Bucchero Krater

Bucchero Krater


Bucchero Krater - History

Field Reports from the end of the 2000 Field Season
Trench PC 20
Justin Winkler, Field Supervisor


Jess Galloway, Krista Farber, Greg Warden, and Prajna Desai watch Justin Winkler excavate a chalice.

The field season is now coming to a close and we must begin the final documentation and analysis of the trenches. The complexity of Trench PC 20 is astounding given the assortment of artifact assemblages and architectural foundations. It is now clear that much of the pottery in the early layers is comprised of bucchero wares much of it very well-preserved. In fact, with intense focus and diligence we were able to extract a nearly complete stemmed plate associated with a concentrated deposit of numerous pottery fragments. The vessel itself is probably the only one of its kind at Poggio Colla thus far. The context of the overall pottery deposit is contained within the dark, ashy layer of stratum four directly abutting the lower portion of the south terrace wall. Excluding the stemmed vessel, the fragmentary nature of the remaining deposit seems to indicate a secondary context. That is, much of the pottery was modified and removed in antiquity. (See the series of photos below showing the excavation of the bucchero chalice).


Partially excavated bucchero chalice in Trench PC 20.

My assertions regarding the architectural history of the trench have altered throughout the course of excavation. I suspect that the presence of Greek Attic wares (possibly red-figure) and late Orientalizing decorated bucchero date the south terrace wall somewhere around the late 6th to early 5th century. The later terrace expansion northward is still plausible including the perpendicular buttress wall and then the other parallel western wall sometime later.


Left: Trench PC 20 bucchero sherd with zoomorph. Right: Trench PC 20 polychrome vessel neck.

The complexity and abundance of special finds are almost unprecedented in terms of both quantity and quality. The material record of Trench PC 20 is still in the process of interpretation and shall remain so until the season ends. Hopefully, we will be able to continue investigating this particular area of the site in order to further our understanding more completely.


Left: fragment of an Attic Red Figure Krater from Trench PC 20.
Right: fragment of an incised fenestrated foot from a bucchero vessel.


Above and below: views of bucchero chalice partially exposed.


Chalice fragments protected in sifted soil for the ride to conservation.

For a photo of the chalice in the lab, see the Conservation Week 5 Report.


South terrace wall in PC 20, several days after removal of the bucchero chalice.


Left: Ruth Landy studies one of hundreds of bucchero sherds she has unearthed in PC 20.
Right: Kara Spoonhour takes her turn at sifting for small finds from Trench PC 20.


Catherine Norman in her locus of Trench PC 20, shown from above from the south on the right.


Prajna Desai watches Justin Winkler remove the chalice from her locus in Trench PC 20.


Randi Graham (left) and Krista Farber (right) working in the south end of Trench PC 20.


Left: Justin Winkler with a large profile gauge used to record the shape of architectural moldings.
Right: Justin with Munsell color chart, used to identify the color of stratigraphy and ceramic finds.

Excavations at Poggio Colla have revealed much as we finish the remainder of our field season. There is much to look forward to in the coming year, but more importantly there is a great deal to reflect upon.

Specifically, Trench PC 20 presents us with a valuable opportunity in that we have reasonably achieved a consistent, although somewhat adapted, interpretation of the site’s northern plan. Thus, enabling research to remain focused upon investigating and answering questions about a discrete site area. Hopefully, continuous expansion in the immediate vicinity of Trench PC 20 will allow us to refine and delimit the known cultural deposits, not to mention furthering our efforts in architectural reconstruction.


April Kramer gives coordinates of finds to Justin Winkler and
Ruth Landy for the Trench PC 20 field notebook.

Final excavation seemingly exposed yet another material context likely to be earlier than all the rest. I suspect this deposit may represent a trash midden probably overlooked or not encountered in the past. The distinct appearance of numerous animal bones, many of which will require identification, within a very dark black, ashy layer of compact soil may indicate a separate occupational event. Also, its presence beneath the south terrace wall and just further north provide additional support for this argument.


Justin Winkler excavating an animal bone and vessel base from the central locus of PC 20.

I believe the terrace expansion northward is still valid and that the west perpendicular wall is probably contemporaneous due to the presence of re-utilized architectural blocks. Our likely podium block, now one of many, is carefully molded yet inverted and providing secondary structure to the north terrace wall. Sometime afterward in the sequence I speculate that an additional perpendicular buttress wall was constructed in order to support a potentially wavering north terrace. This might have been due to either erosional or natural phenomena, not to mention possible construction flaws.


View of Trench PC 20 from the northeast corner.

At any rate, the field school has been successful and the students have attained a level of understanding regarding the Etruscans, Italy, and most of all archaeology. Certainly, we anticipate future excavation and eventual publication of our ongoing research. The web-site is a critical part of this process that will continue to expand and grow as the project develops.


Index — Index Magazine - Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum | Bush-Reisinger Museum | Arthur M. Sackler Museum

An amphora, with two bands of impressed decoration depicting horses and horsemen, shown before conservation (left) and after (right), Italic, 550–500 BCE. Buccheroid impasto. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of the Misses Norton, 1920.44.313.

On a visit to the museums&rsquo storeroom, curator Susanne Ebbinghaus took a closer look at an ancient amphora. The sturdy, sizable vessel was covered in accretions from being buried for millennia, further disfigured by earlier restorations and missing its base. For Index, Ebbinghaus and conservation fellow Haddon Dine share how they got the object back into shape and what they learned in the process.

During her first encounter with the object in the storeroom, Ebbinghaus was immediately intrigued by this vessel, which had entered the museums&rsquo collections a century earlier. The amphora&rsquos form is unusual for this type, especially how its handles project from its shoulders. The decoration consists of two bands of impressed, repeating figures that appeared to include horses and a rider, but the surface was too dirty to be sure. Clearly, the jar had potential to be a striking display piece in the galleries&mdashafter some long overdue TLC&mdashso it was brought to conservation fellow Haddon Dine in the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies for further examination and treatment.

Dine scrutinized and documented the amphora in the Objects Lab, then we identified treatment goals together. These included cleaning the exterior, replacing the unsightly old restorations, and stabilizing cracks. But we also decided to &ldquoresurrect&rdquo the vessel and enable it to stand again. As it turned out, making a new base was not a straightforward process. It would require considerable discussion, work and re-working, as well as research. That research would ultimately lead to discoveries not just about the amphora but about other objects in the collections, as well.

R2939 Pietro Aquila, Italian, after Pietro da Cortona, Italian, Rape of the Sabines, 16th century. Etching. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Belinda L. Randall from the collection of John Witt Randall, R2939.

From the Land of the Sabines

The most noticeable feature of the amphora is its dark, almost black surface color. Originally, the surface would have been quite shiny. Dark brownish-gray or black wares of this kind are typical products of potters active in central Italy in the first millennium BCE. Such objects are best known from Etruscan tombs, but archaeological finds suggest that they were used by the living, too, and were also made by other peoples in the region. As we would come to learn in the course of our research (and discuss further below), this amphora can be attributed to the second half of the sixth century BCE and to a potter&rsquos workshop located in the land of the Sabines, north of Rome.

The amphora&rsquos Sabine origin made its conservation seem even more worthwhile, as it would allow us to showcase the creativity of a people all too often overshadowed by their Greek and Roman neighbors. To most of us, the Sabines are familiar through myth rather than archaeology. Their story is closely entwined with the foundation of Rome. To help populate the new city, as Titus Livius narrates in his History of Rome, a plan was hatched to abduct the daughters of the neighboring Sabines during a festival. The resulting struggle between athletic male and youthful female bodies is exploited in the works of many artists of the Renaissance and later periods, such as Peter Paul Rubens, and it features prominently in prints in the Harvard Art Museums collections, as seen above.

The territory of the Sabines was largely agricultural, and prominent cities were few. Among the Romans, the Sabines were known for their austerity and strict moral values. However, defining a distinctive Sabine material culture, with features unique to their houses, tombs, and pottery, has posed a challenge to archaeologists.

2012.1.73

Drinking cup with vertical handles (a so-called kantharos), made in impasto, Etruscan, 7th century BCE. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University, 2012.1.73. 1945.3

Drinking cup with vertical handles (a so-called kantharos), made in bucchero, Etruscan, 7th century BCE. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Mr. Roger Noble Burnham, 1945.3.

Impasto and Bucchero

The amphora appears to have been thrown on the wheel, as there are circular grooves on the inside. The handles were formed by hand and would have been added to the body once its clay had dried to a leather-hard state. The smooth, shiny surface had been achieved by burnishing, and the decoration impressed with stamps. Individual stamps were used to render the star patterns of the topmost band, while a cylindrical stamp was rolled across the surface to impress a repeating figural scene in the two friezes below.

The dark color of the vessel was created not by a glaze but by firing it in a reducing atmosphere. Still practiced today, reduction firing is employed to achieve a variety of color effects on ceramics in this case, it was used to turn a reddish-brown terracotta vessel black. In reduction firing, organic material such as damp wood is added and the kiln closed, limiting the oxygen and creating smoky incomplete combustion. This causes some of the oxygen to be removed from the iron oxides in the clay. The process converts red-colored hematite (Fe2O3) to black iron oxides such as magnetite (Fe3O4), giving the vessel its dark surface color. (For a detailed explanation of reduction firing, read more here.) This conversion did not penetrate to the core of the amphora wall, which is still reddish-brown.

