Minoan pottery

Minoan pottery is more than a useful tool for dating the mute ). The mottling was produced by uneven firing of the slip-covered pot, with the hottest areas turning dark. Considering that the mottling was controled into a pattern, touching with hot coals was probably used to produce it. The effect was paralleled in cups made of mottled stone.

EM III Pottery

Of the period Hutchinson says:[4]

"... the most remarkable feature is the expansion of central Cretan sites ... at the expense of east Cretan sites ..."

In the latest brief transition (EM III), wares in eastern Crete begin to be covered in dark slip with light slip-painted decor of lines and spirals; the first checkered motifs appear; the first petallike loops and leafy bands appear, at Gournia (Walberg 1986). Rosettes appear and spiral links sometimes joined into bands. These motifs are similar to those found on seals. In north central Crete, where Knossos was to emerge, there is little similarity: dark on light linear banding prevails; footed goblets make their appearance (Example).

Middle Minoan

Of the palace at Knossos and smaller ones like it at Phaestos, Mallia and elsewhere, Willetts says[5]:

"These large palaces were central features of sizable cities... Apparently they were also administrative and religious centres of self-supporting regions of the island."

The rise of the palace culture, of the "old palaces" of Knossos and Phaistos and their new type of urbanized, centralized society with redistribution centers required more storage vessels and ones more specifically suited to a range of functions. In palace workshops, standardization suggests more supervised operations and the rise of elite wares, emphasizing refinements and novelty, so that palace and provincial pottery become differentiated.

The forms of the best wares were designed for table and service. In the palace workshops, the introduction from the Levant of the potter's wheel in MMIB enabled perfectly symmetrical bodies to be thrown from swiftly-revolving clay.[6] The well-controlled iron-red slip that was added to the color repertory during MMI could be achieved only in insulated closed kilns that were free of oxygen or smoke.


Jar from Knossos

Any population center requires facilities in support of human needs and that is true of the palaces as well. Knosses had an extensive sanitation and water supply system, which is evidence that it was not a ceremonial labyrinth or large tomb. Liquid and granular necessities were stored in Pithoi located in magazines, or storage rooms, and elsewhere. Pithoi make their earliest appearance just before MMI begins and continue into Late Minoan, becoming very rare by LMIII. (Examples 1, , ) Some of the rhyta are ornate libation vessels, such as the noted "Bull's-head Rhyton" found at Knossos. The Bull's Head Rhyton, however, was a specific type of which many instances have been found. The bull's head is found in ceramic as well. Other noted stone vases of LM IA and II are the "Harvester Vase" ( , (Early Cypriote)

WATER JAR? u-do-ro *hudroi (pl) hydros (sing), a water-snake "water (jars)" , Examples 2, Examples 3). This style started in LM II and went on into LM III.

The palace style was pretty much confined to Knossos. In the late manifestation of the palace style, fluent and spontaneous earlier motifs stiffened and became more geometrical and abstracted. Egyptian motifs such as papyrus and lotus are prominent.

Plain and Close Styles

The Plain Style and Close Style developed in LM IIIA, B from the Palace Style. In the Close Style the Marine and Floral Styles themes continue, but the artist manifests the horror vacui or "dread of emptiness". The whole field of decoration is filled densely. (Examples 1, Examples 2). The Stirrup Jar is especially frequent.

The Middle East Style



Finally, in the Subminoan period, the geometric designs of the Dorians become more apparent. (Example)

Akrotiri, Santorini

Minoan Pottery from the Iraklion Archaeological Museum

Klick image to enlarge


  1. ^ This term dating from the late 20th century means the very last, transitional phase of the Neolithic, in which stone tools were in use along with elements of the succeeding metal age. The terms "Chalcolithic", "Copper Age" and "Sub-Neolithic" clearly fall into this category. It is used in this general sense in the archaeology of Europe. However, the term tends also to be used of specific cultures. With reference to the Aegean it means Late Neolithic Ib - II, during which painted ware was replaced by coarse ware in the Cyclades, and on Crete it means the Neolithic before EM I, which features coarse wares. In a general sense, all EM might have been "Final Neolithic", as bronze materials do not start until the MM period. It is not, however, used in that sense with reference to Crete.
  2. ^ Work cited, Chapter 6
  3. ^ Pyrgos I-IV, EM I through LM I, has been defined.
  4. ^ Work cited, The Third Early Minoan Period.
  5. ^ Work cited, Chapter 4
  6. ^ Prior to the introduction of the wheel turn-table disks were used, such as were discovered in Myrtos I from EM times. The larger pots continued to be made this way.
  7. ^ Volume II, Page 634, Figure 398
  8. ^ Documents in Mycenaean Greek Page 326.
  9. ^ The ideograms vary somewhat. A link to the unicode standard is given.
  10. ^ Only names on Cretan tablets are given.
  11. ^ Most of these vessel types can be found in Betancourt's Cooking Vessels from Minoan Kommos: A Preliminary Report. The dates are MM and LM, which shows that the forms of the ideograms were long-standing.
  12. ^ Ventris wrote a letter to Bennett concerning this reconstruction.
  13. ^ Possibly *aukw-, but the origin of the p instead of a reflex of kw is troubling. For a detailed linguistic presentation see Brent Vine, Greek =rhiza ‘root’ and “Schwa Secundum”
  14. ^ Evans' term, after the Palace Period


  • Preziosi, Donald and Louise A. Hitchcock 1999 Aegean Art and Architecture ISBN 0-19-284208-0
  • Platon, Nicolas, Crete (translated from the Greek), Archaeologia Mundi series, Frederick Muller Limited, London, 1966
  • Hutchinson, Prehistoric Crete, many editions hardcover and softcover
  • Matz, Friedrich, The Art of Crete and Early Greece, Crown, 1962
  • Mackenzie, Donald A., Crete & Pre-Hellenic, Senate, 1995, ISBN 1 85958 090 4
  • Palmer, L. A., Mycenaeans and Minoans, multiple editions
  • Willetts, The Civilization of Ancient Crete, Barnes & Noble, 1976, ISBN 1-56619-749-X

External links

Further reading

  • Betancourt, Philip P. The History of Minoan Pottery is a standard work.
  • MacGillivray, J.A. 1998. Knossos: Pottery Groups of the Old Palace Period BSA Studies 5. (British School at Athens) ISBN 0-904887-32-4 Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002
  • Walberg, Gisela. 1986. Tradition and Innovation. Essays in Minoan Art (Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp Von Zabern)
  • Dartmouth College: Bibliography (see Pottery)
  • Edey, Maitland A., Lost World of the Aegean, Time-Life Books, 1975

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