Lesson 4: Narrative

The Early Cycladic Period

Problems of the Evidence

To date, only one settlement which has produced a stratified sequence of Early Bronze Age (EBA) levels containing typically Cycladic materials has been excavated in the central Aegean islands: Phylakopi on Melos. Ayia Irini on Keos has produced remains which are often more “Helladic” (i.e. typical of the Greek Mainland) than “Cycladic” in character and the site was in any case occupied only during the middle of the Early Cycladic (EC) period and neither at its beginning nor at its end. Paroikia on Paros is almost entirely a settlement of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. Other excavated settlements of the EC period either are single-period sites (Kastri on Syros), remain largely unpublished (Panormos and Grotta on Naxos, Skarkos on Ios, Markiani on Amorgos), or were badly disturbed in antiquity and poorly excavated in the early days of Aegean archaeology (Mt. Kynthos on Delos). The vast majority of EC artifactual material comes from cemeteries, most of them looted to supply the demands of the antiquities market rather than scientifically excavated. Moreover, an estimated 80% of the material known as recently as 1972 had been dug up before 1910. Thus, not only is what is known of EC culture heavily biased in that most of it comes from tombs, but all too few of the thousands of objects in museums and private collections come from contexts which can be accurately described.

The stratigraphy at Phylakopi, beginning from the bottom, may be summarized as follows (the terms are those coined by the original British excavators of the site at the end of the 19th century):

  • Pre-City: Founded directly on bedrock, this small village contains pottery characteristic of the Grotta-Pelos culture of the EC I period.
  • Phylakopi I.1: The first settlement in the old excavations at the site to have produced architecture, this village of the Keros-Syros culture of EC II was found during Renfrew’s more recent excavations to be stratified directly above the preceding Grotta-Pelos settlement.
  • Phylakopi I.2-3: A much larger settlement than the villages of the two prior phases, this town is characterized by pottery which is largely contemporary with that of the earliest Middle Helladic (MH) culture of the Greek Mainland. Since the pottery of Phylakopi I.1 is contemporary with the EH IIA Korakou culture of the Mainland, there is either a gap in the occupational sequence at Phylakopi corresponding to the Mainland Greek EH III period or at least an interval when evidence of human activity at Phylakopi is so sparse as to suggest that the size of the settlement then was sharply reduced from that in both the preceding and the subsequent phases.
  • Phylakopi II: A rebuilt town of the later Middle Bronze Age (MBA) within which Minoan imports, beginning in MM IB-IIA and extending down through MM III and perhaps even into the earliest LM IA, become increasingly common. This town was totally destroyed by fire.
  • Phylakopi III: Fortified for the first time early in this phase, the town of Phylakopi was continuously occupied down into the 11th century B.C.

Problems of  Terminology

Renfrew (1972)

Of the many hundreds of graves which have furnished the overwhelming majority of EC artifacts, only a few at Phylakopi and on the island of Amorgos could be assigned to the period of Phylakopi I.2-3. The material from the rest was quite different from the cultural assemblage of what has been more loosely termed “Phylakopi I”, and had in the past been divided into two major groups designated “Pelos” and “Syros” after the excavated cemeteries of Pelos (Melos) and Chalandriani (Syros). Very few artifact types were common to these two groups and thus they presumably represented two different cultures. To describe these different cultures on a more systematic basis, Renfrew analyzed all excavated Early Cycladic cemeteries in terms of the artifact types found in them (clay vases, marble vases, marble figurines, bronzes, jewelry, etc.). This analysis was performed on a cemetery-by-cemetery rather than on a tomb-by-tomb basis since many tombs were too sparsely furnished with grave offerings to provide useful data. The cemeteries were then compared for similarities, and the basic division between “Pelos” and “Syros” cultures was decisively confirmed. As a consequence, three Cycladic cultures which had flourished during the EBA and earlier MBA were distinguished by Renfrew and rechristened by him as the Grotta-Pelos, Keros-Syros, and Phylakopi I cultures. Grotta-Pelos was clearly older than Phylakopi I because the finds from the Pre-City phase at Phylakopi had been found stratified in the old excavations under remains of the Phylakopi I culture. Before his excavations of the 1970′s at the same site, Renfrew had to use a series of circumstantial arguments to place the Keros-Syros culture chronologically in between the other two, but such indirect reasoning is no longer necessary now that strata of the three cultures have been found directly superimposed at one and the same site (Phylakopi) in the order postulated in 1972 by Renfrew. Unfortunately, none of the highly distinctive pottery of an artifactual assemblage termed the “Kastri Group” by Renfrew (after the small fortress of Kastri on Syros) and assigned by him in 1972 to a late stage of the Keros-Syros culture was found during the later 1970′s at Phylakopi (see further below).

Just as he had abandoned the traditional tripartite terminology for the various stages of the EBA on the Greek Mainland in favor of a set of “cultures” named after sites (see preceding handout), so for the Cyclades Renfrew avoided the use of the more or less standard terms EC I, II, and III and substituted for them a similarly conceived set of “cultures”: Grotta-Pelos for EC I, Keros-Syros for EC II, and Phylakopi I for EC III. This system was adopted unchanged by Doumas in 1977 with the minor exception of the rechristening of “Grotta-Pelos” as “Pelos-Lakkoudes”.

Barber and MacGillivray (1980)

In a useful overview of the entire EC period, Barber and MacGillivray expressed the view that Renfrew’s “culture” labels for discrete EC artifactual assemblages were confusing and unnecessary (a view shared by some other Cycladic specialists as well, notably Coleman) and advocated a return to the traditional tripartite terminology with only one significant change, namely the subdivision of EC III into A and B, the earlier (EC IIIA) being used to describe Renfrew’s “Kastri Group” and the later (EC IIIB) being used for Renfrew’s “Phylakopi I culture”, the old EC III.

Rutter (1983)

Rutter’s principal concern was to demonstrate that a major cultural hiatus separated the two periods labeled EC IIIA and EC IIIB by Barber and MacGillivray, a hiatus which in his view involved not simply a significant cultural discontinuity (already noted to some extent by Barber and MacGillivray) but also a substantial gap of perhaps as much as a century and a half in the EBA culture sequence of the Cyclades. Rutter went on to argue that, since “EC IIIA” was in fact contemporary with later EH II on the Greek Mainland and, by extension, later EM II on Crete, it might perhaps be better termed “EC IIB”, while Barber’s and MacGillivray’s “EC IIIB”, generally agreed to be contemporary with early MH on the Mainland and MM IA on Crete, might be better labeled “MC I”. What, Rutter asked, was going on in the islands during what might legitimately be called “EC III” (i.e. the period equivalent to the duration of EH III on the Mainland and EM III on Crete)? Since he could find nothing to insert in this lacuna, Rutter decided to refer to it as “the EC III gap”, a concept acceptable to some (e.g. Davis) but one which Barber, MacGillivray, Doumas, Sotirakopoulou, and others resolutely insist is a mirage.

These terminological squabbles have been relegated to a back burner in the aftermath of Manning’s exhaustive review of the problem (1995) and pending new discoveries. All parties were agreed that the excavation of a single well-stratified settlement in the central Cyclades, ideally on Naxos or Paros, would be likely to eliminate at least the issue of the “EC III gap”. Unfortunately, most settlement sites of the third millennium B.C. in the Cyclades appear to have been occupied for relatively brief periods of time. Those excavated since the debate over the “EC III” gap began, such as Skarkos on Ios and Markiani on Amorgos, have failed to provide a complete EC sequence, so the nature of the EB 2-3 transition and the character of EB 3 culture in the Cyclades remain unsolved problems. Excavations on the island of Skyros in the Sporades, at the site of Palamari, have been much more promising and may eventually provide a more complete EB-MB sequence than any western Aegean island further to the south has so far furnished.

The dispute over whether to use “cultural” or “chronological” labels for EC artefactual assemblages, on the other hand, is more deeply rooted, having now flourished for over twenty years. There is as yet so sign that this long-lived disagreement will be resolved anytime soon.

Grotta-Pelos Culture/Early Cycladic  I (ca. 3100/3000-2650 B.C.)

