Ionian Hellenistic Delicate Banded Ware
3rd - 2nd c. BCE
Ionian Hellenistic Delicate Banded Ware
3rd - 2nd c. BCE
Ionian Delicate Banded ware (BDW) has been isolated at Priene in middle Hellenistic contexts of the 3rd and 2nd century BCE. The most common shapes are deep and shallow hemispherical drinking bowls, but these are not indicative enough to narrow down the chronological frame of this group to a more precise range of dates. For example, hemispherical drinking bowls have been in use since the earliest known contexts in Priene (2nd half of the 4th century; cf. Heinze 2015). However, the first evidence for DBW derives from contexts dated to the 3rd century BCE. Being a rare phenomenon in these few contexts of the 3rd century, we currently assume that DBW did not appear in Priene before the middle of the 3rd century BCE.
Only during the 2nd century BCE this ware can be found more frequently in closed contexts. Subsequently, DBW is almost absent in assemblages dated to the 1st century BCE and later. Therefore, we currently propose a chronological frame for the DBW spanning from the middle of the 3rd century to the 2nd century BCE. We would like to underline, that this range of dates is based on the actual imports of DBW to Priene and does not necessarily need to correlate with the general production span of this ware at the yet to be determined city of its origin.
The so-called delicate banded ware (ger. “Feine Reifenware”) has – at least to our knowledge – not been properly described and documented at most of the other ancient sites in western Asia Minor or mainland Greece. A rare exception to this is Knidos (Kögler 2010, pp. 128-129), which – via U. Mandel and P. Kögler – also has been the site that brought awareness to this class of pottery at Priene. The denomination assigned to this ware in Priene derives from the predominant features of this group of vessels: the horizontal band decoration and the thinness of its walls. The ware is furthermore defined by several other characteristics, such as a very limited range of shapes and a distinct light reddish to orange fabric (see below).
Regarding the shapes, there are two main varieties DBW occurs in Priene: the most common one is an almost hemispherical bowl with a vertical or slightly incurved rim, which occasionally bears grooves on the outside. Since no completely preserved profiles are known from Priene so far, we can only speculate about the corresponding feet. So far, however, slightly broadened raised bases or feet of the same fabric are the most likely candidate to accompany these types of rims. Less frequent are cups with a rather shallow profile and foot-less bottoms, formed by a grooved base. The rim of the shallow bowls is either slightly curved or almost straight and regularly has a groove on the outside.
These two main shapes of the DBW clearly follow popular Hellenistic drinking bowls (e.g. Rotroff 1997, pp. 107-113, nos. 311-356), but combine this form with quite a different overall decorative aesthetic.
Associated with the DBW in a manner yet to be completely understood is the shape of the lopadion or covered bowl, a fine version of common shallow cooking pots. The shape is attested in Asia Minor (e.g. Kögler 2010, pp. 185-188) as well as in Greece (e.g. Rotroff 1997, p. 217). However, the function of these vessels in everyday life is currently not properly understood and will need to be studied in more depth in the future.
Even more characteristic than its shape is the decoration scheme of this ware. Vessels of the DBW always show brushed horizontal bands on the inside and/or on the outside. There are two main variations attested in Priene. The first is distinguished by clearly separated bands that are applied forming a dense glaze and alternate with the plain surface of the ceramic body. The other method involves a translucent application of the glaze. Here, bands emerge through the inhomogeneous application of the glaze. There also seems to be a correlation between the decoration scheme and the main shapes: while the deep cups may carry bands on both the inside and the outside of the vessel, the decoration of the shallow cups and the lopadia focuses largely on the inside. In case of the shallow cups, we usually see the rim and the groove on the outside highlighted through a slim band of glaze.
Another striking feature of this ware is the remarkable thinness of the walls. Above the foot, this rarely exceeds 1 mm and more frequently ranges between 0,5 and 0,75 mm. Along with the thin walls, the fabric is marked by a brittle, almost glass like texture, which most likely reflects rather high firing temperatures (at least in case of the imported DBW).
To our knowledge, DBW has only been described once as part of the Hellenistic fine wares published from Knidos (Kögler 2010, pp. 128-129, nos. D42-D43, Kn67-68). Kögler separated a small group of bowls from within her assemblages and gave a first overview over the fabric, as attested in Knidos. The name given by her – ‘Tongrundige Becher mit Reifendekor’ – was influential for the term used here. For our need, it seemed to be too constrained to the fact that it only comprises of bowls as well as not paying enough tribute to the delicate nature of the ceramic body.
Fabric A (import):
Thin, hard-fired fabric tending to break like glass. The clay is very fine and thus seems to have been highly levigated. Thus, inclusions are rarely visible with the naked eye and only few can be seen with a handheld magnifier. These mostly comprise white/clear inclusions that often dominate the fabric to a degree, that the light texture blends in with the general matrix itself. Rarely visible are darker inclusions and occasionally reddish ones. Only under high magnification, voids in the matrix begin to appear and the “white” inclusions emerge somewhat more crystalline. The color of the ceramic body – according to the Munsell Color Charts – ranges from 10R 6/6–5/6 to 2.5YR 6/6–6/5 (light red / light orange).
Fabric B (local/regional production):
Less hard and brittle than Fabric A. The ceramic body is generally micaceous and – although mostly relatively fine – more frequently shows inclusions of a wide range of colors (white, dark, reddish) with the naked eye and especially with a handheld magnifier. Under high magnification, these inclusions are not clearly identifiable, yet some of them appear to be calcareous. This was tested in the field with HCl, to which the sherds reacted positively. A relatively high content of Ca has additionally been confirmed with a preliminary portable XRF study (5-15%). Yet, substantial tempering with lime was not visible during the thin section analysis (see below), indicating that the clay matrix itself might be rather calcareous. The nature of the occasionally visible white inclusions thus remains to be unknown. Voids in the matrix are larger and more frequent than in Fabric A. The range of colors for this fabric covers 5YR 6/6 to 7.5YR 6/6 and thus falls within the spectrum of colors frequently attested within the local/regional production of Priene.