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More early helladic sealings from Geraki in Laconia, Greece

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In 2002, excavations conducted by the University of Amsterdam at the acropolis site of Geraki (Laconia) revealed a storage room attached to the EH II defensive wall, apparently a casemate built into that wall. Along with pottery and abundant destruction debris were many fragments of clay sealings, some stamped with seal impressions. Sealings had already been discovered at Geraki in 1997 (OJA 18.4, 1999 = Geraki I). Together with the new sealings, Geraki becomes second only to Lerna in terms of the quantity of published sphragistic material from the EH II Aegean. This report considers their significance in terms both of recent finds in the Aegean islands and western Anatolia and their implications for exchange relations across the Aegean. Two appendices describe the formation of the contexts of the new sealings, and a further 12 sealings found elsewhere on the site, suggesting still other areas with sealing activity on the acropolis.
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J. WEINGARTEN, S. MACVEAGH THORNE, M. PRENT AND J.H. CROUWEL
MORE EARLY HELLADIC SEALINGS FROM GERAKI IN
LACONIA, GREECE
Summary. In 2002, excavations conducted by the University of Amsterdam at
the acropolis site of Geraki (Laconia) revealed a storage room attached to the
EH II defensive wall, apparently a casemate built into that wall. Along with
pottery and abundant destruction debris were many fragments of clay sealings,
some stamped with seal impressions. Sealings had already been discovered at
Geraki in 1997 (OJA 18.4, 1999 =Geraki I). Together with the new sealings,
Geraki becomes second only to Lerna in terms of the quantity of published
sphragistic material from the EH II Aegean. This report considers their
significance in terms both of recent finds in the Aegean islands and western
Anatolia and their implications for exchange relations across the Aegean. Two
appendices describe the formation of the contexts of the new sealings, and a
further 12 sealings found elsewhere on the site, suggesting still other areas with
sealing activity on the acropolis.
introduction (s. macveagh thorne)
Modern Geraki, the ancient Geronthrai, is a thriving agricultural village located some
26 km south-east of Sparta in the foothills of Mount Parnon (Geraki I, figs. 1, 2). It lies 20 km
north of the mouth of the Eurotas River and the current coastline of the Laconian Gulf (Fig. 1).
The modern village hugs the slopes of the ancient acropolis, the top of which is surrounded by
an often repaired defensive wall of rough megalithic construction. This wall encloses an area of
approximately 160 by 240 m.
The combined results of British exploratory excavations in 1905 and of systematic
survey and excavation by the University of Amsterdam since 1995 (Crouwel et al. 2002; 2004;
Crouwel 2009) indicate that occupation on the summit of the acropolis began in the Final
Neolithic and continued through the Early Helladic II period (hereafter EH). The site appears to
have been abandoned following a fierce conflagration in EH IIB. All or parts of the summit were
subsequently reoccupied in the Middle Helladic period (hereafter MH), after which the site was
again abandoned. Signs of human activity resume in the Protogeometric period and continue
through the second century BC when the focus of activity, in a shift so often repeated in the
history of Greece, may have passed to the lower town. The defensive wall that surrounds the top
of the acropolis hill was refurbished and reused in the Late Roman/Early Medieval period and
again during the Greek Civil War in 1946–9 (MacVeagh Thorne in Crouwel et al. 2001, 14–25).
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The importance of the site is due to its abundant agricultural resources and
advantageous location. The acropolis of the ancient town commands a large and fertile plain
that slopes down to the Eurotas River in the south-west. Two springs at the base of the hill
provided an abundant source of fresh water. The site dominates two important routes. The first
of these crosses Mount Parnon to the east and descends to the coast of the Peloponnese at the
present-day town of Leonidion, whence one passes north, by land or by sea, to Lerna and
the Argolid. This is one of the major passes through the Parnon Massif from central Laconia.
The second route follows the Eurotas valley south to the Laconian Gulf and the sea, where the
port towns of the Malea peninsula and the island of Kythera provide access to the islands of
the central Aegean.
The results of two seasons of intensive surface survey in 1995 and 1996 and of eight trial
trenches excavated in 1997 indicate that the EH II settlement occupied much, if not all, of the
summit (Fig. 2; Prent and Crouwel in Crouwel et al. 1997, 68). One of the tests done in 1997
(Trench 17/11i) exposed a portion of an EH room. This room had been destroyed by fire in EH
IIB and had preserved within it the lower portion of a burned pithos. The 179 sealing fragments
recovered from this room occasioned an earlier report in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology (=
Geraki I).
