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Les céramiques de la Grèce de l'Est et leur diffusion en Occident

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Centre Jean Bérard
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Institut français de Naples

The less familiar Chian wares

John Boardman

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1This paper deals not so much with the presentation of new material as with some principles and dangers inherent in our study of material from major sites. The identification of the major classes of pottery at a site and deduction from them of the wares probably made locally usually present few problems. For Chian pottery the main classes are easy to define and the publication of material from the recent excavations in Turkish sites, with the current re-study of the Naucratis material will make them even better known. It is not uncommon, however, that a potters quarter also admits minor ateliers producing vases of some idiosyncrasy yet necessarily related to the main classes. This is often a matter of individual invention or taste. Such minor groups, when identified, could easily be regarded as imports, but there is an equal danger in taking them for local unless some criteria associating them with the main style of production can also be demonstrated. In Athens a case in point is the Polos Painter whose style might easily be regarded as foreign, yet with our knowledge of the development of shapes and the role of Corinthian models his Athenian character becomes clear.

2In Chios, I draw attention to just one example of such minority production. The main well-known classes of Chian pottery are distinguished by their shapes and technique, with a fine white slip. At Emporio, however, we found a small number of unslipped black figure kantharoi (Greek Emporio, 169 f.) which we might have been tempted to call imports. The criteria for judging them local, apart from the possibly misleading appearance of the clay, were the history of the same shape in the demonstrably Chian wares and the close stylistic similarity of the figure drawing of animals, notably the cock, to that of the black figure animals on the slipped Chian vases. The possibility of the Chian origin of such unslipped black figure was also indicated by the unslipped chalice in Copenhagen (CVA, iii, pl. 80.2) and further scrutiny revealed examples of the class, unpublished, among the Naucratis fragments. The abandonment of slip and the palmettes might well be attributed to the example of Attica.

3Other scraps of black figure pottery from Emporio present similar problems, not yet soluble. Such are nos. 848 and 849, in a version of the «Six technique». These might be Chian and they may have suggested Mrs Walter-Karydi’s attribution of the work of the Tocra Painter to Chios (Samos, vi. 1, nos. 838-842), an attribution which must be discounted on other grounds.

4A further problem presented by the finds from Emporio is the danger that they might be taken to be representative of the best of the island’s products in the sixth century. The site is of paramount importance in the eighth and seventh centuries but the deposits of the sixth century are extremely meagre and it seems very probable that there was more than one centre of pottery production in the island. The prime source is bound to have been Chios town and only one excavation there has yielded any quantity of sixth-century pottery of quality, and this, by the late Professor Kontoleon at Rizari, remains unpublished.

5Comparable problems are presented by the more common wares. Even the finer decorated pottery offers considerable difficulties of classification when something like a koine style is involved, as with the Wild Goat style and possibly Fikellura. With the plainer vases the possibilities of error are far greater and the material available for study far more scanty, except from the most recent excavations. In Chios, the familiar broad-mouthed jars and hydriae of the sixth century (Greek Emporio, p. 44, X. Y) can only be readily identifiable elsewhere where the whole shape is preserved since the elements of decoration (the wavy lines on belly and by handles) are common to many other classes and are in fact a rare relic of the decoration of comparable striped vases of the end of the Bronze Age. Moreover, the small concentric semicircles on both shapes could easily mislead in fragments, since this is again a type of «fossil» decoration, picked up in the eighth century in various parts of the East Greek world, and retained into the sixth century. Chios gives particularly clear warnings about the possible mistakes which can derive from such conservatism, with the metope decoration persisting from the eighth-century skyphoi into the sixth-century chalices, and the chalice shape itself persisting into the Hellenistic period (Greek Emporio, 103). These should warn us against over-enthusiastic dating and localisation of incomplete material, and underlines the need for far fuller knowledge of the common wares of all major East Greek centres lest we are unduly influenced by the very few that are comparatively well known.

© Publications du Centre Jean Bérard, 1978

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