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Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Greece 8. Athens, National Museum 5. Attic and Atticising Amphoras of the Protogeometric and Geometric Periods

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Greece 8. Athens, National Museum 5. Attic and Atticising Amphoras of the Protogeometric and Geometric Periods

By Nota Kourou. Pp. 110, figs. 66, pls. 110. Academy of Athens, Athens 2002. ISSN 1108-3670; ISBN 960-404-019-7 (cloth).

Reviewed by

The National Museum of Athens, the oldest and largest museum of Greece, houses one of the most important collections of pottery worldwide, not only in its permanent exhibition but also in its huge storerooms. Attic Protogeometric and Geometric vases in the NMA are numerous enough to allow this fascicle to be dedicated to a single closed shape, the amphora.

N. Kourou has selected 78 Attic and 5 Atticizing vases that represent almost every amphora type of the period, avoiding amphoras from published excavations or those included in previous CVA volumes. Her aim was to follow the typology and the evolution of Attic amphoras from the Sub-Mycenaean to the Early Protoattic times. This fascicle could serve as a definitive monograph on the subject. Sixty-three vases are published here for the first time; the rest had received brief notices in earlier publications.

The author adopts the standard typology for the Protogeometric and Geometric amphoras, dividing them by the position of their handles into four major types (neck-handled, rim-handled, shoulder–handled, and belly-handled amphoras). She introduces further subdivisions for the neck- and the belly-handled types according to their neck profiles (Types I–III)—these also help the chronology of the vases (as with the belly-handled amphoras [76–8]). Within each of the four major types, the vases are treated in chronological order, with a brief history of the evolution of the type.

The descriptions successfully provide the specialist with the necessary information but do not plunge the reader into endless detail. Exquisite reconstruction drawings by Thanassis Kouros and profile drawings by Theodora Kakarounga enlighten the text. One cannot but admire reconstructions such as text figure XI and figure 53 (Kouros might well incarnate the Dipylon Master himself). Photographic material is extensive, elegantly laid out, and of the usual high CVA quality.

The descriptions are followed by commentaries on shape and decoration, sometimes even on findspot (e.g., 25, pl. 18), with comparanda, which prove even more useful for the previously unpublished material with unknown provenance. There are many attributions to known painters, to their manner or to known workshops; Kourou also identifies new painters (e.g., the Benson Painter [pl. 24]; the Circle Painter [pl. 33]; the Athens 216 Painter [pls. 94–7]; the Kriezi Street Painter [pls. 98, 99]) and new stylistic groups (e.g., the Balloon class [pls. 25–9, 39]; the Circle amphoras [pls. 68–73, 94–9]).

In many cases one finds valuable commentaries and suggestions on different subjects. For example, the nude mourners on an amphora by the Hirschfeld Painter (pls. 30–2) are usually explained as female because of the oblique strokes on their bosom, although female figures in LG art are normally dressed in a long robe. Kourou also discusses the evolution of the decoration in the handle panel of the MG belly-handled amphoras (83), and graffiti and potter’s marks (amphora pls. 68, 69, belly-handled amphora pls. 87–9). One interesting amphora (pl. 77) has folded cloth stuck to the underside of the base (pls. 78.1); holes drilled on the body of the amphora (pls. 98, 99) testify to the intention of its owners to use it as a burial urn.

A few notes on matters of classification, attribution, and dating are offered here. I am not much convinced that “new workshops” (45) is a better term for workshops that are “outside the classical tradition”—these have been known for some time now. And despite the parallels offered, I still do not see the reason for attributing the amphora (pls. 66, 67) to the Manner of the Athens 894 Painter. It takes a sharp eye to discern the differences that led the author to place the twin amphoras (pls. 10, 11) at about 800 B.C., while the almost identical vase (pl. 19) is dated to the transitional phase MG II/LG Ia, about 760 B.C. Occasionally there is a slight inconsistency in the dating of a vase (e.g., amphora 894 [pls. 42–5] is dated ca. 720–715 B.C. on p. 44, while on p. 46 it is deemed contemporary to the amphora [pl. 49] dated ca. 735–730 B.C.). The references for some iconographic themes are not given in their first occurrence but in the ones that follow (e.g., for single-horse chariot processions one has to overlook the commentary to the amphora [pls. 36, 37] and consult the references given in the discussion of the next vase, pls. 38–41; for this theme, add E. Manakidou, Παραστάσεις µε άρµατα (8ος5ος αι. π.X.). Παρατηρήσεις στην εικονογραφία τους [Thessaloniki 1994]).

The provenance of the amphoras in this fascicle was meticulously investigated, usually with success, seldom to no avail. As E. Moignard wrote in her review of the Beiheft 1 of the CVA Deutschland, Vasenforschung und CVA-Standortbestimmung und Perspektiven, 2002 (AJA 108 [2004] 297), “One of the primary functions of the CVA is to publish pottery without an established archaeological provenance, which means taking the concerns of reception and collection histories seriously.” The painstaking research of Kourou on the matter resulted in two indexes, one of collections and former owners of the vases, the other (and far more useful) of find places. It is obvious that tracing the origin of the vases has been a major concern for her, testifying that she treated her material as archaeological documents and not as objets d'art.

On the whole, the author has dealt with the difficult task of reviewing the history of the Attic pottery of the Early Iron Age through the detailed analysis of a single shape, that of the amphora, with intelligence and consummate skill.

E. Simantoni-Bournia
Department of History and Archaeology
University of Athens
University Campus, Zographou
15784 Athens

Book Review of Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Greece 8. Athens, National Museum 5. Attic and Atticising Amphoras of the Protogeometric and Geometric Periods, by Nota Kourou

Reviewed by E. Simantoni-Bournia

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 110, No. 2 (April 2006)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1102.Bournia

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