Figure 1
Geraki in Laconia.
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archaeological context of the casemate room (s. macveagh thorne)
Continued excavation has exposed further architectural remains of the EH II period
(Fig. 3). These include a number of house walls and a major defensive wall. This latter, in more
or less ruinous state, was reused in the MH and again in the Archaic/Early Classical period. It
was later buried – and often thus partially preserved – by subsequent construction and
refortification in the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods. Despite the difficulties posed by
overlying construction, the EH wall has now been traced for a distance of some 40 m.
There are two elements to the EH II defensive system. The first of these, Wall 30, is
a double-faced, gravel- and rubble-filled construction. It has been fully exposed in Trench
17/13k. More of it has been revealed in 17/13n and p. Its configuration further to the east
(17/13r) is uncertain. Wall 30 defines the northern edge of the settlement. House walls are built
directly against its interior face. The second component of the EH defensive system, Wall 180,
is built up against the exterior face of Wall 30, running parallel to it for a distance of some
35 m. It terminates in Trench 17/13k, where Wall 181 joins 180 to Wall 30 (Fig. 3). The north
face of 180, where exposed, is made up of large boulders with the area between those boulders
and Wall 30 filled with a well laid packing of large, medium and smaller stones carefully seated
in gravel.
The phasing of these two portions of the EH construction is clear – with Wall 30
preceding Wall 180 – but the relevant dating is not. While our impression is now that both walls
Figure 2
Geraki, acropolis hill: position of test trenches excavated in 1997.
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Figure 3
Geraki, plan of excavations in Field 17. Small dots indicate location of individual sealing fragments, large dots the large concentrations in the storeroom in 17/11i
and in the casemate in 17/13q; squares indicate the presence of EH II destruction deposits and numbered walls =EH walls.
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were a product of that same late phase of the EH II period that saw the destruction and
abandonment of the settlement, further evidence for the construction date of Wall 30 must be
sought. For this to be accomplished, further clarification of local ceramic sequences within the
EH II period will be required. The order of construction, nevertheless, clearly suggests that Wall
30 was widened and strengthened by the addition of Wall 180 to the north. The more gradual and
therefore accessible slope of the acropolis hill in that area where 180 has been added may have
necessitated this action.1
The sealings which form the basis of the discussion by J. Weingarten below were found
in a Casemate Room (Fig. 4) that had been constructed in the double wall formed by Walls 30
and 180. This casemate was excavated in 2000–3 (Crouwel et al. 2002; 2003; 2004). It lies some
40 m to the east-north-east of the building, pithos and cache of sealings discussed in Geraki I.
The casemate is defined to the east by Wall 150 and to the west by Wall 151. It measures
only 2.30 ¥3.60 m. The South Wall, number 152, could be only partially revealed due to the
presence of Hellenistic Wall 102 directly above it. The North Wall – although largely obscured
by the stone fill that was used as backing for the construction of the Late Classical circuit of the
acropolis (Wall 104) – was partially exposed (see Crouwel et al. 2004, 16, pl. I). Part of the
casemate was overbuilt by MH Wall 170, complicating its excavation.
The date of the destruction of the Casemate Room is clearly indicated by the pottery
assemblage which it contained (Crouwel in Crouwel et al. 2002, 9–24; summarized by J.H.
Crouwel below). These vessels, like those from other deposits of the period at Geraki, had
been preserved by the fire destruction that ended the EH IIB period at the site. This calamity
also fired and preserved the sealings which form the basis of this article. This fact, and the
subsequent abandonment of at least this portion of the settlement, assure us that the material
presented here provides a picture of activities and sealing practices in the days and weeks
immediately leading up to the destruction. The disposition of the fired sealing fragments is
an important part of that picture. In this regard, the post-destruction depositional processes
here deserve some note. Collapse and erosion immediately following the fire which destroyed
the EH settlement, and subsequent construction in the MH and historical periods, along
with the concomitant collapse and erosion occasioned by the abandonment or disuse of the
area after those periods, have obscured the configuration of the superstructure of the Casemate
Room during its final days. Nevertheless, some reconstruction of the post-depositional
changes responsible for the distribution of the preserved material can be attempted (see
Appendix I).
