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The Pottery called Minyan Ware

  • E. J. Forsdyke


The name ‘Minyan’ has recently been given to a kind of pottery which was first noticed at Orchomenos by Schliemann in 1881. In the report of his excavation which Schliemann contributed to the second volume of the Hellenic Journal, he carefully described the nature and position of this ware. ‘It is very remarkable that at Orchomenos painted pottery, with spirals and other Mycenean ornamentation, also cows with two long horns and the same variegated colours as at Mycenae, as well as goblets of the very same form and colour as at Mycenae, are generally only found down to a depth of about six feet below the surface of the ground, and that at a greater depth, monochrome, black, red, or yellow, hand-made or wheelmade pottery is found almost exclusively, analogous to some of that collected by me in the royal sepulchres at Mycenae. Very frequent here are the large hand-made black goblets or bowls, with a hollow foot and horizontal flutings in the middle, which I also found at Mycenae. . .



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1 J.H.S. ii. (1881), p. 152 [= Schliemann, , Bericht über meine Ausgrabungen im böotischen Orchomenos (Leipzig, 1881)].

2 The word has little meaning in modern Italian. It is not used popularly, and dictionaries vary from ‘tub’ to ‘china jar.’ The Vocabolario della Crusca [ed. 1729] says: ‘vaso fatto di bolo odoroso, per lo più rosso; benchè se ne trovano ancora de' bianchi e de' neri, che si fabbricano nell' Indie, e in Portogallo.’ Mr. R. L. Hobson tells me that the aromatic pottery in question was first imported into Portugal from Central and South America in the Sixteenth Century, and was extensively imitated there during its extraordinary vogue in Europe. The name was derived from Portuguese and Spanish búcaro. ‘ In Italy the term has been taken in a very different acceptation. We find the words “Vasi di Bucchero nero” employed in their writings by the Italian antiquaries, to represent the black pottery discovered in the ancient Etruscan tombs. If we recollect that the earliest excavations made on the site of the Etruscan necropolis took place at the very time when the taste for American ware was asserting itself in the country, we may assume that the signification of the newly-introduced name was extended to black and unglazed pottery in general, without distinction of age or origin. In this way alone can we account for the adoption of such a strange misnomer.’—M. L. Solon in Pottery Worship: The Fallen Idols. I.—The Noble Buccaros, p. 30 [Paper read at the Meeting of the North Staffordshire Literary and Philosophical Society, Oct. 23rd, 1896].

3 Orchomenos i. pp. 9, 15, 53 [ = Abh. d. k. bayer. Akad. d. Wiss. i. Kl. xxiv. Bd. ii. Abt. (1907)].

4 Ilios, p. 587. Schliemann really meant the Buckelkeramik, but did not properly distinguish it.

5 Ἀρχ. Ἐϕ. 1912, p. 21 (Fig. 12, the ringed stem of a goblet from Eleusis).

6 Prehistoric Thessaly, pp. 194, 186, 159.

7 Tsountas, Διμἡνι καὶ Σέσκλο, p. 132.

8 Ἐϕ Ἀρχ. 1898, p. 51; 1912, p. 21.

9 Prehistoric Thessaly, p. 222.

9a Ἐϕ Ἀρχ. 1902, p. 130.

10 Akropolis Vasen, i. p. 1.

11 It is for instance incredible that none was found in the American excavation of the Argive Heraeum, where the painted Mattmalerei was noticed. One suspects that Minyan sherds were well represented among the ‘large number belonging to the “Primitive” class’ which ‘had no decoration of any kind and were therefore thrown on the rubbish heaps’ —Argive Heraeum, ii. p. 60.

12 Ath. Mitt. 1904, p. 95 (Nisaea and Minoa).

13 Mycenae, pp. 154, 241, etc.; Mykenische Vasen, p. 53; Pre. Thessaly, p. 224.

14 Ath. Mitt. 1913, p. 89; Pre. Thessaly, p. 224.

15 Ath. Mitt. 1909, Pl. XXIV. 3. Imported probably from the Argolid.

15a Mr. E. N. Gardiner tells me that he has recently seen pieces from this site in the National Museum at Athens.

16 Arch. Anz. 1909, p. 122; cp. Pre. Thessaly, p. 229.

17 B.C.H. 1906, p. 5.

18 Pre. Thessaly, p. 222.

19 B.S.A. xvii. p. 16, Phylakopi, p. 154.

20 Pre. Thessaly, p. 226.

21 Dawkins and Droop in B.S.A. xvii. p. 17.

22 Furtwaengler and Loescheke made precisely the same classification of the scanty material from Mycenae (Myk. Vasen, p. 54).

23 Mycenae, No. 339.

24 Schliemann Samml. 3176, 3177; cf. Ilios p. 538 (where six examples are illustrated); Troja u. Ilion, i. Pl. 39, v.

25 B.C.H. 1906, p. 9, Fig. 3.

26 Schliemann Samml. 754 (= Ilios, No. 1102), 1219, etc.; and for the shallow form S.S. 3086 (= Troja u. Ilion, i. Fig. 200).

27 Mycenae, No. 349; Myk. Thongef. Pl. V, 22.

28 Pre. Thessaly, p. 223.

29 B.C.H. 1906, p. 13, Fig. 9; cf. Figs. 10–15.

30 Troja u. Ilion, pp. 246, 265, 290.

31 I noted its occurrence on Nos. 3361–3365 in Berlin, but the Catalogue does not distinguish these pieces, and I have not been able to verify the reference.

32 Schliemann Samml. 3163–4, 3488, 3497–3501, etc.

33 Pre. Thessaly, Fig. 135. The handles ot this goblet are abnormal, but Wace assures me that there was good evidence for their restoration. For the usual flat loop see ibidem, Fig. 103; B.S.A. xvii. Pl. VII. (Phylakopi); Διμήνι, Fig. 40 (Sesklo).

34 Mycenae, No. 230.

35 B.S.A. xvii. Pl. VII. 4, 201.

36 Mycenae, No. 343, p. 234.

37 Ilios, No. 51, p. 224; Troja u. Ilion, Fig. 117; Schliemann Samml. 161.

38 Myk. Vasen, Pl. II. 17; cp. B.S.A. xvi. Pl. II. h, i (Sparta), etc. Mycenae, No. 83.

39 Myk. Vasen, p. 54, Fig. 30.

40 Myk. Thongef. Pl. X. 48, 49.

41 Gourniá, Pl. C 1.

42 Pre. Thessaly, Fig. 32 b (Sésklo), Fig. 58 c (Tsanglí); Myk. Thongef. Pl. V. 23, X. 50 (Mycenae).

43 Pre. Thessaly, pp. 21, 231.

44 I have received much practical assistance, especially in regard to modern processes, from Mr. J. H. Mott, Art Director, and Mr. W. Thomason, Chemist, of Doulton's Pottery at Lambeth, who have also read the proofs of the technical part of this paper.

45 Franchet quotes the highest percentage of 14; his normal proportion is about 8 per cent. (La Céramique Primitive, pp. 6, 83). Mr. Thomason does not accept Franchet's account, and gives me the following note. ‘Clays contain iron as a ferrous silicate for the most part, but occasionally the iron is present as the peroxide, in which case it is free, as no ferric silicate is known to exist in nature. Such clays are mainly surface clays. Oxide of iron, whether existing as ferrous or ferric oxide, free or in combination as clay, under the action of heat and an excess of air, produces a red colour, more or less intense according to the iron content of the clay and the temperature of ignition, and is also influenced by the other constituents of the clay.’ The effect of firing is the same in any case.

46 Journ. Anthr. Inst. 1903, p. 370 (The Early Pot-fabrics of Asia Minor).

47 I.G. ii. 546.

48 Petrie, , Naqada and Ballas, p. 37, Diospolis Parva, p. 13; Ormerod, in B.S.A. xvi. p. 96. Mr. Thomason informs me that haematite and ochre give browns rather than reds. The dark tones may be due to the much higher temperature of modern firing; but in the case of bright red colours the possibility of haematite pigment must be put to the test.

49 Céram. Primit. p. 90, note 3.

50 Alternative processes are quoted by Myres and Ormerod, ll. cc.

51 Aus. ionisch, u. ital. Necrop, p. 120.

52 I am indebted to Mr. W. Thomason, Chemist at Doulton's Pottery, for this modern parallel. The statement of de la Charlonie, P. Marguerite (Rev. des Ét. grecques, 1907, p. 236, quoted in Year's Work, 1908, p. 43) that the method of smoking to the point of saturation is still practised in England ‘pour les faïences de Wegword’ (if this means Wedgwood) is not only false but ridiculous. Wedgwood ‘black basalt’ is a stoneware, fired to a temperature of about 1400°C. until the paste is vitrified, and could not contain carbonaceous matter. It is stained with metallic oxides, such as manganese and cobalt, and is not fired in reducing atmosphere.

53 Céram. primit. p. 90.

54 Schmidt, Schliemann Sammlung, passim.

55 Céram. primit. pp. 9, 26, 72.

56 Petrie advanced the ingenious theory that the brilliance of the black portion is heightened by a sort of glaze formed from magnetic oxide fused by carbonyl, ‘a gas which generally results from imperfect combustion’ (= carbon monoxide)—Naqada and Ballas, p. 37. Koerte's statement (Ath. Mitt. 1899, p. 24) that some of these vases at Bonn are touched with graphite may well be correct, but has no value unless supported by the chemical test. I am equally unable to find evidence that the pots contain no carbonaceous colouring (Petrie, loc. cit.).

57 Summarised by Walters in Brit. Mus. Catalogue of Vases, I. ii. p. xxiii.

58 Aus. ion. Necrop. pp. 95–97.

59 Gardner, E. A. in Naucratis ii. (1885), pp. 47, 65, followed by Loeschcke, in Arch. Anz. 1891, p. 18.

60 So Kinch, , Fouilles de Vrouliá, p. 174: ‘coupes vrouliennes’ (coloured reproductions).

61 Many grey pieces may owe their colour to later burning, especially small vases, such as the Protocorinthian. See the account of pottery found by Wace and Thompson in Early Iron Age cremation burials at Halos, (B.S.A. xviii. p. 21).

