Barbara Montecchi (Alexander Onassis Fellow, Department of History and Archaeology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), "Agency and literacy in Minoan inscribed pottery"
In September 2017, I completed a long-term research project on the administrative documents from the site of AyiaTriada, in South-Central Crete, whose results are about to be published. By adopting a widely accepted opinion that Bronze Age administrative tasks were performed by (male) officials of central economic organisations, my intention was to examine in detail the specific functions of these documents, leaving aside the social agents participating in the writing and sealing. As my research has progressed, however, it has become clearer that, during the Neopalatial Period at least, a much wider range of people, including non-professional, common people, priests, and possibly women, were involved, at different levels, in administrative practices. Starting from this observation, the idea arose of a completely new project, more extended in time and space, and focused on a different class of material, namely inscribed pottery, in order to explore it from the point of view of literacy and agency.
This is the subject of my ongoing project funded by the A. Onassis Foundation. With this first public talk I intend to present the current stage of the research. The focus will be the practice of writing on pottery in the Aegean during the Middle and Late Bronze Age. The topic will be embedded in a diachronic perspective, in order to pinpoint elements of continuity, innovation, and breaks from the First to the Second Palace Period.
Cretan Hieroglyphic inscriptions are attested, either painted or incised, on 22 vases. They can be regarded as a homogeneous group, since they all date back to the MM II (about 1875/50-1750/00 B.C.) and were found at a few Cretan sites, mostly at Malia.
About 80 Linear A inscribed clay vessels are known thus far. The chronology ranges from the MM II to the LM IIIA1 (PK Zb 24), but the vast majority of these date back to the MM III - LM I. Most of these inscriptions have been found in Crete, mostly at Knossos, but occasionally also in the Cyclades and at Miletus.
This study also includes pseudo-inscriptions and impressions left by Hieroglyphic seals on jar handles, but isolated signs are only included when they are logograms or could be originally part of a syllabic sequence.
In an attempt to highlight elements of continuity and change from the Protopalatial to the Neopalatial Period, I intend to address issues related to the functions of the inscriptions, the social and economic status of the authors of the inscriptions, and their degree of literacy.