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Excavations at Sissi II

Jan Driessen

Annex. Macroscopic analysis of three Neopalatial and Postpalatial conical cup assemblages

Preliminary Remarks on Late Bronze Age semi-fine fabrics at Sissi

Florence Liard

Texte intégral

1The potential of technological approaches to pottery for exploring social identities, negotiations and transformations is now widely appreciated in Minoan studies (Day 1987; Day et al. 2006). The macroscopic description of ceramic fabrics is one among these means of inquiry, supplementing traditional study of typological and stylistic development. Visual examination of clay colour and texture, inclusion nature, size, shape, and sorting afford insights into the technical choices and constraints inherent in pottery manufacture. It is also considered as a preliminary inquiry for petrographic determination of pottery provenance, interconnections and technology. They are the key entry point to the study of craft organization, patterns of pottery exchange and consumption, which in turn lead to the broader themes of socio-economic organization, political structures, social order and practices.

  • 1 The petrographic program aims at unravelling elements of human and natural context of the Malia Pl (...)

2The present aim is to restore a fabric-based sequence in order to stress the technological changes that the conical cup type – the Late Bronze Age pottery hallmark – registers between the Neo-and Postpalatial periods at Sissi. Continuities and innovations in clay recipes will provide the guidelines for a large-scale microscopic investigation of the pottery systems in the Postpalatial Malia Plain. The latter is dedicated to shed new light on this region of Crete at that time of unprecedented disruptions throughout the Aegean world1.

1. Presentation of the three assemblages

3Three Late Bronze Age stratified deposits discovered during the 2010 Sissi excavation campaign contained a substantial number of semi-fine plain drinking vessels. With their distinctive variety in clay-paste composition, color, hardness, texture and surface treatment, these assemblages provide the opportunity to analyze coexisting and evolving traditions of cup manufacture, supply and use at Sissi throughout the second half of the 2nd millennium BC. These variations tally with potters’ traditions (Day 1987) and/or consumers’ demands (Knappett 1999; Berg 2004: 79-80), and they are embedded in both functional requirements and social/symbolic value (Boileau & Withley 2010).

4The term ‘conical cup’ is actually a misnomer, or at least is it to be taken in a wider sense as defined by Betancourt (Shaw et al. 2001: 47). We focus on a category of plain handleless, palm-sized cups that are more or less conical in shape, the ovoid and semi-globular being possible variations, and that lack offset rims or appendages.

5Two Neopalatial deposits (1, 2) and one early Postpalatial deposit (3) are under scrutiny. They are admittedly different in nature, but each of them is understood as reflecting one specific event punctuating the history of Sissi.

1.1. MM III/LM I destruction deposit, zone 2

6The large fill in rooms 2.6 and 2.8 (zone 2) is likely to result from the one-time re-deposition of a Neopalatial destruction context. Fragments show abraded fractures, albeit several cross-joins are to be found. The nature of the material suggests a kitchen or household context: the semi-fine repertory was mixed with several coarse domestic shapes like cooking pots, tripods, amphorae and jars. The conical cups are most often taller than they are broad, some showing a faintly S-shaped profile. They break down in two main fabric categories owing to the predominance of either sand and quartz (fabric IIa) or mudstone (fabric IIb) inclusions. The former have a gritty feel, the latter are soft and soapy at the touch. Some fine, densely-packed pale examples are also attested in a levigated calcareous clay (fabric III). The conical cups from zone 2 lack routinization in manufacture: attempts at relating cup profiles and heights to base diameters or to specific fabric groups come unstuck. The Group II paste tinges range from light pinkish to deep orange. It is still unclear whether those variations are due to differential firing conditions of a single type of raw clay, or to the mixing of calcareous and red raw clays in different ratios. Indeed, clay-mixing is recognized as a routine process in Cretan potting traditions from the Early Bronze Age up to the present (Betancourt 2008: 45). The lesser presence of phyllite is also worth stressing, as it seems yet to be the main lithoclast in the semi-fine to coarse Sissi fabric-range through the Bronze Age.

  • 2 P. P. Betancourt has indeed subdivided LM IA assemblages into a tripartite scheme, showing a marke (...)
  • 3 Albeit the labour-input per pot varies from site to site and from region to region. For example, C (...)

