

in use because in MM IIA (18th cent. BC), at the time of monumentalisation of the palatial site, the wheel-throwing technique was

first adopted. In this paper, first I briefly present the forming techniques attested at Phaistos in the first phases of the Protopalatial period,

then, I focus on the MM IIA Phaistian classes of vases which appear to be manufactured through the wheel-throwing technique,

comparing them with contemporary wheel-fashioned vases. More specifically, for the class of plain handleless cups, the most common

drinking cup at Bronze Age Phaistos since Prepalatial times, I compare the MM IIA examples with experimental reproductions

carried out by a professional potter. Finally, using macroscopic analysis in combination with experimental archaeology and requisite

contextual information, I attempt to explain why the wheel-throwing technique is almost exclusively attested at Phaistos and in sites

sharing its ceramic tradition, like Kommos and Ayia Triada. Since in the MM IIA phase the main palatial building of Phaistos (i.e. the

South-western Building) went through an important renovation, I argue that new groups arrived at Phaistos in MM IIA, introducing

a new forming technique that was able to break with the long-lasting ceramic tradition of the site – and of the island. Moreover, it

will be argued that in MM IIA plain handleless cups were mass-produced on the potter’s wheel in order to be used in the context of

communal feasts during the renovation of the main palatial building and the monumentalization of the entire site.

 

Experimental archaeology carried out in collaboration with the potter Vassilis Politakis has allowed him

to replicate the MM IIA examples illustrated in Fig. 3, and to compare the above-mentioned macroscopic

traces left on these cups with those observed on experimental reproductions formed on the wheel. The experimental

handleless cups have been produced using the five following forming techniques: (1) coil-wheeling,

i.e. a combination of coil-building using three coils of 1 cm each built on a circular base and finishing on

the wheel (technique 3CW); 2) pinching with the addition of one coil on the wheel (technique PN1C); 3)

pinching and finishing on the wheel (technique PNW); 4) throwing-off-the-hump (technique H; Fig. 4b);

5) wheel-throwing from a small solid clay ball (technique SB; Fig. 4c). While the results of these experimental

reproductions are still being worked upon 41, I am going to present here only the vases made using the throwing-

off-the-hump and the wheel-throwing techniques because the experimental handleless cups reproduced.

Caloi ASAtene 97 2019 click here for presentation PDF