Scholars distinguish two types of wares that existed next to one another in central Italy: impasto and bucchero. Simply put, impasto is characterized by its coarse clay and rough outer appearance, and bucchero is more refined. Impasto (from Italian impastare, &ldquokneading together&rdquo) pottery often has a dark gray or brownish exterior, with a brown core, like the drinking cup illustrated on the left above. The shiny black surface of the cup on the right is typical for bucchero vessels (&ldquobucchero&rdquo is derived from búcaro or pocaro, the respective Spanish and Portuguese words for red and black ceramics from the Americas fashionable in 17th- and 18th-century Europe). Our amphora falls into an in-between category that scholars have labeled with the somewhat unwieldy term &ldquobuccheroid impasto.&rdquo

  • of Photographs of the amphora when it came to the lab, before conservation treatment.
  • of Photographs of the amphora when it came to the lab, before conservation treatment.
  • of Photographs of the amphora when it came to the lab, before conservation treatment.

Cleaning the Amphora and Redoing Prior Restorations

As far as we know, the amphora has never been on display at Harvard, probably because of its condition. In addition to white and brown surface accretions from two and half millennia of burial, it showed evidence of several past restorations. On the rim, two pieces had been reattached and a loss filled. A large missing area on one side of the body and a gash through the other side had been filled with plaster. The plaster was painted, but the color did not match, and the old fills did not blend in well&mdashthey were distracting. Probably during a previous restoration, the areas around the fills had been slightly cleaned, making them even more noticeable. Moreover, the vessel had no foot, or base, to stand on.

We discussed the goals of the treatment: Dine would clean the exterior of the vessel to make the burnished surface visible and the stamped decoration more legible. She would remove the old restorations and redo the fills so the patched areas would be less distracting. We tentatively agreed that she should make a new base, but we knew that would take further planning.

  • of The amphora in different stages of surface cleaning, with the old restorations removed.
  • of The amphora in different stages of surface cleaning, with the old restorations removed.
  • of The amphora in different stages of surface cleaning, with the old restorations removed.

Dine took off most of the surface encrustations and soil with deionized water, applied with swabs, brushes, and soft absorbent pads. Information can sometimes be gained from ancient encrustations, and new technologies might reveal further insights. In this case, there were many burial accretions inside the vessel, and these were left in place for future research. While Dine cleaned the vessel&rsquos exterior surface, she removed the old plaster restorations by applying water to soften the material, before thinning and detaching it with a scalpel.

After cleaning and reversing the prior restorations, Dine filled the losses with plaster and an acrylic spackle. Since these were all in smooth, plain parts of the ceramic surface, she inpainted them to match the vessel&rsquos dark exterior. The losses are now less distracting, and the conservation materials used can be easily removed in the future.

  • of This drawing shows the two decorative friezes impressed onto the shoulder of the amphora. Drawing by Catherine S. Alexander.
  • of In this detail of the impressed decoration, you can see that burial accretions were not removed from the recessed areas.

Before Dine moved on to re-creating the missing base, archaeological illustrator Catherine Alexander came to the lab to draw the amphora. Her work carefully recorded the shape and size of the vessel, as well as the stamped decoration, as shown above. These drawings can be used by future researchers to readily compare features of different vessels.

The cleaning of the relief decoration on the amphora shoulder, especially the raised areas, made it much easier to see the individual figures. Both friezes repeat the same unit consisting of a horse, another horse with rider, a mare with a foal in front, a person holding what appears to be an excited stallion by its bridle, and a geometric ornament (which may be a stylized plant). The equine theme alludes to the prestige of horse ownership, but the presence of a mare, foal, and stallion suggests horse breeding, and perhaps ultimately the concept of regeneration. Such relief decoration applied with a cylindrical stamp is quite frequent on Italic pottery, including an Etruscan cup in Harvard&rsquos collections. To highlight the figure scene, the background could have been covered with red or yellow ocher pigment.

  • of This drawing shows objects excavated from a Sabine tomb in the late 19th century, including the amphora. After Paola Santoro, ed., Civiltà arcaica dei Sabini nella valle del Tevere (1977).
  • of This 1896 drawing suggests that the foot was partly preserved when the amphora was excavated.

A Twin and a Tomb

The vessel was missing its base by the time it entered the Harvard collections. After some discussion, we decided to make one. A new base would not only show the amphora&rsquos original shape, it would also allow the vessel to stand by itself, and it could be easily removed in the future. But what should it look like? Ebbinghaus consulted a recent, massive reference work on bucchero pottery by noted Etruscan specialist Jean Gran-Aymerich.[1] This book, and the further references it provides, yielded both a &ldquotwin&rdquo and a tomb context for our amphora.

Excavations undertaken in the 1980s in a tomb in a Sabine cemetery at Poggio Sommavilla, a town in the hills above the Tiber Valley north of Rome, brought to light another amphora with an ovoid body, a short neck, prominent handles, and impressed friezes of horses that appear to have been created with the same stamp as the Harvard amphora.[2] Clearly, the two amphorae were made, if not by the same potter, then at least in the same workshop. Other vessels from this region show similar shapes and decorative details. Indeed, further research revealed what had been forgotten during the 100 years since the amphora&rsquos arrival at the museums, or perhaps even before: Harvard&rsquos amphora also comes from a tomb carved into the hillside of modern Poggio Sommavilla, but one that had already been excavated in the late 19th century.

  • of Several other vessels from the Sabine tomb excavated in the late 19th century are in the Harvard Art Museums collections. Column krater: Youth playing a lyre (mixing bowl for wine and water), attributed to the Harrow Painter, Greek, Attic, 490–470 BCE. Terracotta, red-figure technique. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Joseph C. Hoppin, 1925.30.33.
  • of 1920.44.312Oinochoe (wine pitcher), Italic, 6th century BCE. Terracotta, impasto. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of the Misses Norton, 1920.44.312.
  • of 1925.30.85Stamnos (jar), Etruscan, 5th century BCE. Terracotta. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Joseph C. Hoppin, 1925.30.85.
  • of 1925.30.82Small oinochoe (wine pitcher), Italic, 4th–2nd century BCE. Terracotta. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Joseph C. Hoppin, 1925.30.82.
  • of 1977.216.1979 This metal dish with handle may also come from the tomb. Dish with handle, Etruscan, 4th–2nd century BCE. Bronze. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Department of the Classics, Harvard University, 1977.216.1979.

The finds recovered during the late 19th-century excavation of a chamber tomb at Poggio Sommavilla were acquired in 1897 by Joseph Clark Hoppin, a specialist in Greek vase painting who graduated from Harvard in 1893, from excavator and dealer Fausto Benedetti. Hoppin&rsquos collection of Greek pottery and other artifacts came to the university after his death in 1925. Among the objects from his bequest is an Athenian red-figure krater (a mixing bowl for wine and water) that was imported to the Italic peninsula in the fifth century BCE and deposited in the Poggio Sommavilla tomb. This krater appears in a drawing made after the tomb was excavated (seen above), with the Harvard amphora to its right.[3]

According to Hoppin, the other tomb finds were of local manufacture and &ldquoconsisted of a number of undecorated vases, bronzes, beads and other objects of no importance.&rdquo[4] Consequently, he seems to have passed on some of these objects to others, including our amphora. The amphora was given to the museums by Elizabeth Gaskell Norton and Margaret Norton, daughters of Harvard&rsquos prominent art history professor Charles Eliot Norton. Hoppin was friends with their brother Richard, a fellow archaeologist. A further Norton gift, an impasto wine pitcher, turns out to be another of the Poggio Sommavilla finds (it can be spotted to the left of the krater in the drawing).

We are taking a close look at our collections and have already identified additional objects that appear to have been part of the Sabine tomb. These include a jar of light-colored clay with simple painted decoration, a small black-slipped pitcher, and perhaps also a hammered copper dish with a long handle. It is particularly exciting to be able to draw connections between these individual objects because they are of different dates. Chamber tombs like the one at Poggio Sommavilla often saw frequent reuse over extended periods of time. In this case, the excavation report suggests three separate burials in a span of two or three centuries. Now that we know their context, even the plain, unremarkable objects acquire meaning as they allow us to reconstruct the material culture of the Sabines over the ages and to glimpse how they provided for their dead.

A New Base at Last

As you can see in the late 19th-century sketch of the group of tomb objects above, the amphora has a foot. A more detailed drawing in an early excavation report (also illustrated above)[5] indicates that the foot was only partly preserved, and it does not give a good indication of what it looked like. Instead, we decided to take the &ldquotwin&rdquo amphora as our guide. Using drawings and photographs of this vessel to inform the reconstruction of the proportions and profile, Dine made a base out of light gray modeling clay. She first built it by hand and then shaped it with clay tools on a record turntable, a technique developed by senior objects conservator Tony Sigel. The modeling clay, which, unlike real clay, does not contain water and does not dry, cannot be thrown on a potter&rsquos wheel, but it can be trimmed with clay tools, and the turntable allows this to be done easily and evenly.