Subdivisions of the Culture

As a result of his excavations of a number of cemeteries, Doumas has proposed four chronological stages or “groups”, each named after the site where the subordinate assemblage in question is best represented: Lakkoudes, Pelos, Plastiras, and Kampos. The last is considered to represent a phase transitional to the Keros-Syros culture of EC II; curvilinear incised ornament (spirals, circles), the “Kampos” type of frying pan, and the incised bottles which are also found in EM I Crete first occur in this phase.

Architecture

Settlement – Nothing significant as architecture has so far been excavated from this period at the settlements of Phylakopi (Melos) or Grotta (Pelos).

Tombs – The dead are buried in cemeteries of cist graves which never consist of more than fifty tombs and usually number twenty or less. These tomb groups presumably represent small kinship groups, in most cases probably no more than the members of a single nuclear family over a period of some two to six generations. Single inhumations are normal in the cists, although multiple burial of from two to eight individuals in two-level graves is fairly common. Cists are built of four upright slabs or sometimes of three slabs and a short stretch of dry rubble walling. The floor of the tomb is usually bedrock or simply sterile soil, but sometimes it is covered by a slab or slabs, occasionally by pebbles. The roof of the tomb I consists of one or more slabs. Bodies are deposited in a contracted position, usually lying on the right side. There are often no grave goods at all. The lower level of two-level graves was evidently used as a receptacle for former tomb occupants in tombs utilized for multiple burials.

Pottery – Standard is a thick-walled, dark burnished ware. Typical shapes are bowls with rolled rims and horizontally pierced tubular lugs set well below the rim on the exterior, frying pans of the so-called “Kampos type” [straight side decorated with one or more incised lines framing spirals; rectangular handle with crossbar; main circular field decorated with incised running spirals around a central star], and cylindrical pyxides. Incised pottery is common in tombs but relatively rare in the settlement pottery from Grotta.

Marble – Marble objects come largely from tombs and consist almost exclusively of vessels and figurines. The most common types of marble vases are shallow lug-handled bowls, flat-based beakers, and footed jars. Marble figurines fall into three basic categories: (a) Plastiras type: The ears and kneecaps are particularly prominent features. Although the hands meet across the stomach, the arms are not folded. (b) Louros type: Short stubby arms extended horizontally at shoulder level are the most distinctive feature of this variety. (c) Schematic types: A number of different shapes are known, the most common being nothing more than ovoid or elliptical beach pebbles while the most distinctive are fiddle-shaped with long stalk-like necks and no recognizable heads.

Metal – Outside of some copper wire, and four quadrangular awls and a necklace of silver beads from a grave at Louros (Naxos), no metal artifacts can be assigned to this culture.

External Connections – This assemblage is contemporary with FN and EH I on the Greek Mainland and with EM I on Crete. Scattered and sporadic contacts with sites in northern Crete (Pyrgos Cave, Ayia Photia cemetery) and central Greece (Eutresis in Boeotia) are attested, but the links with the EB cemetery of cist graves at the site of Iasos on the western Anatolian coast seem closer and more extensive. The Grotta-Pelos culture is likely to be a local development from the Kephala culture of the preceding FN period.

Keros -Syros Culture/Early Cycladic IIA (ca. 2650-2450/2400 B.C.)

Architecture

Settlement – The only significant settlement architecture so far excavated, from period II at Ayia Irini (Keos) and the main phase of occupation at Skarkos (Ios), consists of rectangular buildings constructed with extremely neat masonry. Thanks to an extraordinarily deep layer of destruction debris, the architecture at Skarkos is preserved in places up to a height of almost three meters, and most of the buildings so far cleared evidently hhad two storeys. While the settlement at Ayia Irini was occupied during at least one and perhaps two subsequent phases of the EC period (see below), Skarkos was abandoned after its EC IIA destruction until its ruins were cut into by much later graves dating from the 17th century B.C. At Mount Kynthos (Delos), lack of space and uneven terrain seems to have necessitated a less organized ensemble of rooms, many with rounded corners.

