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Jan Driessen

17. Glow in the ‘Dark’: A Gold Pendant from a Middle Helladic Settlement (Aspis, Argos)

Anna Philippa-Touchais et Gilles Touchais

Texte intégral

This paper is a small contribution to express our deep appreciation to Robert Laffineur for his huge scientific work, and our thanks for the many years of friendship and cooperation we have had with him. We would also like to thank J. Driessen for the call and his patience, S. Andreou, O. Dickinson, A. Goumas, N. Papadimitriou, R. Prévalet, E. Konstantinidi-Syvridi, and S. MacGillivray for their valuable assistance and advice at various stages of this study, and M. Pantelidou-Gofa, E. Sapouna-Sakellaraki, the Archaeological Museums of Athens and Herakleion (particularly K. Athanasaki), the Department of Classics of the University of Cincinnati (particularly C. Hershenson) for their permission to reproduce images. Finally, we owe warm thanks to K.-V. von Eickstedt, photographer, and M. Skourtis, restorer of the Archaeological Museum of Argos, for their technical support.

Introduction

1The pendant (79/378.21, MA 12747) (Fig. 17.1) discussed here was found in 1979 during the excavations of the French School – under the direction of Prof. G. Touchais – in the Middle Helladic settlement on top of the Aspis hill at Argos (Fig. 17.2) (Touchais 1980: 698, fig. 11; Philippa-Touchais & Touchais 1997: 80; Dickinson 1994: 184; Piérart & Touchais 1996: 15; Prévalet 2014). More specifically, the jewel was located in the North sector of the settlement, next to a slightly curved (apsidal?) long wall (727-771), which was possibly the exterior, western wall of MH ‘House’ ML (Fig. 17.3). We assume that the gold pendant was inside this ‘house’, because it was found in the interior part of the apse and near its floor level. ‘House’ ML dates to an early stage of MH II, according to the pottery found in the same level with the pendant (Philippa-Touchais & Touchais 2014). Note that the ornament was not found in connection with a burial. Almost all MH burials (18 in all) excavated within the Aspis settlement were found in the Southeast and Eastern sectors (Philippa-Touchais 2013). In the Northern sector only the burial of a neonate, in very poor condition, has been identified in an upper stratum and at some distance from the location of the jewel.

2The gold pendant was examined in 2014 by A. Goumas (goldsmith and specialist on ancient jewellery technologies) and Dr R. Prévalet (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Department of Coins, Medals and Antiques) who has undertaken the technological study of the artefact. The same year, XRF analyses were also performed in the Argos Archaeological Museum, where the gold jewel is stored, by a group of scientists from the National Centre for Scientific Research ‘Demokritos’, under the direction of Dr. Y. Bassiakos (Bassiakos & Mastrotheodoros 2015-2016).

Fig. 17.1. The gold pendant from Aspis Argos (photo R. Prévalet)

Fig. 17.2. Topographic plan of the Aspis hilltop with excavated MH settlement remains (EFA, L. Fadin)

Fig. 17.3. Plan of the North sector. The red star indicates the place of discovery of the gold pendant (EFA, W. Philippa)

1. Description of the pendant

3The undecorated pendant is of triangular, elongated shape (L 4 cm with the loop, 3.6 cm without the loop, max. W 1.8 cm), hammered into a thin gold sheet (Th 0.09-0.15 mm in the centre, up to 0.5 mm near the loop). The long sides are slightly concave, the inferior one slightly convex with the bottom angles rounded. The upper edge terminates in a round wire (0.5 mm in diameter) twisted onto itself to form a suspension loop. Through this loop the pendant hangs from a chain of 2.6 cm in length. Seven links of this chain, assembled by the Toop-in-loop’ technique (Higgins 1980: 16-17, fig. 3a; Nicolini 2011: 77, fig. 16) are preserved. The links are rounded in section with an average thickness of 0.45 mm. The ends of each link were soldered together. The total weight of the artefact is 1.1 gr.

4It is interesting to note that all the links of the chain are not manufactured in the same way. The first two (near the pendant) are slightly larger (3.9 x 5 mm) and produced with great care (the wire is 0.58 mm thick, and quite homogeneous), while the next five links are smaller (2.9 x 4.7 mm) and apparently made less carefully (the wire is 0.37-0.41 mm thick, and less regular).

1.1. Analyses p-XRF

5Analyses with a portable XRF spectrometer, made at one point on the gold sheet and one point on the chain, showed practically identical compositions (Tab.17.1). It is thus presumed that they were both made of the same material, probably a natural alloy of gold and silver.

