Ceramic Fabric Analisys

An INSTAP-funded analytical study of coarse wares from Thronos Kephala was initiated in  2006 under the direction of M.-C. Boileau and A.L. D’Agata, with the research aims of  (1) identifying the raw materials used in the production of coarse utilitarian pottery; (2) confirming a local provenance to the stylistically assigned local wares; (3) identifying imported vessels; (4) investigating clay paste technology; and (5) assessing diachronic changes in pottery production and consumption from the 12th -7th c. BC.

The pottery selected for analysis comes from domestic and ritual contexts. The samples represent coarse to semi-fine macroscopic fabrics and a variety of vessel types and sizes.


A geoprospection of potential potting raw materials (clays, sediments, sand and rocks) was conducted in the two main drainages south of Rethymno in order to complement the geological information of the geological maps. In all, 28 geological samples were collected along road cuttings and river beds in the Amari and Ayios Vassileos valleys. The photograph  above shows a red metamorphic clay deposit located in the Amari Valley.

Subsequent laboratory experiments were conducted on the clays and plastic sediments. Briquettes were prepared, fired at different temperatures (A dry, B 700oC, C 900oC, D 1050oC), thin-sectioned and examined under the polarising microscope. This collection of geological samples acted as our main reference group to assign local provenance for Thronos Kephala fabrics.

Some preliminary results

Petrographic analysis of the 200 pottery and 35 geological thin sections was carried out at the Fitch Laboratory, British School at Athens.

The majority of the samples, i.e. 80 %, were produced locally (see graph here above) and the main fabric groups are characterised by mineral and rock inclusions consistent with the local rock formations of the Phyllite-Quartzite Series.

The three main fabric groups are illustrated in the following micro-photographs:

1. This is the main local fabric group used for large to medium-sized vessels, mainly amphorae and pithoi. It is characterised by coarse Phyllite-Quartzite inclusions set in a red groundmass (SY89, XPL, field of view 7.4 mm)
2. This is another local fabric group mainly used for the manufacture of amphorae and pithoi. It is characterised by Phyllite-Quartzite inclusions set in a very fine groundmass as well as a light grey core, attesting to a different firing technique (SY190, XPL, field of view 5.9 mm).
3. This is a local cooking pot fabric group characterised by large Phyllite-Quartzite inclusions (SY172, XPL, field of view 11.5 mm)
Along with the local fabrics, 25 samples representing 13 %, were identified as imported pieces to Thronos Kephala and come from different areas or sites in Crete. A second phase of the project on the geochemistry of clays and finer-grained fabrics using neutron activation analysis is currently under way in collaboration with V. Kilikoglou (Demokritos, Athens). Preliminary results of the petrographic analysis were presented at different congresses and research seminars, and final publications are in preparation.


Boileau, M.-C, D’Agata, A.L., Whitley, J. (forthcoming). “Pottery Technology and Regional Exchange in Early Iron Age Crete”, in Quinn, P. (ed.) Petrography of Archaeological Materials, Archaeopress.

Boileau, M.-C., D’Agata, A.L. and Whitley, J. “Pottery Technology and Regional Exchange Networks in Early Iron Age Central Crete”, in 5th Symposium of the Hellenic Society for Archaeometry (HSA), Athens, 8-10 October 2008.

Boileau, M.-C., D’Agata, A.L., and Whitley, J. “Pottery Production in Iron Age Crete Viewed in the Context of Regional and External Trade Networks: A Ceramic Petrology Perspective”, in 17th International Congress of Classical Archaeology (AIAC), Rome, 22-26 September 2008.

Boileau, M.-C., D’Agata, A.L. and Whitley, J. “Continuity and Change in Pottery Production in Central Crete in the Aftermath of the Late Bronze Age Collapse”, in 37th International Symposium on Archaeometry (ISA), Siena, 12-16 May 2008.