pottery from the casemate room2(j.h. crouwel)
The plan of the Casemate Room (Fig. 4) within the fortification wall of EH II
indicates the position of 25 pottery vessels or fragments thereof. Some of these, like the
so-called fruitstand (no. 19; Fig. 5), two ring-based bowls (nos. 1 and 13) and four saucers
(nos. 4, 10–12), belong to the floor deposit of the time of the fire destruction. Two saucers
(nos. 8 and 25) were discovered at the bottom of two pithoi (nos. 9 and 24) which, together
with a third pithos (no. 2; Fig. 6), were found with their lower parts set into the floor. The
1 A similar sequence of construction has been noted at Lerna: Wiencke 2000, 91–6, 646 with plans 18 and 21.
2 For what follows, see more extensively Crouwel in Crouwel et al. 2004, 9–24.
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other registered EH II pots and fragments come from varying heights above the floor level and
belonged to collapse of walls and possibly shelves during and after the burnt destruction. The
various fragments of the restored so-called duck askos (nos. 6 and 7; Fig. 7) were found on the
floor as well as higher up.
The pottery from the Casemate Room represents an assortment of hand-made vessels of
open and closed shapes made in a limited range of fine, medium coarse and coarse fabrics. In
many respects, the material is very similar to that from other EH IIB destruction contexts at
Figure 4
Geraki, detailed plan of casemate, showing distribution of in situ ceramic vessels and sealings with different designs
(solid rectangles represent exact location of sealings; dashed rectangles give approximate locations).
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Figure 5
Geraki, Casemate Room: Early Helladic ‘fruitstand’ no. 19 (Inv. no. 1723/SF1).
Figure 6
Geraki, Casemate Room: Early Helladic pithos no. 2 (Inv. no. 1460/SF2).
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Geraki. One of these is in test trench 17/11i, some 40 m to the west of the Casemate Room, where
seal impressions were found in association with a pithos (=Geraki I).
The fine EH II pottery from the Casemate Room and elsewhere at Geraki is of one
fabric, our fabric A. The clay is mostly yellowish brown in colour and has very few inclusions.
The surfaces often show evidence for a light-firing clay slip (among others saucers nos. 10, 12,
16, 18). This corresponds with what Martha Wiencke has called Light Painted in her study of the
large corpus of EH II pottery from Lerna in the Argolid. Much more rarely, a dark-firing slip can
be made out (as, e.g., on saucer no. 23) that used to be known as ‘Urfirnis’but is now named Dark
Painted by Wiencke (Wiencke 2000, 316–17, 320–6).
Among the shapes represented in fine fabric A in the Casemate Room, the small bowl,
known as a saucer, is by far the most common (see among others nos. 10, 12, 16, 18, 25). This
is indeed a standard shape in the EH II ceramic repertoire at Geraki and elsewhere. The
sauceboat, another standard shape of the time, is present among the sherd material from this
room and other find contexts at Geraki.
Non-fine fabrics are much more common in the Casemate Room and elsewhere at
Geraki than the fine fabric A. Fabrics B and D predominate. Fabric B is medium coarse,
yellowish brown in colour and with some quartz, white limestone and brownish inclusions. This
fabric comes in several shapes, in particular jugs and bowls. Some of the shapes, notably saucers
(among others nos. 4, 11, 17), are also found in fine fabric A.
Coarse fabric D is possibly related to B, but with its more numerous, predominantly grey
and very rare white inclusions (crystalline limestone?) it is much coarser in structure. A
characteristic feature is also the yellowish red colour with dark grey core. Coarse fabric D comes
in shapes like necked pithoi (among others nos. 2, 9 and 24, which were set in the floor), coarse
bowls and fruitstands (nos. 19 and 22; Fig. 5). Of the three medium-sized pithoi that were set into
the floor too little could be put together to ascertain their original shape and precise dimensions.
They share a flat to flattish base (c.0.20–0.25 m in diameter) with a fourth pithos (no. 3), of which
the completely preserved everted rim has a diameter of c.0.33 m. This pithos, with two horizontal
loop handles on the shoulder and an estimated height of well under 1 m, has a round hole that
was pierced through its wall, just above the base. The hole may have been for the tubular spout
Figure 7
Geraki, Casemate Room: Early Helladic ‘duck askos’ nos. 6 and 7 (Inv. no. 1696/SF2).