Tab. 17.1. Quantitative elemental analysis

6The artefact is made from fairly pure gold. Most ancient goldwork is over 85 per cent gold, that is over 20 karat (Ogden 1992: 30-31). The rather pale colour of the jewel is probably due to the marked silver content. According to Dr Bassiakos, the increased presence of silver in the alloy deserves more detailed analytical study and consideration with other analytical data of gold jewellery from the Middle Bronze Age sites. However this proportion does not necessarily imply the use of an alloy with a deliberate addition of silver, since the silver content of native gold can range from one per cent up to 40 per cent, usually between 5 and 30 per cent (Ogden 1992: 30; see also Kotzamani 2003: 226, with bibliography).

1.2. The ornament’s interest and the questions it poses

7The gold ornament is interesting for two main reasons related to its place in space and time:

  1. It is known that during the early Middle Bronze Age in mainland Greece gold jewellery, and generally artefacts of precious metals, were very rare (e.g. Dickinson 1977: 72; 1994: 184; Hood 1978: 197; Higgins 1980: 51; Laffineur 2010: 444). The circulation of metals appears to have been limited and consequently changes or innovations in metalworking – as in gold working – were limited as well (Touchais 2008: 206-207). Therefore, the technological and morphological characteristics and correlations of such a rare item could provide interesting information about origins (intra or extra-regional), technological expertise, cultural influence and exchange. A possible local origin could provide more information on the characteristics of mainland Greece jewellery and the formation of its tradition. On the other hand, an origin from a distant centre would provide evidence on the circulation of luxuries, technologies and ideologies during such an early stage of the MH period.
  2. The discovery of the gold ornament within a settlement is also of particular interest since most pieces of jewellery, throughout the Bronze Age, come from graves. Was the Aspis ornament a grave good, either in Crete or mainland Greece, in its former life (or destined to become a grave good in its afterlife)? And what was its significance during and beyond its initial manufacture? Did the ornament’s initial significance change during the course of its possible different uses? Finally, if it was indeed an alien object adopted by the MH Aspis community, it would be interesting to explore the way it was culturally redefined in its new life (Kopytoff 1986: 67) and try to uncover its new layer of meaning.

2. An overview of the parallels

2.1. Gold pendants in the EBA

8In the Aegean Early Bronze Age II-III (ca. 2500-2000 BC), pendants made of thin gold sheet are generally leaf-shaped and often decorated with repoussé dotted motifs; very rarely are they of triangular form and undecorated (Higgins 1980: 56; Branigan 1974: 40-42; Vasilakis 1996: 150-167). Pendants, found either single or hanging from chains, come from several Early Minoan II-III sites, such as the Mochlos House Tombs (Fig. 17.4) (Seager 1912; Davaras 1975: pl. 21a; Vasilakis 1996: 156-158; Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki 2005: 59), and to a lesser degree the Mesara tholos tombs at Koumasa and Platanos (Xanthoudides 1924: pls IV, XV, LVII; Vasilakis 1996: 155, 158-159), Haghia Triada (Fig. 17.18) (Banti 1930-31, fig. 63; Vasilakis 1996: 151-152), and Haghios Onouphrios (Evans 1895: 109-110; Vasilakis 1996: 153-154). They also come from Sphoungaras (Fig. 17.5) (Hall 1912: 52, fig. 24; Vasilakis 1996: 159), the Trapeza cave at Lasithi (Fig. 17.16) (Pendlebury et alii 1935-1936: 103, pl. 15) and the Archanes cemetery (Fig. 17.17) (Sakellarakis & Sapouna-Sakellaraki 1997: 639, figs 700-701; Papadatos 1999: 40, fig. 32). Among more recent examples from Crete, we note two gold pendants from the Prepalatial cemetery at Petras (Ferrence et alii 2012: 133-136).

Fig. 17.4. Gold pendants from Mochlos (Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, after Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki 2005: 59)

9During the same period, more elaborate pendants have been found in the NE Aegean at Poliochni in Lemnos (Bernabò Brea 1976: pls CCXLI-CCXLIV, CCLI), and Troy (Schliemann 1881; Tolstikow & Trejster 1996: 38- 53). In the Cyclades, gold jewellery is practically unknown (Branigan 1974: 110, 126), whereas a gold pendant from Kythera attached to a loop-in-loop chain (Fig. 17.23) is considered LM I (Coldstream & Huxley 1972: 261- 262, pl.84: 2), but an EM II-III date cannot be excluded (Vasilakis 1996: 159). In southern mainland Greece, gold jewellery is restricted to three ornaments at Zygouries, among which a pendant or earring (Blegen 1928: 180-181, pl. XX: 7, 11, 14; Hood 1978: 192; Papageorgiou 2003: 215), and part of a strip decorated with dot repoussé from the cemetery of Tsepi Marathon (Fig. 17.6) (Pantelidou-Gofa 2005: 97, 319, pl. 15: 11-12). The only rich collection of gold jewellery, containing several pendants, belongs to the Thyreatis Treasure (Fig. 17.7) in the Staatliche Museum in Berlin, thought to come from the Thyreatis region in the Eastern Peloponnese (Greifenhagen 1970: 37, pls 1-2; Branigan 1974: pl. 31; Hood 1978: 192; Higgins 1980: 48-51, pl. 2; Reinholdt 1993: figs 1-2). As for the three gold pendants (or beads) from Ampheion at Thebes, these should indeed date to EH II (Spyropoulos 1972: 20, fig. 4; Dickinson 1994: 181, 221; Aravantinos 2010: 45; contra Hood 1978: 197), as their floral attachments present clear affinities with certain beads from Poliochni (Bernabò Brea 1976: pl. CCXLV). Finally, we note the recent discovery of a new ‘Aegina Treasure’ at Kolonna, containing numerous gold and silver pieces among which are several pendants (Reinholdt 2003: 260-261; Felten 2009: 35; Hiller 2009: 38).

