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An Interpretive Archaeology


Art and the Early Greek State
An Interpretive Archaeology

Widely known as an innovative figure in contemporary archaeology, Michael Shanks has
written a challenging contribution to recent debates on the emergence of the Greek city states
in the first millennium BC. He interprets the art and archaeological remains of Korinth to elicit
connections between new urban environments, foreign trade, warfare and the ideology of male
sovereignty. Adopting an interdisciplinary perspective, which draws on an anthropologically
informed archaeology, ancient history, art history, material culture studies and structural
approaches to the classics, his book raises significant questions about the links between design
and manufacture, political and social structure, and culture and ideology in the ancient Greek

is Professor of Classics at Stanford University, and Associate Professor,
Institute of Archaeology, Goteborg University. His publications include Reconstructing Archae-
< (1992), Social Theory and Archaeology (1987) and Classical Archaeology of Greece (1996).

Series editor
Clive Gamble, University of Southampton
Colin Renfrew, University of Cambridge

Archaeology has made enormous advances recently, both in the volume of discoveries and in
its character as an intellectual discipline: new techniques have helped to further the range and
rigour of inquiry, and encouraged inter-disciplinary communication.
The aim of this series is to make available to a wider audience the results of these
developments. The coverage is worldwide and extends from the earliest hunting and gathering
societies to historical archaeology.

For a list of titles in the series please see the end of the book.

Art and the Early Greek State
An interpretive archaeology

The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, United Kingdom

The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 2RU, UK
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Ruiz de Alarcon 13,28014 Madrid, Spain
Dock House, The Waterfront, Cape Town 8001, South Africa


© Michael Shanks 1999

This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 1999
First paperback edition 2004

Typeset in Plantin 10/13pt[vN]

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress cataloguing in publication data
Shanks, Michael.
Art and the Greek city state: an interpretive archaeology/Michael Shanks.
p. cm.-(New studies in archaeology)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0 521 56117 5 hardback
1. Corinth (Greece) ”Antiquities. 2. Greece - Civilization - T o 146 BC. 3. City-states - Greece. 4.
Social archaeology ” Greece - Corinth. 5. Art - Greece - Corinth. 6. Archaeology - Methodology.
I. Title. II. Series.
DF221.C6S53 1998
938'.7 98-7923 CIP

ISBN 0 521 56117 5 hardback
ISBN 0 521 60285 8 paperback

List of illustrations page viii
List of tables xii
Preface and acknowledgements xiii

Introduction: The setting and argument
A narrative setting 1
A social archaeology 2
Narrative textures and archaeologies of the ineffable 3
Emergent narratives and an argument 5
The structure of the book 7
A note on illustrations and references to ceramics 7
A note on Greek texts 8

1 The design of archaic Korinth: the question of a beginning and an
interpretive archaeology
Interests and discourse 9
The question of a beginning and a problem of method 10
An aryballos from Korinth: the beginning of an approach 11
Design in the material world: understanding an artifact 12
Interpretive archaeology and relational philosophy 24
A relational method of an interpretive archaeology 32
The assemblage of an aryballos 34
A productive map 34
Mapping narratives: interpretive beginnings 3 6

2 Craft production in the early city state: some historical and material
Fine accomplishment, and risk (with an aside on the skeuomorph) 37
A sample of 2,000 Korinthian pots 40
The aryballos in a workshop 42
Pots and figured subjects 50
Eighth- and seventh-century Korinth: political histories 52
Tyranny, power and discourses of sovereignty 59
Korinth, the material environment: a continuity of change 61
Contents vi

Social histories: making anthropological sense of archaic aristocracy 70
Patronage, design and ideology? 72

Early archaic Korinth: design and style
Part 1: an interpretive dialogue through a Korinthian aryballos 73
Faces, heads, and the look of the panther
Monsters: identity, integrity, violence, dismemberment
Violence, experiences of the soldier, the animal and the body
Violence and sex, animals and the absence of woman
Masculinity and the domestic
Violence and the state
The lord, his enemies, and sovereign identity
Speed, the games, and a band of men
Life-style and an aesthetics of the body
Aryballos Boston 95.12: a summary interpretation
Part 2: Korinthian ceramic style: eighth through seventh centuries BC 151
Animal art and the decorative: is there a case to answer?
A short note on anthropologies of art
Pattern and order, texture and accent
Innovation, variability and change
An overview of Korinthian ceramic design

Consumption: perfume and violence in a Sicilian cemetery
Perfume and the body 172
Cemeteries and sanctuaries: the shape of consumption 175
Cemeteries and sanctuaries in early archaic Greece 175
Design and provenance 176
The consumption of Korinthian pottery at some particular sites 181
The gift and identity through self-alienation 189
Writing the body 191
A stylistic repertoire and the translation of interests 192

Trade and the consumption of travel
Homo economicus and homo politicus: minimalist models of archaic trade 195
Travel and mobility 200
Experience and the constitution of geographical space 201
The conceptual space of archaic Korinthian design 202
The Phoenicians, east and west 203
The orientalising cauldron 206
Colonisation and its discourse 207
The consumption of travel 208
Contents vii

6 Art, design and the constitutive imagination in the early city state 210

Bibliography 214
Index 234

Unless otherwise stated, all illustrations were prepared in their final form by Shanks
(see also the remarks on illustration in the Introduction, pages 7-8).

1.1 An aryballos in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Numbered 95.12.
Recorded as from Korinth. Catharine Page Perkins Collection.
Photograph and permission courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston. (Amyx 1988: 23) 13
1.2 Conceptions of an artifact. 31
1.3 Classification and identity of an artifact. 31
1.4 The life-cycle of an aryballos, a general economy from production to
consumption. 35
2.1 Geometric workmanship of certainty. A pyxis from Messavouno
Cemetery, Thera (in Leiden, VZVN 4; Johansen 1923; pi. 11.2), and
typical later 'subgeometric' aryballoi (after Neeft 1987: Fig. 130). 38
2.2 The so-called Potters' Quarter, old Korinth. (Photograph Shanks.) 45
2.3 Hoplites upon a Korinthian aryballos, found at Gela and now in
Syracuse Museum. (Amyx 1988: 38; after Johansen 1923: PL 34.2.) 57
2.4 Bellerophon. An aryballos in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
(95.10), (after Johansen 1923: PI. 30.2; Amyx 1988: 37). 62
2.5 The sanctuary of Hera at Perachora, across the gulf from Korinth
(the remains of the archaic temple are at the end of the terrace).
(Photograph Shanks.) 63
2.6 Temple Hill, Old Korinth (this is the later archaic temple); Ak-
rokorinthos in the background. (Photograph restored by Shanks.
Courtesy of the Museum of Classical Archaeology, Cambridge.) 64
2.7 A Korinthian helmet. An early example from Olympia. 67
3.1 Aryballos Boston 95.12 (Figure 1.1). Detail: main frieze. 74
3.2 The mark of gender? A frieze from an aryballos in the Louvre (CA
617) claimed to show the abduction of Helen (Amyx 1988: 23; after
Johansen 1923: 143-4, and Blinkenberg 1898). The figured frieze
upon an aryballos in Oxford (Ashmolean 505/G 146), said to be from
Thebes, (after Johansen 1923: No. 1, PI. 20.1; Payne in Corpus
Vasorum Antiquorum, Oxford). 7 5
3.3 Parataxis and clues to an assemblage: an aryballos in the British
Illustrations ix

Museum (1869.12-15.1; Amyx 1988: 17; photograph and per-
mission courtesy of the British Museum). 76
3.4 From conical stands through birds, heads and flora.
1 A pyxis from the Sanctuary of Artemis at Sparta (after Johansen
1923: No. 19, PI. 24.3).
2 A frieze upon an aryballos in Naples (128296), from the Kyme
cemetery (Amyx 1988: 17; after Neeft 1987: List 33.B.2).
3 A frieze upon an aryballos in Munich (Antikenmuseum 6561), said
to be from Italy (Amyx 1988: 17; after Neeft 1987: List 33.B.1).
4 Design from an aryballos in Naples, from the Kyme cemetery (after
Neeft 1987: List 33.A.2).
5 Design from an aryballos in Lacco Ameno (168268), from a grave
at Pithekoussai (573.3) (after Buchner 1993; Neeft 1987: List
6 An aryballos in Brussels (Cinquantenaire A2) (after Johansen
1923: 61, Fig. 42; Amyx 1988: 18).
7 The shoulder of an aryballos in Lacco Ameno (167572), from a
grave at Pithekoussai (359.4) (after Buchner 1993; Neeft 1987:
8 The shoulder of an aryballos in Lacco Ameno (168561), from a
grave at Pithekoussai (654.3) (Buchner 1993; Neeft 1987: List
9 A frieze upon an aryballos in Delphi (6582), from a grave at the
sanctuary (after Snodgrass 1964: PI. 14). 79
3.5 Tripods and cauldrons, stands, bowls and constituent graphical com-
ponents or schemata. 80
3.6 Standing floral designs and constituent or related graphical compo-
nents. 81
3.7 A Korinthian cup from the sanctuary of Aphaia on Aegina. (after
Kraiker 1951: No. 190). 83
3.8 Suggested relationships between the groups of non-figurative de-
signs. 84
3.9 Circles, rosettes, stars and their variants, vectors towards the floral,
cross and lozenge. 85
3.10 From lozenges and triangles to vegetal line and petals, vectors to-
wards zig-zag, cross, rosettes and stars. 85
3.11 Linearity and 90°, 60° and 45° angularity. 86
3.12 Elaborated floral designs (garlands) of the later pots. 86
3.13 Analytic of the composition of the geometric and the floral. 87
3.14 The aryballos as flower - aryballos 168021 in the museum in Lacco
Ameno, from Pithekoussai grave 509 (item 3) (after Buchner 1993),
viewed from above. The plate as flower (larger item) - design from
the surface of a plate found at Aetos (after Robertson 1948: item
1065). 87
Illustrations x

