Cretan pottery in the levant in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. and its historical implications

Ayelet Gilboa, Yiftah Shalev, Gunnar Lehmann, Hans Mommsen, Brice Erickson, Eleni Nodarou, David Ben-Shlomo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Among the painted pottery types in the Levant during the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E., the "East Greek" class is especially conspicuous and usually assumed to have been produced in Ionia. This pottery is the subject of a comprehensive research project, examining it from typological, analytical, and other perspectives. Our conclusion is that the "East Greek" class comprises in fact several subgroups from various other parts of the Mediterranean. Here we discuss one of these groups, including mainly hydriai, table amphoras, and jugs, which we suggest were produced on Crete, specifically in the central part of the island. These are the first Cretan ceramics of this period attested anywhere off the island, and they provide the first hint that maritime routes then linked Crete with various eastern Mediterranean regions. This pottery can perhaps be understood as a proxy for the exchange of a wider array of commodities, a possibility addressed in the concluding section of this article. Since the conventional wisdom is that Crete was largely disconnected from the rest of the Mediterranean in the Classical period, both commercially and culturally, this discovery has important implications for Cretan history and more generally for tracing ancient Mediterranean interconnections. It also adds to our understanding of the ceramic repertoire of fifth- and fourth-century B.C.E. Crete, which is still rather poorly known.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-593
Number of pages35
JournalAmerican Journal of Archaeology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
22 They are part of the Pythagoras II project funded by the European Union and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (project director: Poulou-Papadimitriou). For the pottery, see Portale and Romeo 2001; Portale 2014. They consist of two amphoras (GOR 08/2 and GOR 08/41), a terra sigillata dish (GOR 08/87), a lamp (GOR 08/115), and a beehive (GOR 08/169).

Funding Information:
9 We deeply thank the Israel Antiquities Authority, especially Michael Saban and Deborah Ben-Ami, for allowing us to study and sample vessels stored in their collections. Further permissions to study, sample, and publish comparative material were granted to us by Ezra Marcus (Tel ʿAkko, Area F, in the frame-work of a project funded by the Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications); Avshalom Zemer and the National Maritime Museum at Haifa (Shiqmona); Samuel Wolff (Tel Megadim); Orit Tzuf (Jaffa); and Dan Master and Josh Wolton (Ashkelon). We thank them all. 10 Lehmann 2000.

Funding Information:
1 The project was funded mainly by Israel Science Foundation (ISF) grant 570/09, which was awarded to Gilboa and Lehmann, and by ISF grants 209/14 and 237/14. Gilboa thanks the Goldhirsh-Yellin Foundation (Encino, Calif.) for their long-lasting support of Dor-related research. Parts of this study represent the results of Shalev’s unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, “‘The Mighty Grain-Lands’—Demographic and Economic Aspects of ‘Southern Phoenicia’ Under the Achaemenid Regime” (University of Haifa), which was supported by the University of Haifa and by a Nathan Rotenstreich scholarship. We are grateful to Elisa Chiara Portale and Maria Antonietta Rizzo, who studied the Gortyn pottery and made the analyses possible. We thank the staff of the research reactor of the Reactor Institute Delft, Delft University of Technology, for their technical support; Gerwulf Schneider and Małgorzata Daszkiewicz for the X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis; and Paula Waiman-Barak for assisting with studying the fabrics and producing the thin-sections and the photomicrographs. Paula Perlman first opened our eyes to the significance of our finds, and Ilan Sharon, codirector of the Tel Dor Excavation Project, and Susan Rebecca Martin provided continuous collaboration and support. We thank our reviewers—Mark Lawall, Antonis Kotsonas, and a third, anonymous reviewer for the AJA—for their truly insightful comments and relevant references.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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