The Texas Foundation for Archaeological & Historical Research
The TFAHR Bylazora Project
|THE CHRONOLOGY OF BYLAZORA: The Ceramic Evidence
By Jo-Simon Stokke
|Click on photo to enlarge.
The discovery of a large, undisturbed context (loci L13.5 and
L14.6) on the propylon pavement has presented us with an
invaluable chronological peg to which we can relate other
nearby contexts and phases in a relative chronological
framework. The context in question consisted of a structure,
which was built into a quarried-away part of the propylon
pavement, but also covered the still in-place paving stones.
The building consisted of a series of wattle and daub and
mudbrick walls (one of which was L13.11), dividing the area
into several spaces, of which two yielded a massive amount of
pottery, including some fine-ware. It is to these fine-ware
vessels I will turn in this article in an attempt to date Phase 4,
the First Squatter Period.
|Locus L13.5, excavated in 2008.
|Locus L14.6, excavated in 2009.
|Wall L13.11, in the balk and
running through the trench atop
the paving stones.
Excavating the massive
deposit of pottery in
All of the vessels described in this article (the skyphoi, saltcellar, and echinoi) are dateable fine-ware, and are selected for that very reason.
The floral decorated skyphoi are included here, since they represent a unique Paionian, possibly Bylazoran, fine-ware, the best examples of
which were found in the context dealt with here. The Attic spool saltcellar belongs to a small group of very precisely dateable shapes. The
two echinoi are also dateable, though not as narrowly as the spool saltcellars.
The premises for the hypothesis put forward in this article to be acceptable are: that the context was undisturbed, that the deposits on either
side of the mudbrick wall (L13.11) are absolutely contemporary, and that the Athenian chronology is applicable to the material from this
This rare group of fine-ware vessels has a floral-pattern
combined with a running wave-meander design on its body,
painted in a thin, but vivid, matt red paint. Though of an even
buff colour, the fabric is not quite as fine as those of any
Greek skyphoi, which might have made them candidates for a
Greek production site. The floral design is reminiscent of the
ivy-and-grape decoration used in many Greek styles, including
Attic West Slope Ware. The style occurs on cups, oinochoai,
and bowls, but is best represented by its application on
Paionian adaptations of the Attic Type A Skyphos.
The group might have its own stylistic development which
might be possible to follow, if more examples eventually
surface. But more importantly, the shape itself seems to have
developed along the same lines as the Attic equivalent. It
displays the same diagnostics sensitive to rapid changes as
the Attic Type A Skyphos: a double curved body; an
out-turned lip; triangular handle-loops; and a torus ring base
(Agora XII: 85). No parallels to this type could be located in
any of the literature available from other Paionian sites.
Initially it was thought that the Bylazoran skyphoi dated to the
late 5th to the early 4th century (Neidinger & Matthews 2008:
18). It is highly unlikely, however, that the Paionians
developed the skyphos into a shape it would not attain at its
centre of production (Athens) until more than fifty years later;
when in most other instances the Paionians follow the Greek
pottery trends closely. [In support of this, one can observe that
Paionian kantharoi follow the Greek models closely throughout
the 4th and 3rd centuries. Other shapes like the trefoil
oinochoe and ichthyai also develop alongside their Greek
For the purposes of dating, the Attic skyphos presents a
problem, since its shape more or less fossilized in the late 4th
century, after which point the type does not undergo changes
that would make it useful for dating purposes. The Attic
original went out of production and use sometime before the
middle of the 3rd century (Agora XXIX: 94). So, it becomes
problematic: how much later could the shape have been
produced in Paionian workshops? And, if the development of
its shape was retarded then, by how much, and how long was
it in use before it was deposited?
Painted floral skyphos.
Detail of ivy-and-grape
A relatively rare shape (Rotroff 1984: 351), the spool type saltcellar is a transitional shape between Classical and Hellenistic saltcellars, and
stayed in production for only a very short time. It has a broad flaring foot and rim, of which the latter extends in a downward angle. Foot and rim
are connected by a wall, concave or vertical. The rim might have grooves incised, though our specimen does not, and the vessels have a nipple
underneath. Excavations at Bylazora have so far only yielded plain black glazed versions, but West Slope decorated examples have been found
in the Athenian agora. Slight variations in the details of the shape can be seen within the group as a whole; nonetheless, all are
|Spool saltcellar of the First Squatter Period (locus L14.6) .
Published examples from dateable contexts come most notably from the Athenian agora, Tomb II at Vergina, and the Sciatbi necropolis in
Alexandria. All of these are Attic examples, and have been dated to 325-295 (cf. Rotroff 1984: #1 and #2 respectively, Agora XXIX: nos.
