Online Review: Book

Apollonia Pontica 2007

Elias K. Petropoulos


By Roald Docter, Kristina Panayotova, Jan de Boer, Lieve Donnellan, Winfred van de Put, and Babette Bechtold. Pp. 188, b&w figs. 128, color figs. 88, table 1, maps 2. Department of Archaeology, Ghent University, Ghent 2008. Price not available. ISBN 978-90-78848-00-4 (paper).

This volume offers the results of the rescue excavation campaign in the classical and Early Hellenistic necropolis of the ancient Greek colony of Apollonia Pontica (modern Sozopol on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast) by a team from Ghent University (26 August–9 September 2007). The participation of Ghent University in these excavations was based on a longer and broader research interest in the phenomenon of ancient Greek and Phoenician colonization. The success of the campaign is largely due to the cooperation of local archaeological authorities: Krystina Panayotova, Dmitri Nedev, and Christina Angelova.

The book contains 10 sections, the first of which is the introduction to the publication by Docter (1–4). The following chapter nicely overviews the necropoleis of Apollonia Pontica in the Kalfata/Budjaka locality; it is written by Panayotova, director of excavations in this particular area (5–28). The development of the Black Sea coastal zone for touristic purposes has forced the Bulgarian archaeological authorities to undertake year-round rescue excavations in both the ancient city and the necropoleis of Apollonia Pontica. The large-scale rescue excavations in the Kalfata/Budjaka locality offer abundant new data, by which researchers now better understand funerary practices in the necropolis, concluding that both universal Greek rites and specific local rituals were practiced.

The main structural finds in the field, as well as aspects of stratigraphy, are presented in the next chapter by Donnellan (29–46). During the two weeks of fieldwork, an exceptionally large stone krepis was discovered in squares C7 and D7, as were three burials with grave gifts, remains of postfunerary rituals, and many isolated pottery, metal, and bone fragments.

Some preliminary observations on plain and cooking ware fragments are offered in the next section by Bechtold and Docter (47–97). These observations are based on an analysis of the profile drawings of the pottery fragments and the first descriptions and classifications made during the campaign. According to the authors, the main criterion of the proposed pottery organization is the identification of type, as this feature offers the best possibility for absolute dating of the fragment.

De Boer’s chapter (99–121) is dedicated to the Greek transport amphoras dated mainly to the Hellenistic period. The material consists almost exclusively of fragments found in the layers above and around the graves. The chapter contains a catalogue of the amphora sherds, the dating of which is based on amphora typology and just a single stamp. At the end of the chapter, de Boer provides us with some preliminary conclusions resulting from his analysis. He believes that the foodstuffs (mainly wine and olive oil) transported in the 41 amphoras of the catalogue were used during the meals that were held at funerals and at subsequent commemorative gatherings. It seems that the published amphoras belong to seven known production centers of antiquity: Herakleia Pontica, Apollonia Pontica, Thasos, Rhodes, Mende, Chersonissos, and Sinope. The author finally underlines the statistical weakness of his overview, which is that it will be necessary to wait for full publication of the necropolis’ finds and the ones from the settlement itself before drawing more balanced conclusions about the ratio between locally produced and imported transport amphoras.

Some preliminary observations on black-glazed, painted, and red slip ware fragments (some different local and imported productions may also be discerned) are demonstrated in the following chapter by Bechtold and Docter (123–50). In the presented classification, the main criterion is again the identification of type, as this feature, according to the authors, offers the best possibility for absolute dating of the fragments, independent of fabric, which is tentatively indicated separately for each item. An interesting and important, though also preliminary, conclusion stemming from the ceramic analysis is that Apollonia Pontica had its own production of fine wares.

Discussion of the figured pottery from the 2007 campaign continues in the following section by van de Put (151–65). This time, the observations concern Attic figured and related wares. Most of the figured pottery seems to be lekythoi found in the graves and dated securely to about the middle of the fourth century B.C.E. Some older pieces were found in the area among the graves and are probably dated to the second quarter of the fifth century B.C.E. The latter may serve as evidence of earlier use of the cemetery. The 11 fragments of four different column kraters found in the necropolis of Apollonia Pontica constitute rare examples of this type of pottery in the whole area of the ancient city.

The last chapter concerning the finds of the 2007 excavation campaign (“Varia”) is by Docter (167–74). The material categories include stone, architectural terracotta, terracotta, and metal. According to the author, this material is also included not only for the sake of completeness but also because it provides important information on the nature of the assemblage. A fragment of a grinding stone, for example, seems to constitute a rather rare item in the finds assemblage of the necropolis and proves commercial relations between the ancient city of Apollonia Pontica and the Dobrudja area (the area of the Danube delta in Romania).

Finally, concluding remarks on the finds assemblage of squares C7, D7, and E7 of the necropolis of Apollonia Pontica are demonstrated in Docter’s next chapter (175–84). The end of the book has a comprehensive index of inventory and catalogue numbers (185–87).

The volume is well printed and the figures are rich and free of superfluous information. Overall, this handsome and readable book makes an important contribution to our understanding of the necropolis of the ancient Greek city Apollonia Pontica, as well as to the greater phenomenon of ancient Greek colonization in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean in general.

Elias K. Petropoulos
Department of Languages, Literature, and Culture of Black Sea Countries
Democritus University of Thrace
1 P. Tsaldari, Block B
691 00 Komotini

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1153.Petropoulos

Add new comment

Plain text

  • Use [fn]...[/fn] (or <fn>...</fn>) to insert automatically numbered footnotes.
  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Typographic refinements will be added.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Click "Save" to submit your comment. Please allow some time for your post to be moderated.