  • of After test-fitting a modeling clay base, Haddon Dine created a silicone mold from it and used that to cast a plaster version.
  • of After test-fitting a modeling clay base, Haddon Dine created a silicone mold from it and used that to cast a plaster version.
  • of After test-fitting a modeling clay base, Haddon Dine created a silicone mold from it and used that to cast a plaster version.
  • of After test-fitting a modeling clay base, Haddon Dine created a silicone mold from it and used that to cast a plaster version.
  • of After test-fitting a modeling clay base, Haddon Dine created a silicone mold from it and used that to cast a plaster version.

Using a matboard profile based on the drawing of the comparable vessel, Dine checked the clay base repeatedly, continuously shaping it. She took measurements with calipers and compared them to the proportions of the twin and the surviving part of our amphora. To enable test-fitting of the base, Dine built a four-legged foam support with a custom carved hole for the vessel to sit in. This allowed the ceramic to hover over the base of modeling clay without disturbing it.

Because the Harvard vessel has slightly different proportions from the comparable vessel, there was an element of inference. After many iterations of shaping, adjusting, measuring, and discussing, we reached a final version in the modeling clay. Dine made a silicone mold of the clay base and then cast a plaster version. She consolidated the plaster with an acrylic resin to strengthen it and make it less absorbent.

Previously, the amphora had been stored on its side on padded supports. Just before the pandemic-related closure of the museums in March 2020, Dine attached the new plaster base to the ceramic. This moment when the vessel could stand on its own again was exciting! Painting the base had to wait until the museums&rsquo conservators could return to the lab in mid-October, after several months of working from home.


The vessel during treatment, with the plaster foot attached but not painted.
The plaster foot after painting.

While we chose to paint the other smaller losses in the rim and body of the amphora to match the surrounding ceramic surface, we decided to paint the base in a way that renders it discernible from the ancient part of the vessel. The small fills were in undecorated areas, so there was no inference involved in making them blend in. The plaster foot is our best possible estimate of the original base, but it is still just a (reasonably well-informed) guess. We did not want the base to be too obtrusive and jarring, however. The challenge, then, was to create a restoration that would be recognizable as such but not detract from the vessel itself.

To achieve a subtle distinction, Dine created a painted surface made up of numerous short brushstrokes of different colors, which blend in from a distance but are legible when one takes a closer look. This solution was inspired by a technique developed in mid-20th century Italy for the conservation of paintings, referred to as tratteggio.

Now that it can stand again, we plan to put the amphora on display together with other objects from the Sabine tomb in a gallery that currently is focused almost exclusively on Greek art. There, the tomb finds will play a double role: they will draw attention to the skills of potters active in pre-Roman Italy, and they will provide further context for the many Athenian vases on view. The Italian peninsula was a major market for the products of Athenian potters&rsquo workshops like the red-figure krater detailed above, many other vases in the collections were exported to Italy in the course of the sixth and fifth centuries BCE and were eventually placed in the richly furnished graves of Etruscans, Sabines, and other Italic peoples. This chapter in the story of Greek pottery often remains untold.[6]

Another all too frequently unsung story: the work of conservators. Their efforts are rarely highlighted in the galleries but are critical for a deeper understanding of objects. In this case, questions raised by the conservation treatment of the amphora drove the research into the vessel&rsquos history, which in turn helped inform decisions made during treatment. Close collaboration between conservator and curator often reveals more detailed information on how objects were made, on their context and use, and on the extent of earlier conservation interventions. This allows us to see ancient objects in a state closer to their original one. Look at the newly conserved amphora in the image below and in further views online. Can you spot the restored areas?

The amphora after the conservation treatment.

Haddon Dine is the objects conservation fellow in the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, and Susanne Ebbinghaus is the George M.A. Hanfmann Curator of Ancient Art and Head of the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art.

[1] Jean Gran-Aymerich, Les vases de bucchero: Le monde étrusque entre orient et occident, Bibliotheca archaeologica 55 (Rome: L&rsquoErma di Bretschneider, 2017).

[2] Giovanna Alvino, ed., I Sabini: La vita, la morte, gli dèi (Rome: Armando, 1997), 61&ndash63, no. 6.1.

[3] Paola Santoro, ed., Civiltà arcaica dei Sabini nella valle del Tevere, III: Rilettura critica della necropoli di Poggia Sommavilla (Rome: Consiglio nazionale delle ricerche, 1977), 86&ndash87, Figs. 24&ndash25. The drawing seems to have been made after a photograph, but so far we have not been able to locate the latter.

[4] Joseph Clark Hoppin and Albert Gallatin, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, U.S.A., Vol. 1: Hoppin and Gallatin Collections (Paris: Librairie Ancienne Edouard Champion, 1926), 8, Pl. 12, 1&ndash2.

[5] A. Pasqui, &ldquoX. Poggio Sommavilla,&rdquo Notizie degli scavi di antichità comunicate alla R. Accademia dei Lincei (Rome: Accademia nazionale dei Lincei, 1896), 487, Fig. 9.

[6] But see most recently, Sheramy D. Bundrick, Athens, Etruria, and the Many Lives of Greek Figured Pottery (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2019).

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Wine dilution

Drinking ákratos (undiluted) wine was considered a severe faux pas in ancient Greece, enough to characterize the drinker as a drunkard and someone who lacked restraint and principle. Ancient writers prescribed that a mixing ratio of 1:3 (wine to water) was optimal for long conversation, a ratio of 1:2 when fun was to be had, and 1:1 was really only suited for orgiastic revelry, to be indulged in very rarely, if at all. Since such mixtures would produce an unpalatable and watery drink if applied to most wines made in the modern style, this practice of the ancients has led to speculation that ancient wines might have been vinified to a high alcoholic degree and sugar content, e.g. by using dehydrated grapes, and could withstand dilution with water better. Such wines would have also withstood time and the vagaries of transportation much better. Nevertheless, the ancient writers offer scant details of ancient vinification methods, and therefore this theory, though plausible, remains unsupported by evidence.


Vase painting in the Etruscan culture thrived from the seventh to the fourth century BCE. It was strongly influenced by Greek vase painting and followed the main trends in style over the period. Besides being producers in their own right, the Etruscans were the main export market for Greek pottery outside Greece. Among the Etruscans, richly decorated vases were often interred with the dead.

Initially, Etruscan vases followed examples of black-figure vase painting from Corinth and East Greece. It is assumed that in the earliest phase, vases were produced mainly by immigrants from Greece. They mainly produced amphorae, hydriai and jugs. Depictions included revelers, symposia, and animal friezes. Mythological motifs occur more rarely, but are already created with great care. By this time, Etruscan vase painting had begun to take its main influence from Attic vase painting. The black-figure style ended about 480 BCE. In its final phase, it had developed a tendency toward a manneristic style of silhouette drawing.


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A. M. Snodgrass kindly read my typescript and M. I. Finley and B. B. Shefton drafts of the second and third sections. I am grateful for their comments and especially those of Shefton, who did not agree with me.

1 See Corinth i 50 n. 1 and RE ix 2258–9: I assume their collections of references are fairly complete.

3 Verdelis , N. M. Ath. Mitt. lxxi ( 1956 ) 51 –9Google Scholar and lxxiii (1958) 140–5 PAE 1960, 136–43 and 1962, 48–50.

4 J. G. Frazer had previously reported remains of a ‘tramway’ on the east side of the Isthmus (Pausanias's Description of Greece iii 5): they have now, it seems, disappeared.

5 Pliny (NH iv 10) and Hesychius (s.v. ‘Diolkos’) seem to say that the diolkos was from Lechaeum to Cenchreae if so, they were wrong.

6 Strabo viii 335, though if this is meant as the direct distance across the Isthmus, the diolkos would have been rather longer.

7 Thuc. viii 7–8 Polyb. iv 19.77–9 and v 101.4 Corinth viii 2, no. 1 Dio Cass. li 5.2 Cf. Thuc. iii 15.1 (preparations in 428 B.C.). Though the diolkos is not mentioned, its use on these occasions is assumed generally and reasonably, since it existed earlier and was available later. On the other hand I do not think that the transport of warships across the Isthmus in 883 A.D. (Georgius Phrantzes i 33: in Corp. Script. Hist. Byz. xx, ed. Bekker) is likely to have been on the diolkos, since by then there had been too long a period of anarchy for a public utility of its kind to have remained serviceable (see also n. 8) still less do I believe G. F. Hertzberg's assertion, for which he gives no evidence, that small ships still used the diolkos in the twelfth century A.D. (Gesch. der Byz. 306).

8 Strabo viii 335, Pliny (NH iv 10) ‘Lecheae hinc, Cenchreae illinc angustiarum termini, longo et ancipiti navium ambitu quas magnitudo plaustris transvehi prohibet’. Incidentally, use of the diolkos may have ended in 67 B.C. first, its track is interrupted near its western end by the modern canal, which here was preceded by the cutting for Nero's canal ( Gerster , B. , BCH viii [ 1884 ] 225 –32)CrossRefGoogle Scholar and, secondly, a bridge over a 40–50 m cutting would have been impracticable nor was any trace of a diversion of the diolkos observed in the stretches on either side of the interruption, where—unless spoil heaps prevented it—one might expect a diversion to have started.