Fig. 17.5. Gold pendants from Sphoungaras (Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, after Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki 2005: 59)

Fig. 17.6. Gold strip from Tsepi Marathon (Archaeological Museum of Marathon, courtesy M. Pantelidou-Gofa)

Fig. 17.7. Gold diadem from the Thyreatis Treasure (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

2.2. Gold ornaments in the MBA

10During the early Middle Bronze Age, the manufacture of gold jewellery – including pendants frequently suspended from chains – continued in Crete, as we know from examples at Malia (Fig. 17.8) (Demargne 1945; Dickinson 1994: 185; Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki 2005: 308, 326) and the Mesara (Koumasa, Platanos, Kalathiana, Hood 1978: 194-195; Higgins 1980: 57-59). In the Cyclades, the only known gold MC jewel comes from a grave at Haghia Irini on Keos: a diadem decorated in repoussé dots and Kerbschnitt (Fig. 17.9) (Overbeck 1989: 199, 202, Pl. 22c; Kilian-Dirlmeier 1997: 56-57).

Fig. 17.8. Gold pendants from Malia (Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, after Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki 2005: 326)

Fig. 17.9. Gold diadem from Keos (after Overbeck 1989, courtesy of the Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati)

11At Aegina Kolonna, several gold items – among which a diadem decorated with repoussé dots (Fig. 17.10) – found in the Warrior’s Grave are particularly significant because of their MBA II date, their probable local manufacture and their Minoan influence (Kilian-Dirlmeier 1997: 54-57, figs 6-8; Higgins 1987: 182; Hiller 2009). These are the only known gold ornaments from a MB II context (outside Crete and the Cyclades), apart from the Aspis pendant. As for the Aegina Treasure, which includes many gold pendants suspended from loop-in-loop chains and diadems (Fig. 17.11), numerous specialists have recently restudied its date and origins in the light of various laboratory analyses (Fitton 2009). Nevertheless, it has not been possible to provide definite answers to old questions about its chronological or manufacturing homogeneity (Higgins 1957a; 1957b; 1979; 1980: 60-69; Hood 1978: 195-197; Mylonas 1973: 339; Dickinson 1977: 72-74, 78; 1994: 185; Laffineur 2003; 2006: 40-42; 2009; 2010). If all the jewels of this treasure – or most of them – form a more or less homogeneous group, as their technology appears to indicate (Fitton et alii 2009), they fit more plausibly in the Middle Minoan tradition (Higgins, Hood, see supra; Dickinson 1994: 185), or could be ‘Aeginetan’ Minoanising products (Higgins 1987; Hiller 2009). In any case, their date before an advanced phase of MBA is rather unlikely.

Fig. 17.10. Gold diadem from Warrior’s Grave of Aegina (lost, after Hiller 2009: fig. 135)

Fig. 17.11. Gold diadems from the Aegina Treasure (British Museum, after Fitton 2009: fig. 66)

  • 1 For a catalogue of MH sites with jewellery, see Higgins 1980: 204.
  • 2 For a probable presence of the grave within a tumulus, see Rutter 1990: 455-458.