Surface survey on the island of Melos has produced evidence indicating that settlement during this and the preceding period took the form of numerous small and fairly short-lived sites, probably farming hamlets occupied by small kin groups (e.g. extended families) for three to four generations. Each such site appears to have been accompanied by its own small {extramural} [located outside the bounds of the settlement proper, though not necessarily at any great distance from it] cemetery. On Keos, on the other hand, a surface survey of the northwestern portion of the island has revealed that the density of EC II sites per unit area was considerably lower than on Melos and that the site of Ayia Irini was by far and away the most important site of this period in this area of the island. There would thus appear to be a fair amount of variability between relatively dispersed settlement patterns like that on Melos and relatively nucleated ones like that on Keos. Certainly the size of the EC II site at Chalandriani on Syros suggests a nucleated pattern on that island, whereas larger islands such as Paros and Naxos probably more closely resembled the dispersed pattern of Melos in their settlement.

Tombs – Cemeteries can be much larger than in the Grotta-Pelos culture, but need not be. Except at Chalandriani (Syros), Keros-Syros tombs are much the same as Grotta-Pelos ones. At Chalandriani there are several groups of graves (individual cemeteries?) adding up to more than 600 tombs in all. Except for about ten of these, all contained only a single individual. Tomb plans vary from circular to rectangular. All are built entirely of dry-stone walling and all have a false entrance in one side roughly closed off with stones. The tops of these tombs were sealed by a large slab, and the walls are often slightly corbelled. Burials were loosely contracted, usually on the left side. Most of the graves were very poor.

Pottery – There are three major classes among the fine wares: (a) Pattern-painted ware: Such pottery is decorated in a dark-on-light style utilizing exclusively geometric ornament. Common shapes are the sauceboat, the pyxis, the beaked jug, and the footed handleless cup. (b) Solidly painted ware (“Urfirnis”): This is simply a Cycladic version of the EH II Urfirnis of the Mainland. Typical shapes are sauceboats and small handleless cups/saucers. (c) Stamped and/or incised dark-surfaced and burnished ware: This ware represents a development from Grotta-Pelos pottery which incorporated more curvilinear ornament and makes use of stamped concentric circles, spirals, and small triangles (“Kerbschnitt”) for the first time. Common shapes are the footed jar, the globular pyxis, and the frying pan of the “Syros type” [undecorated side, concave in profile; two-pronged handle; decoration of main circular field with stamped concentric circles or spirals, often accompanied by incised boats and/or female genitalia].

Marble and Other Stones – Folded-arm figurines (FAF’s) appear for the first time in a variety of distinct types. Much rarer and much more striking are seated male harpists (sometimes found in pairs), standing male players of pipes, female FAF’s seated on stools or high-backed chairs, a male seated on a stool holding a raised drinking cup, male warriors wearing a {baldric} [a leather or textile strap designed to hold up a sheath for a weapon] over their shoulders and sometimes holding a dagger, “two-storey” female FAF’s (a smaller one standing on the head of a larger one), three-figure groups, and occasional anomalous types (e.g. a female in FAF pose, but with one arm across the back and one across the front).

Stone vases include, as in the pottery, various types of footed cup, an occasional marble version of a frying pan or sauceboat, and a few vessels in the form of quadrupeds (mostly sheep) and birds. White marble is the preferred material for these vessels, but banded bluish-gray marble is occasionally used. A very pale, cloudy green stone resembling jadeite is used to produce miniature cups that were carved as parts of fingerrings or else were attached to other objects by short, tubelike appendages; the unusual material and its employment to produce tiny containers, often attached to items that probably functioned as jewelry, suggests that these miniature cups may have been used to consume small quantities of some valued substance (compare snuff boxes). A soft, dark green stone known as chlorite schist is a popular choice for vessels decorated with patterns in low relief such as spirals or incised patterns such as herringbone and hatched triangles. Such vessels often take the form of small lidded chests or pyxides that appear to imitate buildings of various types ranging from simple huts to an extremely complex multiple granary said to have been found on Melos (see further below).