9 See n. 8. Pliny is unambiguous, and conceivably Strabo's πορθμєῑα were a particular kind of ship (cf. perhaps Hdt. vii 25).

10 The Latin inscription at Corinth (Corinth viii 2, no. 1) even describes the transport of a fleet in 102 B.C. as unprecedented.

11 Thuc. iii 15.1. His ὁλκοὶ τῶν νєῶν must, I suppose, have been slipways, by analogy with Hdt. ii 54, where ὁλκοὶ τῶν νєῶν survived long after a site had been abandoned (cf. also Hdt. ii 159). This implies that the difficulty encountered by the Spartans was one of structure rather than equipment.

14 Cf. Roebuck , C. , Hesp. xli ( 1972 ) 127 Google Scholar : he thinks the purpose commercial and fiscal.

15 Further, the paving of the track, which is of a softish stone, shows signs of much wear or other deterioration, but—if my memory is right— not of much repairing.

16 It has been suggested that something more ought to be said about this limit and so I offer a vague surmise. In 412 B.C. it was presumably triremes that were transported on the diolkos (Thuc. viii 7–8). In 217 B.C. hemioliai and undecked ships were transported, but the cataphracts were sent round the Peloponnese (Polyb. v 101.2–4 cf. fr. 162), presumably because they could not be transported what kind or kinds or warships these cataphracts were is not stated, but one might expect that some were pentereis. Yet, according to some students, triremes and pentereis could be housed in the same sheds (e.g. Morrison , J. S. and Williams , R. T. , Greek Oared Ships 286 Google Scholar , though on 183 D. J. Blackman is non-committal), and consequently their dimensions must have been much the same: if so, the determining factor here for transport on the diolkos should be weight—and unladen weight, since warships did not carry cargo. By this reasoning the loading limit on the diolkos was between the weight of an empty trireme and that of an empty penteres and though we do not know what those weights were, we do know approximately the dimensions of triremes—about 35 m long and 5m wide (ibid. 285). Students more knowledgeable about ships than I am might be able to work out what sizes of merchant ships correspond to the trireme and the penteres, allowing first for the trireme being of exceptionally light build and secondly for the lead sheathing of the hull that seems to have been or become usual in merchant ships ( de Vries , K. in Bass , G. F. , A History of Seafaring 49 )Google Scholar . From the data collected by Casson , L. ( Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World 183 –90)Google Scholar my very tentative guess is that merchant ships which could carry a load of around 200 tons could have been transported on the diolkos but without their load, and that it would have been a very small ship that was not too heavy when fully laden. This chain of argument is, of course, very tenuous and also assumes that the efficiency of the diolkos remained constant.

17 So G. F. Bass kindly told me. For a short account of the Kyrenia ship see M. L. Katzev in Bass, op. cit. 50–2.


Corpus vasorum antiquorum. Hongrie. Budapest, Musée des Beaux-Arts Fascicule 2. [18], trans. Ágnes Bencze. (Union Académique Internationale, avec le concours financier de l’UNESCO)

The CVA format is a pledge of quality in a potentially precarious field of art history many institutions now shy away from publishing their ancient vases in such an expensive mode, and it is heartening to see the quality continued in this French-language text from the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts. There is indeed merit in publishing small and plain pieces like Etrusco-Corinthian aryballoi or Daunian one-handled cups as well as the masterpieces of figural painting, since most collections, as well as many current excavations in the Mediterranean, are more likely to contain these simpler types, and authoritative discussion of them is much appreciated. Only when all major collections are publicized to the same standard will thorough research be possible for a majority of scholars.

This is the second fascicule of vases in the Budapest Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, adding 114 Etruscan and Campanian vases to complete the catalogue presented in the first fascicule, by the same author, in 1981. Fascicule 1 furnished a variety of Etruscan bucchero and painted fabrics, including works by the Micali Painter and other attributed artists. A final volume on Apulian Red Figure and Black Gloss is projected to complete the holdings from Italy. The original CVA format of loose plates and paperback text was used for the first volume this is a bound hardback, like recent volumes from other institutions.

Scholars in vase painting will know how to approach this work for historians and others, let me point out a few of the little gems in this segment of the collection, which ranges across many Italic fabrics and includes some unusual and very fine Etruscan or Faliscan Subgeometric painted pieces (Pls. 1-4), a rare Faliscan(?) biconical urn in White-on-Red fabric (Pl. 4.4), Faliscan incised impasto (Pl. 5.1), just three pieces of Caeretan and Vulcian bucchero (Pls. 5-6), Italo- and Etrusco-Corinthian and other Etruscan fabrics (Black Figure, Red Figure, Black Gloss, Pls. 6-15), 2 fine “Chalcidian” amphorae, a class probably made in Rhegion, as explained by S. (Pls. 16-17), Campanian, Lucanian, Sicilian and so-called Gnathian painted and plastic wares (Pls. 18-41), and Apulian and related native painted wares, including Canosa vases (Pls. 42-49). (Some Gnathia ware was produced in Paestum: see p. 51, Pls. 18.7 and 19, and also in Sicily: p. 64, Pl. 25.5). In this selection are 25 attributed painters vases range from the late 8th century (740-710 BC the early Orientalizing period as now determined by radiocarbon dates and close parallels to Near Eastern finds (see BMCR 2006.08.10), through the 2nd century BC (Etruscan/Volterran black gloss vases).

Most objects are complete or intact and so fine that one can only dream of the tombs whence they have come, but nearly all the unusual vases lack provenance several entries cite the notorious Swiss art market, and we can rejoice that they have reached the haven of a public art museum.

Some have noteworthy prior addresses: Wittgenstein Collection/Vienna Universal Exposition 1873 (Pl. 6.5-6, aryballos from Cumae Pl. 18.8, Campanian pyxis Pls. 34.2,3,8 and 34.10-12, “Gnathian” volute krater and cup Pls. 41.2, 41.3, and 41.7, South Italian lekythos, olpe, column krater). Emil Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg (1824-1878) was a former Prussian officer, Russian general and diplomat whose residency in Naples led to his collecting vases in Campania, especially from excavations at Cumae.

Other pieces were purchased from the Brindisi Museum (Pl. 31.4,7, fragmentary guttus), or exchanged with the Basel Antikensammlung (Pl. 4.4-5, biconical urn). From the demise of the Castle Ashby collection was rescued an Etruscan red-figured oinochoe that merits its lengthy analysis by S. here (Pl. 13.1-5, 7-9) for the original collection formed (1820-1830) by the second Marques of Northampton, see J. Boardman and M. Robertson, CVA Great Britain 15 (1979) for its initial dispersal, see D. Buitron’s 1982 review, AJA 86: 457-458. This oinochoe, with its quirky boudoir characters, had been omitted from that CVA because of doubts, now resolved, about its authenticity. Other vases were transferred from different Hungarian museums in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. The first art collection formed by the Romanist András Alföldi (1895-1981) was left to the Museum of Fine Arts, following the departure of the Soviets in 1990 (here, Pl. 28.6, a Magenta-class boar’s head vase probably for seasonings) his second collection is in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.

Provenances cover central and southern Italy and Sicily: Agrigento (probably a sanctuary deposit, to judge from painted cups and a miniature jug, Pls. 24.1,4 and 25.1-3), Morgantina, Cumae, Tarentum, Ruvo, Foggia-Lucera, Naples(?), Ordona(? -“Orta Nova,” several acquired in 1996), Cerveteri, Tarquinia and Castiglioncello in the territory of Volterra. A 4th-century Apulian/Lucanian reticulated lekythos said to be from Pompeii (Pl. 40.11-12) may indeed be correctly designated, though the information comes from an art dealer. A 3rd-century Apulian, so-called Gnathian, oinochoe (Pl. 34,1) is said to have been found in Egypt and S. makes a good case for believing it.

Those researching a particular type of vase should see (as S. reminds us) T.J. Carpenter and T. Mannack, Summary Guide to CVA, 2nd ed., Oxford 2000, pp. 89-100, for catalogues of Italian fabrics in CVA volumes. The CVA format must be strictly observed, so analysis of each vase is brief, with dimensions, Munsell number, description, date, and close parallels CVA plates give proper profiles and mug-shots, making it easy to spot parallels for other vases. Several entries include drawings (facsimiles of the sketch lines incised by artists), but only a few have profile drawings of the shape. S. had been taken to task for giving fulsome discussions in the first fascicule, and here, though briefly, he does offer references to workshops, styles, uses of the different shapes, and subject matter. He introduces just a few categories with invaluable background and updated bibliography for the class: gutti and askoi (p. 71), Apulian-Lucanian vases in superposed color (p. 77), Apulian “Gnathia ware” (pp. 85-86), native Apulian/Peucetian (p. 113).