12In mainland Greece, the presence of gold jewellery is particularly rare1 (Blegen et alii 1964: 4; Dickinson 1977: 72-75; 1994: 184; Hood 1978: 197; Higgins 1980: 51-52; Poursat 2008: 137-139; Laffineur 2010). The rings from the tumuli at Drachmani (Sotiriadis 1908: 93-96, fig. 16; Müller 1989: 22 with bibliography) and Aphidna (Forsén 2010: 231, fig. 3, with bibliography) are the earliest MH gold artefacts, dating apparently to a very early stage of MH according to the pottery. The rest of the gold ornaments appear to date to the period’s end. The gold diadem or headband from Asine (Fig. 17.12), decorated in the traditional (EM) technique of dot repoussé, was originally dated to MH II (Dietz 1980: 83-84, 88; Kilian-Dirlmeier 1997: 56-57), but the results of radiocarbon analysis make a date in MH 111 more likely (Voutsaki et alii 2010; Voutsaki et alii 2011: 450, 453). To this same mature MH period date the gold diadem from grave 3 at ancient Corinth2, decorated with curvilinear dot repoussé motifs and circular bosses (Fig. 17.13) (Shear 1930: 407-408; Blegen et alii 1964: pl. 4), and the gold ornaments from two graves in ‘Tumulus’ E at Argos: a diadem with curvilinear dot repoussé motifs and circular bosses (Fig. 17.14) in grave 1 (88) (Protonotariou-Deilaki 1990: 77, fig. 16; 2009: 159, 369, 562: fig. 5), and three foil ornaments with simple repoussé dot motifs, in grave 5 (92) (Protonotariou-Deilaki 1990: 76, fig. 14b; 2009: 167-168, 562: fig. 8).

Fig. 17.12. Gold diadem from Asine (Archaeological Museum of Nauplion, photo by the authors)

Fig. 17.13. Gold diadem from Corinth (Archaeological Museum of Corinth, courtesy ASCSA)

Fig. 17.14. Gold diadem from Argos (Archaeological Museum of Argos, courtesy of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Argolid, photo by G. Touchais)

3. The different parts of the pendant and more detailed correlations

3.1. The gold sheet

  • 3 Actually the two authors do not exactly mention the same pendants, Branigan erroneously recorded fo (...)

13As mentioned above, the Aspis pendant is of triangular shape, which is rather uncommon. In Crete there were only six gold triangular pendants, while 23 more come from an ornament belonging to the Thyreatis Treasure. The Cretan examples, recorded by Branigan (1974: 41 Type VII, 185, pls 19-21) and Vasilakis (1996: 150-167, Type XIII)3, come from Mochlos (3 examples), the Trapeza cave (1), Archanes (1) and Haghia Triada (1).

  • 4 According to Vasilakis the L of both is 4.6 cm.
  • 5 The width is not given by the author.

14Among the three triangular pendants from Prepalatial Mochlos, two are the better preserved (Fig. 17.15) (Seager 1912: figs 8-9: II.15a-b). Their dimensions (3 x 54 cm, 2.5 x 5 cm) are similar to those of the Aspis artefact. However, their quite straight sides and acute base angles do not resemble the ‘smooth’ shape of the Aspis pendant, with its slightly concave-convex sides and rounded base angles. The pendant from the Trapeza cave (Fig. 17.16) (Pendlebury et alii 1935-1936: 102-103, pl. 15, no 11) is quite small (ca. 1.45 x 2.6 cm) with straight sides but rounded angles. The pendants from House Tomb 6 at Archanes (Fig. 17.17) (Sakellarakis & Sapouna-Sakellarakis 1997: 639, figs 700-701), and the tholos at Haghia Triada (Fig. 17.18) (Banti 1930-31: 194, fig. 63) are bigger (1.9 x 2.9 cm and 1.6 x 2.7 cm respectively) with slightly curved sides and base angles. The latter are the closest parallels to the Aspis pendant (Fig. 17.19).

15Outside Crete, a series of 23 triangular pendants on simple chains hang from the necklace or head ornament of the Thyreatis Treasure (Fig. 17.7) (Reinholdt 1993: 5, figs 5, 9a-b). Their form is similar to the Aspis ornament with the difference that they are much smaller and almost equilateral (1.2 x 1.5 cm) (Fig. 17.20).

16Finally, it is worth noting the resemblance of the triangular pendants to Branigan’s cosmetic scrapers (Type VI) with slightly concave sides, convex base, and occasional suspension loop (Fig. 17.21) (Branigan 1974: 33, 176-177, nos 1442-1452, pls 16-17) from EM II-MM II (Kalathiana, Platanos, Christos) or EC II (Chalandriani, Naxos, Amorgos) contexts. There is also some similarity with Branigan’s flat axes (Type III) with concave sides and convex cutting edge (Branigan 1974: 24; see also Higgins 1980: 56). However, scrapers and flat axes are both generally much longer and always made of bronze.

17We tend to believe that the Aspis pendant, although hanging from a chain, was not part of a composite jewel (diadem or necklace), but an isolated ornament worn on the chest. This assumption is based on the relatively large size and thickness of the sheet.