3.15 Dogs hunting a bird. Design from an aryballos in Syracuse (13756)
and from the Fusco cemetery, grave 378. (after Orsi 1895: 159.) 91
3.16 Confronting sphinxes from an olpe in Frankfurt (Museum fur Vor-
und Friihgeschichte £335) (Amyx 1988: 48, PL 16.2). 93
3.17 A scene containing lions upon a conical oinochoe from Perachora in
the National Museum, Athens, (after Dunbabin 1962: No. 228;
Benson 1989: 44.) 94
3.18 The space of the sphinx. 95
3.19 Sphinxes and people: four scenes. 96
1 a detail of a frieze upon a cup from Samos (Fittschen, L9) (see also
Figure 3.27);
2 an aryballos in and from Syracuse, Fusco cemetery (Amyx 1988:
3 a cup (Perachora 673 (ibid.))
4 aryballos Taranto 4173 (ibid.: 38).
(after Dunbabin 1962 and Lo. Porto 1959.)
3.20 Design from an aryballos found in Sellada cemetery, Thera (A419).
(after Neeft 1987:34.1.) 101
3.21 Soldiers, heads and the gaze: an olpe in Hamburg (1968.49); (Amyx
1988: 29) and an aryballos in Boston (95.11; ibid.: 33-4). (after
Johansen 1923.) 103
3.22 An aryballos with sculpted lion head from Kameiros cemetery,
Rhodes, (after Johansen 1923: No. 52, PI. 32. see also Amyx 1988:
32). 106
3.23 A fight upon an aryballos from Perachora and in the National Mu-
seum, Athens, (after Dunbabin 1962: No. 27; Amyx 1988: 25). 114
3.24 Soldiers together. A pyxis in the British Museum (1865.7-20.7). The
Macmillan aryballos in the British Museum (Amyx 1988: 31; photo-
graph and permission courtesy of the British Museum). 116
3.25 An archaic stone kouros in Delphi, one of a pair (Kleobis/Biton)
signed by Polymedes of Argos, and a cuirass from a grave found at
Argos. (Photograph by Shanks and drawing after Courbin 1957.) 120
3.26 The different components of Korinthian figured friezes of the seventh
century BC. Values refer to the number of friezes in which a particu-
lar figurative component occurs. 121
3.27 Stylised animals. Friezes from a later Korinthian oinochoe in the
Louvre (E419; Amyx 1988: 67). 125
3.28 Death, otherness and lifestyle. 126
3.29 Warriors, women, monsters, birds and flowers: an aryballos in
Brindisi (1609; after Benson 1989: 50). 128
3.30 Dogs and energy: a kotyle in the British Museum (1860.4-4.18;
Amyx 1988: 26; photograph and permission courtesy of the British
Museum), and dogs from an aryballos in Syracuse (12529), from
Illustrations xi

Fusco cemetery (grave 85) (after Johansen 1923: Fig. 46; Neeft
1987: List 27.E.3). 132
3.31 Gender, ambiguity and violence: a cup from the Heraion, Samos
(Fittschen 1969, L9). 135
3.32 The space of the domestic animal. 136
3.33 The hunt and the fight. Scenes from three aryballoi.
1 From Nola in the British Museum (1856.12-26.199; after Johan-
sen 1923: No. 43; Amyx 1988: 24)
2 From Syracuse (13839; Fusco, grave 366; after Orsi 1895: Figs.
43, 44; Amyx 1988: 24)
3 From the cemetery at Lechaion (Korinth CP-2096; Amyx 1988:
25). 141
3.34 Speed and the games. An aryballos from the Athenaion at Syracuse.
after Johansen 1923: PL 34.1; Amyx 1988: 44). 144
3.35 The numbers of animals and people appearing in the later Korinthian
painted ceramic friezes. 155
3.36 Figure combinations in later friezes. 157
3.37 Cumulative graph: the number of times a graphical element is used -
comparison between earlier and later friezes. 161
3.38 The number of designs per frieze; earlier and later compared. 162
3.39 Animal classification. 163
4.1 The distribution of Korinthian pottery in the first half of the seventh
century BC. 170
4.2 The main types of provenance of Korinthian pottery of the seventh
century BC. 171
4.3 The face of the perfumed panther. An aryballos from the Argive
Heraion. (after Johansen 1923: PI. 20.3; Amyx 1988: 18). 173
4.4 Figured Korinthian pots and their provenances. 178
4.5 Components of the earlier Korinthian friezes and their provenances. 179
4.6 Components of the later Korinthian friezes and their provenances. 180
4.7 Types of earlier design from different sites. 182
4.8 Types of later design from different sites. 183
5.1 From archaic ceramic plaques found at Penteskouphia, near Korinth.
(after Antike Denmaler Volume 2.3. Berlin: Deutsches Archaologis-
chen Instituts 1898.) 197

This book is about the design of a culture and way of life in times of great change
some two and half millennia ago. It deals with the remains of archaic Greece, the end
of a 'dark age' in the eighth and seventh centuries BC, the emergence of the city state,
colonial settlement outside Greece and the spread of Greek goods and influences
abroad. Bearing radical cultural, social and political change, these times must feature
in any understanding of the mature classical city state - the polls. Written sources are
partial and fragmentary; most documentary material is archaeological. Attempt is
made to develop narrative and interpretation appropriate to the character of the
sources - this book is as much about relationships with the material ruin of times past
as it is an account of what may have happened in Korinth, a city state at the forefront
of the changes. Through interdisciplinary approaches to material culture and design
this book is about what may be done with archaeological sources, the sorts of
narrative that may be constructed. In this it is a work of art history as much as
The book adopts traditional focus upon a category of material culture, a type of
pottery conventionally classified protokorinthian and considered of fine artistic qual-
ity. The prefix prow- is used to indicate that the style prefigures pots produced later
and called of ripe Korinthian style; the terms belong to a particular conception of the
character of art and design history. This is challenged in the book. Different angles
are offered on the significance of material culture in the early polis as style and design
are related to society and social change, to human agency and ideology. It is this
contextualisation that makes the conventional terminologies inappropriate and so
they hardly appear in the book.
Nevertheless it is suggested that the arguments and methodology hold consider-
able implications for the classification and interpretation of pottery and other objects
typical of archaeological interest. The book can also be read as a large-scale empirical
exploration of the theoretical issues which have been the focus of considerable debate
in anthropological archaeology since the late 1970s. While its particular academic
context is one of an increasing number of interdisciplinary studies informed by
anthropology, archaeological theory and art history, the label interpretive archaeology
is one which may be attached to the book.
Various influences will be clear. Ian Hodder's contextual archaeology and the
work of Anthony Snodgrass are very much in evidence; I studied under both these
innovative scholars. Some lines of argument are in the tradition of Moses Finley, and
I have found stimulating the French school of classical studies, after Vernant, Gernet
Preface and acknowledgements xiv