7These cups can be compared to the ‘early LM IA’ examples at Kommos2. They are also similar to the Knossian conical cups which lack any uniformity during the MM IIIB ceramic phase (Hood 1996) and even, to a lesser degree, in the LM I period3. The interest of distinguishing MM IIIB from LM IA examples among local assemblages has been underlined in a recent contribution (Knappett & Cunningham 2003: 107-111), but the current study is too preliminary to allow such precision. The admixture of MM III pottery in early LM IA deposits is frequently reported (Shaw et al. 2001: 92) and might also be attested here. It is better to state that the conical cups from zone 2 predate the island-wide homogeneity which is asserted for (mature) LM IA.

1.2. LM I conical cup deposit, zone 5

8The conical cup deposit is located against the Terrace Wall in zone 5, to the North of Building E. It is distinguishable in its huge number of mass-produced conical cups, some of them being intact and still stacked one into the other. Some (fragmentary) examples of eating and cooking vessels are also attested, as well as some other types of cups. This densely-packed set must have been discarded in one go. Two types of cup production are identified: the early Neopalatial pastes have survived (fabrics II and III), but the vast majority of the material is made of a compact deep red phyllitic fabric (Ia) or of its lighter-coloured variation (Ib). Once again, it remains unsure whether such a range of hues is due to specific temperatures of firing of the same non-calcareous clay, or to a standardized technique of tempering applied to diverse clay bases made of differential ratios of calcareous material and red raw clay. An experimental analysis conducted by C. Knappett has outlined the darkening of the local terra rossa clay in firing it at 900° C and 1100° C respectively (Poursat & Knappett 2005: 36). Moreover, the seemingly non-calcareous Mirabello cooking fabrics have long been argued to be low-fired and exclusively based on red clay beds, whereas they have more recently been requoted as “low-calcareous” pastes (Whitelaw et al. 1997: 270; Haggis 2005: 179). The case of the Palaikastro Postpalatial conical cup production is also worth mentioning: local fabrics are represented by red and buff-coloured pastes that share a similar suite of inclusions deriving from the local tectonic unit (quartz, limestone, phyllite). The striking difference in paste colour is recognized as the result of limestone combining with iron particles during clay-firing, which inhibits the development of high concentrations of red iron oxides in buff fabrics; the same clay has broken down into red fabrics under strongly oxidizing conditions liberating high concentrations of iron oxides (Doherty 2007: 161).

  • 4 Standardization can be characterized as achieving a relative degree of homogeneity in a product or (...)
  • 5 This conclusion has been made for the Protopalatial red wares at Malia Quartier Mu and makes use o (...)

9Putting aside these variations in clay recipes, the LM I conical cups from zone 5 are standardized in size and shape. They indicate a low degree of labour investment and a quite consistent level of technical competency, putting forward the idea of a mass-production at the start of different solutions to clay assemblage and/or firing4. Indeed, the “phyllitic” examples are broader than they are tall, they exhibit a conical profile and straight rims. They seem to conform to the island-wide unified LM IA (Knappett & Cunningham 2003: 162) or ‘late LM IA’ (Shaw et al. 2001: 66-67) conical cup manufacture which has been defined in other parts of the island. It could be postulated that ‘efficiency and competition seem to be concerns for the potters; the producers may be independent, working at a large scale, in workshops clustered in and around a central side. This we may term centralized production’5. However, subsequent petrographic fabric analysis and classification are still needed to confirm these preliminary observations.

1.3. LM IIIA2 refuse deposit, zone 5

10The Postpalatial “lakkos” (FE081) extends southwards of the aforementioned conical cup deposit, in the open area between Building E and hilltop Building CD. Noteworthy are the good quality and state of preservation of the ceramics. The pit includes well-sieved and decorated buff rytha, stirrup jars and kalathoi. Some fragments of cooking trays, tripods and other plain utilitarian vessels are noted too. But the assemblage consists mainly in vast amounts of red or buff well-fired, nicely finished footed drinking vessels, as well as bowls and low everted cups. Fresh breaks are very common. It is similar in composition to the Malia-Quartier Nu “favissae” (Driessen et al. 2008) which also include large quantities of well-finished kylikes and champagne cups.