Fig. 17.15. Triangular gold pendants from Mochlos (Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, photo by the authors)

Fig. 17.16. Gold pendant from Trapeza (courtesy of the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion)

Fig. 17.17. Gold pendant from Archanes (courtesy of the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion)

Fig. 17.18. Gold pendant from Haghia Triada (courtesy of the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion)

Fig. 17.19. The gold pendant from Aspis Argos (Archaeological Museum of Argos, photo Ph. Collet, EFA)

Fig. 17.20. Gold pendants from the diadem of the Thyreatis Treasure (after Reinholdt 1993: fig. 9)

Fig. 17.21. Bronze cosmetic scraper (Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, photo by the authors)

3.2. The suspension loop

  • 6 The type of suspension in the Trapeza example is not mentioned and cannot be distinguished in the p (...)

18Interestingly, neither of the above mentioned triangular pendants has a twisted suspension loop like the Aspis example, which is the only known triangular pendant suspended from a chain by a twisted loop. All six Minoan examples are pierced for hanging6, while the upper edge of the Thyreatis Treasure pendants is folded back (Fig. 17.20) (Reinholdt 1993: fig. 6, no A.6). Nevertheless, the method of looping the ends is standard in a number of Minoan gold pendants much smaller in size and of different shapes (conical, leaf and heart-shaped) (Figs 17.4- 17.5, 17.8); for this reason Higgins considers this method to be Minoan (Higgins 1987: 182).

  • 7 The ‘Master of Animals’, Higgins 1957a: pl. I c, no 761; Fitton 2009: figs 11-12, 15; the ‘pectoral (...)

19Regarding the type of the Aspis loop, we may observe that is formed by a wire twisted no more than three times. This rather ‘loose’ twisting recalls the EM II-III loop types of Mochlos and Sphoungaras (on smaller and differently shaped pendants) (Fig. 17.4-17.5). By contrast, the wire of the loops from MM Malia is twisted more times, more tightly and regularly to form a longer suspension stem (Fig. 17.8). Looping ends similar to the Malia type occur in pendants of the Aegina Treasure7 (Fig. 17.22) and, apparently, of Kythera (Fig. 17.23). So, if the existence of two different traditions of loop formation in Minoan Crete is indeed the case, each one relating to a different space-time horizon, the Aspis pendant can be associated with the Prepalatial Mochlos tradition rather than that of Protopalatial Malia.

Fig. 17.22. Pendants from the Aegina Treasure with long suspension stem (after Fitton 2009: fig. 12)

Fig. 17.23. Gold pendant from Kythera (courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum)

  • 8 All motifs that decorate the late MBA mainland diadems occur already in the repertoire of EM diadem (...)

20In MBA mainland Greece, the twisting loops are used exclusively for gold diadem attachments. The earliest diadem using the looping method is that of the Warrior Grave at Aegina (Fig. 17.10) dated to MB II (Kilian-Dirlmeier 1997, 54-57, pls. 6: 9, 8: 9). By the end of the period, gold diadems with similar attachments occur in the Aegina Treasure (Fig. 17.11) (Higgins 1957a: pl. II b, nos 683, 684; Fitton 2009, figs 66-67), at Corinth (Fig. 17.13) and Argos (Fig. 17.14). The ends of the diadem from Asine are slightly different (eye and a small hook) (Fig. 17.12), possibly due to later repair (Dietz 1991: 30). All these late MB/MH diadems are thought to constitute a common continental tradition, mainly because of their similar shape and decoration (Dickinson 1977: 72-75; Hiller 2009; Laffineur 2010). However, in terms of shape and decoration, mainland diadems closely imitate Minoan examples8. The element that, in our opinion, is a real innovation of the Aegina and mainland workshop (s) is the addition of the twisting loop, since all Minoan diadems were attached with holes (see also Kilian-Dirlmeier 1997: 57).

3.3. The chain

21The loop-in-loop chain is known throughout Mesopotamia, the Near East and the Aegean in the first half of the 3rd millennium BC and has been considered a strong technological gold working link between these regions (Bass 1966: 26-39; McCallum 1983; Athanasopoulos et alii 1983; Konstantinidi 2001: 14-15; Fitton 2009). It first appears in Mesopotamia in the jewellery of Mari (ca. 2900 BC) and in the Royal Tombs of Ur around the middle of the 3rd millennium BC (Nicolini 2011: 77, 309-310; Prévalet 2013: 136-137). In the Aegean, it is abundantly represented in the EM II-III jewellery of Mochlos (Fig. 17.4) and other EM sites (Haghia Triada, Platanos, Sphoungaras, Petras). There are, of course, many examples from Troy and Poliochni.

