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Dal 1 Aprile 2010 143 201

Analisi di ceramiche di V e IV secolo a. C., condotte da Silvia R. Amicone nei laboratori dell'University College di Londra, Department of Archaeology, Technology and Analysis of Archaeological Materials


Fifth and Fourth Century B. C. Black Glaze from Iasos

A Technological Approach


During my stay in Iasos (modern KıyıKışlacık, Turkey) throughout September 2010 as member of the Italian archaeological expedition, I began under the guidance of Dr. Fede Berti a research focused on the study of Black Glaze [Berti 2009]  from the V- IV century B. C.

This pottery assemblage from Iasos is being studied not only through a typological approach but also with regards to its manufacturing processes, with the aim of distinguishing different local productions, clarifying its technical and craftsmanship-related peculiarities and analyzing how this class of materials fits inside the pattern of the different local productions of Caria Black Glaze through appropriate comparisons.

The key questions on which the attention will be focused upon are the subsequent:

  • Is it possible to identify local Black Glaze production in Iasos?
  • Is it possible to identify and characterise imported ceramics in relation to provenance and technological traditions (both from other areas of Turkey and/or Greece)?

I will begin a preliminary investigation on 15 samples taken from sherds considered particularly interesting for their fabric and glaze characteristics.  In order to have a better understanding of the provenance and technological issues, petrographical and chemical analyses will be carried out.

Samples will be analysed using an integrated programme of Petrographic analysis and electron micro probe analysis (EMPA). First, specimens will be examined in thin section using a polarising microscope to determine the main inclusion types and their distribution. Subsequently, their elemental composition will be analysed using a microprobe analyser (EMPA). This instrument also allows for the creation of high definition images.

Particular attention will be given to the chemical characterization of the fragments’ glaze, whose surface was partially made from warm sigillata red and partially from black. In the scientific literature, the red gloss is called Intentional Red Glaze (in order to distinguish it from red glaze, which is due to misfiring), and there are several studies of how both red and black glaze could be formed simultaneously (using the three stages of oxidation, reduction and reoxidation firing) and if more than one firing of a vessel was required to produce the two colours [Cohen 2006].

The understanding of whether the same starting material was used to produce both red and black glaze could contribute to resolve this issue. Some sherds that present this peculiarity and seem to be imported from Attica (an hypothesis that has to be verified through petrographical analysis) will be analysed, as well as another shard, which could have been locally produced and that presents the same characteristics as the former two. In fact, it will be interesting to compare the techniques used in Attica and in Caria to obtain this special kind of double coloured pottery.

This could also shed new light on the problematic of transmission of Black Glaze production techniques from Attica to Caria, in a period of complicated interactions between these two areas of the Greek world. This pilot project of analysis obviously represents only a preliminary attempt to face on the complex question of Attic importation and imitation in Caria with a technological approach. However, it will be very useful to evaluate the potentials and the limits of this method in answering the key questions necessary to have a better understanding of the issue.


(in press) Berti, F. La ceramica attica a Vernice Nera di Iasos nel V e IV sec. a. C. In Euploia. Carie et Lyciae Mediterranées: Échanges et Identés.  Colloque Internationale, Bordeaux, 5-7 Novembre 2009.

Cohen, B., 2006, Coral-red gloss: potters, painters, and painter-potters, in Colors of clay (ed. B. Cohen), 44 – 54, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.




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