11Contamination of the lakkos by earlier (LM IIIA1-2) intrusions may be possible from the south façade of the main Building CD and from the nearby “North-East Extension” pit (FE087). Chronological and spatial divisions between the lakkos and the pit remain ambiguous. Such accumulations could correspond to a succession of depositions, each of them sealing off the debris deriving from the clearance of an earlier specific event or occupation. In any case, the conical cups described here come from a FE081 lens which is dated to LM IIIA2. Up to now, it is preferable to state that the evidence is too scanty to define some ceramic textural and composition features for the LM II-IIIA2 (early) period specifically. This prevents any closer study of the evolution of potting choices from the Neo-to the Postpalatial period as has been conducted at Palaikastro (Macgillivray et al. 2007).

12Neopalatial fabrics I, II and III are conserved among this assemblage of cups, but the lakkos sees the introduction of new and (already) well-mastered potting practices: large semi-globular cups with a beveled S-shaped bottom are present, as well as everted low cups that lack any shaped base. The recipients are hard-fired and thin-walled, most often burnished and eventually slipped in surface. They are made of a dark red levigated clay (fabric IV). Dark brown rounded inclusions represent the main but infrequent semi-fine temper. The appreciable rate of very fine-grained red coloured iron oxides is to be underlined, rendering obvious an oxidizing firing.

  • 6 The concept of ‘technological profile’ is designed to restore the link between finished product an (...)

13It is tempting to conclude that the surviving Neopalatial conical cup fabric recipes reflect less coherent technological choices in raw material assemblages and modes of firing. In the current state of knowledge, the changes between LM I and LM IIIA2 are more dramatic than between MM III and LM I. The Postpalatial conical cups encounter the rise of new technological profiles6: they are highly standardized; they show a moderate time investment (clay-sieving, high firing, nice surface finish). This evolution is undoubtedly inherent to the general trend of better quality potting during LM IIIA or succeeding immediately to the LM IB destructions (Arvanitakis 2007). The trend is registered at Knossos as well as in other (secondary) centres (Hatzaki 2005: 85, 107-112). The present focus on diachronic changes registered for one same type of vessel allows to state that such an evolution is not (solely) dictated by functional purposes. This could rather indicate demands of consumers that are different from the Neopalatial period; the idea of craftspeople working under (restricted) elite sponsorships would be worth investigating. It is to be noted that the conical cups do not reproduce the same coexistence of, or concurrence between, buff and non-calcareous series of production as attested among the LM IIIA2 kylikes and champagne cups. However, once again, further observation and analysis are necessary before any link to distinctive modes of production or any interpretation in terms of socio-economic organization can be made.

2. Regional pottery production in context

  • 7 As defined by P. Tomkins, the term ‘local’ means fabrics of which the mineralogy and technology ar (...)

14Conical cups are traditionally considered as a type of vessel designed for individual consumption of liquids against a framework of larger social gatherings. But as outlined elsewhere, the nearly absence of pouring vessels within some of the Cretan deposits (Knappett & Cunningham 2003: 115) added to the low resistance of the cups to permeability (Lewis 1983; Wiener 2006: 11) may suggest that Minoan conical cups were not primarily destined for drinks but for food. A small percentage of conical cups could also have been used as lamps, but these rather come from habitation contexts (Evershed et al. 2000: 38-39). Given the large accumulations of cups at Sissi and the low quantity of jugs in the Neo-and Postpalatial deposits of zone 5, we will consider here that these accumulations are more generally connected to conspicuous consumption events, be it for drinks (Hamilakis 2002) or for food (as suggested at Ayia Irini: Schofield 1999). The original aim of focusing on this vessel type was to study a conceivably ‘local’7 production at Sissi.

  • 8 Evershed et al. 2000: 48-50. Indeed, the constituents of the three petrographic fabric groups that (...)
  • 9 Doherty 2007: 161-166. Four distinct conical cup fabric groups are distinguished in one same LM II (...)

15Petrographic tests have put forward the evidence that coarse wares circulated on a wider regional and interregional scale than hitherto suspected (Riley et al. 1981; Riley 1983: 284); this is likely to be the case even for purely utilitarian cooking vessels (Day 1989: 139-140). In contrast, the homogeneous and single-event deposition of conical cups has often been considered as a plausible clue for mass-consumption, and thus mass-production, which may imply the use of raw material available in the vicinity. Indeed, it must have been the cheapest, most easy and quickest way to manufacture the plain little cups hundreds of time, and to have them at hand immediately thereafter. Gillis has suggested an unavoidably local mass-production for the conical cup type (Gillis 1989: 131, 145-150). This has been petrographically validated in some (Neopalatial) cases8 but rejected in (Postpalatial) others9. The results obtained from our macroscopic examination satisfy the idea that the Maliote potters could have found the ceramic constituents among the regionally outcropping geological resources, and that they assembled these in different manners. However, microscopic analysis of fabric composition is still required before this hypothesis can be ruled out.