22In the Middle Bronze Age, there are some examples of loop-in-loop chain at Malia (Fig. 17.8; 17.24) (Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki 2005: 326), while the same type is widely used in the elaborate ornaments of the Aegina Treasure (Fig. 17.25) (Fitton 2009: figs 18-19, 31, 48-49, 60-61, 72, 74, 78). The chain of the Aspis pendant represents the first known example of the loop-in-loop chain technique in mainland Greece. This technique is not attested again until the early Mycenaean period in two cases: tombs III and IV of Grave Circle A at Mycenae (Figs 17.26-17.27) (Karo 1930-33: pls XXII no 78, XXXIX nos 236-239). G. Mylonas had noted its absence from Grave Circle B, as well as the overall lack of pendants there (1973: 336, 338).

Fig. 17.24. Loop-in-loop chain from Malia (Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, after Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki 2005: 326)

Fig. 17.25. Loop-in-loop chain from the Aegina Treasure (after Fitton 2009: fig. 53)

Fig. 17.26. Gold band with rhomboid pendants, Grave Circle A (courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum)

Fig. 17.27. Gold pendants suspended from chains, Grave Circle A (courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum)

  • 9 We do not have precise measurements of all mentioned samples at this stage of the study.

23It is worth noting that all the EBA examples of loop-in-loop chain are extremely fine9, the links quite small and therefore the knitting very tight. The Kythera chain, with controversial date, as mentioned above, is quite fine as well (Fig. 17.23). In contrast, the loop-in-loop chain tends to be less subtle in the MBA (Figs 17.24-17.25), while in one example from Grave Circle A (Fig. 17.27) the links are even larger resulting in a more sparse braid. The Aspis chain is clearly closer to the MBA technique.

4. Concluding remarks

4.1. Date and origin

24As mentioned at the beginning, the Aspis pendant was found in a MH II context but this does not necessarily mean that it was made in that period, or that it was the product of a MH workshop. Based on the evidence reviewed above, it is difficult to formulate a definite conclusion on its exact time and place of manufacture before the detailed technological study is complete.

25The pendant could be of earlier date, imported from Crete and possibly derived from a Prepalatial grave at Mochlos, which had been disturbed or even plundered by MM I (Seager 1912: 16-17), or from some other Minoan cemetery of the same period, or later. This appears to us a quite likely scenario since, as we saw above, the category of gold triangular pendants, the twisted loop attachment, and the loop-in-loop chain are all Minoan features par excellence. Moreover, according to Branigan (1974: 41), all Aegean pendants may be dated within EB II, although in Crete mixed deposits containing examples of this type include material down to MM II. In this case, the pendant may have arrived in the Argolid from Crete with other ‘exotic’ objects, such as sets of MM IA or MM IB-II pottery (Rutter & Zerner 1984; Zerner 1993: 50), or small stone vases of EM III to MM I-II date, such as those found at Aspis Argos (Vollgraff 1906: 38, fig. 68; Warren 1969: 184), Asine, and the prehistoric cemetery at Mycenae (Warren 1969: 184; Rutter & Zerner 1984).

  • 10 On the basis of new pottery data, Hiller (2009: 37) argues, though, that a MH III date is by no mea (...)

26Alternatively, the pendant could date to MH II and be the product of a mainland workshop. We saw above that the first gold diadem with tapering ends and twisted loops was probably manufactured at Aegina in MB 1110, for the Warrior’s Grave (Higgins 1987; Kilian-Dirlmeier 1997). In this case, it would not be difficult for goldsmiths in Aegina – or even Argos – to manufacture a simple triangular pendant, which, in any case, was strongly reminiscent of the triangular ends of undecorated diadems (Fig. 17.28). Nevertheless, even if the Aeginetan diadem – and the gold weapon mountings from the same grave – were made in local workshop (s), they strongly suggest Minoan technological and artistic influence. It is well known that already in MH I-II there were ceramic industries in mainland Greece and at Aegina, which were manufacturing Minoanising pottery (Zerner 1993; Hiller 1993; Philippa-Touchais 2003; Kiriatzi 2010; Gauss & Kiriatzi 2011: 178-180). It could therefore be assumed that alongside these Minoanising pottery industries there may have been jewellery workshops, in Aegina or sites of the Eastern Peloponnese, where artisans possessed a good knowledge of Minoan gold working.

Fig. 17.28. Aegina Treasure, detail of diadem (after Fitton 2009: fig. 67)

27In conclusion, concerning the date and origin of the Aspis ornament, the preliminary study indicates that according to its main morphological characteristics (shape, absence of decoration, means of suspension, type of chain) it is closely connected to the Minoan jewellery tradition, ranging from EM II to MM II. However, there are certain technological features, such as the way the pendant is suspended and the making of the chain, which suggest that: 1) the ornament was manufactured using Minoan gold work practices but in an innovative way, and 2) the artisan who produced the ornament, at least the chain or part of it, was not highly experienced. Therefore it may be assumed that the gold pendant was made in a ‘Minoanising’ workshop in mainland Greece.