and Schnapp. In material culture studies Bruno Latour and his colleagues have
transformed my thinking. Further in the background is a long-running debate in
Marxism about the interpretation of culture; for archaeology I may mention Randall
McGuire's fine book, A Marxist Archaeology (1992) which explores Marxism as a
relational philosophy. The project of weaving together fragmentary sources in a way
which respects their character and the loss inherent in historical science is epitomised
for me in the melancholic Marxism of Walter Benjamin and his great unfinished
Passagen-Werk (1982) which aimed to fashion a history of nineteenth-century Paris,
like Korinth, another great city in times of radical change.
I began my archaeological researches and writing with prehistoric themes of death
and mortuary ritual, moving to contribute particularly to the development of archae-
ological theory - reflection upon modes of thought and interpretation appropriate to
the remains of past societies. Foregrounded is the creative role of the archaeologist,
constructing knowledges of the past, and I consider archaeology to be as much about
its discourse as about its object. A result of a traditional education in classical
languages (and having taught the same in high schools) was my encounter with a
discipline as well as a topic. Hence this book on the early polis is accompanied by
another, Classical Archaeology of Greece (Shanks 1996a), which deals with the dis-
course of classical archaeology. While the two works complement each other, the
intention is not to produce any sort of definitive statement or judgement, but rather
to sketch a field of possibility. Here I join others in confronting archaeology and art
history with a revised set of intellectual and cultural reference points, renegotiating
academic interests in these postmodern times.
Anthony Snodgrass, Alain Schnapp, Ian Hodder and Colin Renfrew have given
great practical and moral support to my researches. Although I did not realise it at the
time, my thinking was to take a new turn after a seminar week in June 1992 on the
sociology of techniques at Les Treilles, Provence, courtesy of Anne Gruner Schlum-
berger. I thank Bruno Latour for the invitation to attend. With respect to ceramic
design I have learned much from students and staff of Newcastle and Cardiff
Colleges of Art and Carmarthen College of Technology and Art with whom I have
worked on and off since 1988.1 make special mention of ceramic artists Mick Casson
and above all my partner Helen. I cherish links with the creativity of art workers and
makers; she has transformed my thinking about design.
Research for the book was carried out in Cambridge, and I thank the Master and
Fellows of my college Peterhouse for tremendous support, especially Philip Patten-
den, Senior Tutor. Some library work was undertaken in the British School at
Athens. I made visits to museums and major collections in Boston (May 1990), the
British Museum (October 1990), Athens (July 1990 and April 1991), Korinth (May
1991), Naples (May 1991), Syracuse (June 1991), and Paris (March 1992). I
particularly thank the staff of the Museo Nazionale, Naples, the Museo Paolo
D'Orsi, Syracuse, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for help and cooperation.
Quentin Drew of the Computer Unit, Department of Archaeology, University of
Wales, Lampeter helped with some of the work on the illustrations. Figure 1.1 is
Preface and acknowledgements xv

reproduced with permission of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, parts of Figures
3.3, 3.24 and 3.30 are courtesy of the British Museum.
Work for the book has spanned over seven years, during which time I have
explored ideas with the seminar and lecture audiences of many universities in Europe
and the United States. Reactions have varied from warm support and constructive
comment to aggressive dismissal and virulent opposition, but the point is that so
many people have listened, and this is an appreciated luxury. I do not forget the
infrastructures of privilege which have enabled this work.
My project has received funding from Peterhouse, Cambridge, the Maison des
Sciences de l'Homme, Paris, the British Academy, the Pantyfedwen Fund and the
Department of Archaeology in my college in Wales, Saint David's, now the Univer-
sity of Wales, Lampeter. I thank them all.

Maison Suger, Paris, 1992
Lon, Bwlchllan, 1996

A narrative setting
We have heard of Korinth, city on the isthmus joining central Greece with the
Peloponnese to the south. Korinth figures in biblical and ancient histories of Greece
and Rome. Proverbially wealthy and always known to the Greeks as a commercial
centre (Thukydides 1.13.5), the place is described by Homer (Iliad 2,570) as
aphneios (rich). For Pindar (Olympian 13.4) it was olbia (blest with worldly goods),
forHerodotos (3.52) eudaimon (fortunate).
Our knowledges are subject to the sources. Most physical traces of the city are
Roman and later-history was obliteratedin 146 BC by Roman general Mummius who
sacked the city. Only snippets give glimpses which take us back earlier. Back in the
eighth to sixth centuries BC of archaic times Korinth was at the forefront of those
changes which are associated with the early years of the Greek city state, the polis. Here
developed new architectures, including the monumental temple. Changes in the
accoutrement of war (standardisation of the hoplite panoply) were focused upon the
north-east Peloponnese; the most familiar helmet of the Greek heavy infantryman is, of
course, known as Korinthian. From meagre traces of later historical writing it seems
that Korinth was one of the first states to undergo something of a social revolution in
the middle of the seventh century, as the power of the old and exclusive aristocratic big
men was broken. They had been known for their interests abroad. Colonies out west
were set up. Korinthian naval power came to be foremost in Greece.
Its sanctuary at Perachora, just across the gulf, was one of the richest in Greece in
its day, outstripping even Delphi with its deposits of goods of local and foreign
manufacture. Herodotos, writing in the middle of the fifth century BC, notes that the
Korinthians despised craftsmen least (2.167.2), a phrase referring to the characteris-
tic Greek attitude towards manufacture. From metal figurines to painted stucco and
roof tiles, archaic Korinthians produced a distinctive range of products, including,
most notably for the archaeologist, pottery.
Edward Dodwell had bought a pot of the distinctive style and fabric in 1805 (von
Bothmer, 1987: 187), establishing Korinth as the site of manufacture of a style found
across the Mediterranean from the eighth to sixth centuries BC. It was here that
some potters began producing new vessel forms upon which were made experiments
in painted design. From pots with very austere linear surface, multiple lines with only
a narrow range of geometric decorative devices, there was a shift to smaller sized and
miniature pots with floral devices and pattern and with figurative design - painted
animals, birds, people and monstrous creatures. While most pots continued to be

Art and the Greek City State 2

decorated geometrically as they had been for some generations, this time of experi-
ment in the late eighth and early seventh centuries is taken now to mark a significant
change; for early Hellenic archaeologists and art historians the change is from
Geometric to orientalising style, a key phase in the development of Greek figurative
art with its topic of the form of the body. The demand for figured fine ware from
Korinth increased. Design evolved into a distinctive animal art of later Korinthian
ceramics. The mode of painting caught on too. Potters, in Athens particularly,
adopted the freehand style of painting with incised details; this is the basis of
Athenian black figure pottery, with later red figure considered, of course, an acme of
ancient Greek ceramic achievement.
'Orientalising', because contacts with the east are evidenced, whether fabrics
brought to Korinth by a mercenary, or a Phoenician trader making a stopover to
exchange and collect. Korinthian goods travelled. Pliny (NaturalHistory 13.5) much
later remarked that Korinthian perfume of lilies had been popular for a long while.
From its harbour at Lechaion were shipped the distinctive small archaic aryballoi
(perfume jars) and other vessels. They were taken to sanctuaries such as that of Hera
Akraia at Perachora, to Delphi, Ithakan Aetos and the Samian Heraion as votive
offerings and accompaniment to sacred rites. They reached the Greek colonies of
southern Italy and Sicily in quantity, where they turn up particularly as grave goods.
Some items of Korinthian make are found in most western Greek, and even some
Phoenician and native non-Greek settlements of the seventh century BC and after.
Mobility and far-flung connections, social and political change, precocious manu-
facturing talent, and the polis: these are some features of Korinth in that 'Greek
renaissance' of the eighth and seventh centuries BC.

A social archaeology
This book is a social archaeology, seeking to make sense of the design of Korinth, this
'capital city' of archaic Greece. Following the pioneering work of Anthony Snodgrass
(esp. 1980a, 1987) and Ian Morris (esp. 1987) a break is made with the artifact-
centred, descriptive and typological work of so much classical archaeology, the art
histories of stylistic change and pot painter, the historical chronologies. An aim is to
further establish the worth of archaeologically based accounts of social history.
Attempt is also made to reconcile social archaeology (interpreting art style in relation
to social and cultural strategies of potters, traders and consumers) with the aesthetic
appreciation and idealist accounts of conventional art history (compare Whitley
1991b and 1993; for further context Shanks 1996a).
I draw on approaches to artifacts and society found in postprocessual or inter-
pretive archaeology (particularly the work, for example, of Hodder, Miller, Tilley,
Barrett; see Hodder, Shanks et al. 1995; Shanks 1992b; Shanks and Tilley 1992 for
issues and bibliography). Emphasis is placed on the contexts of artifact design -
placing archaeological finds in context of their production, exchange and consump-
tion. There are also strong links with the iconology of French classical studies, after,
for example, the classic volume Cite des Images (1984), investigating the structures of
meaning, the mentalites to be found behind the visual arts.
The setting and argument 3

Changes in art and design are related to social factors, to changing life-styles and
ideologies, and to everyday life. The category 'Art' is here challenged and replaced
somewhat by 'style' and 'design', but without, it is hoped, losing the facility of being
able to distinguish between different qualities of design (between good and bad
'art'). Conventional typological nomenclatures are shown to be largely redundant in
such an approach which situates art and design in social context.
It is held that understanding the archaic city state must involve locating structural
changes within the local social and political strategies of the people of the time:
aristocratic 'big men', soldiers, potters, sailors, traders and travellers, and other
'citizens' of the early polis of Korinth. Here the argument follows a major premise of
much contemporary social and archaeological theory that social understanding must
refer to the agency of social actors. A fundamental aspect of society is material
culture: another premise is that any historical interpretation which fails to take into
account the material dimension of society is inadequate. Goods and artifacts are not
just resources or expressions of social relations, but actively help make society what it
is; material culture is active.