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that was found separately (no. 20). There are a number of other examples of medium-sized pithoi
with such openings or spouts, always near to the flat or flattish base, from Geraki and other sites.3
Such spouted pithoi would not have been sunk into a floor but have stood on it, being used for
liquids such as olive oil or wine. In contrast, at least one of the other pithoi in the same Casemate
Room at Geraki (no. 2; Fig. 6) contained solids, in the form of a quantity of carbonized seeds of
grass pea, Lathyrus sativus L. (R.T.J. Cappers and S. Mulder in Crouwel et al. 2004, 25–33).
The spouted pithos no. 3 is undecorated, except for a horizontal plastic cordon with
finger-impressions. Horizontal cordons and finger-tipping are well known decorative features of
pithoi and other shapes of coarse fabric in EH II, at Geraki and other sites, including Lerna. Groups
of plain cordons can be seen in the shoulder area of pithoi nos. 9 and 24 from the Casemate Room.
The cordons are combined with decoration in the form of ‘smear marks’, starting from the base and
arranged in zigzag patterns (see pithos no. 2; Fig. 6). This so-called Geraki Ware decoration is
found mostly on pithoi but also on the ‘fruitstand’no. 19 (Fig. 5), which is made in the same coarse
fabric D. Apart from its frequent occurrence at EH II Geraki, this distinct surface treatment has now
been identified elsewhere in Laconia: at the coastal site of Bozas in the Malea peninsula and at
Sparta.4It may be noted that the ‘fruitstand’no. 19, consisting of a basin on a tall, flaring base, was
in fact used for liquids, to judge from the opening just above the bottom of the bowl. The shape
itself has a long history, going back to Neolithic times.5
The pottery from the Casemate Room appears to be homogeneous in date and to belong
to the same destruction horizon that has been observed in excavation in different parts of the
fortified acropolis of Geraki. This horizon can be attributed to EH IIB (EH II late), on the basis
of the links with the saucers and other vessels from Lerna phase IIIC which is of that date. Two
pieces from the Casemate Room, which stand out for their fabric, shape and dark-on-light
painted decoration (the restored ‘duck askos’ nos. 6 and 7 and the sherd of another such vessel)
may well represent imports, perhaps from the Argolid. Dark-on-light painted ‘duck askoi’ have
been found at Lerna (phase IIIC) and Tiryns.6
The correspondence with finds from Lerna and other sites confirms the remarkable
degree of homogeneity which has often been observed in the fine-ware ceramics, and the
material record in general, throughout the Peloponnese and central mainland Greece in EH II.7
Most of the pots from the Casemate Room at Geraki were for storage or the
manipulation of dry goods or liquids. The three Geraki Ware pithoi (nos. 2, 9, 24) were clearly
intended for long-term storage, as they were sunk into the floor. Together with the large Geraki
Ware ‘fruitstand’ (no. 19; Fig. 5), the pithoi took up much of the very limited available floor
space in the room. This would have left very little space for activities such as food preparation
and weaving, both of which are attested in the (much) larger rooms within the fortification walls
of Lerna phase IIIC.8
3 At Geraki, Inv. nos. 1117/SF1 and 2110/SF1. Elsewhere, see Maran 1998, 253–4 with n. 969 and pl. 11:1–3.
4 Information, presented by E. Zavvou and A. Vasilogramvrou respectively, at the Round Table Conference ‘Early
Helladic Laconia’, held in the Netherlands Institute at Athens, 16 January 2010.
5 See Wiencke 2000, 547–50 with fig. II.81; Crouwel in Crouwel et al. 2002, 22.
6 Wiencke 2000, 529–34 with fig. 6.72 (askos type 6).
7 See among others Maran 1998, 271–3; Wiencke 2000, 636–8, 648–53, 655–7.
8 Wiencke 2000, 647–9 with plans 5–7.
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the geraki sealings (j. weingarten)
Among the many hundreds of fragments of baked clay collected after 1997 and during
the excavation of the Casemate Room (described above by S. MacVeagh Thorne), there were
over 80 pieces of semi-fine clay – always quite uniform and with black and white micaceous
inclusions – with imprints on the reverse of objects that had been sealed and/or seal impressions
on the obverse. We first describe the objects sealed and then the seal impressions. Unless
otherwise indicated, the sealings are from the Casemate Room.
Sealing types
Large storage jars Like the sealings found in Trench 17/11i (=Geraki I), the great majority of
sealings in the Casemate Room had secured jars of substantial size. The same method of sealing
Figure 8
Geraki. Reconstruction of the probable profiles of the rims of six different sealed vases.