Items of iconographic interest (see concordance pp. 133-135) include an Etruscan, 8th-century painted “Subgeometric” stand with a lion who is mostly mouth attacking a horse. It is only the second piece known by the “Casale del Fosso Painter’ (named for the necropolis at Veii where his work was first identified) – the style is similar to the “Tomb of the Roaring Lions” discovered, also at Veii (cf. “Top Ten Discoveries of 2006,” Archaeology 60.1, 2007: 9). Excavations at Veii in recent decades have established it as a source for some early painted vases, often found in Faliscan Narce, where they were known in greater numbers than at home. S. suggests the vase was by a Euboean master who emigrated to Veii via the open colony of Pithekoussai. Other animal scenes grace a 7th-century Faliscan cup incised with winged, roaring lions (Pl. 5.1-4), and a winged female forms a bucchero strut from a caryatid chalice, (Pl. 6.2-3, from Cerveteri, with numerous mold-siblings known elsewhere).

An oinochoe by the early Etrusco-Corinthian Bearded Sphinx Painter (Pls. 7-8) has wild animals and trademark bearded-sphinx figures, with (wingless) lions of identical type – all wearing skullcaps. The vase has a strainer-mouth, as do some others of this class, leading to a consideration of its possible use: like the Hellenistic South Italian sleeping (or roasted!) half-boar’s head (Pl. 28.6), this feature must be a token of its use in fine cuisine (see p. 25). S. is the world expert on Etrusco-Corinthian vases, who for decades, from behind the Iron Curtain and later too, would generously identify and attribute vases as we all sent him photos and sketches of our discoveries: he notes that the oinochoe falls in the painter’s early career, while he worked at Vulci.

One fragment of a Caeretan pithos (Pl. 10.5) has stamped “metopes” of winged lions: the stamps were trapezoidal, allowing images to fit easily onto the curving rim of the vase. A Caeretan basin-shaped brazier in the same tradition (Pl. 11) has stamped scenes in two rows bordered with a narrow triglyph-metope frieze (stamped separately): a man hunting a hare with two hockey-stick-like lagobola, as dogs drive the prey into a net. See S.’s thorough discussion of shape and imagery, pp. 31-32, with an update to the fine corpus by L. Pieraccini ( Around the Hearth. Caeretan Cylinder-Stamped Braziers, Rome 2003). Used in home and tomb for cooking (small game?), the braziers are evocative of aristocratic Caeretan family life.

A ketos, the reptilian, bearded sea monster, is depicted in a plastic handle from a 4th-century Faliscan vase related to the colorful class of Etruscan ceramica argentata (Pl. 14.4-5). Nike tauroktonos, in a pose foreshadowing Mithraic imagery, appears on a black gloss guttus (Pl. 29.3,6,9, published in LIMC VI, 1992, 895 no. 714). Animals and grotesques abound in southern Italy: fish-plate (Pl. 18.1,6) Sicilian plastic cow with apotropaic lizards painted on her body (Pl. 24.5-8) plastic Italiote vases and mold: ram, bull, goat, boar, pig, human heads (Negro child, Persian boy), masked comic actors (Pls. 26-28) Sicilian Medusa relief (Pl. 25.4,6). Etruscan vases depict athletes (Pl. 12.3,5,6-8), women’s world (Pl. 13.1-5, 7-9), female heads (Pl. 14.1-3), including Genucilia plate (Caeretan, Pl. 13.6,10). A Paestan 4th-century black-figured lekythos displays a winged Eros (Pl. 19.1-3).

Many vases illustrate the 4th-century, red-figured products of South Italy, especially Lucania: a red-figured “Panathenaic” amphora offers slightly odd funerary scenes with an ephebe (Pl. 23) on a nestoris (a native Italic favorite) is Dionysos with a woman and satyr (Pl. 19.7-10, 20-21, draped youths on reverse) on a bell krater women meet Athena who carries a South Italian shield (Pl. 22). The absorption and transformation of Greek symbols and social customs by Italic or Italiote consumers (scenes of ephebes, Dionysiac figures) is apparent in these items probably bought as showpieces for banquets or funerals. Demand for such prestige items increased rapidly (such traits as string-cut bases attest skilled artisans working in a hurry, Pl. 49.7 Canosa vase), yet the “hellenization” of Italic or hybrid populations in southern Italy was not a wholesale phenomenon – images and vase forms were selected with great forethought.

Two inscriptions are a grafitto Etruscan “M” on a shallow bowl from the Castiglioncello necropolis in the territory of Volterra (2nd century BC, Pl. 15.6), and the Messapic name “Platyros” marking a 4th-century mold for a ram’s-head rhyton (Pl. 26.1,3,5). This is the only mold known from Apulian Ruvo, and S. suggests that it was made in Taras/Tarentum, where the tradition of inscribing molds is found it would thus be evidence for the activity of Italic masters within the famed Tarentine coroplastic industry, exported to a production line in native Ruvo.

A mere perusal of the photographs will not yield all the details in this carefully reasoned text, which notes analytical points: such as the originally “silvered” fabric of some now seemingly plain vases, and such as the oinochoe (Pl. 26.2) in the form of a Persian boy’s head in soft cap — a popular iconographic tradition that began in Athens ca. 400 and was revived in Apulia almost a century later, and has many mold-siblings. In contrast, the Hellenistic exaggerated Negro boy’s head has only one parallel, not mechanically related, and that is not in Italy but in Ioannina (3rd-2nd century, Pl. 28.1). Pl. 28.4, the plastic vase in the form of a comic actor, shows traces of burning, therefore likely came from a funeral pyre. Pl. 29.1,4, a guttus for lamp-filling, is an example of potters drawing the molds for their relief-work (in this case a gorgoneion) from existing metal vessels.

Apart from a few masterpieces, like the 8th-century Casale del Fosso Painter’s stand, the Bearded Sphinx oinochoe, or the Brooklyn-Budapest Painter’s red-figured nestoris, these vases are not spectacular or particularly unusual, but thanks to S.’s modest yet masterly treatment, they furnish a good impression of what most often is found in excavations or in foreign collections formed in Italy, and make this CVA a good starting point for those researching Etruscan or South Italian finds or imagery.


Etrusco-Corinthian Olpe

The work of the Vel the potter’s family began early. Vel’s eldest son, Cae, in the process of learning his father’s trade, was often tasked with retrieving clay and water from the Fiora river. He was aided by a hired worker, as the trek to the river just outside of the city of Vulci was formidable when burdened by the materials they collected. Just before sunrise, when the pair returned, they piled the clay in the pottery yard before immersing some of it in a below-ground tub full of water. One of them agitated the clay in this tub while the other skimmed off debris as it was driven to the surface. They worked together to pump this slip into a basin, where the heaviest clay particles sank to the bottom. Finally, the pair pumped the slip into a new basin, where it was allowed to rest and become workable clay. They repeated this process several times in preparing clay that could be used late in the afternoon or the following day.

By midmorning, Vel, joined by his wife, Hastia daughter, Thethis and younger son, Sethre, arrived at the workshop. Wasting no time, Vel set about wedging the clay he would use for the day. He and Sethre dumped a batch of clay on the floor of the workshop and began working it with their feet. The potter showed his son how to work the edges of the clay pile with his heel, twisting the clay in a counterclockwise direction and pressing it down. When the clay achieved the proper texture, Vel took a portion of it to his wheel. Sethre turned the wheel for him, allowing Vel to throw a wine jug with tall, thin walls and a lip for pouring. When he was satisfied with its shape, he separated the olpe from the wheel with a wire as his son gently turned the wheel. Sethre set the olpe on a shelf to dry Vel continued to throw wares until he finished a batch, and then he started on forming the handles.

Once the jugs reached the proper degree of leather-hardness, Hastia and Thethis painted designs on them with clay slips. For black designs, they mixed water with potash to make it alkaline, then added some very fine clay to turn the mixture into a slip. For red designs, ochre and manganese replaced the potash. The potter’s wife often acted as kiln master and was in charge of igniting the kiln and regulating the flow of air throughout the firing process, but Vel, Cae, and the hired worker were all comfortable undertaking this task. The firing was done in batches, and although the wares would only be fired once, the firing procedure consisted of three phases of temperature and airflow changes. The wares were allowed to cool in the kiln and then were stored on shelves in the workshop.

While this object has the appearance of ceramic ware produced in Corinth , analysis of its chemical composition reveals that it was likely produced in Etruria in or near one of three main production sites: Vulci, Caere, and Tarquinia (Gerdes 10). This object is specifically an oinochoe, perhaps an olpe—or wine jug—that is now missing its handle, lip, and most of its neck. The Etruscocorinthian style illustrated by this olpe developed in the 6th century B.C. from the Transitional and Ripe Corinthian styles, which were noted for their incorporation of “oriental” design elements heraldic animals such as lions, boars, stags, and panthers sphinxes and other hybrid mythical creatures featured prominently alongside ornate rosettes and thick Laconian bands—a holdover from early black-figure pottery (Cook 142). By the middle of the 6th century B.C., potters in Etruria were churning out Corinthian-esque black-figure ware which departed drastically from the earlier Greek style in both the bodily proportions of the animals depicted and the overall complexity of the subjects. The Etruscocorinthian style was simpler and less concerned with presenting a naturalistic portrait of animals than its predecessors. The scrimping on detail on this olpe, particularly in the integrity of the rosettes, may be a demonstration of this Etruscan influence, or it may indicate that this intended as a common ware (Buschor 43).

