Online Review: Book

Griechische Keramik im kulturellen Kontext. Akten des internationalen Vasen-symposions in Kiel vom 24. bis 8.9.2001 veranstaltet durch das Archäologische Institut der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Elizabeth Langridge-Noti


Edited by Bernard Schmaltz and Magdalene Söldner. Pp. 289, figs. 75, pls. 49. Scriptorium, Münster 2003. ISBN 3-932610-23-7 (cloth).

The volume under review is the latest in a series of published conference volumes that are meant to focus broadly on pottery within the Greek world. These conferences and their accompanying volumes began in 1978 in Tübingen, as noted by Brijder who discusses their history briefly in his introductory essay. Another conference is in the planning stages for 2008 in Athens.

Although the scope of the Kiel conference was Greek pottery in context, 60 of the 76 papers focus on Attic black- and red-figure pottery in some fashion. The organizers of the conference, however, hoped to create a broad-based view of Greek ceramics around the Mediterranean in particular, so it is worth noting three points about the papers in the volume. First, there was pottery represented from outside the chronological boundaries of the Archaic and Classical periods (prehistoric: Winkler-Horaĉek; Geometric: Knauss, Recke, Kerschner, Krumme, Grabow, and Schulze; Late Classical: Fleiss, Esposito and Pedrina, and Weber-Lehmann; and Hellenistic: Vogeikoff-Brogan/Papadakis, Recke, Lafli, Puppo/Mosca, and Sens). Second, the breadth of the physical area covered included material from Magna Graeca and the Greek mainland but also from Iberia (Rouillard, Domínguez); the Black Sea (Fleiss, Sens, Dufkova, and Maslov); Turkey (Lafli, Ersoy, Recke, Kerschner, and Krumme); northern Europe (Krausse); and the Levant (Fisher, Tal, and Fantalkin). Finally, a number of productions outside Attica were discussed (Arafat, Kephalidou, Ekroth, Bouzek, Vogeikoff-Brogan/Papadakis, Greiveldinger, Stroszeck, Scholz, Weber-Lehmann, Puppo/Mosca, Schmidt, Knauss, Coulié/Jubier-Galinier, Regter, Winkler-Horaĉek, Maslov, Sens, Krumme, Kerschner, and Ersoy).

The editors elaborated on the theme of the conference in their brief introduction. Three ways of examining context were to be considered: (1) Greek ceramics in find contexts from sanctuaries, graves, and houses; (2) Greek ceramics as mirrors of history, politics, and religion; and (3) Greek ceramics and acculturation. The overall arrangement of the volume left this reader puzzled since it was clearly not alphabetical nor did it follow clearly the divisions above. Although it was possible to place many of the papers into one or another of these themes, it would have been useful to have divisions within the table of contents and a brief introduction to each of those divisions that indicated overall how the papers fit into a particular way of examining context.

The principle value of these broad-based pottery conference volumes is that they present a sample of new directions and new material. While there is not space here to discuss all 76 of the papers in the volume, this reviewer would like to point out a few papers that are especially interesting for presenting successfully either new themes in pottery studies or new areas and directions for study.

Ekroth’s paper on miniature pottery as dedications in sanctuaries is useful for stressing what can be gained from examining an often neglected form. She notes that our view of these miniatures as cheap substitutes for larger vessels may well be mistaken, and that scholars need to reassess the relationship between the dedicator of these small vases and their use, for they may well give scholars a more intimate view of the individual devotee at a sanctuary. Vogeikoff-Brogan and Papadakis’ paper on an assemblage from a household context in Trypetos, Crete, takes as its theoretical model the insistence that pottery cannot be interpreted within a given archaeological context without full examination of the associated objects of the overall assemblage. This type of study in the Mediterranean, originating from the work of Nevett, Allison, and others, and known as household archaeology, pushes toward a holistic view of assemblages themselves. Their brief introduction to the possibilities inherent in this approach should encourage more scholars to recognize the value of a complete assemblage.

Trinkl’s paper reviews briefly the various local atticizing productions of the Asia Minor coast around Ephesos in order to clarify material found at Ephesos itself. In so doing, she notes the contribution that scientific study of clay itself can make to our understanding of local versus imported productions and in pinpointing areas of production. She then connects the local production with inscriptions, long known and discussed, of the Athenian potters, Kittos and Bakhios, who have been honored by the Ephesians.

Krausse’s paper on the appearance of Greek sympotic pottery in graves north of the Alps raises a number of interesting issues related to acculturation. At what point do scholars decide that it is local populations that have adopted new customs versus these same populations enjoying an unusual vessel whose function is not fully understood? Krausse, too, stresses a full understanding of a complete assemblage to draw conclusions from the pottery. His paper was one of several concerned with distribution of different types of productions either locally or as exports. These articles were most successful when, as with Kraussse’s, the productions analyzed were placed within the larger context of what exists at the sites.

The large number of papers at the conference meant that the editors restricted the size of published contributions. This restriction was noted repeatedly by the contributing authors and for good reason, as it led to what this reader felt were the difficulties of the volume. The articles rarely exceeded three pages, so that authors lacked the space to develop ideas fully, leaving the reader wanting more. Fortunately, many of the ideas presented will be expanded in other venues, and final notes and bibliographies indicate where these will appear. A connected fault is that few images were allowed per article, and, in a number of cases, this meant that images central to an author’s argument were not included in the volume itself. Thus, the reader needs access to a good research library to make practical use of the volume. Finally, there were a few instances in which language usage, especially for authors writing in a second language, deserved better editing.

In conclusion, this volume succeeds as a brief sample of the range of current research and theoretical directions taken in pottery studies within the Mediterranean and Europe for a graduate student or scholar in the field. The lack of images and the multiplicity of languages (English, German, French, and Italian) will make it less accessible to undergraduates and to scholars at smaller institutions.

Elizabeth Langridge-Noti
Department of Humanities and Arts
Deree College, The American College of Greece
Aghia Paraskevi
Athens 153 42

Book Review of Griechische Keramik im kulturellen Kontext, edited by Bernard Schmaltz and Magdalene Söldner

Reviewed by Elizabeth Langridge-Noti

American Journal of Archaeology Volume 110, Number 1 (January 2006)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1101.Langridge

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