Metal – Metal artifacts are now much more frequent than they were in the Grotta-Pelos culture. Tools and weapons include tweezers, daggers, adzes/chisels, and fish-hooks. Sources of metal that were exploited in the EC era have been located on the islands of Siphnos (lead and silver) and Kythnos (copper); the region of Laurion in southeastern Attica on the Greek Mainland also was, to judge from the results of extensive analysis of finished artifacts found at a large number of EH and EC sites, a major source of lead, silver, and copper ores during the EB 2 period. A mine at the site of Thorikos was found to contain pottery of both late EH II and early EH III types, further proof for the exploitation of metal sources in that region of the Mainland from the EBA onwards.

External Connections – The Keros-Syros culture has extensive contacts with EM II Crete (Cycladic FAF’s are imported and inspire the local Cretan imitation known as the Koumasa type), the EH II Mainland (sauceboats, bronze types, FAF’s in marble, tomb types), and late Troy I and Troy II. The Keros-Syros culture appears to develop directly out of the late “Kampos Group” of the Grotta-Pelos culture.

“Kastri Group” or “Lefkandii” Culture/Early Cycladic IIB OR IIIA (ca. 2450/2400-2200/2150 B.C.)

Architecture

Settlement – (1) Kastri on Syros is a small fortified citadel ca. 50 m. across perched on a steep hilltop. In the valleys just below are the numerous cemeteries of Chalandriani which consist mostly of Keros-Syros tombs but which also include some typologically indistinguishable graves of this later “Kastri Group” phase. The fortifications consist of a wall with six hollow projecting bastions built of small to medium-sized slabs (no large blocks as in the fortifications of MBA Ayia Irini and Phylakopi III). Outside this wall is a second defensive wall or breastwork. Entrance into the fort is gained through one of the bastions. The interior of the settlement consists of clusters of small rooms separated by narrow alleyways. Hearths were found in three rooms, one containing a crucible and a hoard of metal objects in tin bronze. Other crucibles, as well as stone molds, were found in the settlement, and there is also evidence of lead-working on the site. The latest assessment of the evidence concludes that only melting and recasting took place in this settlement, no smelting of metal-bearing ores. Weapons found include two short daggers and the earliest well-dated slotted spearhead found west of the Anatolian Mainland. (2) Panormos on Naxos is another, even smaller fort some 25 m. long. The exterior is irregular, with several roughly semicircular bastions and a single entrance from the east. A pile of circular stones lying just outside of this entrance has been somewhat improbably interpreted as a supply of slingstones for the defenders. (3) Mt. Kynthos on Delos seems to have been yet another small fort perched on a hill and consisting of several bastions within which are some irregularly shaped rooms and at least three small apsidal houses. (4) Ayia Irini on Keos witnesses during period III several neatly constructed additions to, or remodelings of, the very tidily built rectangular structures of the Keros-Syros period II.

All four of these sites are abandoned during or at the end of this period, only Ayia Irini being subsequently occupied but not until much later in the Middle Cycladic period. Every one of the four except Kastri had been occupied in earlier stages of the EC period.

Tombs – These are apparently unchanged from those of the Keros-Syros culture, to judge from tombs excavated both at Chalandriani on Syros and Akrotiraki on Siphnos.

Pottery – New and distinctive in this phase is a class of fine, semifine, and semicoarse pottery characterized by brilliantly burnished red, black, and yellowish-brown surfaces and occurring in a distinctive range of shapes consisting of one-handled tankards, two-handled cups, examples of the so-called {depas amphikypellon} [a very tall, cylindrical cup furnished with two vertical loop (i.e. round-sectioned) handles, both slightly upswung so as to define a heart-shaped outline], plates, and shallow bowls with incurving rims and broad, unpierced lugs set just below the rim. Globular pyxides of the preceding phase continue, but are now black-burnished and usually decorated with rectilinear plastic and incised ornament imitating the cords of basketry, rather different from the incised and/or impressed patterns of the Keros-Syros phase. Black-burnished jugs decorated with groups of incised vertical lines and teapots (= pyxides with a tubular spout) featuring plastic and incised decoration like that on the pyxides are rare. Painted pottery is now restricted to a single shape, a footed one-handled cup decorated with dark-on-light, widely spaced cross-hatching. Some of the pottery is now wheelmade for the first time. Despite these novelties, a high percentage of the pottery at sites such as Ayia Irini which had also been occupied during the preceding phase consists of familiar Keros-Syros types.