  • 10 The stratigraphy of Crete divides its rocks into a pre-Neogene group, that is to say tectonic unit (...)

16The coastal plain of Malia is topographically defined by limestone reliefs, the Selena to the South, the Trapeza to the West, the Anavlochos to the East (Müller 1996: 921). They result from erosion of the successive tectonic nappes overlying the so-called Phyllite/Quartzite Series (of Permian-Triassic age)10. The latter provided the base for the deposition of sediments through the plain during the late Tertiary and Quaternary eras. The Arcovouno plateau constitutes an internal topographic and sedimentation barrier dividing the Sissi basin from the Malia bay (Creutzburg et al. 1977).

  • 11 Van Effenterre identifies the alluvial Malia Bay as a ‘plateau – en fait, une vraie “surface d’éro (...)

17The Malia bay is covered by a scattering of marine sands and terra rossa. A ridge of limestone and ‘ammouda’ sandstone (fossil dunes) boards the seashore (Higgins & Higgins 1996: 206-207). Diverse clay resources must have been available round the place and exploited by Minoan potters. Geological reports have been published by the French archaeological mission11 while C. Knappett has more recently validated experimentally the similar composition between ceramic production at Protopalatial Malia Quartier Mu and the red alluvial clay outcrops that are located 1 km to the South of Sissi (Poursat & Knappett 2005: 17).

18The Sissi basin is largely covered by Pliocene marly limestones. Two ancient river beds belt the Bronze Age settlement and are responsible for the deposition of distinctive brown clays and alluviums towards the coast (Creutzburg et al. 1977). The so-called ‘argile verte de Sissi’ is also mentioned by the French team but lacks any precise description (van Effenterre 1980: 79). A similar greenish clay outcrops down the northwards cliffs of the Selinari Gorge. According to local informants, this bed has been exploited for roofing material at the beginning of the last century, albeit C. Knappett suggests that ‘the closest possible source [of buff calcareous clays] is just to the west of Chersonisos’ - 11 km further to the West of Malia. ‘Here there are very extensive clay deposits of very high quality, which have been exploited in the present’ (Poursat & Knappett 2005: 10-11).

19Finally is it worth noting that whereas the Eastern zone of Milatos has been described by van Effenterre as ‘marginal and isolated’ (van Effenterre 1980: 74), Wroncka has stressed the importance of both Sissi and Milatos in Bronze Age regional pottery manufacture (Wroncka 1959: 538-539).

3. Macroscopic description of the semi-fine conical cup fabrics

20For the sake of consistency, the macroscopic analysis is based on the process that has been dictated for the Sphakia survey (Moody et al. 2003: 48-51). These are the nomenclature, criteria and general structure of recording fabric information which are now accepted as standard devise in most macroscopic examinations of survey and excavation material (Moody et al. 2003: 46-48. Haggis 2005: 167-176. Barnard 2003: 3-12). The most distinctive factors chosen for the paste categorization are the calcareous v/s non-calcareous clay composition, and the suite of inclusions visible in the matrix. The firing temperature is only used as a subdividing factor within one same group. The following descriptions have been made during the 2010 excavation campaign and form a preliminary analysis of the ceramics.

3.1. Fabric group I: compact phyllite-tempered fabrics

3.1.1. Fabric Ia: deep red fabric (fig. 8. 13)


21Colour: 10R 5/6 to 10R 5/8. The deep red to dark reddish-brown hues suggest the use of a non-calcareous clay.

22Texture: the densely-packed appearance of the sherds may be due to a lesser concentration of inclusions within the matrix. Some poorly preserved examples are foliated in surface. Sherds are medium to soft at the touch, they do not produce any “clinking” sound when shocked, all arguments dealing with a low temperature of firing.

