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Pottery Markets in the Ancient Greek World (8th–1st Centuries B.C.): Proceedings of the International Symposium Held at the Université libre de Bruxelles 19–21 June 2008

Pottery Markets in the Ancient Greek World (8th–1st Centuries B.C.): Proceedings of the International Symposium Held at the Université libre de Bruxelles 19–21 June 2008

Edited by Athena Tsingarida and Didier Viviers (Études d’archéologie 5). Pp. 306, figs. 107. CReA-Patrimoine, Brussels. €91. ISBN 978-946-1360-33-5 (paper).

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In her introductory comments on “The Markets of Fine Wares,” Tsingarida refers to “a recent paper” (116) (M. Lawall, “Ceramics and Positivism Revisited: Greek Transport Amphoras and History,” in H. Parkins and C. Smith, eds., Trade, Traders and the Ancient City [London 1998] 75–101), in which I observed that transport amphoras were better indications of trade than fine wares because the latter were linked only to a narrow sector of the economy. The original date of publication (not the 2005 reprint cited by Tsingarida) is important. In the 1990s, there were very few studies of amphora distribution in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean, but there was a heated debate over the validity of using fine wares to study trade. Amphoras, I argued, offered a fruitful alternative. By 2005, the current interest in amphora studies was well under way. My comments were not grounded on “the commonly accepted idea that fine pottery is made in specialized workshops which do not produce other wares and products” (116); even by the early 1990s, this was clearly not the case (e.g., K. Preka-Alexandri, “A Ceramic Workshop in Figareto, Corfu,” in F. Blonde and J.Y. Perreault, eds., Les ateliers de potiers dans le monde grec aux époques géométrique, archaïque et classique. BCH Suppl. 22 [Paris 1992] 41–52). Rather, I observed that the fine ware trade draws on the raw materials needed to make the vessels and the labor of potters and their assistants. The same is true of transport amphoras. But transport jars must draw on other sectors of the economy for their contents—wine, oil, honey, fish, fruit, and so on. Distribution of transport jars is intimately linked to many more economic sectors than any other class of pottery. The present volume shows how much development has happened in the field of ceramics and ancient economies since the 1990s.

Papers here often highlight that pottery played many roles in the various social structures that made up ancient economies. A study of pottery markets has to be similarly diverse in its questions and data. As amply demonstrated here, success depends on both the detailed and comprehensive understanding of the ceramic record and a deep awareness of broader theoretical, historical, and archaeological approaches to ancient economies. The present volume’s emphasis on these themes reflects the degree to which archaeological studies of markets have developed and expanded over the last 20 years—and much has been done outside classical archaeology (e.g., K.G. Hirth, “The Distributional Approach: A New Way to Identify Marketplace Exchange in the Archaeological Record,” CurrAnthr 39[4] [1998] 451–76; C.P. Garraty and B.L. Stark, eds., Archaeological Approaches to Market Exchange in Ancient Societies [Boulder 2010]). Many scholars are downplaying the dominant role of quantitative approaches (still advocated here by Davies [12], with a welcome rebuttal by Bresson and de Callatay [21–4]) and turning instead to problems of the changing mechanisms of trade and exchange, problems of information related to transactions, and problems of multiple, coexisting economies (to be fair, a point raised by Davies, too). I will briefly review some examples of such work from this volume in hopes of drawing readers’ attention to such methodologies that I find especially productive.

Williams’ paper (39–40), firmly grounded in the field of Attic vase painting, illustrates the insights to be gained from a vast knowledge of the corpus and a very close attention to details. He paints a picture of a very dynamic, mobile, and informed potting and pottery distribution sector, with a heavy emphasis both on Johnston’s work on commercial graffiti and on dedicatory inscriptions. Williams takes the reader far beyond the usual suspects, such as Nikosthenic amphoras, as exemplifying consumer-targeted production.

Villing (73–101), too, offers more examples of targeted production and distribution, but in doing so also raises important considerations of noncommercial movements of fine wares. Especially worth noting here in terms of the potential differences in the evidence for economic behavior offered by transport amphoras and fine pottery, Villing offers various examples of how the patterns in these two classes of ceramics do differ significantly in Egyptian contexts. Her presentation of very early examples of Egyptian imitation of Aegean amphoras comes at a time when amphora studies in Egypt are expanding rapidly in quantity and quality and later imitative behavior in the region is increasingly well-documented (e.g., alongside works by Defernez cited here, see A. Masson, “Persian and Ptolemaic Ceramics from Karnak: Change and Continuity,” Cahiers de la Céramique Égyptienne 9 [2011] 270–310).