This olpe was produced collaboratively in a workshop. The only known potters from this time period were men, but this role can not be called definitively male. In surviving Greek and Etruscan art, both women and men are depicted as painters it is possible that the task of decoration was delegated to either men or women, while the men were solely charged with making the pottery. In order to create pottery, clay would have to be collected: primary clay is mined from its origin, while secondary clay is collected after being eroded from its source and deposited elsewhere (Schreiber 3). Because secondary clay is far more common and workable, it is probable that the craftspeople who made this olpe would have used it rather than primary clay. This means that someone would have to collect the clay from where it was most abundant—lake, river, and marine beds—and bring it to the pottery yard, where it would be added to a tub with water and agitated. Debris and impurities in the clay would be removed, and the clay would be transferred into a basin, where its heaviest components could separate out (Schreiber 8). Then, the clay slip would be transferred again to another basin to solidify. The potter or his assistants could either remove chunks and wedge them by hand, or wedge the whole batch on the floor using their feet.

Once the clay was properly wedged, the potter could finally throw his wares on a wheel that had to be turned by one of his assistants (Schreiber 13). He primarily manipulated the clay with his hands, but may also have utilized tools such as shapers—to smooth the surface of the clay—and scrapers—to thin the clay walls. When he was finished shaping the piece, he separated it from the wheel with a wire and set it aside to harden. He formed any necessary appendages and set them aside to harden concurrently these would have to be attached with slip or clay when the piece was the correct consistency (Schreiber 23). The piece was decorated with a gloss made out of very fine clay mixed with alkaline water to produce black designs (Schreiber 53). Ochre and manganese washes were used to achieve yellow and red color (Schreiber 49). The piece would then be fired in a wood powered kiln. A kiln master was in charge of igniting the kiln and controlling the airflow throughout the firing process. The relationship of oxygen and carbon dioxide within the kiln’s chamber, as well as the chemical composition of the clay used to make the ware, determined the finish and color of the completed ware (Schreiber 55).

Original Use

In preparation for the dinner and banquet held to celebrate the birth of his son, a wealthy Etruscan man called Aranth purchased a new olpe from Vel’s workshop. He brought it, along with a new decorative krater, back to his home, where the members of his household had already started to prepare for the festivities. His friends arrived and they began their dinner in the early evening. When everyone had had their fill, the group moved into the andrôn (men’s dining/drinking room). While he and his companions reclined on the couches therein, an oinochoos, a young man from another wealthy family in Aranth’s broad social circle, brought the new krater into the center of the room with the help of one of the household’s slaves. The symposiarch was chosen from among the guests and dictated the water-to-wine ratio for the night. The oinochoos then mixed water and wine in the krater while the slave distributed the kylikes (drinking cups). When the wine was sufficiently diluted in the krater, the oinochoos used the olpe to fill each person’s kylix with wine. He did this many times before the night was through.

This object can be classified broadly as an oinochoe (“wine-pourer”)—a very common class of wares—and more specifically as an olpe (from an older word meaning “leather wine-skin”) (Moser 38). The olpe was essentially a pitcher that could be used to hold water, wine, or any other liquid its curved spout and tall handle made it ideal for pouring out whatever it was filled with. There is no definitive account of its acceptable uses, and because of its ubiquity, it is probable that the use of the olpe varied widely depending upon the circumstances. Undecorated versions of these vessels may have been common in households, with the more ornamental of them being reserved for special events. It is also possible that some olpai were made as decorative pieces or grave goods.

Olpai would of course be essential at a symposium, where wine was consumed in great quantities. It is likely then that a well-decorated olpe such as this one would be purchased by a wealthy household for use in symposia and grand meals. This is supported by the association of “orientalizing” designs with high social status individuals who were capable of harboring “eastern sympathies” (Topper 92). Oinochoe would have been handled by designated oinochoos (“wine-pourer/wine-bearer”) who were either slaves of the hosts or who were “wellborn” young men not quite old enough to take part in the actual symposium but nevertheless compelled to “serve their elders” as a means of securing their position in high society (Topper 56). In sympotic practice, a krater was the vessel in which wine and water were mixed according to the randomly appointed symposiarch’s preference for the evening (Garland 150). The olpe would have likely been used to ferry diluted wine from the krater to the guests’ cups.

Reuse

The olpe saw many seasons of use by Aranth and his family. Even when it was not being used at a lavish banquet or family meal, its detailed and vivid designs made it worthy of a position in front of the other ceramic wares on their shelf. Aranth’s wife, Tita, was particularly fond of the piece, and on the occasion that she was feeling indulgent, she would use it — even when the task at hand did not call for a wine jug. She imagined that the beauty of the olpe magnified the potency of its contents, whether it was robust wine to be consumed in celebration or fresh water to be given to a member of the household who had fallen ill. In one such case, when the fate of their only son, Larce, seemed dire after persistent bouts of fever, she made sure to bring water in the olpe to his bedside with hopes that the jug’s beauty and reliability would augment the healing properties of the water. His miraculous recovery reinforced her beliefs about the olpe, much to the amusement of the rest of the family, and thereafter she sought to use it as often as possible.

When Larce was wed and his bride had settled into their home, the Tita attempted to persuade her daughter-in-law Ramtha of the importance of the olpe’s use. The latter remained unconvinced, perhaps in light of the new bucchero ware she had received as a wedding present. With the family’s newfound interest in using and displaying this fine, matte-black earthenware, the olpe regained its status as ordinary in the eyes of all but Tita, who harbored some fondness for it even after it had fallen out of style in their social circle. While she no longer was vocal about its luckiness, she made sure it was on display in the dining room rather than on a shelf in the storage room. When the thin-walled bucchero ware was inevitably broken in its routine use, the Etrusco-Corinthian olpe was a stand-in until it could be replaced.

Only a few years had passed before his mother became gravely ill Larce recalled her olpe, which had since been relegated to the duty of dust collecting in their storage room. Desperate to tap into the good luck with which his mother credited the olpe, or perhaps feeling acquiescent as he was confronted with her worsening condition, he made sure to bring her water solely in the olpe she was so proud to own.

The inspiration for the potential contemporary reuse of the olpe came from the article “The Etruscans and their Medicine” in which Ralph Major claims that Etruscans “laid great stress on the curative properties of water,” and cited hydrotherapy and the construction of baths as evidence (304). In addition, Etruria was well known for creating and using drugs thus, an adolescent surviving a serious illness was a plausible plot point. A discussion about Etruscans’ frenzied purchasing of the eponymous category of Greek kylikes in Sheramy Bundrick’s “Athenian Eye Cups in Context” also expanded this consideration of reuse into the spiritual or ritual significance of what appear to be everyday objects. The article also called into question my earlier understanding of the symposium as enacted in Etruria: despite being strongly influenced by their material and social culture, Etruscans necessarily differed from Athenians, and the Greeks at large, in the use of objects inspired by Greek prototypes as well as in imported Greek rituals. Kylikes, for example, were used in Etruria not only as quotidian drinkware, but as objects explicitly destined for use in funerary rituals—or, as Bundrick’s analysis of one exemplary kylix contends, for ultimate possession by an underworld god (311).

If it is the case that Etruscans associated water with healing power—or any power at all—and if it was also the case that they used what were vessels originally constructed by and for Greeks as they saw fit, then it is not a stretch to believe that Etruscans would have had uses for wares which were ostensibly different from their intended use, i.e. as a vessel for water instead of wine. This concept was further supported by an observation of my own questionable use of dining ware: if I regularly make do with what I have by using objects differently than they were perhaps intended to be used (e.g. using a coffee mug as storage for sugar packets, or drinking out of mason jars, or using a tupperware lid as a plate), then it is reasonable to believe that Etruscans may have done the same. Furthermore, it seems likely that a person might use an object more because of an aesthetic preference or a belief in its ability to provide luck (e.g. choosing a plate that shows fewer signs of wear, or only using a specific mug for your coffee when you write a paper). Guided by these conclusions, the characterization of the wealthy man’s wife is altered in favor of a more relatable, human portrayal.

Deposition

Uncertain of how to help his wife’s condition, Aranth resolved to consult a priest trained as a haruspex. The haruspex agreed to read the entrails of a sheep to divine the fate of Tita so long as the wealthy man provided the sheep in addition to something for his trouble. Aranth easily procured a sheep and a small payment for the haruspex, who ritually slaughtered the animal in a nearby sanctuary and extracted its liver for reading. Standing before Aranth and the small crowd that had gathered in the local sanctuary, the haruspex began examining the outer edge of the liver, working his way inwards in two clockwise circles. His face grew solemn. He informed his audience that the gods must be very displeased, for he had not ever seen so many ill omens at once.

The haruspex’s dire prophecy was confirmed when the Tita passed the next day. Devastated, the family began to prepare the family tomb in the Vulci necropolis with objects and furniture which would accompany her in the afterlife. Her body was wrapped in linen by Ramtha to prepare it for inhumation, while Aranth was tasked with purchasing her terracotta sarcophagus and stone funerary couch. When these duties were completed, Tita was carted to her final resting place by her family and a procession of mourners, through the city and down the long, dark corridor of the family tomb. Once her body was placed in the elaborately decorated sarcophagus, which sat upon the stone couch, the priest sacrificed a hen at the tomb’s altar to help her secure safe passage to the afterlife. In this chamber painted to look like their home, her family deposited some furniture and jewelry which she had used in life and would therefore need in death, and the housewares were ritually broken to prevent their use by the living—though Aranth could not bring himself to shatter her precious olpe—before being placed in the chamber. When the funeral had concluded, the tomb was resealed until the next family member would be inhumed there.