23Inclusions: semi-coarse silver grey and purple phyllite flakes are common, rounded in profile, equidimensional or elongate, of approximately 1 to 2 mm in size (or even coarser). White sub-angular calcareous (limestone?) particles and angular quartz crystals are of same occurrence and modal size. Dark brown/purple mate inclusions are sparser, sub-angular to sub-rounded in shape, 0.5 to 2.0 mm in size, and have a water-worn appearance. Their identification remains unsure.

24▪ The bimodal distribution of the suite of inclusions is clear for some cups, with respectively 1-2 mm phyllite and light inclusions, 0.5-1.0 mm dark/purple particles, but it remains difficult to ascertain for others. The consistence of Group I is rather the result of an (almost) exclusive presence of phyllite, calcareous, quartz and dark purple aplastic components that are imbedded in a fine red groundmass.

25Surface treatment: thick bottom and walls, unsmoothed base edges give a rough aspect to the cups and yields to a mass-production. Some of the Postpalatial examples are self-slipped on the interior, something that can more rarely be said for the Neopalatial examples.

3.1.2. Fabric Ib: lighter-coloured variations (fig. 8.14)


26A full description would replicate the one provided for Ia. Nature, concentration and size-range of inclusions, thick walls and unsmoothed base edges are similar to Ia. The main difference lies in the colour of the clay, varying mainly from deep to very pale brown and orange (10R 6/4 to 2.5YR 6/4).

3.2. Fabric group II: sand/mudstones-tempered (buff) fabrics

27The fabric group is distinctive in (1) its suite of inclusions that includes very fine mudstone-like pellets or iron oxides whereas group I sees the prevalence of semi-coarse phyllite, calcite and quartz, (2) a bimodal repartition of aplastic components within the groundmass, (3) a porous matrix. Two subgroups are distinguished here, whereas efforts to set a rigorous description of Fabric IIa kept on revealing a continuum with the lower-fired and smoother IIb. Some similarities can also be drawn between IIa and the densely-packed Group I: “intermediary” examples display a sandy aplastic fraction (sub-group IIa) that could represent a deliberate addition to a naturally phyllitic clay (group I). Finally, even the IIa subgroup lacks homogeneity, as the Neopalatial cups from zones 2 and 5 show specific relative ratios of tempers.

28A preliminary account is presented here, while the need could arise for reclassification with future analyses.

3.2.1. Fabric IIa: sand-tempered well-fired fabric (fig. 8.15)


29Colour: 10R 6/4 to 2.5YR 6/4. Mainly buff pastes among which tan, light orange or pinkish variations are common. Few examples may extend to dry orange and deep pink hues.

30Texture: the most representative examples are fairly gritty at the touch due to protruding silts. Microscopic planar voids are visible at the break; their orientation is relatively parallel to the vessel walls. It has been concluded from firing experimentation that non-calcareous clay shrinkage is induced by high temperature (1100 °C tested) and deforms voids into planar profiles (Poursat & Knappett 2005: 17). The typical “clinking” sound also reinforces the idea of a high-firing.

31Inclusions: fine tempers exhibit a constant 1 mm modal size. When present, coarser grains induce a bimodal distribution of the inclusions, although this coarse component remains unavoidably scarcer than silty particles within the matrix.

  • When present, the coarse fraction is 1 to 2 mm in size; some larger grains are occasionally observed. The most distinctive feature is the rarity of purple/gray phyllite flakes in IIa. Coarse fraction is mainly composed of frequent light bluish to white (sub-)angular inclusions, with common darker elements exhibiting either grey/purple hue (mainly in Neopalatial Zone 2) or both of reddish/purple and grey/purple hues (mainly in Neopalatial zone 5). It remains unsure whether this variation is related to a higher temperature of firing rendering inclusions darker, or to specific choices in raw materials.
  • Fine fraction reproduces the same suite of inclusions transposed to the <1 mm size-range. Phyllite is excluded. The white calcareous grains appear to be most common, at the sides of rounded and finely-grained red-orange concentrations (< 0.5 mm). They are likely to be identified as very fine mudstones or iron oxides.

3.2.2. Fabric IIb: “biscuit” mudstone-tempered fabric (fig. 8.16)


32Colour: 10R 6/4 to 5YR 6/8. Pinkish to orange buff fabrics, very rare bright colours. A few “biscuit”-fabric examples from Neopalatial zone 2 extend this panel to pale buff tinges. Group IIb also includes scarce deep pink cups from Neopalatial zone 5. They are likely to betray a higher firing than the buff-coloured ones.

