Trent University, Canada; University College London, UK; Greek Archaeological Service (26th EPKA)
under the aegis of the Canadian Institute in Greece and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture
Final Neolithic to Early Bronze Age pottery
A Final Neolithic 'cheesepot' fragment (top) and an Early Bronze II sauceboat (bottom). Photographs by Lindsay Spencer.
Prehistoric Pottery

A wide range of prehistoric pottery has been identified from ASP's tractwalking and grid-based collections. This material presents a challenge for two reasons: i) the vast majority comprises undecorated coarsewares and ii) there is no excavated prehistoric site on the island to provide us with a clear chronological sequence from which we might begin our analysis. Instead, we must understand and date these finds through the development of a coarseware typology, based on detailed macroscopic observation, petrographic analysis, comparison with the better understood sequences in neighbouring areas such as Kythera and western Crete and close attention to patterns of inter-scatter variation on the island itself (for the increasing importance of such approaches in the south-west Aegean and beyond, see Moody et al. 2003: 39-44; Kiriatzi 2003: 124-126). Macroscopic analysis by Lindsay Spencer and Andrew Bevan (UCL) has been followed by petrographic work by Areti Pentedeka and Evangelia Kiriatzi (Fitch Laboratory, British School at Athens). Further analysis remains to be done, but what follows is a brief discussion of some preliminary results.

MUT fabric
The ovoid-section leg of a small cooking pot, from east of the modern village of Charchaliana. Its fabric is coarse, containing mudstone and chert inclusions. Although mudstone tempering is a strategy found on both Kythera and west Crete, there are certain differences between this fabric and the typical Kytheran one and it remains unclear whether this vessel was imported from west Crete or made locally.
ASAT fabric
A body sherd with a plain band of plastic decoration from south of the modern village of Skariana in the middle of the island. Its fabric is coarse, predominantly containing chert, mudstone and sandstone inclusions in a groundmass with fine silicate/quartz inclusions. This is a very common fabric on Antikythera and could reflect local on-island production, though importation cannot be ruled out.
GRO fabric
A handle fragment from west of Agios Georgios bay. Its fabric is medium-coarse containing grog fragments and textural concentration features (clay pellets?) in a fine groundmass. This fabric resembles several sampled sherds from Kastri on Kythera but might be either local or imported.
KMIC fabric
A jar rim from south-west of the modern village of Liziana. Its fabric is coarse, containing white mica schist, phyllite and white micas, and abundant sphene. It is very similar to the red micaceous fabrics documented on Kythera (see Broodbank et al. 2005) and is almost certainly import from there.
KSAT fabric
An ovoid handle fragment with pushed through attachment to the vessel body, from north-east of the modern village of Liziana. Its fabric is coarse, containing variable amounts of chert, mudstone/siltstone, sandstone fragments and carbonates. It is very similar to the sand-tempered fabrics documented on Kythera (which includes early Minoanising material, see Broodbank and Kiriatzi 2007: 251-6, figs.3d-e) and is almost certainly an import from this island.
CAL fabric
The ovoid-section leg from a medium-sized cooking pot from south of the modern village of Skariana. Its fabric is coarse has angular crystalline calcite and a few chert inclusions in a silicate silty groundmass. It could be a local product but the fabric is also similar to various calcite-tempered fabrics documented in western Crete.
SHA fabric
An ovoid-section leg of a cooking pot or possibly a handle fragment, from south of Xeropotamos beach. Its fabric is coarse, containing phyllite/shale and quartz-rich metamorphic rock fragments, along with mica schist fragments, in a fine sand groundmass with blue amphibole grains. It is very similar to fabrics documented in western Crete (e.g. Chandler 2001: A1) and may well be an import from that region.
Chronology and Shapes

The earliest dateable ceramic sherd from the island is a fragment of a Final Neolithic 'cheespot' (see image to the right) but a wider range of evidence including a distinctive chert/grog fabric (also found in the earliest stratified deposits at Kastri on Kythera), several thick jar bases and perhaps some sherds in a calcite-tempered fabric suggests substantial acitivity on the island by Final Neolithic to Early Bronze I (FN-EBI). Thereafter, there is a great deal of evidence for the Early Bronze II (EBII) period including a well-preserved profile of a sauceboat (see image to the right), distinctive everted rim jar types and herringbone impressed decoration. Overall, this early ceramic material complements the evidence offered by the knapped stone artefacts for important levels of activity on the island in these early phases (with the knapped stone suggesting an earlier Late Neolithic phase of exploitation as well).

Both early Minoanising ceramics and material clearly dateable to the First Palace period (FMIN and FPAL respectively; roughly Early Minoan III-Middle Minoan II) are clearly present on Antikythera. So far only a single ceramic diagnostic – a fine carinated cup – can be unequivocally dated to the FPAL period, but a range of more circumstantial evidence suggests that these phases are, while difficult to identify on the basis of traditional diagnostics, nevertheless well-represented on the island. For example, there is good evidence for imports of Kytheran sand-tempered pottery, Cretan-style calcite-tempered fabrics and thin, ovoid-section tripod cooking pot legs, all of which are often associated with FMIN-FPAL assemblages in neighbouring areas. Further study of the collected material is essential, but the spatial distribution of these indicators is already sufficient to point to some interesting changes in settlement patterning from the previous FN-EBII phases.