Villing’s comments on the many social and economic spheres in which ceramics might move are echoed in Massar and Verbanck-Piérard’s discussions of perfumed oil and their containers (273–98). This wide-ranging paper draws attention to the multiple economic mechanisms, social influences, and even interactions among vessels, contents, and users in economic activities arising in the production and distribution of perfumed oil. Amphora researchers will be particularly interested in their discussions of vessel capacities as well as familiar issues such as the relationship between container and contents in terms of “product information.” Massar and Verbanck-Piérard observe the difficulties in studying perfume distribution patterns in the Classical period once Attic perfume vessels dominate the container industry.

These three papers only give a taste of the wealth of information and keen interpretive results that can be found in this volume. Burkhalter’s discussion (251–71) of the Ptolemaic evidence related to amphora use will be indispensable going forward; the estimate of six to seven amphoras per day as an average potter’s output is exceptionally important. Burkhalter, in drawing attention to multiple, coexisting standards of measurement, as well as Cibecchini’s (237–49) and Elaigne’s (213–38) contributions highlighting the diversity of distribution mechanisms in play, all very much support Davies’ (and others’) suggestion that ancient economies were multifarious and complex, not simply “primitive” or “modern.” At the same time, they also show very clearly how economic research need not consist solely of counting the Rhodian amphoras imported to Alexandria each day over the third and second centuries B.C.E.

And yet, quantification can be very useful when compiled and presented judiciously. Various quantitative statements appear in Patrick’s contribution (159–70) on Corinthian pottery at Syracuse; some summary tables would have been very useful as a way to bring together his many observations. The two papers on pottery in northern Greece (Rhomiopoulou [171–74] and Manakidou [175–87]) would have been much more informative had there been more specific data indicating just how common the listed painters and shapes were relative to one another over time and relative to locally produced wares. The material core of Archibald’s paper (142–50) does grapple with quantitative data in a substantive way (though errors in editing table 2 make its last line, “total storage/cooking,” very confusing). The work of Berlin first at sites in Israel and Egypt and then, in the late 1990s, at the Troy excavations demonstrated the potential utility of quantified comparisons distinguishing functional classification from the traditional counts based on artistic style (e.g., “Studies in Hellenistic Ilion: The Lower City. Stratified Assemblages and Chronology,” Studia Troica 9 [1999] 73–157). Her influence is seen, for example, in later work at Ephesos and Halikarnassos (L.E. Vaag et al., The Pottery: Ceramic Material and Other Finds from Selected Contexts. Halikarnassos 7 [Moesgaard 2002]; S. Ladstätter, “Ein hellenistischer Fundkomplex in SR 12,” in C. Lang-Auinger, ed., Hanghaus 1 in Ephesos: Funde und Ausstattung. Ephesos 8[4] [Vienna 2003] 70–80); but such work is never cited in this volume. Studies of pottery markets still seem very much dominated by markets for styles rather than markets for functions; the latter deserves more attention.

Some readers might expect more attention to certain topics. The Hellenistic period gets little representation; Pontic sites are rarely mentioned outside Dupont’s brief paper. Perhaps most striking is the scarcity of consideration of how one even conceives of “a market” (only Archibald’s paper [esp. 133–40] comes close). But on the whole, the editors have done an excellent job of assembling papers that work very well together.

Despite the wealth of information here, I was left puzzling over the cover illustration, which is never mentioned by any contributor. A young man, labeled as “Chairias kalos,” seems to pour money into a basin. An amphora sits on a stand, and a kylix rests in the mouth of the amphora. Is Chairias purchasing a “set” such as is briefly discussed by Langridge-Noti (68–9)? Are we meant to recall imagery of similar men offering similar bags of coins to women?

Mark L. Lawall
Classics Department
University of Manitoba

Book Review of Pottery Markets in the Ancient Greek World (8th–1st centuries B.C.), edited by Athena Tsingarida and Didier Viviers

Reviewed by Mark L. Lawall

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 119, No. 2 (April 2015)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1192.Lawall

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