Narrative textures and archaeologies of the ineffable
The necessity of translation
The sources - pots and wall foundations, hints in early lyric poetry, accounts of later
Greek and Roman historians - are varied and fragmented. It will be seen that they do
not cohere. Indeed an argument can be made that they should not be expected to
cohere, because they are part of, they help construct a social world which is not
singular but manifold (Shanks 1996a). The question is then begged: in working upon
the sources, what sort of narrative or interpretive structure is appropriate? Should all
be brought together in a clear and coherent narrative or analytical account of early
Any adequate account of archaeological and historical sources, it is held here,
must consider how they are constituted in social practice - what people do. This
connects closely with the necessity of subjecting source materials to critique and
interpretation, not accepting their apparent face value, for critique is about reading
(social) interest and motivation in materials presented as without or with different
And how is practice to be conceived? The social is experienced, felt, suffered,
enjoyed. Institutional forms such as economy, religion, technology and the state, so
often the main features of social histories, are the medium and the outcome of
concrete sensuous human, or indeed inhuman, practice. Most importantly, practice
should be considered multi-dimensionally, as embodied, that is, rooted in people's
senses and sensibility as well as reasoning. Here must be stressed the importance of
the concept of lifeworld - environments as lived and constituted in terms of five
senses, not just discursive rationality, which is so usually taken to be the basis of an
understanding of society. I use the term experience to refer to the embodied, lived
character of practice. (These issues are discussed in Shanks 1992b, 1995a.)
Thus it is held that a task of the scholar of the humanities is to ground social
Art and the Greek City State 4

reconstruction and understanding in a sensorium, a cultural array of the intellect and
senses embodied in social practice. So much of this is ineffable (as what cannot be
put into words, the unspeakable, the otherness of experience, alterity). So much is
felt, left unsaid. Our sources speak only through an interpreter; they are in need of
translation. The ineffable: because archaeological sources are material and are
translated into image and text. The ineffable: because there is always more to say
(about the site and the artifact, the textual fragment); the loss, decay, death. How
many, which data points, in what way shall the item be classified? What is to be
discarded, what more lost? We translate what is left so inadequately. The ineffable:
because the social is embodied in the human senses. A subject of this book is the
aesthetic, the evocations of Greek art. Is such a field to be separated from the social,
from rational thought processes and analysis? Is art to be considered to belong with
subjective response and sensuous perception? This book attempts to deny such
distinctions between reasoning and perception or feeling.
So a task is set to attempt to get to grips with sources translated through lived
experience, with experience a constituting part of social lifeworlds which are not
singular and coherent, but multiple, contested, forever reinterpreted.

Translating textures
A well-established route for dealing with the ineffable and with varied sources is the
presentation of historical and narrative texture or illustration. Detailed empirical
material may be presented in apposition to analytical interpretation. However, my
reading of social theory and philosophy indicates that the relationship of manifold
social reality to its representation and interpretation is one which supports no easy
resolution; the separation of raw material or data from interpretation is one stringent-
ly denied here. Instead a technique from the arts and film is adopted - collage,
juxtaposing in parataxis, allowing the friction between fragments to generate insight
(for definitions see Shanks 1992b, 1996b).
Accordingly, much of the book is designed as a textured collage characterised by
thick description achieved through close empirical attention to the particularity of
style and design and to the production and consumption of goods, coordinated also
with reference to written sources and anthropological discussion. A primary aim is to
relate macro- and micro-scales, moving to and fro between particular sources and
wider themes and narratives.
An interpretive method is outlined in Chapter One. This discussion is intended as
clarification in response to calls from colleagues, though it is one I would have
preferred to emerge simply from my treatment of the sources. There is no intended
application of theory (for example of material culture, society, or archaeology); the
presentation does not take the form of theoretical critique and development followed
by data exposition and then explanation. Instead the bulk of this book is an attempt
to be more empirical, moving through interpreting accounts of the design and
production of fine pottery in Korinth, the workshops and the changing character of
the 'city', the society of the early city state, style and iconography, the sanctuaries
The setting and argument 5

where were dedicated many items produced in Korinth, travel, trade and exchange
out to the new colonies of Italy where many Korinthian pots or local copies were
deposited with the dead. Basically the technique is to follow association in exploring
contexts appropriate to different source materials. Contexts are conceived as fluid
and open to allow interpretive leaps; it is not considered valid to have contexts
predefined according to date and place.
Evidence relating to the design, production, style and the consumption of Korin-
thian goods leads off into explorations of a constellation of fields:
Early historical sources and social revolution in Korinth in the seventh century
Gender issues in the early city state: women constructed as other.
Sovereignty and power of the (aristocratic) lord: the hero as individual; warrior
'castes' and war machines; warfare (and fighting in phalanx); discipline, drill
and posture; armour and the armoured body; speed, war and the race; mercena-
ries; the symposion.
Boats and travel.
Animal imagery and body metaphor: lions and other animals in orientalising
Greek art; the warrior as lion; monsters and myth; birds; panthers; faces, eyes
and helmets.
Flowers and perfume in the archaic Korinthian world.
The (techniques of) manufacture of fine artifacts.
The pottery craft and industry: organisation of production; understanding the
technologies of firing, painting and decorating; the possible meaning of minia-
ture wares.
Town planning and temple architecture.
The creative process of interpretation consists in the careful structuring of this
collage, (re) constructing what I term assemblages, the implicit or explicit links made
evident or possible, the commentary and critique applied. The juxtapositions may
thus create, in Walter Benjamin's phrase, dialectical images, where insight comes from
the friction between positioned source materials, their translations and interpreta-
tions. This may require from the reader more of an active role than often found in
expository texts.

Emergent narratives and an argument
Sometimes the impression is necessarily one of dislocation and an incessant need to
(re) interpret - immersion in the shifting textures, but nevertheless various narratives
do emerge. Ultimately a subject I present here is the forging of political discourses of
sovereignty, discourses which are still effective today. This is not to imply that there
are no other subjects of this history, that other narratives may not be at work;
interpretive choice has inevitably been exercised in constructing the collage.
I connect the material culture of the late eighth and seventh centuries BC in
Greece to political and social interests and strategies by a set of concepts refined from
Art and the Greek City State 6

recent archaeology, material culture theory and social philosophy. These concepts
include: style and stylistic repertoire, technology of power, translation of interests,
ideology, design and agency. They are given definition and form throughout the
book, but I may anticipate a little, if some lack of clarity is permissible.
Style is interpreted partly as a mode of communication (via methodologies devel-
oped through and after structuralism) and it is proposed, for example, that the new
figurative imagery to be found particularly on pottery dealt with ideologies of self and
identity vis a vis worlds of violence and animals. Materiality is considered a primary
dimension of social experience; people in the early city state were reworking their
lifeworld and the experiences it afforded. It is proposed that this reworking can be
understood as involving a new technology of power, that is, new uses of wealth and
resources in building environments, promoting new designs of goods and developing
experiences such as trade and travel, all of which were partly means of facilitating the
achievement of certain goals (hence the term technology of power). For example, a
self-defining social elite channelled their wealth into new lifestyles, assemblages of
goods and experiences which articulated displays of their sovereignty. They did this
because older technologies of power were not working; legitimations of rank based
on birth and tradition alone were weakening.
So the changes of the late eighth and seventh centuries are presented as ideological
shifts; new richly textured ideologies (of lifestyle, narrative and social experience, and
prominently focused upon gender) legitimated a particular distribution of wealth
and power. However, there is no simple process of a dominant group imposing a new
ideology upon subservient underclasses. Ideologies are always contested. It is also
argued that fundamental to the working of power is the translation of interests. At a
time when the old ways were not working as they had done, some sections of archaic
Greek society translated their (strategic) aims and interests (political and personal)
into lifestyles and newly articulated ideologies of sovereignty. Potters and other
artisans in turn translated these into new artifacts, attending to such interest in new
ways of living and behaving with new techniques and designs, relating demand and
concern with new visual forms and life-styles to their own interests in making and
finding an outlet for their goods.
Such processes of translation, interpretation or reworking of interest contain the
possibility of perhaps profound unintended consequences; this is the contingency of
history. It applies to Korinth. Created were new forms of belonging and identity
(particularly citizenship) as older and restricted aristocratic ideologies opened up.
Demand and design principles combined, through the agency of potters and others,
to create the values and intricacies of archaic Greek art.
It is via such concepts and interpretations that items like the Korinthian perfume
jars are related to society and historical change. They were part of a new visual
lifeworld, part of attention to the body in new ways, part of new pottery techniques.
The pots translate interests in a reworking of political discourse. It is in this way that
artifacts and material culture forms are central to the changes in what is known as the
The setting and argument 7

