Ceramic production and distribution in protopalatial Crete : technological, economic and social perspectives.

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Knappett, Carl James 

Excavations twenty five years ago at the sites of Quartier Mu (Mallia), and Myrtos Pyrgos revealed extensive pottery deposits datable to the Middle Minoan IIB phase of the Protopalatial period. The fine ceramics of the village site of Myrtos Pyrgos are very similar to those at the palatial site of Mallia. Other sites in East Crete, such as Gournia and Vasiliki, also share the same fine pottery styles. These patterns of ceramic stylistic regionalism have been interpreted by various scholars as evidence for an early state centred on the palatial site of Mallia. Yet basing such political interpretations almost exclusively on ceramic stylistic regionalism is a problematic process; ethnoarchaeological work suggests that cultural units thus reconstructed need not tally with units of economic or political activity. As such they do not tell us a great deal about the dynamic economic workings of an early state. Using pottery as a source of information on such economic processes (production and distribution) requires a fresh analytical perspective. As technology is here differently perceived than in most Minoan ceramic studies, I consider it an impo1tant part of this thesis to build up a detailed picture of the nature of technology, and how one might go about understanding past technological choices and activities when faced with the finished products alone. The traditional use of typological and stylistic data is in itself inadequate, and has to be supplemented by, and integrated with, technological and compositional data. In terms of methodology this involves detailed analyses of vessel size and shape, fabric (using thin section petrography), construction technique, surface treatment and decoration. Technical variants in different stages of production are thereby identified. Moreover, assessments are made of the skill, standardisation and labour input in the execution of these production steps. Before -the main data from Mallia and My1tos Pyrgos are presented, various Middle Minoan ceramic deposits from Knossos are considered, in an attempt to place the technical choices to be observed at Mallia and Pyrgos into an historical context. I focus patticularly on the development of the wheelthrowing technique from the time of its introduction in Middle Minoan IB. Material from Knossos is chosen because it is one of the few sites with a good sequence of closed deposits from the Middle Minoan 1B and IIA phases. Ultimately the pottery from Mallia and Pyrgos is presented according to the methodology outlined above; a particular combination of standardisation, skill and labour input is labelled a 'technological profile ' . The various patterns of production activity thus reconstructed are interpreted in terms of modes of production, such as administered, centralised and noncentralised. The presence of these different so,ts of production arrangement at the two sites then allows us to make some limited observations as to the nature of economic organisation across the region. On this basis we may then assess critically whether the term 'early state ' is appropriate, and consider in more detail alternative types of state organisation.


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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge