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The Oinochoè (figs. 84, 85), a jug for pouring wine.
The Lekythos (fig. 86a-c), a slimmer jug, with a narrow neck for pouring oil slowly. The form c is intermediate between the Lekythos and the Aryballos.
The Aryballos (fig. 87) is a small round-bellied jug, used for oil. The Alabastron (fig. 88) is a long narrow vase, with small ears, for holding ointment or perfume.
The Cantharos (fig. 89) is a drinking cup with a tall stem and
two high handles. The Kylix (fig. 90) is also a drinking cup, but wide and shallow. The Skyphos or Cotylè (fig. 91) is a deep bowl for drinking wine.
The Phialè Mesomphalos (fig. 92) is a shallow bowl with a central boss, used for making libations. The central boss enables the tips of the fingers to obtain a hold underneath the phialè.
The First Vase Room shows the beginnings of the potter's art in Crete, Cyprus, and other seats of early culture. The distinctive
Hellenic myths and decorations are not yet developed. In the Second Vase Room several localities are seen separately developing styles of vase painting, Hellenic in character. Among them a single style obtains predominance in the sixth century B.C. This is the style of black figures on a red ground, which was mainly practised at Athens. About the end of the sixth century the black-figure style was in turn superseded by red figures on a dark ground. Vases in this style to the end of the fifth century, that is to say, of the finest period of Greek art, occupy the Third Vase Room. In the Fourth Vase Room we have the late and florid productions of the Italian potters, who took up and practised the art when it had almost ceased to be one of the industries of Athens. At the end of the room a small space is devoted to the later Hellenistie and Roman wares, which succeeded Greek vase painting proper.
THE FIRST VASE ROOM. SUBJECT : – GREEK POTTERY FROM PREHISTORIC
TIMES TO ABOUT 600 B.C.
Most of the vases exhibited in this room belong to that early period of Greece which is the field of archaeology rather than of authentic written history. They must in fact themselves supply the information by which their respective periods, and the relations of the various groups, are determined. While the development of Greek pottery is perfectly clear in its main outlines from the seventh century onwards, our information for the earlier periods rests mainly on excavations carried on during the last few years at Cnossos, Mycenae, Tiryns, Rhodes and elsewhere. There are still many gars in the record, and many differences of opinion as to the interpretation of the evidence. It would be outside the scope of this guide to dis cuss the doubtful questions of chronology and succession of styles which a complete study of the contents of the First Vase Room would involve. It must suffice to point out the characteristic features of the various groups which compose the collection
The general principle which has been followed in the arrangement of the room is that the East or left hand side of the room, as you enter from the Egyptian galleries, contains the Prehistoric, Cretan and Mycenaean wares. The West or right hand side of the room contains the families of Geometric pottery-and also the large sarcophagi, which are placed here on account of necessities of space.
Cases 1-4. Prehistoric ware.
In some of the northern islands of the Greek Archipelago, in the Cyclades, in Cyprus, and especially at Hissarlik, the supposed site of Troy, excavated by Dr. Henry Schliemann, a class of antiquities has been found under circumstances which point to a remote age. The pottery is hand-made, and of a very primitive decoration, consisting of lines incised in rough geometric patterns (fig. 93).
In Cases 1-4 is exhibited a series of objects, chietly from tombs in Paros and Antiparos, which illustrate this primitive period. Besides the pottery, the objects which specially mark the period are the vases and rude human figures in marble. The knives and implements are usually of obsidian ; bronze and silver are sparingly employed, principally for ornamentation.
Cases 5-7 contain early Cyprus Bronze Age wares. The vases are hand-made, and decorated with rough incised patterns.
Cases 8-9. Further local wares from Cyprus of the Bronze Age. Many of the vases have raised bands attached for decoration.
Cases 10-11. Local wares from Cyprus, of the Bronze Age, painted either with white on a dark ground, or with dark lines and patterns on a white or cream-coloured ground.
Cases 12-13. Local wares from Cyprus of the Bronze Age period, with peculiar forms, and an elementary system of geometric decoration.
The remainder of this side of the First Vase Room is devoted to the Minoan and Mycenaean remains. It must be explained that the terms Minoan' or Cretan’are applied to objects found in the island of Crete itself, and belonging to the early stages of a particular culture. The term • Mycenaean' is applied to objects of a closely allied but somewhat later culture found in other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. The word "Minoan' is not intended to
convey any implication as to the historical reality of Minos, but is used as a convenient description of a whole class of objects, first and most brilliantly revealed by excavations at Cnossos, the supposed seat of that legendary king. The other group mentioned above is termed • Mycenaean ’ because in the same way Schliemann's excavations at Mycenae (1877) first revealed and suggested a name for the whole system of culture.
For more than twenty years after Schliemann's discoveries Mycenae was the most important known seat of this civilization, In recent years, however, the centre of interest has been moved to Crete, where the excavations of Sir Arthur Evans and others have met with striking success.
