Kythera Island Project
 

Roman Pottery

Principal Investigator:
Clare Pickersgill (BSA)

 

Analysis of the Roman pottery collected by KIP only began in earnest during 2003, but is already progressing well. The first challenge is to establish local fabric types, in addition to identifying the more obvious high-profile diagnostics such as imported finewares and amphorae. In terms of textual evidence, the Roman period on Kythera is an obscure one, although like much of the Aegean, the early Roman phase seems to see fairly low levels of settlement in the countryside, with an explosion of activity in the Late Roman; the 1960s excavations at Kastri found abundant evidence of the latter, but very little of the former. Certainly, Late Roman pottery is much in evidence in the survey finds, forming inland site clusters focused on fertile valleys such as those of Mitata and Livadi, as well as a dense scatter of substantial sites around Kastri and its former anchorage in the Palaiopolis valley, also running along the coast towards Avlemonas. How many of these sites, and others, will prove to possess an earlier Roman component on closer examination remains to be seen.

Roman mosaic from North Africa showing Kythera
Roman mosaic from North Africa showing Kythera.
Another longer-term challenge for the pottery analysis is to clarify the cultural and economic place of Kythera within the Roman empire, and changes in this respect. This will involve analysis at a range of scales. At one level, imported fineware pottery and amphorae will shed light on the inclusion or exclusion of Kythera in/from the long-range networks of Mediterranean trade through the lifespan of the empire. But on another level, detailed analysis of the style of entire assemblages will reveal much about the equally significant local alignments of the island, towards Lakonia, other parts of the Peloponnese or Crete. In this sense, pottery may enable us to shed light on what is, perversely, at present one of the least understood periods of the island’s past.
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