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The Italic People of Ancient Apulia: New Evidence from Pottery for Workshops, Markets, and Customs

July 2015 (119.3)

Book Review

The Italic People of Ancient Apulia: New Evidence from Pottery for Workshops, Markets, and Customs

Edited by T.H. Carpenter, K.M. Lynch, and E.G.D. Robinson. Pp. xvi + 353, figs. 105. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2014. $125. ISBN 978-1-107-04186-8 (cloth).

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In the volume under review, Lombardo says “we must avoid thinking of the process of cultural exchange between Greeks and indigenous populations, and even of the cultural borrowing by the natives, as a unilateral process of transmission, reception, and diffusion of Greek cultural elements prompted by a presumed superior level or prestige of Greek culture” (31). This quote, in many ways, epitomizes an underlying direction for this volume, which consists of 13 separate chapters separated into five umbrella headings. The editors of the volume note from the beginning (2) that the purpose of the volume is to give a non-Italian-speaking audience a broader view of the cultural geography of South Italy than can be found in English-language publications and to demonstrate the rich potential for further research in the area. The focus is explicitly on how figured pottery can be used to define the values and interests of the indigenous, non-Greek population over time—a population that has been underserved by often Helleno-centric research in the past (4).

Part 1 (Small, Lombardo) consists of basic introductions to Apulia. Both Small and Lombardo give rich descriptions of the region from a variety of perspectives, including geological, topographical, historical, epigraphical, and archaeological. These chapters continue to serve as useful reference points for further enrichment or clarification in understanding the area, even when one has moved on to other parts of the volume.

Parts 2 and 3 (Fontannaz, Silvestrelli, Denoyelle, Peruzzi, Riccardi, Ciancio, Corrente, Giannotta) form much of the meat of the volume and are largely focused on excavation data both from current excavations and from past excavations whose material is now in storerooms or on display in local museums. Daunia/Canosa, in the northern section of Apulia, is covered by Corrente; Peucetia, in the center, by Riccardi and Ciancio; Messapia, in the south, by Giannotta. Two Greek settlements are also discussed in part because of the confirmed production of figured wares at both places: Taranto (Fontannaz), whose importance as a primary producer of Apulian wares means that it shows up repeatedly in these two sections and elsewhere in the volume; and Metaponto (Silvestrelli), which is an acknowledged pottery production center, although of Lucanian pottery. While much of the material presented in all these papers was known to Trendall and included in his lists in The Red-Figured Vases of Apulia (Oxford 1978–1982) and The Red-Figured Vases of Lucania, Campania and Sicily (Oxford 1967), some was not, and the papers use physical contextual information in new ways. The juxtaposition of the papers and the differing physical contexts, even though many of the vases are from graves, is just one indication of the richness of the area and the differences that exist within it. Of particular interest is the notion of a pottery burial “kit” that is different from one part of Apulia to the next but within a particular area of Apulia can help to define aspects of the indigenous population. Peruzzi’s introduction to part 3 usefully summarizes some of the main points of that section. This includes the idea that the pots are intentionally chosen for their jobs so that iconography is strongly connected to the local consuming population. Thus, the pots can be used as indicators of identity. Denoyelle’s paper examines the place of connoisseurship in the study of Apulian pottery. It is, perhaps, a bit out of place in this section, but given the prominence of named painters throughout the volume, her discussion of connoisseurship is necessary and welcome. While remaining clear that she believes in the usefulness of connoisseurship, as do I, she does not shy away from some of the problems associated with this method.

Part 4 (Colivicchi, Carpenter, Robinson) examines pottery interpretation. Robinson’s paper felt a bit out of place in this section. Nevertheless, his push for a rich scientific data set that can help confirm places of production to compare with the existing stylistic groupings and visual judgments is welcome, and his brief paper presents one aspect of this in an extremely accessible fashion for the nonscientist. His findings from the limited data set available to him from the Nicholson Museum not only confirm a major center of production at Taranto but also permit the discussion of the probability of production centers elsewhere in Apulia as well as the problems of the geology of the area in assessing these possibilities.