The Cretan discoveries are represented in the British Museum by (1) the casts in the Gallery of Casts (p. 98); (2) the objects exhibited in standing Cases A, B, on Pedestals 1, 2, and above the wall-cases on the East side of this room. The finest examples of Cretan art have been retained in Crete, and can only be illustrated by casts and reproductions,
Such original fragments of pottery, and other objects as are here shown, are derived from excavations at Cnossos, Zakro, Petsofà, Palaikastro, and other sites.
Cnossos, the reputed capital of Minos, is in the middle of the north side of Crete. It was excavated by Sir A. J. Evans from March 1900 onwards.
Zakro, a site on the east coast of Crete, was excavated by Mr. D. G. Hogarth and the Cretan Exploration Fund in 1901.
Palaikastro, a site in the middle of the east side of Crete, was excavated by Prof. R. C. Bosanquet and the British School at Athens between April 1902 and June 1905.
Petsofà, a hill-sanctuary to the south of Palaikastro, was excavated by Prof. J. L. Myres in 1903.
The finds are classed, according to the provisional scheme proposed by Sir A. Evans, as of the Early Minoan,' • Mid-Minoan,' and · Late Minoan' periods, each period being again subdivided into three parts. Thus, for example, M(id) M(inoan) II. is employed to denote the second division of the Mid-Minoan period. The absolute chronology of the different stages can only be stated approximately. According to the revised scheme of Sir A. J. Evans (in C. H. and H. Hawes, Crete, p. 18), “ Early Minoan' precedes 2200 B.C., and the subsequent periods may be dated as follows:
Middle Minoan I. . . . 2200-2000 B.C.
1850-1600 , Late Minoan I. .
1600-1500 , L. M. II. .
. 1500–1350 , L. M. III. . . . about 1350 , The Mycenaean style proper is regarded as beginning near the close of the Middle Minoan age, and as running parallel with the Late Minoan periods.
In the large Case A the Cretan collections are arranged in such a way that the oldest groups are furthest removed from the gang. way. The first are examples of Early Minoan styles, consisting of early forms of pottery with the beginning of painted decoration. Next are wares of the style Middle Minoan I., in which polychrome decoration is introduced, and II., where it is used with increasing richness of decorative effect. Interesting examples of other Minoan objects are placed in the centre and at the end next the gangway. These include :
(a) A cast of the Phaestos disk '-a clay disk on which an inscription has been impressed by separate stamps, in a hieroglyphic script not otherwise known.
(6) A cast of a bronze figure of a mourning woman, found in the Troad, which is clearly of the Cretan School.
(c) Two clay tablets, presented by Sir A. J. Evans, with inscriptions in the Cretan linear script. One of these appears to be an enumeration of certain cereals. The other deals with a calculation bised on the century. - denotes 10 and | denotes 1. On the tablet the addition of —-- (20) to 3 -_ || (72) leaves a balance of DIN (8) to complete the century.
(d-f) Three vases of steatite, found by Italian excavators at Hagia Triada.
(d) Cast of the · Harvester 'vase, with a vividly treated scene in low relief. A company of harvesters, with pitchforks and sickles, are on the march, accompanied by music and song.
(e) Cast of the Chieftain vase--a cup with a group of warriors, and two figures standing apart, of whom one appears to be a chieftain giving orders to his subordinate.
(f) Cast of the ‘Boxer 'vase--a large vase, with four bands of subjects. In the second are scenes of bull-fighting, while the other three have pugilistic groups.
(9) Large vase in the form of a bull's head, from the "Small Palace' at Cnossos.
Pedestal 1. A large terracotta jar, from the Palace of Cnossos, with a decoration of rope-like bands. This jar was found with others on the site by Mr. Minos Calocherinos, and was presented by him in 1884. Other large terracotta vessels, such as mortuary chests, a bath, and large vessels from Palaikastro, may be seen above the wall-cases.
Table-case B. (North side.) Implements, terracotta fragments and other objects from Cretan sites; especially fragments of stucco, with Minoan fresco decoration from Palaikastro, and a series of primitive votive terracottas from the rock sanctuary of Petsofà.
At the further end of the case are small objects in terracotta, stone, bone and ivory, from Enkomi (see below, p. 196). Among them are certain terracotta balls, with inscriptions impressed on the clay when soft in an unknown writing, probably akin to that of Crete.
On the opposite side of the case are small antiquities found in tombs in Cyprus, and at the Mycenaean site of Ialysos in Rhodes, consisting of bronze swords, knives and spearheads, ornaments in glass pierced for suspension, beads of cornelian, rock crystal and amber, Egyptian scarabs, and casts of several engraved gems, the originals of which are in the Gold Ornament Room. Here also are a few pieces of bronze and iron from Enkomi.
Above Table-case B are:
(1) A set of electrotypes of the principal objects found by Schliemann in the treasure of Mycenae, including the famous inlaid swords ; also electrotypes of the cups found at Vaphio, with scenes of bull-hunting and bull-herding. The originals are in the Museum at Athens.