The structure of the book
Five chapters follow the life-cycle of some artifacts made in Korinth in the late eighth
and seventh centuries BC. A sixth rounds off with summary comment.
Chapter One deals with the questions of beginning. Methodology is raised and
discussed as a theory of design is presented. Rather than define a method in advance
of interpretation, a relational philosophy or outlook is sketched. The varied intellec-
tual contexts include critical theory, Hegelian marxism, poststructuralism and con-
structivist thought. Taking an arbitrary beginning, a single Korinthian perfume jar,
the task is set of following indeterminate association through the life-cycle of the
Chapter Two sets out with the workmanship of the artifact introduced in Chapter
One. The social context of craft production in the early city state is explored. Several
types of source and approach are juxtaposed: archaeological remains of archaic
Korinth, centred upon a working sample of 2,000 ceramic vessels; traditional and
processual archaeologies of art style and the building of the archaic city; attempts to
write political histories of the eighth and seventh centuries BC; anthropological
approaches and social histories; analyses of the discourses of the archaic state.
Chapter Three tackles art and style. Radical changes in pottery design are out-
lined, illustrated and discussed. The first part of the chapter is a collage or counter-
point of illustrated vessels, literary sources and anthropological discussion - routes
into the archaic Greek imagination. Connections are followed into ideological worlds
of animals, soldiers, violence, gender, personal identity, sovereignty, posture and
techniques of the body. The second part of the chapter begins with a wider consider-
ation of anthropologies of art and style, then an overview of Korinthian ceramic style
is presented.
Chapter Four, Perfume and Violence in a Sicilian cemetery, deals with patterns of
consumption in a statistical and qualitative interpretation of the contexts of deposi-
tion of the sample of 2,000 Korinthian pots. These artifacts are proposed as un-
alienated products, 'total social facts' in a repertoire of style, a set of resources drawn
upon in social practices of cult, death and travel.
The shipping of goods out from Korinth, travel, trade and exchange is the topic of
Chapter Five. Rather than traded as 'economic' goods, it is argued that Korinthian
ceramics were part of a social construction of travel and attendant experiences
explored in previous chapters. This argument is set in the context of long-standing
discussions of the character of the ancient economy, anthropologies of travel, as well
as more recent notions of the archaic Mediterranean 'world system'.
Chapter Six returns to the concept of ideology and Marxian ideas of material
production to draw the book to a close with a sketch of contestation and strategic
interest in the emerging states of archaic Greece.

A note on illustrations and references to ceramics
Many of the illustrations have been taken from older sources, adapted and altered
through computer processing according to my own museum notes and drawings.
The aim has been to indicate as clearly and accurately as possible the subject matter -
Art and the Greek City State 8

a surprisingly difficult task given the disparate location of many of the pots, marked
differences in access and publication, and, not least, the miniature size of the
perfume jars which feature most in this study. Given this aim, there are not many
photographs and there is no consistency with respect to the depiction of the charac-
teristic 'black figure' incision. Sources for each illustration are given, and location too
(usually a museum, with accession number). Reference is made to standard cata-
logues simply for further description, bibliography and context; there is no intention
to acknowledge the position taken by these works on design and iconography, though
my debt to the great catalogues of Johansen (1923), Neeft (1987), Amyx (1988) and
Benson (1989) will be clear.

A note on Greek texts
For early Greek poetry I have used the texts and translations of Davies (1991),
Lattimore (1951, 1960, 1967), Lobel and Page (1955), West (1992, 1993), and the
Oxford editions of Thukydides, Herodotos, Pindar and other authors. Supplement-
ary use was made of the excellent Loeb edition of Greek lyric (Campbell, 1982-93).
All translations are my own unless otherwise stated.
The design of archaic Korinth: the question of
a beginning and an interpretive archaeology

This chapter deals with the interests which lie behind the book, the issue of where to
begin, the object of interest (the design of archaic Korinth), how this may be
understood (the methods of interpretive archaeology), and finally a sketch is made of
some directions to be taken from the starting point adopted - a single perfume jar
from the early seventh century BC.

Interests and discourse
Korinth and its material culture in the eighth and seventh centuries BC - why have I
chosen to research and write upon this topic? Any answer to such a question must
deal with interest and discourse.
The topic is at the margins of several (sub) disciplines and historical themes and
narratives. There is the art history of orientalising style, first appearing in Korinth
fully fledged within a generation at the end of the eighth century. The characteristic
black figure incision was taken up in Athenian and Attic potteries, forming the basis
of fine classical ceramics found in art museums the world over (see Cook 1972).
Iconographers take up the figured designs as illustrations of myth and narrative (for
example Fittschen 1969). In classical archaeology this style 'protokorinthian', with
its distinctive aryballoi, is the basis for the relative and absolute chronologies of the
century in most of the Mediterranean (after Payne 1931). An ancient historical
interest lies in the emergence of the polis and the tyranny and social revolution in the
middle of the seventh century (Salmon 1984 for Korinth).
These disciplines have become the subject of significant change of outlook, with
new anthropologically informed approaches in ancient history and classical studies,
critical approaches to early literatures, new social archaeologies and iconologies, art
histories too, breaking the mould of the last two centuries. Detailed reference will be
made to these later; here and for orientation, I cite discussion in my book Classical
Archaeology of Greece (Shanks 1996a). This interdiscipliniarity makes of archaic
Korinth a rich topic.
These are the interests of discourse. However, my interests do not lie in the
fulfilment of any obligations or rites of passage in these disciplines (such as the filling
of lacunae in empirical knowledge of the past). My interest is in the constitution of an
object, how Korinth and its material culture, particularly its pottery, came and comes
to be what it is. I consider early archaic Korinth as an artifact, in two senses. First, the
material culture, the archaeological sources: presented is an interpretation of their

Art and the Greek City State 10

design. In so doing it is necessary to consider style and design generally - a theory of
design. Second it is considered how this Korinthian past itself is and may be designed
- the category 'archaic Korinth' is treated as artifact. Hence this study is between
disciplines, somewhat meta-disciplinary. There is also here a symmetry between past
and present about which there will be more below.
A premise is that an artifact is always and necessarily an object of discourse. I do
not mean by this a stronger (idealist) sense of the material past being created by the
discourse of the present. I refer to the (unexceptional) argument that while the raw
materiality of a Korinthian pot may have been given shape some time ago, and in this
way be considered to belong to the past, the same pot can only be known, understood
and described through discourses which are of the present. Its raw substance is
meaningless. A Korinthian pot, any artifact, cannot exist for us without interest, even
desire, sets of assumptions, categories valued, without questions and answers con-
sidered meaningful, forms of expression. Discourse (as a shorthand term for such a
nexus) is a mode of production of the past; hence I refer to 'archaic Korinth' as
In foregrounding the constitution of the past in the present, a substantial part of
this book is a presentation of what can be called an interpretive encounter with the
material culture of Korinth and what it touches. I conceive this as the construction or
crafting of an interpretation and understanding which can only be said to lie between
past and present; the past is no more 'discovered' than its empirical form is invented
(such 'constructivist' thought is dealt with below). Again, within the interstices.
I have described this awareness of the contemporary location of interpretation as
unexceptional; why is it therefore necessary to raise the issues? Because the implica-
tions are beginning to re-emerge in classical studies. I have worked in the theory and
philosophy of material culture, archaeological methodology, prehistory and modern
material culture studies. The contrast between these, with their disciplinary intro-
spection of the last two decades, and the discourse of early Hellenic studies is a sharp
and fascinating one. The weight of classical discourse has obfuscated and acted
against considering the constitution of the empirical object of study; it is already
there, built by decades of research (Morris 1994). The sheer weight of remains stored
in museums is there, a posteriori, the empirical past to be known, discovered. I
anticipate eagerly the changes sweeping the field and alluded to above; this study,
and its accompaniment (Shanks 1996a) will, I hope, contribute to the fervent debate
(see also Dyson 1989, 1993; Fotiadis 1995; Morris 1994).

The question of a beginning and a problem of method
Thus my approach is an oblique one and rooted in personal circumstance. I have this
topic, archaic Korinth, and a set of interests. But where do I begin? The introduction
here of the personal may seem inappropriate because there are well-established
methodologies and research strategies to follow, but I begin with a worry concerning
the idea of methodology - that there can be independent and a priori specification of
how to approach and deal with an empirical encounter. Essentially, the worry
originates in an argument that methodology defines the object of study in advance.
The design of archaic Korinth 11

To approach an empirical situation with a general method requires that the empirical
is to fit the method. This assumes that the objects of archaeological study all have
something in common, and this is what the archaeologist is interested in; idiosyn-
crasy or the particular is secondary. Is this reasonable?
The immediate context of this issue is the argument presented by myself and Tilley
(1992: esp. Chapters 2 and 3) against what we termed 'positivist' archaeology, the
scientific movement in archaeology, associated with new and processual archaeolo-
gies, which has proposed an independent and supposedly neutral way of building
archaeological knowledge, one usually meant to be modelled upon the natural
sciences. The classic opposition to such a primacy of method came from critical
theory (see particularly the collection The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology
(Adorno et al. 1976); and within, Adorno 1976a, 1976b; Habermas 1976; also
Pollock 1976; more generally, Arato and Gebhardt 1978: Section 3). The matter is
succinctly put in pointing out that method is indeed simply the act of questioning and
no method can accordingly yield information that it does not ask for (through its very
formulation). It should be acknowledged that method is best conceived as resting not
upon methodological ideals, something which would entail a metaphysics of method,
but upon the object world itself. A key question is therefore how to ensure an open
encounter with an object of interest. So while method may be more or less flexible, I
wish to raise the idea that method may also and alternatively be conceived as arising
out of the empirical encounter, and not be the means whereby the empirical encoun-
ter is made. This is also, afortiori, to reject an empiricist notion that there need be no
method, only descriptive sensitivity.