The Van Buren olpe was in all likelihood excavated from a tomb, which is where much of the present information about the Etruscans and life in Etruria is derived. Thus, it was necessary to place it in a tomb—a necropolis being the most logical choice considering this story is set in Vulci—through funerary ritual. The inclusion of the haruspex consultation is based on the reputation of the Etruscans among the Romans for being exceedingly religious and superstitious as well as adept at augury (Bonfante 362). If the Etruscans were superstitious, even a little, it is reasonable to think that when faced with a crisis they would seek the services of an expert in interpreting the will of the gods. With regard to the later animal sacrifice, blood was an important part of Etruscan ritual, and imagery from Etruscan tombs suggests that altars were used for animal sacrifice within a funerary context (Camporeale 221). While it is probable that a priest would be present with the family during a funeral, it is not clear who else in the community would have attended an aristocratic woman’s funeral again Etruscan tomb imagery shows that funerals could be well attended and even celebratory in nature (Tuck 49). The funeral procession and small gathering of people at the actual inhumation was a safe bet. The Etruscans believed strongly in an afterlife where one would need one’s belongings, so the olpe, which was special to the wife, was certainly going to be placed in the tomb along with jewelry, furniture, and other housewares (Camporeale 226).

Acquisition

From the time she was old enough to wriggle into narrow tunnels and then scrabble out of them, Piera had learned to loathe the coming of spring. While the end of the rainy season meant warm days spent darting through the tall, dewy grass and between the cork oaks adorned with fresh growth that grew around her home, Piera resented that the season brought with it the twice monthly excursions to the countryside. On a typical trip, she could expect that she would accompany her parents and a few of their friends for an afternoon walk which was far too long for her taste. When they had arrived in a spot that one of the adults had picked out, one where the unruly grass grew less abundantly, Piera would be tasked with the unpleasant role of squeezing through the shaft they created in the compacted dirt.

Once she had crawled in, Piera would evaluate the tomb’s contents this part of the process she was starting to find tolerable because she was, in those moments, the voice of authority in the group. If the tomb had not been picked clean of anything valuable, Piera would crawl back out and watch as the adults worked to dig a sizeable entryway. On this particular night, however, the normally nimble Piera lost her footing when she landed and unceremoniously tumbled onto a pile of ceramic wares. She hoped that the adults above had not heard the crackle and crumble of the freshly exposed earthenware. When she reluctantly resurfaced, her mother’s pursed lips and her father’s furrowed brows proved otherwise. Nevertheless, the group set about creating an entrance. This work was finished before the sun went down, and the group split up to return the following night. Then, they carefully removed the now-oxidized wares—or what was left of them—and bagged them in large sacks full of hay.

Piera’s hapless drop resulted in only a few saleable finds: a jug, a few cups, some vases, and a mirror. Most of these were chipped or had developed hairline cracks, and were it not for the high demand for any semblance of material classical history in the booming antiquities market of Rome, these items would have to have been left behind. As it was, Piera’s father knew that he would not be able to get the full price from his contact in Rome, Fausto Benedetti. In autumn, when a young American scholar whom he had gotten to know in the city expressed interest in acquiring antiquities, Benedetti was all too happy to sell it at a price agreeable to a student, making a small profit. That student, Albert William Van Buren, who had collected every ancient thing he could afford during his early years in Rome, would, two years after buying the most intact object: an Etrusco-Corinthian wine jug, send a small collection home to Yale University. The collection, which had arrived with a now-broken olpe, would stay there largely unused until 1925, when it was sold to a Smith College Latin professor (Bradbury).

In the early 1900s, there was no legislation in Italy that would have prevented the widespread looting of classical antiquities from her soil. “Archaeologists” like Van Buren or any casual collector would have no trouble acquiring Etruscan artifacts so long as they could pay. Van Buren’s journal mentions he acquired the olpe from one “Benedetti,” who is presumably Fausto Benedetti, an antiquities dealer active in Rome who is known to have sold some artifacts to Van Buren (Bonfante et al. 245). Lacking accounts of early twentieth century tombaroli, modern examples—such as those recorded by Fiona Rose-Greenland and Cristina Ruiz—provided some clues as to how looters would approach the problem of opening a tomb and extracting its contents. Piera’s role in the story closely follows that of Rose-Greenland’s “Michele,” who, as the smallest individual in the family, was the obvious choice for sending into small spaces to determine if the tomb was worth the hard work of careful excavation (570). The detail about the appearance of grass where tombs were found came from Cristina Ruiz’s interview with “Antonio Induno,” in 2000, in which Induno explained that sparse or dry patches of grass as well as fig trees often marked tomb locations. Induno also contributed the detail about the necessary oxidation of wares, without which the ceramic pieces would crumble (Ruiz). The circumstances which resulted in the breaking of the olpe are recorded by Van Buren as being a product of their shipment to the U.S., although it seems likely that the vessel was not structurally sound before its journey across the Atlantic, and it might have even been cracked or missing pieces (some of which remain missing) at the time of its shipment.

Bibliography

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Amyx, D.A. Corinthian Vase-Painting of the Archaic Period. Vol. 2. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. Print. 3 vols. California Studies in the History of Art 25.

Bell, Sinclair Carpino, and A. Alexandra. A Companion to the Etruscans. 1st ed. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. Web. 28 Apr. 2017. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World Ser.

Boëthius, Axel. Etruscan and Early Roman Architecture. 2nd ed. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1978. Print.

Bonfante, Larissa.“Daily Life and Afterlife.” Etruscan Life and Afterlife: A Handbook of Etruscan Studies. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 1986. 232–278. Print.

Bonfante, Giuliano, and Larissa Bonfante. The Etruscan language: an introduction. Manchester: Manchester U Press, 2002.

Bonfante, Larissa, Helen Nagy, and Jacquelyn Collins-Clinton. The collection of antiquities of the American Academy in Rome. Ann Arbor, MI: Published for the American Academy in Rome by U of Michigan Press, 2015. Print.

Bradbury, Scott. “Van Buren Antiquities Collection: History.” Smith College Classics Department. N.p., 15 Mar. 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.

Bundrick, Sheramy D. “Athenian Eye Cups in Context.” American Journal of Archaeology 119.3 (2015): 295–341. Print.

Buschor, Ernst. Greek Vase-Painting. Second. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1978. Print.

Camporeale, Giovannangelo. “The Deified Deceased in Etruscan Culture.” New Perspectives on Etruria and Early Rome. Ed. Sinclair Bell and Helen Nagy. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2009. 220–250. Print.

Carpenter, Thomas H., Elizabeth Landridge-Noti, and Mark D. Stansbury-O’Donnell, eds. “Introduction.” The Consumer’s Choice: Uses of Greek Figure-Decorated Pottery. Boston: Archaeological Institute of America, 2016. Print. Selected Papers on Ancient Art and Architecture 2.

Cartwright, Mark. “Vulci.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 16 Jan. 2017. Web.

Cook, R. M. Greek Painted Pottery. Third. London: Routledge, 1997. Print.

Del Chiaro, Mario A. “Etruscan Bucchero Pottery.” Archaeology 19.2 (1966): 98–103. Print.

Dontas, George. “Local Imitation of Corinthian Vases of the Later Seventh Century B.C. Found in Corfu.” Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 37.3 (1968): 331–337. Print.

Frère, Dominique. “Corinthe.” Vases En Voyage: De La Grèce À l’Ètrurie. Paris: Somogy Éditions D’Art, 2004. Print.

Garland, Robert. Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks. Second. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 2008. Print.

Gerdes, Rebecca. “A Provenance Study of Ancient Corinthian Pottery by Non-Destructive Chemical Analysis.” Thesis. Smith College, 2015. Web.

Hunt, Patrick, and Whitney de Luna. “Reading Livers Through Reading Literature: Hepatoscopy and Haruspicy in Iliad 20:469 Ff & 24:212 Ff, Aeneid 4:60 Ff & 10.175 Ff, Cicero and Pliny on Divination, among Others.” Stanford Archaeology Center Blog. Archaeolog. N.p., 28 Sept. 2007. Web.

Izzet, Vedia. The Archaeology of Etruscan Society. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Print.

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White-ground Vases.