33Texture: soft at the touch, smartly smoothed surfaces. Thumping sound is produced by shocking sherds and prompted us to the name of “biscuit” fabric. Closer examination allows to discern a fairly porous matrix with abundant fine rounded voids; they are almost invisible with the naked eye. The aforementioned remark on void shrinkage under heat also reinforces the hypothesis of a rather low-fired fabric. Deep pink examples exhibit a more crumbly, powdery texture which can even cover fingers with sherd dust. This is quite contrasting from the harder and grittier IIa sub-group and could also corroborate the idea of a weak firing.

34Inclusions: bimodal distribution of the aplastic component is quite clear:

  • Fine fraction is 0.5 mm to microscopic size. Common reddish grits can be almost indiscernible from the groundmass; their identification as mudstones or iron oxides remains unsure. Dark and white chalky particles are rare.
  • Coarse fraction (2 to 4 mm) exhibits the suite of inclusions as described in IIa, with ratios varying from cup to cup. Angular to sub-angular light gray crists, sub-rounded water-worn dark purple inclusions, rounded limestone (?) grains. Fewer elongated to rounded purple laths with shiny flat surfaces are identified as phyllites, which colour is particularly pale. The chalky texture of limestone could be indicative of the temperature of firing, as calcareous components don’t withstand more than 850-900 °C.

3.2.3. Fabric group III: fine pale buff fabric (fig. 8.17)


35This group remains sparse at Sissi. It may actually be a variation of group I, although the prevalent very fine fraction allows few macroscopic observations.

36Colour: 2.5YR 7/4 to 2.5YR 8/4. Yellowish-orange to white pale buff, uniform in colour. The firing tests undertaken by C. Knappett on Neogene clay bed samples from the Chersonisos area pinpoint different behaviours according to firing. Pale orange buff under 900 °C, this calcareous clay changes markedly in a greenish yellow buff tinge at very high temperatures (1100 °C) (Poursat & Knappett 2005: 11). In the case fabric III samples derive from a similar local clay bed as experimented (Viannos Formation, Middle Miocene), the colour observed could stem from a medium temperature of firing (900 °C).

37Texture: densely packed, similar to group I. The medium softness also points to a relatively low temperature of firing.

38Inclusions: the uniform fineness and purity of the clay could be the result of a levigation process. When present, sizes of particles vary widely from cup to cup, but it seems from far to be limited to (sub-) angular purple to dark irregular inclusions in a few to rare occurrence. The granulometry of these grains is semi-coarse (0.5-2 mm). They are likely to betray tempering, what would meet the observation of local “semi-coarse buff with phyllite” at Protopalatial Malia-Quartier Mu (Poursat & Knappett 2005: 13).

3.2.4. Fabric group IV: “levigated” well-fired red fabric (fig. 8.18)


39This subgroup could belong exclusively to the Postpalatial period, while it could betray the lengthening and improvement of earlier technological choices in selection of the clays (Ia) and firing conditions (IIa).

40▪ Colour and texture: 2.5YR 5/8 to 2.5YR 6/8. The dense and compact deep red clay which is typical of subgroup Ia turns out to a fine levigated fabric with “clinking” sound and harder feeling at the touch. The well-fired Postpalatial drinking cups are smartly finished, especially at their (narrow) base, and burnished in surface.

41▪ Inclusions: the fine fraction is from far prevalent. It is almost exclusively composed of iron oxides concentrations. They are fairly difficult to identify with the naked eye because of their very small size (<0.5 mm) and tinge similar to the groundmass. Very few coarser calcareous grits (1 mm) and dark purple/brown rounded particles may be scarcely present. They are well-imbedded in the body of the cup.

APPENDIX: List of conical cups taken as diagnostic samples

APPENDIX: List of conical cups taken as diagnostic samples


4. References

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▪ Barnard 2003 = K. A. Barnard, A Macroscopic Analysis of the Neopalatial Fabrics, in K. A. Barnard & K. A. Brogan, Mochlos IB: Period III. Neopalatial Settlement on the Coast: The Artisans’ Quarter and the Farmhouse at Chalinomouri. The Neopalatial Pottery, Philadelphia, 2003, p. 3-12.