Marble – The few preserved pieces seem comparable to those of the preceding Keros-Syros culture.

Metal – Despite the small number of known sites, the evidence for metal-working is impressive as a result of the finds from Kastri. Much of the metalwork from this site has close typological parallels in western Anatolia and analyses have revealed that much of it is tin-alloyed bronze, a type of bronze otherwise commonly attested in the Aegean at this time only in Troy II. A rare silver diadem from Kastri, decorated with circular abstract patterns, quadrupeds, and what may be a human form having a bird’s head, is usually viewed as a badge of rank; the {repoussé} [embossed decor, produced by lightly pounding sheet metal with a cushioned hammer over a carved matrix in wood or stone] ornament, like the object itself, is extremely unusual for this period, so any interpretation of the item’s significance is necessarily very speculative, but it is clearly very different in both form and decorative style from any object found in a Keros-Syros cultural context.

External Connections – This cultural phase in the Cyclades is contemporary with and closely comparable to the EH IIB “Lefkandi I” culture of Euboea, eastern Attica, and Boeotia on the Greek Mainland and there seems to be no good reason not to refer to these two by the same name. The pottery has strong western Anatolian affinities and is probably contemporary with Troy III, Limantepe late EB 2, and Poliochni Red to Yellow. Although many features of this cultural phase in the islands are unquestionably Cycladic, there can be little doubt but that the dramatic shift in the pottery, as well as in the metalwork at Kastri, reflects an influx of population from the east which passed through the islands enroute to Euboea and the central Greek Mainland. The small forts typical of the architecture of this phase presumably reflect the insecurity of the times. The architecture of these fortifications may be viewed as miniaturized versions of the great defensive circuits of earlier stages in the EBA at sites such as Troy I-II and Limantepe. The sudden abandonment of the Cycladic forts is at present unexplained. Equally mysterious is the absence of any sign of conflict or destruction at sites where “Lefkandi I” material directly overlies Keros-Syros material (Ayia Irini, Mt. Kynthos), while at Chalandriani and at Akrotiraki on Siphnos the same cemeteries and types of tomb are used by the “Lefkandi I” population as had been used by the Keros-Syros population.

The fortifications at Kastri have often been compared to those of later EH IIA Lerna and they are probably contemporary, although the distinctive pottery of the “Lefkandi I” culture never appears at Lerna (but note that two imported marble cups, one from a secure context of early Lerna IV [at most, a generation or two after the destruction of the House of the Tiles], are stone versions of the “Lefkandi I” two-handled cup). Similar fortifications also appear in the western Aegean somewhat later at Kolonna on Aegina in City V of the EH III Tiryns culture.

Early Cycladic III (ca. 2200/2150-2050/2000 B.C.)

At the moment, there is little or no evidence for human settlement in the islands during this period of 100-150 years. At no known site has continuity of occupation from the “Lefkandi I” phase (EC IIB or IIIA) to the Phylakopi I phase (MC I or EC IIIB) been established. Renfrew’s “Amorgos Group” is more likely to be contemporary with the Phylakopi I culture and with a small group of pottery from the islet of Christiana near Thera than it is to be a late phase of the Keros-Syros culture.

Phylakopi I Culture/Middle Cycladic I or Early Cycladic IIIB (ca. 2050/2000-1900/1850 B.C.)

Architecture

Settlement – The rectangular blocks of rooms in Phylakopi I.2-3 suggest a “neater” architecture than the haphazard and irregular conglomerations characteristic of the small forts of the “Lefkandi I” phase. But it should be kept in mind that Kastri, Panormos, and Mt. Kynthos are small forts and not major settlements; the neat architecture of period III at Ayia Irini is fully comparable to that of Phylakopi I.2-3.

Occupation at both Phylakopi and Paroikia (Paros) appears to continue unbroken from this period until well down into the Late Bronze Age. The evidence from a surface survey of the island of Melos strongly suggests that, by the beginning of this period, a nucleation in settlement had taken place: the numerous small settlements and cemeteries of the Keros-Syros culture had coalesced into a single major settlement at Phylakopi. Whether this concentration of population at a single site is true of other Cycladic islands remains to be established, but the situation on Keos (Ayia Irini) and Paros (Paroikia) may well be similar to that on Melos.