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was used (cf. Geraki I, 361–2): a mat was placed over the jar mouth, clay spread quite thickly
along the joint between mat and vessel rim, and the clay was stamped – often repeatedly – by a
single seal (i.e. no fragment was stamped by two different seals). The shape of the vessel’s rim
is occasionally well preserved on the reverse (Fig. 8a–f), in some cases together with one or more
seal impressions on the obverse (e.g. Fig. 20). No jar profile matches any extant vessel yet
described from the Casemate Room. Imprints of the wickerwork/reed mats on the sealing reverse
are often quite clear, too.9One oddity was a wickerwork mat placed over the clay layer, almost
overlapping a seal impression (G-7?).
Smaller jars 4280/SF4A, B (Fig. 9a, b). Not from Casemate Room (see Appendix II). Two
badly burnt fragments (not joining), each pressed against a surface of a small vessel. 4280/SF4A
preserved traces of seal impression: one large circle with an est. outer 9 mm, and traces of
possibly a second circle (=G-12?).
Two small jar spouts of a pottery type not otherwise known at Geraki (4258/SF1 [not
from Casemate Room; see Appendix II], 1702/SF4). Neither was impressed by a seal which may
suggest that the vessels were simply closed to prevent evaporation of the contents. The reverse
of 1702/SF4 also preserved traces of a medium-fine woven fabric wrapped around the spout.
1457/SF2 (Fig. 10a) is an unusual sealing type, having been pressed against the handle
of a pot, presumably to secure a cord holding the jar’s cover in place.10
9 Many reverses are similar to those published in CMS V 3.1 figs. 1a–e and 2a–f; others resemble the matting
pictured in CMS II.8 1, fig. 30a–d.
10 I am grateful to Prof. E. Fiandra for confirming this identification of a type of sealing which is otherwise only
found in the Aegean, as far as we know, at MM IIB Monastiraki on Crete.
Figure 9
Sealings of two small vases (Trench 17/12j wash level): 4280/SF4A stamped by Seal G-12?; 4280/SF4B.
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Miscellaneous direct object sealings 1744/SF3 (Fig. 10b). Reverse: small rectangular ‘tab’
(c.1.7 ¥1.0 cm) with faint traces of very fine cord on one edge; possibly the edge of a small
wooden box. Obverse smoothed as if to be stamped, but without seal impression. Traces of
leather(?) in corner. A smaller, similar imprint is also preserved on a side of the sealing. Poorly
fired.
Figure 10a
Sealing of a vase handle (Casemate Room): 1457/SF2, modern mould.
Figure 10b
Sealing of (possible) wooden box, secured by leather strips (Casemate Room): 1744/SF3, modern mould.
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3049/SF2. A chance find (not from Casemate Room; see Appendix II). Irregular lump
pressed over woven/textile material of moderate fineness; insufficiently clear for further
identification (cf. Geraki I, fig. 20a).
The seal impressions
Fifty of the 80 sealing fragments collected after 1997 bore full or partial seal
impressions on the obverse (albeit in nearly 20 cases, too faint/fragmentary for any kind of
recognition). With the exception of 4280/SF4A (Fig. 9a), all legible impressions had been
stamped on large storage jar sealings.
We were able to identify the use of 15 different seals, raising to 21 the number of
seal-types now discovered at Geraki (the seals from Geraki I: G-1 to G-6 =CMS V S.3 360–
5).11 Only one seal impression (G-8; Fig. 11b) might be identical with impressions found in
Trench 17/11i (G-3; Fig. 12). Although this identification is not certain, the ‘circle around
central circle’ series described below is clearly related to the G-3 of the earlier finds (=CMS
V S.3 362).
Drawings of seal impressions are on a scale of 3:1.
Circles around central circle G-7 to G-12 are variations on the basic motif of a central circle
(with or without internal element) surrounded by circles spaced along the circumference of the
seal. In some cases, only small differences in seal diameters and/or in the size of the outer circles
allowed us to distinguish the seals with reasonable confidence. G-13 and G-14 are somewhat
more elaborate variations on this theme.
G-7 (1699/SF4, 1699/SF8, 1730/SF7, possibly 1730/SF13: Fig. 11a). Est. 3.0 cm.
Unevenly spaced (ten?) circles of variable size ranged around the seal’s circumference,
surrounding a central toothed? circle with internal cross (arms ending in small dots).
