The term Cypriot Bichrome (Iron Age) draws on Einar Gjerstad's typological system (1932, 1948, 1960) and refers to a ware that is defined by the surface treatment of a vessel. The use of black and red paint together on an otherwise undecorated (no slip, wash, or similar covering) surface is common throughout the Cypro-Geometric, Cypro-Archaic, and Cypro-Classical periods. There are many different fabrics, shapes, and decorative schemes that are included within this ware family. As meaningful regional and chronological sub-families of this ware are identified, they should be added with descriptions of how those groups were identified and how they are defined. Gjerstad divided Bichrome ware into seven types (Types I-VII), which take all...
Wheelmade, usually light ground fabric, with red/pink/purple and black/grayish painted decoration. Cypriot Bichrome (CBI) is an Iron Age Cypriot ware that is the same as Cypriot White Painted (CWP) with the addition of red paint (possibly cinnabar or other iron pigment) to the more common black paint. The red paint can appear brown, orange, or maroon/purple. The fabric carrying decoration can be white, tan, salmon, red, or even near black. The black paint can appear blue or even light purple. See discussion of Cypriot White Painted (Iron Age) for further discussion.
Bichrome ware can be divided into two broad macroscopic fabric categories, one coarser than the other. The coarser fabric is mainly associated with large vessels, and the finer fabric with small and medium-size vessels, including open and closed shapes. In terms of colour, both fabrics exhibite the same hue, a red-yellow 7.5YR (with variations in chroma between 7.5YR 6/4 and 7.5YR 7/4). The firing conditions of these vessels seem to have been consistent in terms of temperature and atmosphere, an argument that is supported by the consistency observed in the recorded fabric colours. A light-coloured core is occasionally observed in cross-section, while in other cases there is no core at all. The presence of organics is attested by the presence of voids across the cross-sections; some of these voids are elongated in shape. Voids constitute up to 5% of each section’s surface and the orientation of the elongated voids is almost parallel to the vessel’s walls. Some of these voids in large closed vessels were initially air bubbles in the clay that resulted in surface bloating.
Both coarse and fine fabric variants range from semi-hard to hard; the softer can be scratched with a fingernail (Mohs 2 or 2.5). The texture of these fabrics varies from fine—for the finer version—to medium/irregular—for the coarser version—and the feel varies respectively from smooth to rough. The inclusions in the finer version are sparse, smaller than 0.25 mm in size, and primarily white in colour, while some black or greyish inclusions are also visible, following a moderate sorting with only very few reaching the maximum diameter of 0.25 mm.
In the coarser version, the inclusions are larger and more frequent. They are moderately sorted, and they reach up to 10% of the section’s surface, with their size reaching 0.25 mm, exhibiting some bimodal size distribution. Most of the inclusions are white or greyish white in colour, while there are also some brownish red and black inclusions. Most of the white and greyish white inclusions both in the finer and coarser versions are rounded. Only a minimum number show some sort of angularity. From this first macroscopic examination quartz grains have been identified. It is assumed that a kind of sand, rich in quartz, was used in the production of the coarser version of Bichrome ware at Salamis. Fabric similarities may be recorded between Bichrome ware and White Painted ware.
The surface of these vessels is characterised by a light-coloured wash or slip, often similar to the ceramic body, which varies from rough to smooth. In the coarser version, the black paint varies from black to brownish, while the red paint appears in darker or lighter colourations, such as purple, light red-brown or pinkish. In the case of the finer version, the vessel surface is very often covered by a relatively thick slip that ranges from whitish to yellowish in colour, and is well smoothed or burnished, creating a contrasting colour effect with the reddish ceramic body. The black paint can appear greyish and the red paint either dark red or pinkish. The latter is often applied in a rather thick layer.
Wheelmade, usually light ground fabric, with red/pink/purple and black/grayish painted decoration. Cypriot Bichrome (CBI) is an Iron Age Cypriot ware that is the same as Cypriot White Painted (CWP) with the addition of red paint (possibly cinnabar or other iron pigment) to the more common black paint. The red paint can appear brown, orange, or maroon/purple. The fabric carrying decoration can be white, tan, salmon, red, or even near black. The black paint can appear blue or even light purp...
Kourion/Episkopi, Kaloriziki (Cyprus/Western South Coast)
Lapithos, Upper Cemetery (Cyprus/Kyrenia Mountains and North Coast)
Illustrations are presented with the kind permission of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus.