Hellenistic Pottery


The production of clay vessels and other utensils used in everyday life, not only constitutes a large chapter of the activity of Hellenistic times but also a very interesting field of archaeological research. Excavations held in Greece and the wider Mediterranean region provided findings that now require analyzing and interpretation.

Although in reality in some regions the tradition of this ancient art remained until the Hellenistic period, economical, historical and social reasons helped shape a special character in the productions of Hellenistic art and thus rendered their study harder and sometimes inapproachable. The decoration of the surface of the vase gives way especially when it involves the depiction of myths known from the archaic and classical periods. A vast majority of products falls into large categories that dominate the markets of the Hellenistic world. Wheelmade vessels, vases made with the help of a mold, vases decorated with gold or yellow and white floral ornaments, or simply black and red-glazed vases find their place on the symposium tables, sacred festivities and burial proceedings and even in the cargos of ships crossing the Mediterranean and the Black-sea.

Luxurious, new materials such as metals, glass and alabaster replaced clay and became the reason for innovating shapes and new categories of pottery. The attempt made by potters to imitate this new luxurious trend “sealed” the pottery production.

Although there were a lot of findings, Hellenistic pottery begun to be systematically studied only in the second half of the 20th century, with a few very important works of the previous decades leading the way. The work of H. Thompson, O. Broneer, J. Schäfer was followed by the great publications of the Athenian Agora of R. Howland, S. Rotroff , Ph. Bruneau and J. Morel. In the end of the 20th century research in the area of Hellenistic pottery intensified with the publications of vast amount of pottery, and the discussion of different aspects on the subject.
The biggest discussion and the need for a specific methodology in the approach of hellenistic pottery arose from the issue of dating different shapes and categories. Of particular interest are now-days subjects like Manufacturing Technique and Trade, since it is well known that in the Hellenistic era great achievements were made in the wider areas of technology and economy.
The usage of molds allowed the construction of complex vessels and utensils and the easy transportation of them created common trends in everyday life. That way, while maintaining local characteristics, relief vases, black and red glazed wheelmade vessels bearing small floral motifs, ornamented lamps, trade amphorae and small unguentaria of various shapes appear in different countries of the Mediterranean simultaneously.

Overall the arousing interest noted over the last years about Hellenistic pottery helped create a remarkable bibliographical repertoire.
S. Drougou 2010