G-8 (1699/SF2, 1699/SF15: Fig. 11b). Est. 3.5 cm. Circles (eight?) evenly spaced
around the seal’s circumference, surrounding a toothed central circle with internal cross (arms
11 It is impossible to give exact counts of impressions per seal as many are too fragmentary to be positively identified.
However, where we have but one recognizable example, it is considered a unicum.
Figure 11a
Seal impression G-7 (Casemate Room): 1699/SF4.
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not well preserved). Very close look-alike or from the same seal as G-3 from Trench 17/11i
(Fig. 12); est. 3.3 cm (Geraki I). Further discussion below.
G-9 (1751/SF6B: Fig. 11c). Est. 4.0 cm. Fragmentary. Very small circles (outer
∅<4 mm) set around the circumference, central circle with internal cross (?). NB: outer circles
>5.5 mm distant from central circle.
G-10 (1744/SF1A: Fig. 11d). No est. . Fragmentary. Very small circles (outer
∅<5.0 mm) set around the circumference, central circle. NB: outer circles <2.5 mm distant
from central circle.
G-11 (1917/SF5: Fig. 11e). No est. . Fragmentary. Large circles (outer c.6–7 mm)
set around central circle (?). NB: two circles c.6 mm from central circle; one almost touching.
G-12 (1730/SF9; Fig. 11f; possibly also 1751/SF9A; less certainly 4280/SF4A (not
from Casemate Room – see Appendix II) ). Fragmentary. Est. 4.5 cm. Large irregular crudely
Figure 11b
Seal impression G-8 (Casemate Room): 1699/SF2.
Figure 11c
Seal impression G-9 (Casemate Room): 1751/SF6B.
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drawn circles (est. ∅>9 mm) around seal’s circumference; central cross, possibly (but not
certainly) within a central circle.
Other circle designs G-13 (1699/SF13: Fig. 13a). Est. 3.2 cm. Unicum. Semi-circles (six?)
around seal’s circumference, each bisected by a straight line, surrounding large central circle
with poorly preserved internal cross. Cf. G-5: chevrons around central dotted circle;12 also CMS
V 116: semi-circles around the seal’s circumference from Lerna Room XI.
G-14 (1694/SF7: Fig. 13b). Est. 3.0 cm. Unicum. Fragmentary, abraded impression.
Small circles (15?) set around circumference, a continuous band (?) above and below outlines
circles; vertical lines run from the lower band between circles to the central circle. This seal
appears to be a stylistic link between the ‘circles around a central circle’ group in the Casemate
Room and G-5 (=CMS V S.3 364) from Trench 17/11i, with vertical lines from chevrons on the
12 The drawing of CMS V S.3 364 is too neat, in my opinion; it also should not have been completed as a perfectly
symmetrical design with all cross lines touching the circumference. The drawing in Geraki I is to be preferred.
Figure 11d
Seal impression G-10 (Casemate Room): 1744/SF1A.
Figure 11e
Seal impression G-11 (Casemate Room): 1917/SF5.
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circumference down to the central circle. Cf. 11 small circles around circumference attached by
lines to centre (no circle) on CMS V 117 from Lerna Room XI.
G-15 (1730/SF15A; Fig. 13c). Unicum. Very fragmentary. Circle with internal pellet set
near edge of seal, with traces of three other circular forms in field.
Metal seal G-16 (Figs. 14 and 15a–d). At least ten examples.13 2.8 cm. Impression in
negative (i.e. original seal design in relief), a phenomenon most characteristic of – but not
13 1694/SF1, 1699/SF3, 1699/SF5, 1730/SF5, 1744/SF1, 1744/SF1A, 1744/SF1B, 1749/SF1A, 1751/SF5A, 1917/
SF2; probably or possibly 1720/SF2A, 1699/SF10D.
Figure 11f
Seal impression G-7 (Casemate Room): 1730/SF9.
Figure 12
Seal impression G-3 (Geraki I, Trench 17/11i): 76/SF1.
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Figure 13a
Two seal impressions G-13 (Casemate Room): 1699/SF13.
Figure 13b
Two seal impressions G-14 (Casemate Room): 1694/SF7.
Figure 13c
Seal impression G-15 (Casemate Room): 1730/SF15A.
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confined to – the Cyclades (Aruz 2008, 35, with references). Compare the almost complete
impression 1694/SF1 (Fig. 15a), on which the design cannot be properly ‘read’, with its legible
plasticine cast (Fig. 15b).
