image/svg+xml201XII/2/2021INTERDISCIPLINARIA ARCHAEOLOGICANATURAL SCIENCES IN ARCHAEOLOGYhomepage: http://www.iansa.euIdentifying Wheel-Thrown Vases in Middle Minoan Crete? Preliminary Analysis of Experimental Replicas of Plain Handleless Conical Cups from Protopalatial PhaistosIlaria Caloi1*1Department of Humanities, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Dorsoduro 3484/D, 30123 Venice, Italy1. IntroductionThere is now a general agreement among scholars that the potter’s wheel was developed on Crete around 1900 BC (e.g., Evely, 1988; Knappett, 1999; Van de Moortel, 2006; Caloi, 2011), corresponding to the frst emergence of palatial societies, but there is no agreement on the manner of use of this device across the island. Some scholars support the idea that the potter’s wheel was used in combination with hand-building, and especially coil-building, until the Late Bronze Age (Jefra, 2013; Knappett, 2016); others state that wheel-coiling was not the only forming technique adopted on the island during the Middle Bronze Age, but that it co-existed with other forming techniques, including that of wheel-throwing (Speziale, 1999; MacGillivray, 1998; 2007; Van de Moortel, 2006; Berg, 2009; 2011; Wiener, 2011; Caloi, 2011; 2019; Todaro, 2017).One of the best approaches to assess the degree and manner of use of the potter’s wheel is to examine the potential traces left by it on fnished Minoan products, in comparison with those left on experimental reproductions under known conditions (Van der Leeuw, 1976; Rice, 1987; Courty, Roux, 1995; Outram, 2008; O’Sullivan et al., 2014). For this paper I used this approach, already applied at some scale to the Minoan evidence by Jefra (2011; 2013), to test the hypothesis that wheel-throwing was adopted in Protopalatial Crete, and especially at Phaistos, in Middle Minoan IIA (MM IIA). Unlike previous investigations, I chose to reproduce only a specifc drinking pot – the plain handleless conical cup in use in Protopalatial times – but using three diferent techniques (wheel-pinching, wheel-coiling, and throwing-of-the-hump). To do so, I sourced raw materials (i.e., natural clays collected from Southern Crete) and tools (bronze and wood tools) that mirror those used in Minoan times, together with a potter’s wheel reconstructed on the basis of the archaeological evidence provided by Minoan Volume XII ● Issue 2/2021 ● Pages 201–216*Corresponding author. E-mail: icaloi@unive.itARTICLE INFOArticle history:Received: 1stFebruary 2021Accepted: 15thNovember 2021DOI: words:Bronze Age AegeanMinoan CreteExperimental ArchaeologyCeramic-forming techniquesPotter’s WheelABSTRACTRecent work in Middle Bronze Age Crete has revealed that most Protopalatial or First Palace period pottery is produced through the use of a combination of coil-building and the wheel, i.e., wheel-coiling. Experimental work conducted on pottery from Minoan sites of Northern and Eastern Crete (e.g., Knossos, Myrtos Pyrgos, Palaikastro) has indeed determined that Minoan potters did not develop the skills required to adopt the wheel-throwing technique. However, my recent technological study of Protopalatial ceramic material from Middle Minoan IIA (19thcentury BC) deposits from the First Palace at Phaistos, in Southern Crete, has revealed that though pottery was produced by the wheel-coiling techniques, yet other forming techniques were practised too.In this paper I present a preliminary analysis of experimental replicas of MM IIA Phaistian plain handleless conical cups, manufactured on the potter’s wheel using three diferent forming techniques: wheel-pinching, wheel-coiling, and throwing-of-the-hump. This analysis will profer answers to several questions on the use of the potter’s wheel in Middle Bronze Age Crete and opens the possibility that at MM IIA Phaistos there co-existed potters who had developed skills to employ diferent forming techniques on the wheel, including possibly that of throwing-of-the-hump.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2021 ● XII/2 ● 201–216Ilaria Caloi: Identifying Wheel-Thrown Vases in Middle Minoan Crete? Preliminary Analysis of Experimental Replicas of Plain Handleless Conical Cups from Protopalatial Phaistos202sites (Evely, Morrison, 2010) and a pit-kiln similar to the ones found at Pre- and Protopalatial Phaistos (see Todaro, 2016 for this “best practice approach”).The results point frst to the existence of ceramic traditions that difer across the island and especially between Southern Crete and North/Eastern Crete, and second to the co-existence and co-working of potters employing diferent devices. It appears that at Middle Bronze Age Phaistos, individual potters or potting groups were operating, sharing only some stages of the manufacturing process, i.e., using the same clay sources and recipes of clay pastes, but practising diferent forming techniques. Alongside a variety of hand-building techniques, some combined with the use of the wheel, it is possible that also the wheel-throwing one was used to throw small pots, though this is little or not at all attested elsewhere on the island.1.2 Background: the ceramic technology of