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Η Κεραμική της Κλασικής Εποχής στο Βόρειο Αιγαίο και την Περιφέρειά του (480–323/300 π. Χ.). Classical Pottery of the Northern Aegean and Its Periphery (480–323/300 BC): Proceedings of the International Archaeological Conference, Thessaloniki, 17–20 May 2017

Η Κεραμική της Κλασικής Εποχής στο Βόρειο Αιγαίο και την Περιφέρειά του (480–323/300 π. Χ.). Classical Pottery of the Northern Aegean and Its Periphery (480–323/300 BC): Proceedings of the International Archaeological Conference, Thessaloniki, 17–20 May 2017

Edited by Eleni Manakidou and Amalia Avramidou. Thessaloniki: University Studio Press 2019. Pp. 649. €60. ISBN 978-960-12-2442-8 (paper).

Reviewed by

Although the study of ancient Greek pottery has long been dominated by the figure-decorated vases of Athens, and to a lesser extent Corinth, increased attention to other regions producing both fine and plain wares, from Archaic through Hellenistic times, continues to improve our knowledge and to create a bigger picture of craft and market. Black-figure and related techniques have been particularly well covered since the last decades of the 20th century and were greatly enhanced by advances in archaeological science. More recently, the red-figure output of Boeotia and other locations normally associated with their Archaic wares have received renewed attention with regard to production, distribution, and decoration. The edited volume reviewed here, deriving from a conference held in Thessaloniki in May 2017, focuses on the pottery of the northern Aegean and includes both locally made and imported wares of roughly Classical-period date. It represents a sequel to a 2012 conference volume covering the same broad geographical area but within an earlier timeframe (M. Tiverios et al., eds., Archaic Pottery of the Northern Aegean and Its Periphery (700–480 BC), Archaeological Institute of Macedonian and Thracian Studies 2012).

The present book has a total of 44 single- and multi-authored chapters. Largely based on firsthand experiences, the contributions provide a remarkable amount of new material that informs readers about past, recent, and ongoing projects and discoveries. Chapters are written in Greek or English, and each is accompanied by a helpful summary in the language not chosen for the main text. The book is divided into four sections (local pottery, imported pottery, transport amphoras, pottery from archaeological sites) and is impressive in its hefty size and weighty coverage. Only minor errors and inconsistencies were noted, as well as some odd spellings in English (e.g., comast, lecythoi). The volume is generously supplemented with black-and-white figures, maps, and drawings.

The northern Aegean is described by the editors as encompassing the northern Greek regions of Macedonia, Thrace, and Thessaly; the islands of Samothrace, Lemnos, and Lesbos; and sites located in modern Bulgaria and North Macedonia. A map of the sites mentioned in the book is situated just before the first chapter and is essential for those less familiar with the archaeology of these regions. Given the geographical coverage of the contributions, as well as attention to both local wares and imports, it is not surprising that a number of chapters are concerned with issues such as trade and connectivity. These themes are sometimes described in terms of the material evidence itself, such as East Greek prototypes detected in the local gray pottery of southern Thrace (Anelia Bozkova and Krazimir Nikov); Athenian influence apparent in the local vessel shapes of the first half of the fourth century discovered in pits underneath the Thermi (“Trapeza”) in Thessaloniki (Annareta Touloumtzidou); and Apulian inspiration in the ceramic finds from the necropolis of Lychnidos (Vera Bitrakova-Grozdanova) “in the area along the road that connects the Aegean with the Adriatic” (319). Other authors raise the matter of targeted production, as well as the movement of goods and people—all topics that have been considered in relation to Greek pottery imports in Etruscan and other contexts (see, here, Filippo Giudice and Gaetano Santagati). For example, Stella Drougou uses both Athenian black- and red-figure imports in Macedonia to consider economic and commercial relations at the time of Alexander I (495–450 BCE). Michalis Tiverios, in a well-written and beautifully illustrated paper, selects Attic red-figure pottery and metal vessels to reflect on the relationship between Athens and Thrace during the Peloponnesian War, and is emphatic that Athenian painters were not always aware of the preferences of their buyers (190–91)—an opinion that may not be universally accepted. Relatedly, An Jiang concludes that “shape seems to be the deciding factor in the importation of Attic figured vases” to Samothrace (171). Christina Avronidaki and Eurydice Kefalidou posit that the Painter of the Eretria Cup, once considered to be a local “Chalkidic” artist, was in fact a Euboean immigrant to Chalkidike based on the presence of Euboean colonies in the region and the phenomenon of emigrant artisans following the Peloponnesian War (120–21). Still others, such as Apostolos Garyfallopoulos, using the example of white-ground lekythoi, believe that the decorated vases of Athens wielded the power to influence local communities and their customs (136). A bird’s-eye view of these subjects is explored by Amy C. Smith and Katerina Volioti, who package the Attic vase trade in the northern Aegean and in general as a “global phenomenon” affected by local marketing (184–85).