4.2. Contexts and meanings

28Recent studies have emphasised that jewels in prehistoric communities had multidimensional uses and transferred multiple meanings (e.g. adornment for the body and emphasis on the beauty, gender, age, social position and role of an individual or group in a community, connection and solidarity with some people and differentiation from others) (Veropoulidou 2015: 195). When jewels are found in funerary context (as in most cases in the Bronze Age Aegean) they are usually considered to be connected to metaphysical beliefs. In the EBA Aegean and Near East, pendants are traditionally considered to have had amuletic and/or magical properties, for the protection or wellbeing of their owners (e.g. Branigan 1973; Laffineur 1996; Nicolini 2011). Regarding the gold triangular pendants specifically, it is not excluded that, apart from their possible talismanic or other meaning, they may have represented, in a stylised way, tools or implements (cosmetic scraper or axe-head) of ceremonial use, often used as pendants (Branigan 1965; 1966). Note that seven bronze pendants in the shape of a double axe were found in two graves of MH I date at Kastroulia in Messenia (Rambach 2007). The use of gold to make pendants was certainly intended to increase their natural and symbolic value (Laffineur 1996; 2010: 451), and reinforce possible religious as well as social meanings (Whittaker 2006; 2014).

29The question is: what kind of meaning a gold funerary pendant of Minoan or Minoanising origin could have had in a MBA Mainland domestic context? If the ornament was indeed imported, it is probable that the people who brought it to the Argolid informed the new owner as to its significance. But, what would a Mainlander, living in a different world, with diverse social structures, codes and symbolic references, understand about this significance? What was left of the original meaning and what was lost in translation, as Joseph Maran would wonder (2011).

30It is well known that it was uncommon for MBA Mainlanders to place offerings, and even less so valuables, in graves. Among the prevailing explanations for this phenomenon are: poverty, suppressed individual identity in a society structured around the family (Cavanagh & Mee 1998: 126), or authority embedded in kin relations that did not require rich graves for legitimation (see most recently Voutsaki 2010: 92). Based on the evidence from early MH Asine and Lerna, S. Voutsaki (2010: 91) noted that manufactured or imported artefacts were much more often found in MH settlement deposits than in graves. This suggests that there were more goods circulating in early MH settlements than traditionally thought. The author discerns however a marked homogeneity between households and argues that material culture was not used in strategies of differentiation or personal aggrandisement (Voutsaki 2010: 92).

31Conversely, L. Spencer proposes that the early MH communities of the southern mainland, where a wider range of pottery was produced and imported, were less cohesive, more materially differentiated and therefore possibly more competitive (Spencer 2010: 678-679). She also inferred an acquisitive ethos for early MH households (Spencer 2007: 150). On the other hand, J. Maran has perceptively assumed that early MH communities were already latently stratified, but masked inequality by restraining the centrifugal dynamics inherent in the self-aggrandisement of specific families (Maran 2011: 286).

32Evidence from the domestic area of the Aspis settlement appears to point in the same direction, furnishing elements of social asymmetry in an early stage of the MH period. These are mainly: 1) A deposit of pottery of MH I-early II date, including five or six very large storage jars, which may indicate accumulation of agricultural surplus (Philippa-Touchais & Touchais 2011).

332) A rich assemblage of imported vases (Aeginetan and Minoanising) coming from a burnt habitation level, probably a large house, dating to MH I – early MH II (Philippa-Touchais & Balitsari: in preparation). It has been argued that imported vessels in early MH were of great value (both materially and symbolically) and their acquisition was a sign of differentiated social status (Wright 2004: 138-140). Moreover, the excellent quality of the assemblage and its specific shape repertoire (mainly for serving) indicate formal ceremonial practices involving communal eating and drinking.

343) An enceinte around the settlement, or at least part of it, dated to a late stage of MH II; its circular course, as well as the presence of at least one more concentric circuit wall, emphasise the focused organisation of the settlement (Philippa-Touchais 2016). This type of layout may reflect spatial hierarchy and the inception of differentiation within the community (Wright 1994: 49-50).

35Under such possible conditions of social change, the acquisition of a ‘quite exceptional ornament’ (Dickinson 1994: 184) like the Aspis gold pendant, whether as part of an early MH acquisitive ethos (Spencer), or as an act of masked aggrandisement (Maran), was, in our opinion, intended rather to claim or emphasise personal prestige and display links with ‘elite’ networks outside the mainland. This ornament is, as far as we know, the earliest attested occurrence – in the Argolid – of a society in transformation, which, according to Maran (2011: 289), was being shaped through the ever-increasing openness towards the Other, agency, and the interpretation of foreign objects or traits into a new cultural system of references. It could, therefore, be suggested that the shaping of new forms of elite self-representation through intercultural contacts with the Cretans, may have appeared in the Argolid, as at Aegina, earlier than previously thought.