Colivicchi and Carpenter approach shape and iconography, respectively. Colivicchi examines the kantharoid/nestoris shape, and the author is to be commended for identifying how wide the range of forms for this shape is over both space and time and the importance of not restricting shape typologies unnecessarily. Although his paper focuses on shape, he is joined by Fontannaz and Giannotta, among others, in noting the central importance of particular shapes and forms to different populations within Apulia at different times. Carpenter focuses on iconography by working through the evidence for tragic performance in Peucetia, where many of the large kraters depicting scenes associated with dramatic performance have been found. His review of the archaeological-context evidence of the kraters reminds the reader that local consumption of tragedy in performance is a strong possibility. It is here in these papers that Lombardo’s quote resonates most clearly as both authors train their focus on the indigenous populations and how that might affect the reading of particular iconography, a particular shape, or the understanding of a particular people.

Part 5 contains a single paper on the history of collecting in Apulia. One of the benefits of this type of work for archaeologists is that it permits the recovery of provenance for pottery excavated before regular excavation and recovery records were kept, sometimes from as early as the 18th century. Archival and collection research, such as the scientific work of Robinson, is making an enormous difference in fleshing out what archaeologists can know about pottery from many areas of the Mediterranean. The recovery of archaeological context, in turn, gives archaeologists more information to support interpretations with respect to the peoples using the pottery itself.

The volume is important for a number of reasons, some obvious, some perhaps less so. First and foremost, as the editors state, the volume clearly fulfills its aim to introduce an English-speaking audience to the complex interactions of the peoples of Apulia. It also demonstrates the immense importance of physically contextualized material in helping archaeologists to build stable interpretive models for the interaction of Greeks and Italic peoples. Furthermore, it also highlights the centrality of the needs and demands of the local population for the consumption of pottery that was often made in Greek-based workshops. Again by focusing on archaeological contexts, the volume helps to demonstrate both similarities in the uses of particular shapes and the differences to which specific shapes and iconography might be put within Apulia itself. Although these points are made with specific reference to Apulia, the volume illustrates the advantages of this approach for presentations of pottery and other material culture for the rest of the Mediterranean world.

A few further points: This area of South Italy contains a number of different native populations and is referred to in the ancient and modern literature by different names. Given that the volume was meant to introduce people to the richness of the area, references to these names were necessary, but the reviewer found herself having to refer back to different maps regularly to sort them out. A single map at the beginning of the volume with ancient and modern peoples and places would have been welcome to appreciate the papers in the volume to their fullest. Furthermore, I would have liked to see the connection between the Greek, Apulian, and Lucanian pottery fleshed out more explicitly as well as that between the local figured and non-figured pottery of similar shape. Indeed, Silvestrelli (100) notes the limitations of working purely with figured pottery. One hopes that this volume will prompt another conference and another volume that looks toward those themes. There were also minor copyediting errors. Perhaps the most egregious was the individual depicted on the kantharoid figure 10.2 on page 218 identified as Theseus but who should be Perseus. Finally, the accompanying website (, with its color and extra images, is a major bonus, providing access to high-resolution images that can also be enlarged to enhance details.

This is an immensely valuable volume, not just for the light that it sheds on Apulia and its local populations and pottery but also for the way in which it presents the pottery itself. Those who study pottery, both figured and non-figured, will find the volume’s emphasis on the intersection of context and interpretation both enriching and useful.

Elizabeth Langridge-Noti
Department of History, Archaeology and Classical Studies
The American College of Greece, DEREE College

Book Review of The Italic People of Ancient Apulia: New Evidence from Pottery for Workshops, Markets, and Customs, edited by T.H. Carpenter, K.M. Lynch, and E.G.D. Robinson

Reviewed by Elizabeth Langridge-Noti

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 119, No. 3 (July 2015)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1193.LangridgeNoti

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