A distinctly positive aspect of this volume is the large percentage of its content that is based directly on excavation pottery. Given the contextual turn, already employed in studies of Athenian and South Italian vases, this is both fortuitous and timely. The chapters where this is most evidenced come in the book’s final section (pottery from archaeological sites), which is conveniently divided into geographical subregions: Pieria and Thessaly, Lake Ohrid and the Axios Valley, Thermaic Gulf, Chalkidike, Aegean Thrace and Northern Aegean Islands, and the Black Sea. At the same, authors throughout the book present the material contextually in a variety of ways, considering the finds from a single site (e.g., Eleni Manakidou on Karabournaki; Anna Panti on Akanthos; Athanasios Sideris and Milena Tonkova on Halka Bunar), or a group of sites (e.g., Silvana Blaževska on the Axios River; Despoina Tsiafaki on northern Greece; Konstantina Tsonaka on poleis of the Chalcidian League), or taking this as an opportunity to present a brief site report detailing excavation history, historical context, and larger research questions (e.g., Goran Sanev on Olynthian red-figure from Isar Marvinci; Bradley A. Ault et al. on the Olynthos Project; Nathan T. Arrington and J. Michael Padgett on Molyvoti/Stryme; Konstantoula Chavela on Thessaloniki Toumba). Among the best contributions is one by Anna Arvanitaki that concentrates on a single Early Classical grave from ancient Aphytis containing 46 vessels (mostly Attic black-figure) along with finds of other media: miniature glass oinochoe, iron exaleiptron lid, four bronze rings. The richness and range of finds, such as the local and imported black-glaze examples from Pharsalos (Stella Katakouta and Maria Stamatopoulou), “undecorated everyday-use vessels” from the necropolis of Abdera (Maria Chrysafi and Kalliopi Xanthopoulou), or a series of fine wares from Amphipolis (Penelope Malama and Nikos Vasilikoudis), as well as the comprehensive bibliographies given in these and other chapters, ensure that the entire publication will serve as an essential reference resource for many years to come. Rescue excavations and accidental discoveries are an underlying theme reminding us of the realities of archaeological practice in Greece and elsewhere: 130 burials (4th century BCE–Hellenistic) unearthed at Arethousa (Panti and Eleni Mitsopoulou); vases caught in fishing nets in the waters between Samothrace and Lemnos (Amalia Avramidou and Marina Tasaklaki); and three excavated tumuli with burials containing vases and coins at Abdera (Konstantina Kallintzi and Kyriaki Chatziprokopiou).

The rich variety of contexts presented across the chapters—and what they add in terms of pottery functions (namely that more than shape or decoration alone can tell)—is also worth highlighting. The two papers on transport amphoras indicate their widespread primary use for wine (Konstantinos Filis) as well as their secondary use as enchytrismoi as at Pydna (Stavroula Vrachionidou). In several instances, Athenian red-figure vessels were repurposed in these regions as cinerary urns, such as the Group G pelikai of Late Classical date found at Akanthos, as summarized by Eleni Trakosopoulou-Salakidou and Kleopatra Kathariou. Specific contexts reveal a range of possible shapes and combinations, and a number comprise local pottery alongside imports. The best represented context throughout is funerary, and in some cases such as at Akanthos (Panti) specific vessels (feeders) with specific decoration (black-glaze; meander around the rim) belong to a specific set of graves (children). Other recorded contexts include domestic and urban, as at Olynthos (Ault et al.) and Pierian Herakleion (Vissarion Bachlas and Anastasios Syros); farmhouses at Pydna (Athena Athanasiadou and Matthaios Besios); sanctuaries of Demeter at Abdera (Paraskevi Motsiou) and Apollonia Pontica (Margarit Damyanov); and a complex identified with the palace of the rulers of Bylazora (Dragi Mitrevski), the largest ancient Paeonian city.

Shape-specific studies belonging to these places and times are also featured, as are (to a limited extent) examinations of vase painters and iconography. The kantharos (Chrysanthi Kallini), squat lekythos (Apostolos Thanos), pelike (Yannis Kourtzellis and Angeliki Panatsi), and Panathenaic amphora (Angelos Zarkadas) are each given individual attention, which affords the opportunity to question possible associations between shape, decoration, and findspot. In a similar vein, detailed discussions of Athenian-made vessels from certain sites and attributed to the Berlin Painter (Vasiliki Misailidou-Despotidou), and to the workshops of the Filottrano and Eretria Painters (Nikos Akamatis; Tiverios), confirm the importance of considering ceramic evidence from every possible angle. Two papers on nuptial imagery (Polyxeni Adam-Veleni; Othmar Jaeggi and Anna Petrakova) pair nicely, yet serve as an obvious example of how an introduction or index would have been handy. The explanation for an iconographic enigma—two grotesque elderly nude courtesans gathered at a well with a phallus-shaped wellhead on a red-figure oinochoe from a grave in Pella (Anastasia Chrysostomou and Pavlos Chrysostomou)—as an erotic scene rather than as an example of comic parody (394–98) is bound to be disputed by some. The analysis of this amazing oinochoe along with other rare and fine artifacts would have benefited from color illustrations. Nonetheless, given the scale and significance of this volume, both to ceramic studies and the geographical expanse covered, it should become a staple of every research library covering the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and the Black Sea.

Tyler Jo Smith
University of Virginia

Book Review of Η Κεραμική της Κλασικής Εποχής στο Βόρειο Αιγαίο και την Περιφέρειά του (480–323/300 π. Χ.). Classical Pottery of the Northern Aegean and Its Periphery (480–323/300 BC): Proceedings of the International Archaeological Conference, Thessaloniki, 17–20 May 2017, edited by Eleni Manakidou and Amalia Avramidou
Reviewed by Tyler Jo Smith
American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 125, No. 1 (January 2021)
Published online at
DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1251.Smith

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