The Bronze Age Begins

The Bronze Age Begins: The Ceramics Revolution of Early Minoan I and the New Forms of Wealth that Transformed Prehistoric Society

Philip P. Betancourt
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: INSTAP Academic Press
Pages: 162
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  • Book Info
    The Bronze Age Begins
    Book Description:

    This book focuses on economic and social changes, particularly during the opening phase of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. New developments in ceramics that reached Crete at the end of the Neolithic period greatly contributed to the creation of economic, technological, social, and religious advancements we call the Early Bronze Age. The arguments are two-fold: a detailed explanation of the ceramics we call Early Minoan I and the differences that set it apart from its predecessors, and an explanation of how these new and highly superior containers changed the storage, transport, and accumulation of a new form of wealth consisting primarily of processed agricultural and animal products like wine, olive oil, and various foods preserved in wine, vinegar, honey, and other liquids. The increased stability and security provided by an improved ability to store food from one year to the next would have a profound effect on the society. Contents: Part I: 1. Introduction, 2. The Change in Ceramic Technology in EM I, 3. The Clays and the Fired Fabrics, 4. The Pottery Shapes, 5. EM I Surface Treatments and Decoration and their Relation to Fabrics, Shapes, and Methods of Manufacture, 6. Comments and Conclusions on the Pottery; Part II: 7. The Transformation of Cretan Society; References; Index.

    eISBN: 978-1-62303-009-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. PART I

    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-12)

      In the continent that would later be named Europe, the set of complex urban experiences we term “civilization” began on the island of Crete (Fig. 1.1). The earliest phase developed as a long and gradual process with small changes in economics, agriculture, social advancement, technology, and many other areas of human achievement. Archaeology is the most important tool for learning about this island and the nearby lands that fronted on the Aegean Sea during this early period at the close of the fourth and the beginning of the third millennium B.C. Pottery was an essential commodity in these cultures, and...

    • 2 The Change in Ceramic Technology in EM I
      (pp. 13-24)

      The changes in pottery that establish the interface between what we call the Stone Age and the Bronze Age in Crete involved the adoption of a whole new technology—much more than just different vase shapes or new decorations. New practices involved fresh ideas in the selection of raw materials, the clay preparation, the shapes that were manufactured, the treatment of the surfaces, the ornament, and the way to fire the vessels. In other words, EM I brought transformative changes leading to entirely new methods of making vases out of clay.

      The EM I pottery and its new technology can...

    • 3 The Clays and the Fired Fabrics
      (pp. 25-32)

      The fabric is the clay body after firing, with its characteristics derived from its original constituents plus the long history of its preparation and modification by the potters in the process of manufacturing the ceramics. Many different fabrics can be identified from EM I deposits. Some of them seem to have been strictly local, while others were distributed regionally, and a few were disbursed throughout many parts of Crete. The different fabrics can be distinguished by their inclusions as well as by coarseness, color, texture, and other traits.

      Because Cretan geology determines the nature of the island’s clays, and their...

    • 4 The Pottery Shapes
      (pp. 33-42)

      One of the most important parts of the new ceramic development in EM I was the use of a large selection of shapes that were new to Crete. These shapes were derived from several sources including older forms inherited from the Neolithic, shapes borrowed from other ceramic traditions, copies of vases made of other materials, ideas that were inspired by shapes seen in nature, and newly created designs the potters invented themselves. The result was a very rich tradition.

      Ceramic vases often serve more than one purpose. First, of course, most of them have to be useful containers. Their success...

    • 5 EM I Surface Treatments and Decoration and their Relation to Fabrics, Shapes, and Methods of Manufacture
      (pp. 43-84)

      Pottery was made in several ways during Early Minoan I. The diversity in final products suggests that this period was a time of experimentation when potters tried various approaches for the manufacture of ceramics. Vases could be fired either to make them dark or to achieve bright, pale colors. Sometimes the decoration modified the clay itself, while other systems applied painted designs in a different material on the surface. Although some of these ideas would be quickly abandoned, others would form the roots of the later Minoan development.

      Only part of the EM I pottery can be easily distinguished from...

    • 6 Comments and Conclusions on the Pottery
      (pp. 85-90)

      The radical changes that occurred in Cretan ceramic manufacture at the beginning of the Bronze Age were a positive force in the history of the island. It is surprising that it took so long for sophisticated kilns to arrive in Crete, considering that they had been used elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean for some time. When the improved pyrotechnology finally did reach the southern Aegean, it did not spread across the island all at once. In fact, in some villages it would be several years before the taste for dark colored and heavily burnished pottery was abandoned completely in favor...

  8. PART II

    • 7 The Transformation of Cretan Society
      (pp. 93-112)

      The many years encompassed by the Final Neolithic and Early Minoan I periods were a time of gradual change on the island of Crete. During these centuries, the evidence for what we call the Minoan cultural assemblage gradually emerged. Deep-seated changes in society affected both the ways people lived and the attitudes they adopted toward themselves and their place in the world. The new methods of manufacturing ceramics, which were based partly on influences from overseas and partly from internal needs and inventions, seem to have played one of the pivotal roles in the historical development.

      Many scholars have recognized...

  9. References
    (pp. 113-130)
  10. Index
    (pp. 131-140)