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Notes

1 For a catalogue of MH sites with jewellery, see Higgins 1980: 204.

2 For a probable presence of the grave within a tumulus, see Rutter 1990: 455-458.

3 Actually the two authors do not exactly mention the same pendants, Branigan erroneously recorded four examples from Mochlos and not the one from Archanes, while Vasilakis did not record the example from Trapeza.

4 According to Vasilakis the L of both is 4.6 cm.

5 The width is not given by the author.

6 The type of suspension in the Trapeza example is not mentioned and cannot be distinguished in the photo.

7 The ‘Master of Animals’, Higgins 1957a: pl. I c, no 761; Fitton 2009: figs 11-12, 15; the ‘pectoral with twin profile heads’, Higgins 1957a: pl. II a, no 761; Fitton 2009: figs 41, 45-46.

8 All motifs that decorate the late MBA mainland diadems occur already in the repertoire of EM diadems, while the X motif, which Hiller considered characteristic of Aegina pottery, occurs already in the EH jewellery from Tsepi Marathon (fig. 17.6).

9 We do not have precise measurements of all mentioned samples at this stage of the study.

10 On the basis of new pottery data, Hiller (2009: 37) argues, though, that a MH III date is by no means excluded.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 17.1. The gold pendant from Aspis Argos (photo R. Prévalet)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 12k
Légende Fig. 17.2. Topographic plan of the Aspis hilltop with excavated MH settlement remains (EFA, L. Fadin)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 32k
Légende Fig. 17.3. Plan of the North sector. The red star indicates the place of discovery of the gold pendant (EFA, W. Philippa)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 39k
Légende Tab. 17.1. Quantitative elemental analysis
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 14k
Légende Fig. 17.4. Gold pendants from Mochlos (Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, after Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki 2005: 59)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 21k
Légende Fig. 17.5. Gold pendants from Sphoungaras (Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, after Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki 2005: 59)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 12k
Légende Fig. 17.6. Gold strip from Tsepi Marathon (Archaeological Museum of Marathon, courtesy M. Pantelidou-Gofa)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 10k
Légende Fig. 17.7. Gold diadem from the Thyreatis Treasure (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 19k
Légende Fig. 17.8. Gold pendants from Malia (Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, after Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki 2005: 326)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 14k
Légende Fig. 17.9. Gold diadem from Keos (after Overbeck 1989, courtesy of the Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 12k
Légende Fig. 17.10. Gold diadem from Warrior’s Grave of Aegina (lost, after Hiller 2009: fig. 135)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 11k
Légende Fig. 17.11. Gold diadems from the Aegina Treasure (British Museum, after Fitton 2009: fig. 66)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 31k
Légende Fig. 17.12. Gold diadem from Asine (Archaeological Museum of Nauplion, photo by the authors)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 10k
Légende Fig. 17.13. Gold diadem from Corinth (Archaeological Museum of Corinth, courtesy ASCSA)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Légende Fig. 17.14. Gold diadem from Argos (Archaeological Museum of Argos, courtesy of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Argolid, photo by G. Touchais)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 17k
Légende Fig. 17.15. Triangular gold pendants from Mochlos (Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, photo by the authors)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 12k
Légende Fig. 17.16. Gold pendant from Trapeza (courtesy of the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 9,8k
Légende Fig. 17.17. Gold pendant from Archanes (courtesy of the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 7,4k
Légende Fig. 17.18. Gold pendant from Haghia Triada (courtesy of the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 5,4k
Légende Fig. 17.19. The gold pendant from Aspis Argos (Archaeological Museum of Argos, photo Ph. Collet, EFA)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 10k
Légende Fig. 17.20. Gold pendants from the diadem of the Thyreatis Treasure (after Reinholdt 1993: fig. 9)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Légende Fig. 17.21. Bronze cosmetic scraper (Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, photo by the authors)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 7,8k
Légende Fig. 17.22. Pendants from the Aegina Treasure with long suspension stem (after Fitton 2009: fig. 12)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 34k
Légende Fig. 17.23. Gold pendant from Kythera (courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 15k
Légende Fig. 17.24. Loop-in-loop chain from Malia (Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, after Demopoulou-Rethemiotaki 2005: 326)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 12k
Légende Fig. 17.25. Loop-in-loop chain from the Aegina Treasure (after Fitton 2009: fig. 53)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 38k
Légende Fig. 17.26. Gold band with rhomboid pendants, Grave Circle A (courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 27k
Légende Fig. 17.27. Gold pendants suspended from chains, Grave Circle A (courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-28.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 23k
Légende Fig. 17.28. Aegina Treasure, detail of diadem (after Fitton 2009: fig. 67)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/6722/img-29.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 7,4k

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