Looking at Ancient Pottery ( Minoan )

07 Sep

The importance of pottery is stressed by the fact that in most cases it does not perish and is able to withstand the passing of time. Pottery is in fact evidence left to us of ancient times and therefore useful to archaeologists as a means of classification. Pottery handmade at first, until the invention of the potters wheel which was a turn table, known as the slow wheel in which the revolving disc was supported on a pivot. The earliest examples found in Greece have been found a Myrtos, in Eastern Crete; they were flat on one side and convex on the other. The pots were turned by hand while being shaped. Later when the fast potters wheel was introduced the pottery, vases were thrown and built up with the force coming from the rotation of the fast wheel itself.

Pottery in the Neolithic and early Minoan period was made by hand.

Minoan 1 –  Round bottom jugs with beaked spouts appear including bowls on pedestals, decorated with linear pattern and painted red or brown on a yellow background. ( Hagious  Onouphrios Ware )     Another shape of the time is a tall chalice with a burnished decoration known as (Pyrgos Ware). But the best of the early Minoan ll phase 2600- 2300 BC is the mottled Vasiliki Ware. This being one of my favourites.  There are also Monochrome vessels. The decoration is dark-a dull red or brown varnish on a light background. Patterns are hatched triangles , concentric semicircles and lattice work. There are a variety of shapes, spouts are now shorter ,handles round, and bases flatter.The earliest clay vases made with the wheel are assigned to the middle Minoan l B phase. It is thought until then women were the potters.


Vasilki Ware Jug. Early Minoan.


Minoan jar with three handles Vasiliki Ware. 1600-1500 BC


Vasiliki Ware Teapot and cup




Now, together with the early palaces appears the most beautiful Cretan pottery, the well known polychrome “Kamares  Ware”


Selection of Kamares Ware cups 1800-1700 BC Heraklion Museum


Kamares Ware Jar.






The early stages of the second palaces (Middle Minoan lll 1700-1550 BC)  uses more or less the same forms of decoration as in the previous period but is beginning to decline Even though a fine vessel from Pachiammos  decorated with dolphins was discovered there was still a decline from the standard decoration.

Later,dark on light decoration becomes more popular. Cups now have a larger handle and a more spreading rim which becomes flaring for the handle-less  examples with a swelling body. above a rather  sharp base. Later cups become shallower and having a low pedestal. Another shape is a small elongated storage jar, with an oval mouth with various handles or a beaked spout and three handles meeting the rim. Now the Greek art is a feature extravagant of the second palaces. The dark on light decoration-  dark red and black paint-often glossy ,with  occasional white paint used for details on a fine yellowish background, gradually prevails the light on dark style and becomes popular for years to come.


After 1400 BC the late Minoan lll period the pottery of the Mycenaean Empire dominates, the manufacture is of the best quality. The designs are made in lustrous paint ranging from black to brown with occasional white colour for details. Decoration consists of arcs and dots and stripes. A characteristic shape at this time is the stirrup jar. Another shape is the tall-stemmed drinking goblet –  Kylix .


Long Stemmed drinking goblet. Kylix.




The Late Minoan 1 period  brings us into the Marine Style featuring dolphins and many other marine life decoration.


Marine style Piriform Jar Late Minoan.


Marine style vase Late Minoan


Marine style ritual Rhyton  Late Minoan.

There are many more Minoan pottery shapes to explore but are too numerous to include on my blog  However  I hope it is enough to wet the appetites of those interested.


Rita Roberts working on Minoan pottery shards at the  Instapec Study Center for East Crete.

Further reference:

The History of Minoan Pottery By Phillip P .Betancourt.

Higgins. R. Minoan and Mycenaean Art London 1967

Alexiou. S. Minoan Civilization, Herakleion 1967





Posted by on September 7, 2016 in Uncategorized


6 responses to “Looking at Ancient Pottery ( Minoan )

  1. Ancientfoods

    September 7, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Wow Rita, such magnificent pottery.
    Thanks, Joanna


    • ritaroberts

      September 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks Joanna. I am pleased you enjoyed the read. Minoan pottery is so special, as is all Greek pottery.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. vallance22

    September 8, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Reblogged this on Minoan Linear A, Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae and commented:
    THIS has got to be one of the most fascinating archaeological posts ever on Rita’s site and our own!


  3. Aquileana

    September 14, 2016 at 3:39 am

    Excellent post…. the complexity of those Pottery pieces is inversely proportional to the time dating!… Thanks for sharing… very interesting and informative, dear Rita… All the best to you. Aquileana 😀


  4. ritaroberts

    September 14, 2016 at 7:45 am

    Thanks Aquileana, I am pleased you enjoyed it. I love all ancient pottery but the Greek pottery is the most exquisite.



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