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▪ Boileau & Withley 2010 = M.-Cl. Boileau & J. Withley, Patterns of Production and Consumption of Coarse to Semi-Fine Pottery at Early Iron Age Knossos, Annual of the British School at Athens 105 (2010), 225-268.

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▪ Day 1989 = P. M. Day, Technology and Ethnography in Petrographic Studies of Ceramics, in Y. Maniatis (eds.), Archaeometry. Proceedings of the 25th International Symposium, Amsterdam, 1989, 139-140.

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▪ Lewis 1983 = H. B. Lewis, The Manufacture of early Mycenaean Pottery, PhD., University of Minnesota, 1983.

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1 The petrographic program aims at unravelling elements of human and natural context of the Malia Plain at the end of the Late Bronze Age (exploited geological resources, technological choices, regional workshops, trade networks and consumption practices). They will help to better understand the changes that the ceramic mechanisms encounter with the collapse of the palatial systems. For that purpose, diverse functional categories of pottery are to be taken into account - cooking, drinking, transport, and storage vessels. Typologically diagnostic sherds will be selected for sampling from homogeneous deposits from the main domestic habitation building (zones 3, 4 and 5) and from the presumed workshop area (zone 2) on the Bouffos Hill.

2 P. P. Betancourt has indeed subdivided LM IA assemblages into a tripartite scheme, showing a markedly gradual improvement in standardization of shapes and manufacture towards the end of the Neopalatial period (Shaw et al. 2001: 89).

3 Albeit the labour-input per pot varies from site to site and from region to region. For example, C. Knappett has noted that conical cups produced at Malia and Myrtos Pyrgos in LM I are more uniform than those from Knossos. Such a difference may be due to the higher number of drinking cups needed at Knossos for consumption events (Knappett 1999: 416).

4 Standardization can be characterized as achieving a relative degree of homogeneity in a product or production process (Rice 1991). This homogeneity refers to shape and size primarily, but also to fabrics (Knappett 1997).

5 This conclusion has been made for the Protopalatial red wares at Malia Quartier Mu and makes use of the anthropological concepts as defined by C. Sinopoli (Knappett 1997: 309-310, quoting Sinopoli 1988: 580-597).

6 The concept of ‘technological profile’ is designed to restore the link between finished product and execution of techniques, by evaluating the particular combination of labour investment and standardization of production. It is suggestive of certain production modes, either administered, centralized or non-centralized in nature (Knappett 1997: 306ff).

7 As defined by P. Tomkins, the term ‘local’ means fabrics of which the mineralogy and technology are compatible with a provenance of less than 5-7 km from the find-spot (Tomkins 2007: 9).

8 Evershed et al. 2000: 48-50. Indeed, the constituents of the three petrographic fabric groups that have been distinguished at Neopalatial Mochlos are consistent with the use of locally-available materials. However, the coexistence of different material choices and concurrent manufacturing traditions are also perceptible.

9 Doherty 2007: 161-166. Four distinct conical cup fabric groups are distinguished in one same LM IIIA2 deposit. One of them, identified as ‘micaceous fabric’, is characterized by numerous flecks of golden mica. Microscopic examination has suggested a probable import to Crete, even if a more specific provenance still needs to be identified.

10 The stratigraphy of Crete divides its rocks into a pre-Neogene group, that is to say tectonic units overthrust on the autochthonous rock core of the island before the Middle Miocene, and a Neogene sedimentation that deposited during the subsequent geological epochs of the late Tertiary and Quaternary.

11 Van Effenterre identifies the alluvial Malia Bay as a ‘plateau – en fait, une vraie “surface d’érosion” – de calcaire gris-bleu, fissuré, dont des jointements résiduels émergent des argiles de décomposition […]. Le sol est rougeâtre en surface, pierreux et desséché en été. Il est boueux et facilement transformé en marécage par les pluies torrentielles du changement de saison […]. En profondeur, c’est une argile plus brunâtre et de consistance feuilletée qui constitue le sol primitif sous les terrassements antiques’ (van Effenterre 1980: 68-69).

Table des illustrations

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Légende Fig. 8.17. FABRIC GROUP III, FINE PALE BUFF FABRIC (#10-05-1920) (FL. LIARD)
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Titre APPENDIX: List of conical cups taken as diagnostic samples
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