An aryballos from Korinth: the beginning of an approach
I asked - is it reasonable to elide individual traits and categories of method? The word
reasonable contains reference to both rationality and ethics. So consider now the
past, the object of interest, as a partner in a dialogue, with method as encounter. Is it
not reasonable to approach a meeting or encounter with an openness to possibility,
an acceptance of fallibility? We reason in conversation, moving from initial state-
ments towards a consensus (of sorts) which is better conceived here as being more
than the sum of the initial positions. The Hegelian term Aufhebung, 'sublation' -
cancellation and preservation - captures this movement. Reasoning here is not some
absolute for which we can formulate rules and procedures (methodology). Method
can impose unnecessary and possibly damaging constraints, preventing a recognition
of the partner in the desire to follow the rules. Rationality is best conceived as a
recognition of partiality; and an encounter depends in its nature on being open.
Dialogue requires tact and judgement - these are ethically reasonable. I wish to
explore this idea of methodological dialogue.
Essentially this is to propose learning the lessons of hermeneutics (for archaeology
Shanks and Tilley 1992: Chapter 5; Johansen and Olsen 1992; Preucel 1991; Shanks
and Hodder 1995). A topic is approached with interest and prejudgement (preju-
dice) and a dialogue followed of question and response, a spiral of interpretation of
answers given to questions posed which draws the relationship forward. Details of a
Art and the Greek City State 12

critical hermeneutics are less important here (for which see above and also Bleicher
1980, 1982; Ricoeur 1981; Warnke 1987) than pointing out some aspects of this
metaphor of dialogue applied to the material past (discussion also in Shanks 1992b
passim, 1994). It may appear absurd to hold that the material past, inert and dead,
could be conceived to partake in anything like a dialogue. But it is quite feasible to
treat the results of scientific experiment as a response to hypotheses posed; problem
orientation, involving questions and answers is a major feature of the scientific
method of processual archaeology (Binford 1972, 1983; Watson, LeBlanc and
Redman 1971). But, as I have maintained, dialogue entails an ethics of relationship
and respect which goes beyond such methodological rules. What I wish to stress is a
need to be sensitive to the independence of the material past, for this is the basis of
critique of the present.
So rather than beginning with a methodology, I begin more simply and empiri-
cally, with a Korinthian pot (Fig. 1.1), its character (as pottery), and, of course, its
insertion in various discourses, the things that have been said and written about it.

Design in the material world: understanding an artifact
There now follows a discussion of artifacts and style, design and interpretation. The
aim is to consider the character of archaeological sources and what may be made of
What is illustrated in Fig. 1.1? It appears upon a shelf in a museum of 'fine art'
(Boston, Massachusetts). It is small, 7.5 centimetres high, and carries upon its surface
two friezes of finely drawn animals, birds and human figures. With the size and shape,
the hard, smooth, pale clay fabric, the incised and painted decoration, its subject
matter and style indicate that the pot is Korinthian and of the seventh century BC.
Specifically it is of the art style or industry proto-korinthian, so named because it
prefigures ripe Korinthian of the late seventh century and after. The depicted monster,
stand with bowl, animals and floral ornament mark it distinctively as orientalising,
making reference to eastern design. It has been attributed by Dunbabin and Robertson
(1953:176),Amyx(1988:23-4)andBenson(1989:44)to the so-called 'Ajax Painter',
on the basis, mainly, of style of figuration and subject matter. Such attribution allows
fine-grained dating (according to estimates of rates of stylistic change between fixed
points supplied by stratigraphical associations in dated colonial foundations). The
scene is considered to illustrate either Zeus and Typhon, Zeus and Kronos, or Zeus and
a centaur (discussion: Fittschen 1969:113-14,119f; Shanks 1992a: 18-20). The Ajax
Painter is so named (since, at the latest, Johansen 1923:144) because a scene reckoned
to be of the death of Ajax appears upon another aryballos in Berlin's Pergamonmuseum
(inventory 3319; Amyx 1988: 23). This 'artist' is considered to have produced key
pieces in the evolution of protokorinthian style. The violence of the scene certainly
seems to invoke an heroic ethos characteristic of dark age and archaic Greek figurative
design (for example, Boardman 1983:23-33; Snodgrass 1980a: 65-78,1980b, 1987:
158-69) further discussion Chapter 3, Part 1).
The shape and size mark the pot as what is conventionally termed an aryballos, an
oil jar. The small size of such aryballoi means that they held only little oil. It may be
The design of archaic Korinth n

Figure 1.1 An aryballos in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Numbered 95.12. Recorded as from
Korinth. Catharine Page Perkins Collection.

supposed therefore that the oil was special, expensive, or rare, probably perfumed.
This was a perfume jar for full discussion see pp. 172-5, in Chapter Four. Mention
has already been made of the context of trade/export of such wares from an early city
state to colonies abroad.
In answer to the question of what the pot is, conventional discourse produces such
a description. This is quite valid, but in a limited way. Here I wish to delve behind
such description into the assumptions made concerning the interpretation of ma-
terial culture. Specifically the following will be discussed:

particularity and its relationship to classification;
the motivation of style (why potters make in certain ways and not others);
materiality (acted upon by potters);
Art and the Greek City State 14

social structure and its influences on production;
style itself and how the concept is best conceived and used;
temporality, that the pot survives to be interpreted by contemporary scholars.
I begin by identifying some questions.

Traditional classical archaeology seems to focus on the particularity of this aryballos,
attributing it to a style, identifying its date to within a decade through stylistic
comparison, appreciating its relation to the development of style, recognising its
subject matter, and even the mark of its maker. However, in all of this the pot is
subsumed beneath some thing other than itself: it requires relating to chronology,
style and artisan's workshop, and the sense of its figured decoration is found in the
body of Greek myth. Though the terms of close description, both analytic and
evaluative, seem to represent direct and intimate contact, not merely empirical but
also affective and aesthetic, the aryballos is epiphenomenon. It represents some thing
else, which is often general and abstract.
Also those approaches to style which would place the pottery in social or cultural
context (of trade and export, or ideologies, for example) can make the particular
artifact as epiphenomenal. Artifacts are taken to signify cultural belonging (Korin-
thian or Greek); pots are considered as representing social interaction (trade and
colonisation); style is explained by its social function, expressing the heroic or epic
temper of contemporary society. The artifact becomes a by-product of social practice
or cultural outlook. The primary determining forces are style, artist, culture, society;
the artifact expresses, reflects, signifies, or engages with the 'something else' which
gives it significance or meaning.
This is an observation that is valid of many archaeological treatments of material
culture, and indeed those found in cognate disciplines. Here are some examples from
classical archaeology (more generally see Conkey 1990; Hodder 1991).
Artifacts may be conceived as signifiers, carrying meanings, belonging not singly to
an artifact, but inhering within sets of signifying artifacts, structures of differ-
ence (for example Hoffman's structuralist analysis of Attic askoi, 1977).
Artifacts may be conceived as a surface upon which is written a cultural (or other)
text. The many iconological studies of black and red figure illustration, seeking
mythological or political meaning, may be referenced here (for example, the
work of Schefold on Greek art generally, 1966 and 1992).
Artifacts may be conceived as icons, carrying a particular meaning. This may be
date or ethnicity (for example Coldstream on Geometric pottery, 1968 and
1983). Boardman (1983: 15-24) has interpreted elements of geometric pottery
from Argos as icons of the city and its people (images of horses, fish, water and
Patterns of artifacts may be held to reflect social practices, interactions or social
structures. Whitley (1991b) has related differences in Geometric pottery style
and the use of pots to social class in Athens. Morgan and Whitelaw (1991) have
The design of archaic Korinth 15

explained variability in the decoration of pottery found in settlements of the
plain of Argos in terms of changing political relationships, with pottery con-
ceived as an index of interaction.

