You are here

The Hellenistic Pottery from Sardis: The Finds Through 1994

July 2006 (110.3)

Book Review

The Hellenistic Pottery from Sardis: The Finds Through 1994

By Susan I. Rotroff and Andrew Oliver, Jr. (Archaeological Explorations of Sardis Monographs 12). Pp. 400, pls. 144. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 2003. $90. ISBN 0-674-01461-8 (cloth).

Reviewed by

This book is divided into three parts. The first section publishes in detail all the wheelmade wares of Sardis. A systematic analysis and chronology leads to the conclusion that there is material imported, but some may have been produced locally. This first section is made up of seven parts that treat fully black-glazed pottery, partially glazed pottery, gray wares, West Slope Ware, pottery in the Lydian tradition, funerary pottery, and Lagynos ware. The material is divided into two broad groups, pieces made in the Attic manner and those that follow the conventions of the coastal cities of Asia Minor. Imports and imitations produced either at Sardis or in Ionia are reported.

The second section of the book publishes the mold-made relief bowls from Sardis. The material is sorted into well-established categories, and the discussion on the origin of style insofar as it concerns the influence of local native relief bowls seems to be sound. The character of the relief vases and of the stamps, their dating, the links with Ionian workshops (now known to have been manufactured in Ephesos), Milesian workshops, or Knidos, and the influence from Pergamum are discussed and fully examined. In addition, the authors have made an impressive achievement in isolating and defining a group of relief bowls that can be convincingly identified as distinctively Sardian. Their clear definition will facilitate the recognition of Sardian relief bowls at other sites.

In this second part of the book, 125 fragments of the type of “Pergamene appliqué ware” from Sardis are also recorded. Their analysis indicates a considerable variation in fabric and quality but the discussion of the types proves that the most examples are probably Pergamene imports, since most of the designs found at Sardis are known from Pergamon. Cult functionaries and erotic compositions may be recognized on some fragments. This section also publishes a number of unusual and unclassified fragments decorated in relief and two fragments of braziers, all imports from other sites.

The third section of the book presents the surviving material from the first American expedition to Sardis, led by Howard Crosby Butler; this expedition excavated hundreds of tombs in the hills and banks on both sides of the Pactolus in the years 1910–1914 and 1922.

What Rotroff and Oliver have contributed to the research of Hellenistic pottery is a detailed publication of a whole new body of material in an easily intelligible and very readable book. The vessels are classified by shape with each variant systematically analyzed for chronological and geographical distribution. The catalogues are followed by general discussions of the manufacturing techniques, a conclusion that surveys the entire material historically, an ample bibliography, and 800 photos and line drawings.

Aikaterina Danali
Department of History and Archaeology
University of Athens
University Campus
Zographou, Athens 15784

Book Review of The Hellenistic Pottery from Sardis: The Finds Through 1994, by Susan I. Rotroff and Andrew Oliver, Jr.

Reviewed by Aikaterina Danali

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 110, No. 3 (July 2006)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1103.Danali

Add new comment

Plain text

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.