Marks and Makers: Appearance, Distribution and Function of Middle and Late Helladic Manufacturers’ Marks on Aeginetan Pottery [Review]

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Book Review

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In 1891, Petrie noted “strange signs” scratched on “Aegean” pottery recovered from 12th Dynasty rubbish heaps at Kahun (Egypt). Within the same decade, the excavators at Phylakopi uncovered several hundred marked vases. Their 1904 publication briefly commented upon the vessels and the location of the marks, but the focus of discussion was on their possible function(s) and their linguistic significance, based solely on an analysis of the marks themselves. Comparison of the Melian potmarks with the symbols in Minoan writing led to a theory of a pan-Aegean racial and language continuity from the Neolithic period through Minoan Crete. Another half century passed before potmark assemblages of sufficient quantity were again discovered. By then, archaeological inquiry had broadened to allow a more contextual approach to the study of potmarking practices in the pre- and protohistoric Aegean. Among others, Vitelli, Döhl, and Bikaki’s publications of the marked pottery from Franchthi Cave and Lerna (1977), Tiryns (1978, 1979), and Ayia Irini (1984) not only set high standards of presentation but also illustrated how a contextual approach—consideration of a mark’s method of application, where and on what kind(s) of vases it appears, and the functional, chronological, and geographical importance of its findspot(s)—might contribute to understanding the purpose(s) of marking. The possible connection between marking and writing remained an important avenue of inquiry, but attention turned, too, to the possibility of potmarks as indicators of production and distribution processes. In the volume under review, Lindblom develops this trajectory of investigation, noting “we should therefore ask, ‘What activities do the marks reflect?’, before ‘What do they mean?” (7).

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Naomi J. Norman


Archaeological Institute of America


Boston, MA

Publication Information

American Journal of Archaeology

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License