Ware/Ware Family

Cilician Hellenistic Slipped Fine Ware

Turkey/Eastern Mediterranean

Early Hellenistic, Middle Hellenistic

300-150 BCE

Ware/Ware Family: Cilician Hellenistic Slipped Fine Ware

Ware/Ware Family Name, Origin, and Date

Cilician Hellenistic Slipped Fine Ware

Turkey/Eastern Mediterranean

300-150 BCE

Early Hellenistic, Middle Hellenistic

This is the standard table ware of the early-mid Hellenistic period in the northernmost Levant. Vessel fabric is a clean light pinkish brown; they are partially or mostly covered in a shiny slip, usually fired to orange-red, but it can be also be matte brown or red, semi lustrous or slightly metallic red, dark purple, or black.

It is most common in the region of coastal Cilicia, from Hama to Kinet Höyük/Issus to Tarsus (Jones 1950), in the third century BCE; its ubiquity here suggests this as a likely zone of origin. Potters in this region had access to a particularly excellent source of potting clay, which is classified on the LCP as Northern Levantine-Cypriot Ophiolitic.

Potters made both individual table vessels, such as saucers and small bowls, as well as serving vessels such as large fish plates with drooping rims. Shapes include bowls with incurved rims, saucers with ledge rims and fishplate depressions, vertical handled skyphoi, olpai, jugs and/or table amphoras with cupped or overhanging rims, and deep kraters with projecting rims.

Beginning in the late 3rd-early 2nd centuries BCE vessels start appearing at sites in the central and southern Levant, both along the coast (e.g., Beirut, 'Akko-Ptolemais) and in the interior (e.g., Kedesh). The spread at this time is may have been hastened by the Seleucid conquest of this region in 197 BCE (at the Battle of Paneion). The versions found at central and southern Levantine sites are usually slipped red, perhaps indicating that particular Cilician workshops exported their vessels or that merchants who traded vessels further to the south preferred red-slipped vessels.

Sandrine Elaigne has studied the material from the stratigraphic evidence from excavations in Beirut, and also analyzed some via INAA at Lyon, and determined that the clays are identical to those of ESA (Elaigne 2013, p. 217). She proposed to call the ware "Red-slip Predecessor."

Potters in this region used this same metro-fabric Northern Levantine-Cypriot Ophiolitic to make other fine wares. In the early 2nd c. BCE some potters here began making a very fine black-slip series; this ware has been given the name of Black-Slipped Predecessor (BSP), meaning the predecessor to ESA - because most of the BSP shapes are the same as the earliest shapes of ESA. Both Cilician Hellenistic Slipped Fine Ware (which carried a red slip) and BSP (which carried a black slip) continued to be made, side-by-side, for about two generations. Eventually both of these wares were replaced by ESA.

Northern coastal fine ware (NCF), Northern Levantine coastal Hellenistic fine ware, Red-slip Predecessor

Moderately hard and dense, clean light pinkish brown (5YR 7/4–7.5YR 8/4), with occasional voids and a few fine lime inclusions, fully fired light pink brown or orange pink throughout most of section. Matte to semi-lustrous smooth orange-red slip, very similar in color to ESA but generally brushed on rather than dipped, often wet-smoothed, usually covering the entire vessel interior but only the upper exterior, dribbling onto lower wall.

Slip color and quality is variable – including matte brown, matte red, and semi lustrous or slightly metallic red, dark purple, or black. Vessels with entirely matte slip are more consistent in color, while vessels with semi lustrous or metallic firing are more often mottled or two-toned.

Open shapes are entirely slipped on the interior; plates and saucers are usually fully slipped on the exterior as well but bowls, skyphoi and kraters are usually only slipped on approximately the upper 2/3 of the exterior, often unevenly and/or with slip drips and smears from finger dipping on the lower wall and foot. Closed vessels are usually slipped on approximately the upper 2/3 - 3/4 of the exterior wall, on the rim, and the interior neck.

Site Distribution

'Akko, Harbor (Israel/Northern Coastal Plain)

Maresha/Marisa (Israel/Shephelah)

Qedesh (Israel/Galilee)

Antiocheia ad Cragum (Turkey/Eastern Mediterranean)

Guzelce Harman Tepe (Turkey/Eastern Mediterranean)

Iotape (Turkey/Eastern Mediterranean)

Kenetepe (Turkey/Eastern Mediterranean)

Kestros (Turkey/Eastern Mediterranean)

Kinet Höyük (Turkey/Eastern Mediterranean)

Laertes (Turkey/Eastern Mediterranean)

Selinus (Turkey/Eastern Mediterranean)

Sirkeli Höyük (Turkey/Eastern Mediterranean)

Vessels 68
Break Photos 27
Petrographic Samples 7
  1. Peter J. Stone. "'Provincial' Perspectives: The Persian, Ptolemaic, and Seleucid Administrative Center at Tel Kedesh, Israel in a Regional Context", PhD, Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati, 2012 , Figure 7a top, 7b.
  2. S. Elaigne. "La vaisselle de table en Phénicie à l'époque hellénistique" in La Phénicie hellénistique267-294, ed(s). J. Aliquot, C. Bonnet. Actes du colloque "La Phénicie hellénistique" tenu à Toulouse (10-20 Février 2013), Toulouse, 2013. Topoi supplement, 13. Lyon: 2015