62 Comptes Rendus de l'Acad. 1901, p. 815.

63 Ath. Mitt. xxiv. p. 21.

64 B.S.A. xvi. p. 89; xviii. p. 80, Pls. V.–VII.

65 Poppelreuter in Arch. Anzeiger, 1896, p. 105; Schmidt in Troja und Ilion, i. pp. 243 ff., and Schliemann's Sammlung trojanischer Altertümer (Berlin, 1902).

66 Rev. des Ét. grecques, 1907, p. 237. The grey-figure' Attic vases are simply burnt redfigure. Bonfires of dry and green wood, even with conscientious addition of ‘morceaux de viande et de graisse,’ are poor imitations of a funeral pyre. The duration of this experiment is not recorded. Moreover ancient pots were accidentally burnt in hotter fires and intensely reducing atmospheres which would be costly to reproduce.

67 Woolley, in Liverpool Annals, 1914, p. 88, Pl. xix; Hogarth in Illustrated London News, January 24, 1914.

68 Excavaciones de Numancia, Pl. XXVI. D.

69 Ilios, pp. 299, 464, 535, etc.; Mycenae, pp. 116, 231.

70 Schliemann Sammlung; see Note 26 above.

71 Troja u. Ilion, Fig. 281; S.S. 5873. One handle is restored in the drawing.

72 Prehistoric Thessaly, Cap. xii. xiv.

73 The evidence has been exhaustively published by Wace and Thompson in Prehistoric Thessaly (1912), mostly from their own excavations.

74 Pre. Thessaly, p. 14 (A 3 β), p. 198, Fig. 140 (Chaironeia).

75 Op. cit. p. 15 (Α 5 γ).

76 Op. cit. p. 17 (Γ 1 β).

77 Op. cit. p. 16 (Β 3 α), Pl. I.; coloured reproductions also in Διμήνι καὶ Σέσκλο, Pls. VIII.–X.

78 Pre. Thessaly, p. 223.

79 Akrop. Vasen, i. p. 1; Poulsen, , Dipylon Gräber, p. 76. One of these sherds (5) may actually be Trojan, showing the distinctive Wellenlinie ornament of Cities VI.–VII., but it is red, not grey. The others, if not local, are likely to be Cycladic.

80 Ath. Mitt. 1913, p. 88.

81 Pre. Thessaly, pp. 145, 178, Figs. 122–124.

82 Pre. Thessaly, p. 194; Rev. des Ét. grecques, 1912, p. 270 (H. Marina).

83 Phylakopi, pp. 86, 248; B.S.A. xvii. p. 16.

84 Ἐϕ Ἀρχ. 1899, p. 93, Pl. 9.

85 Myk. Vasen, p. vi.

86 Ath. Mitt. 1896, p. 385, Pl. XV.

87 Ἐϕ Ἀρχ, 1898, p. 51; 1912, p. 1.

88 Akrop. Vasen, i. Pl. 1.

89 Ath. Mitt. 1904, p. 95.

90 Ἐϕ. Ἀρχ. 1895, p. 235, Pl. X.; 1910, p. 177.

91 Myk. Thongef. p. 2.

92 Ath. Mitt. 1913. p. 89.

93 Argive Heraeum, ii. p. 72.

94 Orchomenos, i. p. 9.

95 Ἐϕ. Ἀρχ. 1910, p. 231.

96 B.S.A. xvi. p. 72.

97 B.C.H. 1906, p. 20.

98 Phylakopi, Pl. VII. etc.

99 B.S.A. xvi. p. 72. Some monochrome sherds seem to show Minyan influence.

100 Published by Weege in Ath. Mitt. 1911, p. 163.

101 Weege points out that some of the originals must have been practically identical with North Italian pottery from the Terramare settlements. Others would find closer parallels in the Villanova fabrics. These are probably the earliest ‘Hellenic’ documents that we have.

102 Ath. Mitt. 1909, p. 269.

103 The finds are collected in Pre. Thessaly, cap. xiii.

104 Specimens in the British Museum and elsewhere: B.M. Handbook to Ethnographical Collections (1910), p. 111, Pl. V.

105 Boyd, Harriet, Gournia, p. 50, Pl. XII. (Vasiliki).

106 Wide in Jahrbuch, 1899, p. 78 (‘Geometrische Vasen aus Griechenland’).

107 My account is a very short summary of Bulle's report in Orchomenos i.

107a Ἀρχ. Ἐϕ. 1910) p. 209, Pll. VII–X.

108 Prchistoric Thessaly, p. 177

109 B.S.A. xvii. p. 17.

110 Ath. Mitt. 1889, p. 262: tombs containing very early Mycenean pottery.

111 Ionia and the East, p. 47.

The Pottery called Minyan Ware

  • E. J. Forsdyke


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