Tombs – At Phylakopi, tombs are now rock-cut chambers whose use extends throughout the Middle Bronze Age. The closest parallels for these tombs are those at Manika on Euboea of the Korakou and “Lefkandi I” cultures (EH IIA-B) and at Pavlopetri in Laconia (EH IIA?), although the Melian tombs are larger and somewhat more complex in plan.

Pottery – The fine wares fall into two major groupings: (1) Incised ware: Popular shapes in this dark burnished ware are duck vases, truncated conical pyxides, lids, and jugs. (2) Painted ware: The painted pottery is characterized by a dull, but not truly matt, paint. Decoration consists of rectilinear patterns in a dark-on-light scheme. The favorite shapes are carinated bowls, beaked jugs, kernoi, and one-handled cups.

Marble – A few schematic figurines are known from Phylakopi I and later contexts in the islands, but the FAF disappears after the “Lefkandi I” phase and the production of marble vessels declines drastically at the same time. Thus a significant shift in the manufacture of marble artifacts parallels the dramatic change in the settlement pattern towards the end of the Cycladic Early Bronze Age.

External Connections – There seems to have been relatively little contact between the Phylakopi I culture and Minoan Crete. A fair amount of pottery of Phylakopi I types is said to have been found at Knossos, but no Minoan pottery comes from an unimpeachable context of Phylakopi I.2-3 on Melos. The discovery of MM IB-IIA imports in Phylakopi II indicates that the Phylakopi I culture cannot end much later than ca. 1850 B.C. at the latest. The distribution of duck vases suggests that Phylakopi I is at least partially contemporary with later Anatolian EB 3 (Troy V). Mainland connections at Kolonna, Eleusis, Athens, Lerna, Argos, and Eutresis suggest that Phylakopi I is contemporary with Middle Helladic (MH) I and early MH II. It is tempting to suggest that the Phylakopi I culture is an outgrowth of the Keros-Syros culture after this had been affected by the intrusive “Lefkandi I” culture with its strong western Anatolian affinities, but so long as the nature of the cultural assemblage which immediately precedes Phylakopi I remains a mystery, such a hypothesis must remain pure speculation.

Comments on Early Cycladic Figurines and Representational Art

Grotta-Pelos Figurines

The Plastiras type probably developed from Neolithic figurines of the standing type, while fiddle-shaped schematic figurines appear to be an abstracted form of the Neolithic type of seated figure with folded legs. The Louros type is viewed either as a development from the fiddle-shaped variety (Getz-Preziosi) or as derived from the Dimini type current in LN Thessaly (Renfrew). With the exception of the nose, sculpturally indicated facial features are limited almost exclusively to the Louros and Plastiras types. Plastiras figurines regularly had inlaid eyes and navels. The gender of Louros figurines is rarely made explicit, but most Plastiras figurines are unambiguously gendered and there appear to be almost as many male figures as females, in marked contrast to the situation in the following period. Some male figures of both Louros and Plastiras types wear horizontally ribbed, beehive-shaped caps that are probably to be understood as helmets. Some {anthropomorphic} [i.e. in the shape of human figures] marble vessels exist, linked stylistically to the Plastiras type of figurine by the depiction of the arms in low relief on the torso, but {zoomorphic} [i.e. in the shape of animals] figurines or vessels, regardless of material, are extremely rare in the EC I period.

Keros-Syros Folded-Arm Figurines

Figurines of these types are to be considered as representing reclining rather than standing figures, to judge from the rendering of the feet and knees. Painted decoration (eyes, mouths [rare], hair, tattoo marks on the forehead and cheeks, occasional necklaces and other details on the body] is limited to marble figurines with folded arms and occurs for the most part on only two varieties of such figures. The latest types of folded-arm figurines lack either carved or painted details.

Red and blue pigments were clearly valued by the EBA inhabitants of the Cyclades. The pigments, implements used to grind them, and various types of storage containers used to hold them[bone tubes or miniature dark-burnished terracotta jars, both decorated with incised ornament] are common in EC graves. It has been suggested that the presence of these objects in graves implies a ritual painting of the deceased’s relatives or of the deceased him/herself as part of the funeral rites. The presence of painted details on the figurines is said to be a reflection of this practice.

