Utilitarian ceramics in the Byzantine Peloponnese (8th – 13th century): the economics of the ceramics and ceramic production in the context of economic cycles
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Utilitarian unglazed ceramics constitute an important range of evidence for investigating cultural and economic identities. The present research project analyses commonly used, unglazed Byzantine vessels from stratified contexts, excavated in Ancient Corinth (ASCSA), in close comparison with vessels from Sparta and Argos (Peloponnese – Greece). The first goal of this thesis is to provide an updated overview of the specific types of unglazed, utilitarian vessels used in these sites. Through a quantitative analysis, applied to ceramics, this study presents a seriation of specific types of unglazed utilitarian vessels from the Byzantine Period (8th – 13th centuries), which suggests a revised chronology of use for these vessels. Furthermore, this study also provides an analysis of how vessels changed shape and fabric over time and how Byzantine history and related domestic environments influenced the quantity and quality of utilitarian objects. Quantitative studies of unglazed pottery, based upon type and fabric, can produce relevant information for delineating technological, economic and social patterns on a local and a regional scale. Quantifying the presence and the percentage of unglazed pottery types in relation to their contexts makes it possible to identify technological, economic and cultural networks in which those pots were produced, used, reused and discarded. The production of coarse and cooking wares in the 8th century inherited a Late Roman artisanal tradition. Additionally, these wares are also characterized by a changed scale of production and by transformed manufacturing practices, which are further developed in the Byzantine period and cease only some decades after the Frankish conquest of the Peloponnese. Diverse utilitarian vessels were part of a typological koine in the Byzantine period; the same types have been found in stratified deposits excavated in different sites across the Peloponnese and beyond. The appearance of these vessels may be used, primarily, to suggest date ranges and to denote regional and interregional trade. Furthermore, such typological consistency is evidence for connectivity and for exchange, which encompasses not only the exchange of goods, but also of technical know-how. The same types of wares were possibly produced simultaneously in distant sites. For instance, there are striking similarities between the Early and Middle Byzantine coarse and cooking wares produced in Corinth and those produced in Salento (Southern Apulia, Italy). Due to these similarities, utilitarian unglazed wares may be studied as a proxy for patterns of social, cultural and economic networks of exchange in the Byzantine period between these two regions. Finally, this study would like to investigate how the presence or absence, the frequency and the relative proportions of pottery types are determined by socio-economic factors. An analysis of the manufactory tradition, including variations in technology of production and of vessel morphologies, within the appropriate historical context, can be indicative of social and economic patterns. Pottery can demonstrate the components of effective demand and can, therefore, be an important tool for measuring patterns of production and consumption in relation to economic trends. This project tests diverse research methodologies in order to analyse how ceramics, set within a wide and multifocal range of historical and archaeological sources, can be informative of economic patterns and changes.