Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Art & Archaeology of Mediterranean World
Metal vessels made from precious materials are often noticeably absent from the archaeological record. This dearth of precious metal vessels is especially acute on Crete during the Middle Minoan period. Considering the vital role of metals in the socio-economic life of ancient societies, the loss of precious metal vessels represents a critical gap in our understanding of Minoan society during this period. Rather than relying on the fortuitous discovery of metal vessels in future excavations, this study offers an alternative method of "recovering" these "lost" vessels. Concentrating on the Middle Minoan ceramic assemblages from the palatial sites of Knossos and Phaistos on Crete, this dissertation demonstrates the feasibility of using ceramic skeuomorphs with "metallic" features to re-construct the appearance, function, and roles of metal vessels in Minoan society.
The conclusions reached in this study represent only the first glimpses of the possibilities skeuomorphs may offer to the archaeological community. The study of ceramic surface treatments did, in fact, allow for the "re-construction" of the appearance of certain metal vessels, even permitting the distinction between metallic decorative techniques that were likely first seen on foreign imports and those that were likely developed on Crete--including some that were previously unattested, such as inlay and enamel work, for the Middle Minoan period. The analysis of the origins of the shapes of these skeuomorphs suggest a possible trade in metal goods with the southwestern coast of Anatolia or northern Levantine coast--at a time when the first palaces were being built on Crete--and the analysis of the functional use of the skeuomorphs suggests that the majority of metal vessels were used as luxurious "drinking sets" for the socio-political elite, engendering, in turn, the emulation of ceramic copies to be used by the "sub-elite" as substitutes in competitive feasting ceremonies. In the end, the verdict falls squarely in favour of the skeuomorph; the study of these objects can only provide new avenues of research into the past.
McCullough, Tanya J., "Metal to Clay: "Recovering" Middle Minoan Metal Vessels from Knossos and Phaistos through their Ceramic Skeuomorphs" (2014). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 1363.