None of these conceptions is exclusive of the others.
I am asking whether the relation between this particular aryballos and that other
which is to give it meaning (date, style, social structure) is necessarily one of
representation. Let me move on with a simple, perhaps naive, question. Can the
particular pot only be understood through the general (categories of description,
whatever is conceived as going beyond the artifact)? Consider the role of the

The role of the interpreter
Close empirical description, definition of attributes and consequent classification
would seem to belong with the artifact itself. They do not. They are but a gloss upon
it. Description necessarily derives from operations carried out upon the pot. These
operations to achieve description, such as measurement or optical scrutiny, are the
interpreter's own and not of the pot itself, as are the terms and language of descrip-
tion, the purposes of classification. For the most part this is all taken not to matter.
How can these things not be as they are? - they are the condition of any interpreta-
tion. Quite. But the question of the artifact remains: what is beneath the descriptive
There is an associated hermeneutic problem: is explanation and interpretation of
the artifact in Figure 1.1 to be in the terms of its maker and their times, or in those of
the interpreter? Is a mix possible or a problem? Beard (1991) has provided a
programmatic call for an empathetic approach to Greek vase-painting understanding
in terms of the viewer. Should the terms of explanation be neutral and not specific to
an historical context? The distinction, in an awkward anthropological terminology, is
that between 'emic' and 'etic' (Harris 1968, 1977; also Melas 1989), between
empathy and objectivism (Wylie 1989a, 1989b, 1991). This is the old debate about
forms of explanation or understanding appropriate to the humanities and social
sciences with their historical and cultural objects of interest, and whether they should
be distinct from the physical and natural sciences (Hollis 1977; von Wright 1971; see
also comments and references to the dispute over positivism mentioned on page 11).

Society and the motivation of style
To hold that the artifact's style represents something else implies that whatever is
represented exists somehow prior to the pot. (Analogous argument is about the
possibility of pictorial or iconic illustration of, for example, a person upon a pot's
surface.) Possible corollaries of such a function of expression are that society exists
prior to the pot, that there is a realm of 'real' society and a subordinate field of
representation. What people do is separated from what they make or draw. 'Real'
people and their 'real' social relations come first. Perhaps style is held to represent
social structure (as in the idea of a status symbol). But where is this structure? Is it the
A r t and the Greek City State 16

logic of what people do? Does it exist in the mind of the potter? The potter creates the
artifact and the pot signifies their unconscious social structures?
The relationship is between the pot and some 'other'- its maker, and/or that which
it signifies. Separated are fields of contingency and determinacy- the unreal and real,
the dependent and the determinate. How are these to be distinguished? Is a pot less
real than a thought? Style and culture are identified with the potter, the social
subject, in that their meaning is to be found there. Or style and culture are conceived
as descriptive, a set of attributes, a collection of types of object: culture and style are
identified with the object. Mysteries remain of the meaning and genesis of materiality
(the real), and of the meaning and origin of society and its structure. These often
somehow exist prior to the potter and the pot. Where do they come from?
I have marked a distinction between the particular artifact and general categories
to which it is referred. Why do people make the particular pots they do? This is a
question of the motivation of style, or more abstractly, the variability of variability.
How do social forces or structures impose upon the action of the potter? If style or
society achieve expression in the artifact, how does this work through the individual
potter, through the potter's particular encounter with clay? How does art style, such
as protokorinthian, reveal itself in the act of the potter? Four sources of motivation
may be invoked:
the mind of the potter (unconscious or conscious);
time or temporality (history, the weight of tradition, future destiny);
social structure (the force of the norm);
nature or the environment (determining social responses).
The individual potter may be conceived as being socialised, receiving the rules,
values, dispositions of 'society' as they grow into their society; these then appear in
the things made by the potter. More actively, the Ajax Painter is conceived as
struggling creatively with the depiction of action and event in a painting upon a pot,
struggling to change the traditions and conventions of ceramic art, pushing style
forward (Benson 1995: 163-6). The issue is that of agency, the power of the
individual to act and change, and the degree to which this is regulated, curtailed,
determined (Anderson 1980: Last 1995: 148-53). The conventional choices are

voluntarism (the power of the agent's will);
idealism (the primacy of the cognitive, of the intellect, or of abstract principles);
determinism (a primacy of society or the environment).
(For further discussion see Shanks and Tilley 1992: 119-29; Giddens 1984; Hollis

When the artifact is considered as representative, referring to something else, analy-
sis of style becomes a search for pattern (which represents), or involves a sympto-
matic logic, finding traces of that other which is desired - the person of the maker, the
The design of archaic Korinth 17

artistic hand, the date, the society. It is a desire for that other which, in fact, can never
now be had - the dead and lost artisan, the society no more. There are considered
absent origins to which the artifact must be referred to achieve meaning. Time has
passed; the person is torn away. In filling this absence, the pot is referred to that
which is desired by the interpreting archaeologist. The desire is here given shape by
our discourse; date, mark of maker, society are required. The pot duly delivers, but is
this not possibly on condition of its loss, a loss often disguised by an assertion of
explanatory scope, by the text or subjective self of the archaeologist or connoisseur?
The terms of classification and aesthetic apperception which claim communion with
the past, intimate knowledge, have their source in the discourse and sensibilities of
the archaeologist.
I have indicated that if the pot is treated as a relay or device to get the interpreting
present to something else, there is a need to explain the materiality of the pot. A
related question concerns time or temporality (Shanks 1992c). If the meaning of the
pot is found in some thing else (myth, the mind of potter, society), and in some thing
else then in the seventh century BC, what becomes of the pot now ? The thing remains,
the aryballos in the museum case, worn, scratched, surviving in its materiality, its
particularity. What becomes of this material resistance to the death, loss and decay
which have overtaken so much to which it apparently refers?
These are not questions incidental to interpretation, for they concern the character
of archaeological sources.

What is this pot? - the fallacy of representation
What is this artifact in Figure 1.1? My response has been to unpack the question.
Issues of style and design, interpretation and temporality have been shown to involve
relationships between the following: the particular and the general; potter and
artifact; individuals and their society; agency and social structure; empathy and
indifference or objectivity. Artifacts are clearly about their social contexts of produc-
tion and use; they carry meanings, help create meanings. It is quite legitimate that
these may appear in archaeological accounts through reference to social structures
and the agency of makers and users, through analytical stance or aesthetic response.
However, I have outlined at length a series of issues which need careful resolution. It
is important to be clear about what it is that we are trying to understand - archae-
ological sources, material cultural remains. Failure to do so can lead to the problems,
unresolved questions and conceptual dead ends of what I term a fallacy of representa-
tion, which is to hold that artifacts somehow represent what discourse desires to
discover - past artists and artisans, their societies and cultures.
The intellectual contexts of this concept are varied and complex. There is the wide
philosophical problem of representation which took a particular, and for the position
I adopt here influential, turn in western Marxist debates about modernist aesthetics,
the relation of cultural production to society more generally (Bloch et al 1977; Lunn
1985). Mention should be made of poststructuralist critiques of logocentrism, the
notion that meaning and reference can be anchored to some fixed point or principle
(logos), some primary and underlying order such as reason or 'reality', with language,
Art and the Greek City State 18

meaning and the 'real world' following a traditional order of priorities, from reality
through secondary perception by mind, expression in speech and representation in
written signs or figures (Derrida 1974; Leitch 1983; Ryan 1982 on links with
Marxism relevant to discussion here; for archaeology Yates 1990). Photographer
and critic Victor Burgin (1982) has presented the argument for a fallacy of represen-
tation in relation to photography, making a stand against a reification or fetishisation
of the photographic image (as somehow objective representation with a privileged
relation to 'reality') and for an emphasis on the practice that constitutes photo-
graphic objects - photowork. This closely connects with the position taken here.

Social structure and design: the primacy of production
Let me now deal directly with the questions I have raised. To avoid the intractable
separation of the real and the represented I suggest that (material) culture be
accepted as production or design. 'Works of art' are works indeed, and not self-
contained or transcendent entities, but products of specific historical practices
(Shanks and Tilley 1992: esp. 146-55).
The pot is both signifier and signified. An artifact operates in both ways. The pot is
both of the potter and their society, and is also of the social object environment
within which the potter works. The pot, maker, society and other contexts cannot be
separated because they exist together in the act of production. The pot is the act of
(raw) material taken and transformed, expression of potter (more or less), and an
object of culture and style which opposes the potter who made it, those who take and
use it. The artifact as signifier and signified is the creation of a social form, and then
its distribution/exchange, and consumption, Consumption refers to both simple use
of an artifact, and also the use of the object world to create other cultural artifacts:
aryballoi were taken from Korinth to be placed in sanctuaries and cemeteries,
helping to create the artifact of religious devotion, the experience of travel and burial
in an early colony. Nor does it end with discard from a temple or deposition in the
ground: the aryballos was collected and sold in the nineteenth century, has come to
signify so much through the practices of discourse and metanarrative. I will say more
of this continuity below,
Concomitantly, the style of an artifact is not an expression or an attribute. Style is
the means by which objects are constituted as social forms. Style is the mode of
transformation of material into social form, the way that a social group constructs its
social reality; it is the way something is done (Hodder 1990). Styles, genres, rules of
design and aesthetic codes are always already established, confronting the artist-
worker, and so delimiting and constraining the modes in which style may appear.
Style is thus situated practice, and the worker-artist is the locus where technological,
stylistic and social propriety are interpreted in the production of ideas and other
cultural artifacts. Nor is culture an assemblage of objects or things done: culture is a
process of constructing identity and values.
Just as the artifact cannot be separated from its mode of production, the potter
cannot be separated from their object environment (the world of things produced).
There is no a priori 'potter subject' who acts in society. The primacy of production
The design of archaic Korinth 19

