Online Review: Book

Prima delle colonie: Organizzazione territoriale e produzioni ceramiche specializzate in Basilicata e Calabria settentrionale ionica nella prima età del ferro. Atti delle Giornate di Studio, Matera, 20–21 novembre 2007

Marco Bettelli, Cecilia de Faveri, and Massimo Osanna, eds.


Reviewed by Edward Herring

Pp. 455, b&w figs. 185. Osanna Edizioni, Venosa 2009. €50. ISBN 978-88-8167-272-3 (paper).

The present volume arises from a conference held in 2007. It presents 15 lengthy papers, of which all but two are in Italian, the remainder being in English. Seven papers are predominantly concerned with ceramic production. The others focus on individual sites and their territories.

Of the pottery papers, that by Bettelli surveys all of the Bronze Age figulina pottery from southwestern Italy, including imports from the Aegean, local copies, and related derivative wares. This excellent overview will be valued both by ceramic experts and those excavating in the region, as never before have all of these different types been reviewed together. Jacobsen, Mittica, and Handberg contend that what they term "Oinotrian-Euboean" pottery was produced in the Plain of Sybaris at Timpone della Motta. Their argument is sustained on the basis of technical differences between Oinotrian-Euboean pottery and indigenous painted wares and the initially limited number of forms produced by the workshop.

Five papers focus on matte-painted pottery. Ferranti analyzes all the Early Iron Age geometric pottery from Oinotria. She is to be congratulated on the transparency of her methodology, which allows us to document patterns of change and of exchange more systematically than ever before. Through her work, excavators will be able to date certain motifs more precisely and also identify possible imports within southwestern Italy; for example, askoi are shown almost exclusively to be products of the Sibartide.

The paper by Nava, Bianco, Macrì, and Priete also looks at the typology of Oinotrian pottery. Their contribution supplements Yntema's survey of West Lucanian Geometric (D. Yntema, The Matt-Painted Pottery of Southern Italy: A General Survey of the Matt-Painted Pottery Styles of Southern Italy During the Final Bronze Age and Early Iron Age [Galatina 1990]). Thanks in no small part to the recent discoveries at Guardia Perticara, the authors deliver a more detailed analysis of patterns of local adaptation, adoption, and response to external stimuli in terms of both decorative syntax and morphology. In the shortest paper in the collection, Castoldi addresses the invention and rapid spread of bichromatic painting, attributing it to indigenous creativity in the face of threats posed by the arrival of the Greeks, not least to the livelihoods of local potters.

Kleibrink and Barresi examine the Undulating Band Style at Timpone della Motta, Francavilla Marittima. This paper complements, and is dependent on, that by Jacobsen et al. discussed above, in that it argues that the style was influenced by the Oinotrian-Euboean workshop in the Sibaritide. The matte-painted pottery from a deposit at San Nicola dei Greci-Matera is the subject of Cossalter's paper. This is an important collection that deserves full publication. The cultural affinities within the pottery connect it to Puglia, particularly the Bradano area and, to a lesser extent, the Salentine wares from the Borgo Nuovo deposit. This calls into question the organization of conferences along modern regional lines that were meaningless in antiquity.

Concerning papers about particular sites, Cossalter and De Faveri discuss Incoronata di Metaponto, which is a key site for early interaction between Greek and indigenous populations on the Ionian seaboard. They present a thorough survey of the material from the 1980–1981 Soprintendenza excavations, as well as a useful review of the site as a whole. Denti deals with more recent excavations at Incoronata undertaken by the University of Rennes 2. While this is a preliminary report, its conclusions are significant for understanding the interaction between the two populations at the site and for the identification of clay preparation pits belonging to the predominantly indigenous phase.

Quondam's paper surveys the chronology of the tombs from the Macchiabate cemetery at Francavilla Marittima. The evidence from these tombs documents the continuity and adaptability of the indigenous population despite the changing circumstances of the later eighth and early seventh centuries B.C.E. Vanzetti contributes to the debate about whether the nature and impact of colonization was sudden and destructive or more gradual and accommodating of local traditions. He favors the former model for his study area, the Sibaritide, but acknowledges that regional differences are possible. In some respects, Vanzetti restates the traditional position, as less-disruptive models of colonization have found favor in the past couple of decades, notably in discussions of Incoronata and Torre Saturo.

Two sites in northwestern Basilicata (Torre di Satriano and Ripacandida) are selected by Carollo and Osanna for comparison. The authors expertly summarize our current knowledge of early ceramic developments in the area that was later home to the Ruvo-Satriano Class. Locating their study within the context of recent work on identity formation in South Italy, they note the rise of local population centers and analyze the shift toward a regional matte-painted style. Greco and Soppelsa review the Early Iron Age evidence from Serra di Vaglio. The hut complex that they discuss deserves the attention it is now receiving, as it deepens our knowledge of the organization of this remarkable settlement and its role in trade in the eighth century.

Two papers fall outside of the constraints of the conference title. The principal value of Ciriello, Sodo, and Cossalter's contribution lies in bringing a newly discovered site, Monteserico, to wider attention. Much of the pottery is of Sub-Geometric date, which is later than the chronological remit of the conference. L'Amastuola is located in Puglia and therefore beyond the conference's geographical scope. That said, Burgers and Crielaard offer a powerful argument in favor of a "soft" model of colonization. They also present an intriguing hypothesis that there existed an environment of indigenous territorial expansion and conflict into which the Greek settlers arrived.

This book will attract two overlapping readerships. The first consists of scholars generally interested in the South Italian Iron Age. Ceramic specialists make up the second. For the first constituency, a major issue may be the lifespan of conference papers. Interim excavation reports are often rapidly superseded by definitive publications. Thus, the papers that will have an enduring appeal will be those that engage with wider debates about the nature of Greek colonization and of the relations between indigenous and incoming populations. For the second group, "shelf life" is less of an issue as our understanding of ceramic development grows by accretion, so that new contributions augment and refine, rather than supersede, earlier studies. As with most conference volumes, there is some variability in the quality of the papers here. Nevertheless, there is much for both constituencies to enjoy.

Edward Herring
College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies
National University of Ireland, Galway
Republic of Ireland


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