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Excavations in Boeotia, Phocis, and Thessaly introduced two very simple Neolithic techniques in their pottery, the unornamented (monochromatic) and incised ware. The incised painted vases were extreamly prominent st the sites of Dimini and Sesklo. This style of painting incorporated many new principles in its decoration including curvilinear patterns and rectilinear styles to create somethin completely different in its decoration. Also, a wide array of colors were used on the vase such as white, red, yellow, black on white, and brown on yellow.
Stone Age vessle from Dimini
Stone Age vessle from Sesklo
Neolithic pottery in the southern regions showed little simularity to the pottery in northern areas. Digs at Crete produced only vases with incised geometric patterns and a majority of plain, undecorated pottery.
During the Neolithic, pottery was generally fashioned by hand and remained in the household where it was created. The clay was usually fired black over an open flame then ploished with smooth stones and incised upon. Later the clay was made less impure and baked instead of being fired over an open fire. The most important advancement of this time was the creation of "varnish" which was a black color glaze that laid the ground for the future black figure.
With the Bronze Age, the "varnish" from the Neolithic was prefected and the creation of the potter's wheel were the key innovations of this period. Also, the imitation of metal forms on clay and the potter's oven begin to appear in the Bronze Age. The excavations at Hissarlik by Heinrich Schliemann during 1871, 1878, and 1890 show the advancement of pottery from hand-made and poorly fired pieces to the more developed stages that were thrown on the potter's wheel. The intorduction of Face-urns were also developed during this time. These urns made attempts at showing the human from through adding facial features and other body parts to the urn.
Early Minoan pottery followed one of two paths during the Bronze Age. Vases were covered with the "varnish" of its time then painted on with a white color in patters, or the vases were left clay colored and painted with a single band of "varnish". This style would later resurface and become known as the Mycenean technique.
Early Minoan Clay Vessles
Middle Minoan pottery showed the techniques of a more developed Bronze Age culture. The clay is clensed and pure, the "varnish" is completely developed, and shades of red begin to appear in pottery. "A transition leads to the brilliant period of the Kamares style, named after the first discoveries in the Kamares cave on Mt. Ida." (Buschor, 8). The Kamares style, polychromy is fully developed and decoration is very diverse. The pottery itself becomes even more developed, copying the styles of metal work. Cups, beaked jugs, beaked saucers, and amphorae with handles become common place. Along with the usual geometric patterns of the time, plant motifs such as vegetables, leaves, branches, and tendrils, appear on pottery.
Kamares Style Pouring Vessle
At the end of the Middle Minoan era the Kamares style has been relegated to background and a new style stealing from wall paintings of this period was developed. This new style delt mainly with vivid representation of human and animal figures in dark colors on light colored clay.
Octopus Jar from Late Minoan Period
This trend of naturalism is extreamly short lived however. The return to the formulated decorative patterns and stylized plant forms returns and is the basis for future styles. The second Late Minoan period gave birth to the Palace style. While the neck and foot of the vases of this style were neglected, the shoulders of the pottery were often emphasized with half branches. The Kamares technique of placing red, white, and orange on a background was replaced with the Mycenean technique of black on the natural clay.
During the Late Helladic III period, pottery abandoned the Middle Helladic tradition and assimilated the foreign influences thus creating a pure Mycenaean tradition. The free drawing composition gave way to order and symmetry. The quality of pottery was considerably improved and production became massive. The vases of this period were influenced by the themes of the frescoes. Illustrations of animals, birds and human figures or even iconographic scenes of a narrative character appear for the first time on pottery. These elements and the more general decorative trends of that period present a uniformity on a large part of the Mycenaean territory Clear peculiarities in the local workshops, which express the dissolution of the previous centralized trends are distinguished from the Late Helladic III C period. Ceramic which comes from sites where ceramic kilns have been discovered facilitate the distinction of the regional differences. The next and last phase of the Submycenaean period reveal clearly the signs of decline which are expressed in the simplification of the decoration and the inartistic manufacture of ceramics.
The third Late Minoan period is seen as a step backwards in terms of pottery. Most examples are considered inferrior to the earlier palace style vessles. The last showing of naturalistic decoration that was common at the end of the Middle Minoan period appears in a lifeless and poor representation. Overall decoration was fairly loose and appeared around the shoulders of the vases with bands around the lower parts of the vase.
In contrast, Late Mycenean vases exhibited a large array of figure representation. The two classes of figure vases were animal representation and battle field and other compositions taken from wall paintings. " The best-known example is the Warrior vase from the Mycenae representing the departure for the battlefield." (Buschor, 15)
Warrior vase from Mycenae
"Apart from these figured representations, one may say that Cretan vase-painting, after its brilliant achievements in the Kamares, shaft graves, and Palace styles, sinks down to that primitive level from which it started: it becomes once more a geometric style." (Buschor, 15). With shifts in population known as the Dorian Invasion the Bronze Age came to a close. Mycenean style pottery disappears and began to give way to the Geometric Style.
Buschor, Ernst. Greek Vase-Painting. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1978.
Whitley, James. The Archaelolgy of Ancient Greece. 2004. Ed. Norman Yoffee. Cambridge: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 2004.
Richter, Gisela M.A. A Handbook of Greek Art: A Survey of the Visual Arts of Ancient Greece. 1959. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1987.
EARLY MINOAN POTTERY, INCLUDING EXAMPLES WITH "BEAK" OR "TEAPOT SPOUTS". Sculpture. 21 Nov. 2005 <http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/moc/img/ 20800.jpg>.
A beaker jug in Kamares style; Middle Minoan IIA, 1800 BC. Photograph. 21 Nov. 2005 <http://www.ou.edu/finearts/art/ahi4913/aegeanslides/008.jpg>.
Octopus Flask. Photograph. 21 Nov. 2005 <http://www.rocky.edu/~mcclurej/ octopusjar.jpg>.
Warrior Vase. Photograph. 22 Nov. 2005 <http://www.beloit.edu/~classics/ Trojan%20War%20Site/Archaeology/Warrior_Vase_Medium(Mycenae_c.1200BCE).jpg>.
Clay Vessle from Dimini. Photograph. 21 Nov. 2005 <http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/greeks/art/pottery/pictures/ dimini.jpg>.
Sesklo Ware. Photograph. 21 Nov. 2005 <http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/ greeks/art/pottery/pictures/sesklo.jpg>.
Posted at Dec 10/2005 08:54AM:
chris witmore: Hi Xxavier, in your movement from Neolithic to the Bronze Age you should consider the sub-periods which mark more subtle shifts in ceramic developments...