In the fifth century b.c.e., the Athenian Empire reached the height of its prosperity, and Athenian artists made their mark on the art world. Great artists such as Polygnotus produced narrative paintings, and they influenced the vase painters. A new spirit can be detected in the years 475–450 b.c.e. artists decorated large vases with ambitious combat scenes of, for instance, Greeks fighting Amazons, that are set in hilly landscapes where the artists tried to produce an illusion of depth by placing more distant figures at a higher level than those in the foreground. The great murals that inspired these painters have not survived, but descriptions of these works by ancient authors provide a record of them for modern scholars. Yet the skill of the painter's brushwork can be seen on white-ground vases of the fifth century b.c.e. On these, the artist covered the background with a wash of fine white clay, and then painted his figures on the white surface in the same way as he would paint on a wooden panel. The finish is not as durable as red-figure, and thus it was particularly popular for the oil-flasks that were buried with the dead. The paintings on them are often domestic scenes, but there is a cosmetics jar (a pyxis) in the Metropolitan Museum in New York that shows the "Judgment of Paris" in which Paris, the young Trojan prince, is visited by the god Hermes. Greeks, who knew their mythology very well, would have known what was taking place: Hermes was bringing Paris a message that he was to judge which of the three goddesses—Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite—was the most beautiful. Paris seems youthful and innocent, the picture of naivety, and yet he was about to start the Trojan War.


Notes

  1. L. Casson, Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World (Princeton, 1971), p. 2. This was brought to my attention by J. Bouzek and E. Pleslová-Štiková. For an overview of the type, see E. Pleslová-Štiková, “A Crescent-Shaped Necklace from Velvary, Bohemia,” in Beck and Bouzek 1993 Citation: Beck, C. W., and J. Bouzek, eds. Amber in Archaeology: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Amber in Archaeology, Liblice, 1990. Prague, 1993. , pp. 147–52. A crescent necklace was the attribute of a high-ranking individual the finds of amber and metal examples, and the representations of them on engraved anthropomorphic stelae, establish the early date. ↩
  2. Museo di Manfredonia 0806: M. L. Nava in Ambre 2007 Citation: Ambre: Trasparenze dall&rsquoantico. Exh. cat. Naples, 2007. , p. 221, fig. 2, no. III.230. ↩
  3. Richardson 1983 Citation: Richardson, E. H. Etruscan Votive Bronzes: Geometric, Orientalizing, Archaic. 2 vols. Mainz am Rhein, 1983. , pp. 64–70 compare, for example, Arezzo 11490, 11492, 11493, 11495 (ibid., pls. 24–31) and Volterra 18, 23, 24, 28 (ibid., pls. 29–32). ↩
  4. Poggio Civitate, Antiquarium 68–100. ↩
  5. Compare, for example, the pair from the Tomb of the Animals at Cerveteri (Rome, Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia S10V3: Bartoloni et al. 2000 Citation: Bartoloni, G., et al., eds. Principi etruschi: Tra Mediterraneo ed Europa. Exh. cat. Bologna, 2000. , pp. 302–5, no. 420) and the two female figures from a large ivory find from Comeana in Florence (Museo Archeologico Nazionale 194541–42: ibid., p. 260, nos. 318–19a). ↩
  6. The ivory plaque showing Aristaios in the British Museum (GR 1954.9–10.1) is possibly from the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia at Sparta the Chiusine limestone urn (of circa 540–520 B.C.) is British Museum GR 1847,1127.1. For the Chiusine canopus urns, see Gempeler 1974 Citation: Gempeler, R. D. Die Etruskischen Kanopen: Herstellung, Typologie, Entwicklungsgeschichte. Einsiedeln, Switzerland, 1974. . ↩
  7. Florence, Museo Archeologico Nazionale 73846, from a plundered chamber tomb in the Pania necropolis, Chiusi. See Sprenger and Bartoloni 1981 Citation: Sprenger, M., and G. Bartoloni. The Etruscans: Their History, Art and Architecture. Translated by R. E. Wolf. Milan, 1981. , p. 85, figs. 34–35, with earlier bibl., including Y. Huls, Ivoires d’étrurie (Brussels, 1957), pp. 62–63, 165–68, pls. 27–29 and M. Cristofani, “Per una nuova lettura della pisside della Pania,” Abbreviation: StEtr Studi etruschi 39 (1971): 2ff. Haynes 2000 Citation: Haynes, S. Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History. Los Angeles, 2000. , pp. 110–11, concludes that it was “probably imported from Southern Etruria, not made in Vulci or Cerveteri as has been proposed. It is probable that the artist who carved the friezes drew for his models on Greek painted pottery, particularly Corinthian.” ↩
  8. S. Wachsman, Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant (College Station, TX, 1997), p. 198. ↩
  9. Casson 1971 (in n. 1, above), p. 169, nn. 2–3. In addition to Wachsman 1997 (in n. 8, above), critical bibl. for this entry includes F. Kaul, Ships on Bronzes: A Study in Bronze Age Religion and Iconography, Publications from the National Museum, Studies in Archaeology and History (Copenhagen, 1998) L. L. Walker, “A Study of Minoan Ships in Prehistoric Aegean Art,” master&rsquos thesis (Queen&rsquos University at Kingston, 1996) and K. Westerberg, Cypriote Ships from the Bronze Age to c. 500 B.C. (Copenhagen, 1983). ↩
  10. For this seventh-century B.C. Laconian pectoral, “Helen Led to the Ship,” see Marangou 1969 Citation: Marangou, L. Lakonische Elfenbein- und Beinschnitzereien. Tübingen, 1969. , pp. 83–90, no. 38, fig. 68. ↩
  11. Ibid., p. 90. ↩
  12. A. Maiuri, “Avanzi di suppellettile d&rsquouna tomba preromana,” Abbreviation: NSc Notizie degli scavi di antichità 11 (1914): 403–6. The Padula furnishings included a number of small amber pieces, including parts of fibula decorations, beads and pendants of several types, fragments of bronze sheets decorated in repoussé (one possibly a pendant), and fragments of ceramics. The ship pendant, the bulla-shaped amber pendants, and the plain beads of the grave may have belonged to one or more pieces of body ornamentation, including earrings, necklaces, pectorals, armlets, pins, girdles, and clothing decoration. ↩
  13. Both were drilled with three sets of perforations, one set each at the bow, at the stern, and amidships. Three separate filaments could have been secured at the three perforation sets, then joined at a point above for attachment to a carrier, fibula, or girdle. ↩
  14. The two amber ships are as different in type as the unmanned vessels painted on an early-seventh-century B.C. Italo-Geometric oinochoe, the manned pair engraved on an eighth-century B.C. fibula from Sparta, or the two painted on one side of the “Aristonothos krater” from Cerveteri (Rome, Capitoline Museums 172). The last&rsquos two ships are variously interpreted: some scholars identify one as Greek and the other as Etruscan, Phoenician, or Italic. Whether consciously made to represent Greek versus non-Greek, or whether there are just two types of ship actually engaged in battle, the krater may have a function as a grave good similar to that of the amber ship-shaped carvings. For the Italo-Geometric oinochoe with ships and fishes in the University of Missouri (Columbia) Museum of Art and Archaeology (71.114), see Torelli 2000 Citation: Torelli, M., ed. Gli Etruschi. Exh. cat. Venice, 2000. Published in English as The Etruscans. Milan, 2000. , p. 556, no. 50, with bibl. For the Spartan fibula, see J. W. Hagy, “800 Years of Etruscan Ships,” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploration 15, no. 3 (1986): 221–50. For the krater, see C. Dougherty, “The Aristonothos Krater: Competing Stories of Conflict and Collaboration,” in The Cultures within Ancient Greek Culture: Contact, Conflict, Collaboration, ed. C. Dougherty and L. Burke (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 35–56 M. Torelli, “The Encounter with the Etruscans,” in Pugliese Carratelli 1996 Citation: Pugliese Carratelli, G., ed. I Greci in Occidente. Exh. cat. Venice, 1996. Published in English as The Greek World: Art and Civilization in Magna Graecia and Sicily. New York, 1996. , pp. 567–76 and L. Basch, Le Musée imaginaire de la marine antique (Athens, 1987). ↩
  15. See n. 2, above. ↩
  16. Amulets with ship images of later date are documented as having special powers. G. Kornbluth, Engraved Gems of the Carolingian Empire (University Park, PA, 1995), says, “One Byzantine text describes how [a Palestinian pilgrim&rsquos] token was used during a winter storm and ‘all those on the boat were impregnated with perfume, the sea water surrounded the boat like a wall, and the waves were powerless against it.’” The agate used in one ship-subject gem was believed to be especially protective for sailors. The use of the Middle Low German word Bernstein for such a stone seems entirely plausible, although there is no evidence for this. ↩

This much-discussed iambic chant (written down by the second-century Festus, his source the first-century Verrius Flaccus) is revisited by Johnston 1995 Citation: Johnston, S. I. “Defining the Dreadful: Remarks on the Greek Child-Killing Demon.” In Ancient Magic and Ritual Power, edited by M. Meyer and P. Mirecki, pp. 361–87. Leiden, 1995. , pp. 386–87, in reference to her study of aversion rituals against child-killing demons. What she finds unusual is the command to go away on a ship.

Rituals from the old, middle, and new Babylonian periods … attempted to send Lamashtu away by means of a ship, a donkey or both. The rituals involved dedication of small clay ships and/or donkeys to a statuette of Lamashtu, as well as provisions and gifts such as malt, food, water, spindles, sandals, fibulae and combs, which were supposed to keep her happy on her journey. Some ritual texts tell her to use the ship to go across the river, which may mean the river that separated the land of the living from the land of the dead in Mesopotamian thought, or go across the sea. (p. 386)


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