Protopalatial Crete (19th–18thcentury BC)The Middle Bronze Age in Crete includes the last phase of the Prepalatial period (i.e., MM IA), the whole Protopalatial period, which corresponds to the emergence of the First Palaces on Crete, and the frst phase of the Neopalatial period (i.e., MM III) – cf.Table 1. I will mainly focus on the Protopalatial period, which is subdivided into three phases: MM IB, MM IIA and MM IIB (Table 1).Most recent studies on the ceramic technology of Protopalatial pottery from sites of Northern and Eastern Crete (i.e.,Knossos, Malia, Myrtos Pyrgos and Palaikastro – Figure 1) have revealed that after the introduction of the potter’s wheel in MM IB (19thcentury BC), the wheel-coiling method was the only forming technique employed in the island during the Protopalatial period and probably also later in the successive periods (Jefra, 2013; Knappett, 2016; contraBerg, 2009; 2011). The four wheel-coiling methods identifed by Roux and Courty (1998) in the prehistoric Levant have been recognised in the evidence provided by the Aegean world (Choleva, 2012). According to some studies on the Minoan evidence as supported by experimental works, the Minoans did not develop the skills to use the wheel-throwing technique, but preferred to use a combination between coil-building and the use of the wheel, i.e., wheel-coiling (Jefra, 2011; 2013; Roux, Jefra, 2015). At the time of the wheel’s adoption on Crete, these studies tend to argue that there existed only one hand-building tradition, coil-building. But a number of studies have also shown that in Prepalatial Crete there existed other hand-building techniques, such as slab-construction, used to produce the well-known Early Minoan IIB Vasiliki Ware (Betancourt et al., 1979), pinching (Levi, Carinci, 1988; Van de Moortel, 2006), layering, and press-moulding (Todaro, 2019). According to Todaro (2017; 2019), most of these techniques went on to be used in combination with the potter’s wheel in Protopalatial times.Moreover, some scholars support the idea that in MM IIA the potter’s wheel was used in its full potential to produce only small vessels, like the plain handleless conical cups. MacGillivray, frst in 1998 (p.85) and again in 2007 (pp.130–132), suggested that at MM IIA Knossos a new class of cups appeared, produced in Fine Buf Crude Ware, which looks to be manufactured using the throwing-of-the-hump technique. Together with other scholars (Wiener, 2011, pp.356–357), he proposed that “this innovation was Table 1.Phasing of Middle Bronze Age on Crete with absolute dating.Prepalatial period MM IA2150–1900 BCProtopalatial period MM IB1900–1850 BCMM IIA1850–1800 BCMM IIB1800–1700 BCNeopalatial periodMM III1700–1600 BCFigure 1.Map of Crete with an indication of Phaistos and other Minoan sites mentioned in the text.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2021 ● XII/2 ● 201–216Ilaria Caloi: Identifying Wheel-Thrown Vases in Middle Minoan Crete? Preliminary Analysis of Experimental Replicas of Plain Handleless Conical Cups from Protopalatial Phaistos203almost certainly borrowed from Egypt” (MacGillivray, 2007, p.131), where this technique, represented in a number of depictions, was introduced during the VthDynasty and then used to produce miniature vases (Doherty, 2015). At Protopalatial Knossos, some wheel-thrown handleless cups have been recognised by means of X-radiography by Berg (Berg, 2009; 2011; see also Knappett, 2004). In Southern Crete, recent studies conducted at the sites of Phaistos (Caloi, 2011; 2019; Todaro, 2017; Baldacci, 2017), Kommos (Van de Moortel, 2006, pp.328–329) and Ayia Triada (Baldacci, forthcoming) have also shown that wheel-coiling was not the only technique in use in the Protopalatial period.In Minoan Crete, only ceramic discs have been recorded in the archaeological record (Xanthoudides, 1927; Hampe, Winter, 1962; Evely, 1988; Puglisi, 2018), while no actual complete “Minoan wheels” have been preserved and no representations of these instruments are available in the Minoan media. For this reason, scholars have tried to reconstruct the potter’s wheel used in Minoan times on the sole basis of the archaeological evidence recorded at the sites (Evely, 1988; Morrison, Park, 2008; Evely, Morrison, 2010) and through ethnographic parallels. In particular, experimental archaeology using the potter’s wheel reconstructed by Morrison with Park (2008) showed that this device can produce enough rotational kinetic energy (RKE) not only to fnish/shape vases, but also to throw vessels of small dimensions. It is also relevant to mention that experimental archaeology conducted using ancient Egyptian wheels (defned as “high velocity, low inertia”) indicated that the latter could be used to throw only lumps of clays not heavier than 1–2 kg (Powell, 1995, p.394).2. MethodsFor this work, I pursued a combined approach. This integrates the macroscopic examination of locally-made, plain handleless cups and a detailed study of the traces identifed on these same vessels with the testing of their technological properties by experimental reproduction carried out by a professional potter, Vassilis Politakis (