The attribution of FAF’s (and, to a limited degree, also of marble vessels) to individual artists on the basis of similarities in basic type and proportions has been vigorously pursued in a series of studies by Getz-Preziosi. But her methodology, and hence the claim that authorship can be identified on the basis of such relatively simple forms of art in a preliterate era, has been seriously questioned by Renfrew (1991), Cherry (1992), and Chippindale and Gill (1993).

Other Varieties of Keros-Syros Representational Art

Representational art during the EC II pereiod in forms other than FAF’s may be subdivided into three-dimensional (marble figurines and vessels; the figural heads of bone and metal pins; zoomorphic terracotta vessels; models in stone and metal) and two-dimensional (incised motifs on pottery) categories. Aside from female FAF’s, lying down or more rarely seated, marble is used to produce a variety of male “action figures” (musicians, warriors, drinkers) and a small number of “group figures” (see above). Marble vessels occasionally take the form of sheep or birds; in one case a marble frying pan is ornamented with a continuous series of doves (?species) sitting on a low perch extending from one side to another of the vessel’s shallow interior. The bone and metal heads of pins often terminate in animal figures, either birds or goats. At least three or four examples are known of hollow-bodied terracotta hedgehods (so-called “teddy-bears”) which rest on their rumps and hold a cup in their extended forearms, as though about to drink from it; since the bodies of these animals are linked to the cups by a perforation but otherwise lack any holes, the animals could be imagined as drinking when being filled and as vomiting when being emptied.

Models of man-made objects include a set of lead boat-models said to come from Naxos. Typologically similar to the incised boats depicted on a number of frying pans from Chalandriani on Syros, these lead models suggest that the large crews of up to fifty paddlers/oarsmen needed to man such ships could be recruited on at least two Cycladic islands, despite the dispersed pattern of settlement that probably characterized most of the larger islands. Thus while the discovery of numerous such boat depictions at Chalandriani on Syros testifies to the size and maritime preeminence of that single site, the evidence for boats of more or less the same size from Naxos may be viewed as evidence for an unusual degree of inter-settlement cooperation on that island if no one site there could field a crew big enough to man such a vessel.

Chlorite schist was used most often as a material to produce vessels that at least mimicked, if they did not faithfully reproduce, real EC architecture, in the form of elliptical or roughly circular huts with pitched roofs (the roofs being rendered as separately carved lids). The largest and most complex such “house model” is said to have been found on Melos and consists of a small rectangular court ringed on three sides by seven large cylindrical structures (silos/granaries?) and entered by means of a {trilithon} [the two jambs and the lintel each composed of a single large stone] doorway from a porch capped by a double-pitched roof. All these chlorite schist models stand on four horizontally ribbed, truncated pyramidal legs, and most are decorated with complex spiral patterns or horizontal ribbing in low relief. It is unlikely that either the legs of the relief decoration reflect real architectural details, and consequently it is uncertain to what degree the models should be taken as reflections of real EC buildings. No one familiar with the facts of EC settlement architecture or subsistence agriculture, for example, can accept that a building on the scale of that suggested by the Melian “multiple granary” ever existed on Melos or on any other Cycladic island in the third millennium B.C.

The incised motifs on Keros-Syros frying pans depicting the sum, boats, fish, and female genitalia should be evaluated in the context of how these particular ceramic types functioned, a topic most comprehensively surveyed to date by Coleman but most recently by Doumas. The fact that fryaing pans are the only Keros-Syros ceramic type to serve as the vehicle for representational art, in concert with the fact that some of the motifs in question appear to have been employed only at specific sites (the boats occur uniquely at Chalandriani, for example), suggests that these vessels may have been intended at least in part as display pieces. The art with which they were decorated may, for example, have served as indicators of lineage or status or both. Alternatively, these motifs may be connected with the religion of the islanders, as argued by Goodison, and constitute effectively our only evidence for this dimension of EC life, unless the marble figurines, also, as many believe, are ritual objects of some kind.

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