For the succeeding Second Palace period (SPAL, Middle Minoan III to Late Minoan I) there is more straightforward evidence for substantial settlement on Antikythera. This is visible in Kytheran imports characteristic of the SPAL period, but also in possible local production of Kytheran-style SPAL jars, tripod cooking pots, as well as various small finewares such as tumblers, Vapheio and conical cups. The Third Palace Period (TPAL, Mycenaean) is also surprisingly well represented, with at least eight kylix stems (many with a distinctive pre-firing hole at the top of the stem), some characteristic trianguloid jars and pithos rims with a plastic incised decoration typical of the Khania area in western Crete.

Both macroscopic and petrographic analysis has begun to identify patterns of importation versus possible local production. imported pottery appears to indicate regular contact between Antikythera, Kythera and western Crete, there is also evidence for the transfer of specific ceramic production traditions between these areas. The practice of using sand to temper pottery is considered common in central and possibly west Crete. While it appears that the (local?) angular-sand tempered fabric is following a similar clay processing tradition, geological sampling and replication work will be needed to clarify the situation.

The differential tempering of handles, tripod cooking pot legs and plastic decorative band occurs amongst this potentially local pottery, but also has Cretan and Kytheran associations. Likewise, a particular class of conical jar with incised and impressed decoration on the interior occurs with great frequency on Antikythera and seems to have links to western Crete (Christakis 2005: 19; while being absent from the assemblages on Kythera to the north). Lastly, the use of the pushed-through handle as a means of attachment is known from both Crete and Kythera and also occurs in the local Antikytheran material. Furthermore, of great interest is the presence of at least two discoid loomweights on Antikythera which suggest knowledge of specific Cretan weaving practices and implies that technological transmission was not confined to ceramic production.

Fabric Groups

The most frequently occurring fabric is tempered with angular sand: at the present stage of our enquiries, it seems compatible with the island's geology and may potentially be evidence of local production. Several other chert, grog, mudstone and/or calcite-tempered fabrics might conceivably be local products as well, though they are superficially consistent with the geologies and fabric recipes found in neighbouring regions as well, and further study is required before we can be any more specific.

Some fabrics however are clearly imports, including the suite of sand-tempered, mudstone tempered and red micaceous fabrics found on Kythera to the north (see Kiriatzi 2003; Broodbank and Kiriatzi 2007: 249-6; Broodbank et al. 2005). Others such as a a phyllite/shale tempered fabric and perhaps the dense calcite-tempered fabrics are very similar those documented in western Crete (see Chandler 2001; Moody 1985; Moody et al. 2003) and likely to come from there.

Our very preliminary guess is that perhaps half, if not more, of the prehistoric pottery on the island comes from off-island, but this high proportion is not surprising given the relative paucity of good local potting resources and the relatively small population that the island could effectively support. It seems likely that, in certain later periods and perhaps during phases of prehistory as well, no local pottery production was occurring at all. Further geological prospection is ongoing to narrow down the range of possible resources (in terms of tempers, clays etc.) available to a potter on Antikythera.


Broodbank, C. and E. Kiriatzi 2007 'The First "Minoans" of Kythera Revisited: Technology, Demography, and Landscape in the Prepalatial Aegean', American Journal of Archaeology 111: 241-74.

Broodbank, C., Kiriatzi, E. and J.B. Rutter 2005 'From Pharaoh's Feet to the Slave-Women of Pylos? The History and Cultural Dynamics of Kythera in the Third Palace Period' in A. Dakouri-Hild and E. S. Sherratt (eds) Ace High: Studies Presented to Oliver Dickinson on the Occasion of His Retirement: 70-96. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Chandler, G.M. 2001 'Comparative Petrographic Analysis of Sherds from five Minoan Sites in Western Crete', in Y. Bassiakos, E. Aloupi and Y. Facorellis (eds.) Archaeometry Issues in Greek Prehistory and Antiquity: 379-396. Athens: Hellenic Society of Archaeometry and Society of Messenian Archaeological Studies.

Christakis, K. 2005 Cretan Bronze Age Pithoi: Traditions and Trends in the Production and Consumption of Storage Containers in Bronze Age Crete, Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press.

Kiriatzi, E. 2003 'Sherds, Fabrics and Clay Source: Reconstructing the Ceramic Landscapes of Prehistoric Kythera’, in K. Foster and R. Laffineur (eds.), Metron: Measuring the Aegean Bronze Age. (Aegaeum 24): 123-29. University of Liège. Liège.

Moody, J. 1985 'The Development of a Bronze Age Coarse Ware Chronology for the Khania Area of West Crete’, Temple University Aegean Symposium 10: 51-65.

Moody, J., Lewis, H., Robinson, J. Francis, and L. Nixon 2003 'Ceramic fabric analysis and survey archaeology: The Sphakia Survey', Annual of the British School at Athens 98: 37-105.