involves a dialectic between potter and pot, social subject and object world. Neither
are separable unities. They exist in their process of transformation or becoming: the
potter becoming subject self in their (social) practice; the pot becoming what it is in
(life)cycles of production, exchange and consumption.
The refusal to separate real and represented on the grounds that the signifying pot
is a material form as much as it is representing means an artifact is as much a social
actor or agent as its maker (for analogous argument: Callon 1986; Latour 1988b;
Law 1987, 1991). This is the argument for active material culture. Artifacts help to
form the society and makers who produced and consume them.
Asserting the primacy of production is simply saying that people, pot and society
have to be made; they are not 'given'. So there is no context (such as society), or subject
of history (such as individual artist) which is necessary, can be pre-defined, and which
may be conceived as supplying meaning and significance to the pot (arguing to the
same end but from different premises, Bapty and Yates 1990: passim).
This is to deny the absolute reality of 'society' as sui generis. Society and social
relationships do not exist in-themselves, as detached realities. I am happy here to
follow Marx's appropriation of Hegel in arguing that society is in a continuous
process of self-creation through people producing, making or attaching themselves
to forms outside themselves (see Oilman's reading 1977). This is objedification and
self-alienation: people making things which appear then as objects and forms separ-
ate from them. These productions may achieve various degrees of autonomy from
the people who made them (alienation may be rupture, estrangement and reifica-
tion), but the consumption, use and re appropriation of things produced is the
condition of history: people eat food produced, use languages and live with institu-
tions, use pots and live with their imagery. The process of reappropriation and
consumption may remain incomplete as people can fail to overcome the alienation
and estrangement of those objects and forms which remain autonomous and even
determining forces. This is one of the operations of ideology. For example, an artifact
can become a commodity part of an abstract(ed) order with separate logic and
values opposing the individual. But the full process is one of sublation, taking those
external forms back within oneself (the meaning of consumption) in further cultural
production: artifacts, ideas, institutions are the basis of further construction of
society and culture. And such sublation recognises that these things and forms
consumed retain their identity and difference; they are not simple reflections of
people's wishes, aims, purposes and thoughts, but have material, logical and tem-
poral/historical autonomy.
The full implications of sublation for an understanding of the social construction of
reality are brought out by Miller in his book Material Culture and Mass Consumption
(1987). In Hegelian terms society is created through its own negation, as the object
created by people stands opposite and alienated. In consumption, far from being
simply a commodity consumed (a principle and experience which dominates today) 3
the object 'confronts, criticises and finally may subjugate those abstractions in a
process of human becoming'. That is, the commodity is product and symbol of
abstract structures which deny people's creative involvement in production, and the
Art and the Greek City State 20

object of consumption is, in contrast, a negation of the commodity (ibid.: 191-2).
Sublation is argued as being 'the movement by which society reappropriates its own
external form - that is, assimilates its own culture and uses it to develop itself as a
social subject' (ibid.: 17). This enables Miller to write that the full process of
objectification (the social subject projecting into the world) is one where the subject
becomes at home with itself in its otherness.
Social structure, in such a position adopted here, is not a determinate given, but
comes to be in people's practice. Social structure is both medium and outcome of
people's practice; it is the condition whereby people can act, but only exists in those
acts. This 'duality of structure' is central to what Giddens terms the process of
structuration (Cloke 1991; Giddens 1984; Thompson 1989; for archaeology: Barrett
1988). In lacking any definable essence, and in coming to be only in particular acts,
structure is not like a rule book or legal or ritual code, giving precise directions as to
what people must do. Structure is better thought of as disposition and propriety! a
sense of normative order; it provides a basis for the acting out of people's plans and
social strategies according to their perspectives, interests and powers. Structure is a
sense or feeling that something is 'right'; it is about feeling, comfort, taste (Miller
1987: 103f, after Bourdieu 1977, 1984; further discussion for archaeology: Shanks
and Tilley 1987, 1992).
I suggest that structure in this sense has a great deal of obvious relevance to the
understanding of artifact design. Material artifacts are not easily analysed as having
fixed rules of use and meaning, as in a language. The object world 'does not lend
itself to the earlier analyses of symbolism which identified distinct abstract signifiers
and concrete signifieds, since it simultaneously operates at both levels. It cannot be
broken up as though into grammatical sub-units, and as such it appears to have a
particularly close relation to emotions, feelings and basic orientations to the world'
(Miller 1987: 107). Just as structure is to do with feeling and sense of 'right',
providing an environment of propriety) so too artifact design, transformation of
material, is a lot to do with taste, choice of what is conceived appropriate - a central
point made by designer David Pye (1978). The object world is constructed and
manipulated around flexible feelings or dispositions to do with things appearing
appropriate and proper, tasteful and becoming. Of course, these may be deliberately
flouted in strategies of opposition, but they then still act as points of reference.
Objects and artifacts provide an environment for action, frameworks which give cues
as to what is right and appropriate to do; they can literally be a structure or medium
and outcome of action (Miller 1987: 100-1; Giddens 1984: 73-92; Goffman 1975).
This is a field permeated by uncertainty and interpretation. Technical manuals for
artifact design are, like legal and ritual codes, formalised custom and taste, and may
provide secure routes through interpretive uncertainty and choice. The connection
between social structure, design, and indeed history, or any cultural artifact is, of
course, not coincidental; all are cultural production.
This primacy of production thus also assumes a continuity to the artifact form
(and indeed to social agents), from a material artifact such as this aryballos to
The design of archaic Korinth 21

something as conventionally immaterial as the experience of travel implied in the
shipping of aryballoi out to the margins of a seventh-century Greek world. Both
aryballos and experience are artifacts. This is because production is less about being
than becoming.

A note on ideology
The potter/painter of this aryballos in Figure 1.1 has followed traditional manufac-
ture and then painted a scene of violent encounter which may be interpreted as part
of a new expression of an heroic ethos, an ideological system closely allied to the
interests of an archaic aristocracy. The concept of ideology is vital, I argue, in
understanding this interpretive act, when the worker takes material, propriety and
taste, interest and purpose, and makes something else of them. For the artifact
enfolds the interests and interpretive decisions of those who made it, and these may
be ideological, bolstering inequality, reconciling social contradictions, working on
social reality to make it more palatable.
Some remarks about this complex concept of ideology are appropriate here.
The concept of ideology has been found useful in a number of archaeological
interpretations (for example Kristiansen 1984; Leone 1984; McGuire and Paynter
1991; Miller 1985a; Parker-Pearson 1984a, 1984b; Shennan 1982; Tilley 1984).
But little reference has been made to the manifold nature of the concept; ideology is
usually used to refer to a situation where social 'reality' is represented or misrepre-
sented, in burial ritual, for example. The usage thereby falls within what I have
termed the fallacy of representation.
For example, in his study of iron-age Attic burial, Morris (1987: esp. 37f) adopts a
two-level model of social reality: social 'organisation', what people get up to, and
social 'structure', a logic or patterning which is expressed in ritual. He mentions but
bypasses the thesis developed by Bloch (1977: 280-1) that the order of ritual may be
an ideological and therefore distorting one, with a pragmatic argument that 'ideolo-
gies are multi-layered, and difficult to grasp' (Morris 1987: 41), the character of
archaeological data preclude their consideration, so they are best left alone, or
considered only in theory (see also ibid.: 137; but compare his pragmatic use of the
concept, p. 186). Morris adheres to a notion of ideology as above and secondary to
social structure, a realm of ideas and world views. Again, this allows ideology to be
ignored: actions and structure would appear to matter more. It is unfortunate that
Morris follows only Abercrombie, Hill and Turner (Abercrombie, Hill and Turner
1980) in general discussion of the concept and the question of the nature of the
social, its relationship with the archaeological record. There is so much more, as I
hope to indicate.
Hodder has criticised the concept with justification because of the problems of
distinguishing 'real' and 'represented' social relationships; indeed he has rightly
questioned this division of the social (Hodder 1991: 64-70). And the concept has no
place in his programme for a post-processual archaeology concerned with under-
standing the meaning of things (Hodder 1985: 9). Thomas (1990) has presented a
An and the Greek City State 22

similar critique, but with important remarks on how 'ideological' features of society
and practice may be conceptualised, and with which I here broadly agree.
Whitley (1991b: 196-7; see also Whitley 1993) has criticised the use of the
concept ideology in understanding style (his topic being the style of Attic geometric
pottery in context of burial practices). 'To view material culture and, more import-
antly, prehistoric art as simply material ideology, the means through which a particu-
lar (and, of course, unjust) social order is naturalised. . . is to ignore aesthetics; that
is, everything that makes the art of past societies interesting' (Whitley 1991: 196).
Whitley presents ideology as a simple matter (in contrast to Morris) of the justifica-
tion of an unjust social order: and such a concept, he claims, makes social analysis
easier. More importantly he associates the use of the concept ideology (to relate style

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