Ithacans Bearing Pots - Pottery and Social Dynamics in Late Archaic and Classical Polis Valley, Ithaca Island

by Gerasimos Livitsanis

Institution: Leiden University
Year: 2015
Keywords: Ithaca; Greece; Polis Valley; Pottery; Archaic; Classical; Social Dynamics
Record ID: 1251555
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/31701


Famous as the homeland of Odysseus, Ithaca has been a preferred research area for archaeologists. However, the archaeology of Ithaca has been severely biased by its Homeric focus. As a result, Late Archaic and Classical Ithaca remains poorly understood. This biased research agenda combined with the lack of visible remains of monumental public architecture have created the impression that Classical Ithaca was an isolated backwater. This thesis aims to partially redress the balance. At Polis valley, northern Ithaca, relatively rich deposits of Late Archaic and Classical occupation have come to light. Six assemblages of fine ware pottery, Ithacan and imported, provide important insights on the hitherto unknown local pottery production and development, its relations to the Western Greek pottery tradition as well as the influences from the well-known pottery production centres of Athens and Corinth. The contexts of behaviour in which the pottery participated likely represent activities of communal feasting in the open and during daylight, followed by an arranged exposure of the leftovers on the surface. The social significance of the pottery is then investigated and it is argued that the local elite largely regulated pottery production and imports of foreign ceramics as strategies for maintaining the established social hierarchy. Furthermore, the depositional practices of the pottery may reveal a complex negotiation of social behaviours and concepts, such as insularity, acculturation, identity and connectivity. The final conclusion is that the local widely-connected seafaring elite deliberately cultivated a culture of austerity and traditionalism in order to maintain its power over the community, and the manipulation of fine ware pottery played a major role in the success of this strategy.