1067-68, fig. 65).
Examples found in contexts used to date this group, at least in the Athenian agora and Vergina, have shown very little wear (Rotroff 1984: 351).
This is not the case with the Bylazora saltcellar, which shows considerable wear on the resting surface. Such wear could suggest that it was kept
in use longer before it was deposited.
Two large, black glazed echinoi were found alongside the saltcellar. Both are of the shallow Classical type, with incurved rim, broad ring foot,
and nipple underneath. The body profile, including the rim, is not useful for the purpose of dating these vessels. But the decoration, which
consists of four unlinked palmettos within concentric circles of rouletting at the bottom inside of the vessels, went out of style before the mid-3rd
century (Agora XXIX: 162). The ring foot, on the other hand, with a plain resting surface only first appeared around 300 (Agora XXIX: 162).
Generally speaking, parallels to our examples are dated in Agora from the very end of the 4th century through the first quarter of the 3rd
century (cf. Agora XXIX cat. 982, but without a grooved resting surface and with groove at the junction of body and foot, as 981). However,
judging by the fabric, none of our examples is Attic, which makes our use of the chronology from the Athenian agora all the more problematic.
interior of echinos.
Profile of an echinos.
To sum up the chronology of the vessels: the floral decorated skyphoi can not be dated more closely than to between the late 4th century to ca.
250; the spool saltcellar shape had a comparatively short production span, from between 325 and 295; and finally, the echinoi should, on the
basis of decorative typology, be dated to ca. 300 – 275.
Thus, the chronology we are left with has at the upper end of its terminus post quem a date between ca. 300 (for production of the echinoi) and
295 (for production of the saltcellar) , i.e., 300 – 295, the time when the two production periods overlap. Since an archaeological context is
always dated by the latest dateable artifact within it, the echinoi (produced from the end of the 4th century through the first quarter of 3rd
century) take precedence. The first quarter of the 3rd century is also within reasonable limits of how long after the spool saltcellar (produced
between 325-295) went out of production it could have been kept in use. Within this time frame we can now also place the floral decorated
skyphoi. This should be taken only to apply to the combination of shape + decoration, and not just the shape itself, which, it is reasonable to
assume, fossilised in much the same way as in Athens.
The structure of the First Squatter Period was abandoned sometime between 300 and 275. The wear on the echinoi suggests that the
depositing of the pottery, and therefore the abandonment of the structure, should be placed close towards the end of this period. Though to
date the context any tighter would be somewhat speculative without further material or additional sources. The fact that the pottery was
deposited almost directly on top of the pavement, with little soil accumulating between the pavement and pottery, suggests that the propylon was
abandoned very shortly before the First Squatter Period.
In support of this chronology, one can call on the dateable material found in other parts of the
excavated area. The typology and chronology for the Classical kantharos is well understood in
Greek contexts, as it is one of the most numerous fine-ware shapes during the late Classical and
Hellenistic periods, and dated on firm ground (Agora XXIX: 83). Contexts most likely contemporary
to the ramp and propylon have yielded numerous examples of this Attic fine-ware, along with two
other spool saltcellars (one being the example shown above from square M14) and a number of
echinoi of the small Classical type with broad base. These vessels, which would be the last
deposited material on floors and other paved parts of the acropolis, all point to abandonment of
the area at the end of the 4th century.
Finally, we can not exclude the possibility that the squatters kept fine-ware vessels as heirlooms or
valued treasures, passing them on to later generations, only to re-settle in the ruins of their old
city after a longer period of abandonment than we assume. This does not, however, affect the
dating of the initial abandonment to the late 4th century-early 3rd century.
|Profile of ribbed spur handle
Agora = The Athenian Agora: Results of Excavations Conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens
XII = Sparkes, Brian A. and Talcott, Lucy 1970: Black and Plain Pottery of the 6th, 5th and 4th Centuries BC. Princeton, New Jersey.
XXIX = Rotroff, Susan I. 1997: Hellenistic Pottery: Athenian and Imported Wheelmade Table Ware and Related Material. Princeton,
Neidinger, William, and Matthews, Eulah 2008: The 2008 Excavation at Bylazora, Republic of Macedonia. Publication of the Texas
Foundation for Archaeological and Historical Research, Canyon Lake, Texas.
Rotroff, Susan I. 1984: Spool Saltcellars in the Athenian Agora. Hesperia vol. 53, No. 3, pp. 343-354.
|Spool saltcellar from square M14.