Thus, we read the impression of G-16 in positive (composite drawing: Fig. 14): a
bipartite design of opposing trefoils on either side of a central lozenge; the trefoils are outlined
by a continuous loop forming two opposite ellipses at right angles to the trefoils; the ellipse is
filled with a curving line and attached to the opposite ellipse by double lines formed as an outline
of the central lozenge. Cf. CMS V 81 from Lerna Room 11, and S-1 from Petri (contemp. Lerna
IIID; Kostoula 2000, 141, ills. 3b, 4a).
Figure 14
Seal impression G-16 (Casemate Room): composite drawing.
Figure 15a
Seal impression G-16 (Casemate Room): 1694/SF2.
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The fine lines and sharp triangular engraving strongly suggest that the original seal was
made of metal. Given the depth of some impressions (Fig. 15c: as much as 0.9 cm below the
clay surface) and often impressed at a sharp slant (from 0.9 cm on one side to just below
the clay surface on the opposite side), the seal probably had a long handle. We suggest that the
original seal was most likely a stalk-handled seal, for which we may compare the stalk-handled
lead seal from Aplomata, Naxos (CMS V S.1B 105), also cut in relief.
Remarkably, two slightly overlapping impressions of G-16 (1699/SF3; Fig. 15d) had a
deeply incised deliberate mark made with a thick pointed tool across the top of each impression.
Further discussion below.
Figure 15b
Seal impression G-16 (Casemate Room): 1694/SF2, modern mould.
Figure 15c
Seal impression G-16 (Casemate Room): 1699/SF5, modern mould.
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Other seal designs G-17 (1730/SF14, 1730/SF15B; Fig. 16). Two fragmentary sealings
probably from a circular seal of c.2.8 cm.14 At least five nested chevrons increasing in size
from the smallest at the surviving edge to a probable sixth largest chevron on the opposite edge.
The design may be considered a simplification of the common angle-filled cross motif.
G-18 (6290/SF2A, B: Fig. 17). Not from Casemate Room (see Appendix II). Very
fragmentary. Est. 3.0 cm. Partial impressions of G-18 stamped three (perhaps four) times. A
looped ellipse along circumference; circles, arrows and possibly chevrons in field.
G-19 (1699/SF9: Fig. 18). Very fragmentary. Est. 3.5 cm. Scarcely preserved design,
possibly related to G-18: J-hook with broken lines in field, perhaps remnants of a chevron.
14 The oval appearance of Figure 16 is belied by the slight additional line of the edge of the impression, which makes
it very likely that it is from a circular seal.
Figure 15d
Two seal impressions G-16 (Casemate Room): 1699/SF3.
Figure 16
Seal impression G-17 (Casemate Room): 1730/SF15B.
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Figure 17
Multiple seal impressions G-18 (from earth fill for late Classical or Hellenistic floor): 6290/SF2A, B.
Figure 18
Seal impression G-19 (Casemate Room): 1699/SF9.
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G-20 (4461/SF1; Fig. 19). Not from Casemate Room (see Appendix II). Unicum. Est.
3.0 cm. Half preserved. S-scroll, arrow and circles ranged around circumference, dots and circles
in field. Cf. Knossos sealing CMS II.8 4; Athens Acropolis clay ‘ring’ CMS V S.3 87. NB: This
seal impression does not come from the Casemate Room but from Trench 17/13h (near Trench
17/11i =Geraki I).
G-21 (452/SF1; Fig. 20). Unicum. Not from Casemate Room (see Appendix II). Almost
complete impression but very poorly preserved. Est. 2.5 cm. Central circle with lines attached
to two very small circles; a ‘J-hook?’adjacent to an off-centre circle and tangential to second
circle; another circle and linear hook design near circumference.
Discussion
It is no longer possible to view seals and seal-use at Geraki as an exceptional event, nor
even necessarily an unusual one. Sealings are found in three separate areas on the acropolis (with
Figure 19
Seal impression G-20 (plough soil near Trench 17/13g): 4461/SF1.
Figure 20
Seal impression G-21 (Trench 17/13h, disturbed level): 452/SF1.
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hints of at least a fourth; Appendix II), all preserved by the fire that destroyed the EH IIB
settlement. The sealings are thus archaeologically contemporary and we may accept that the 21
originating seals were in use at much the same time.15 Until now, while stamped fragments are
often repeatedly impressed by a seal, it is always by the same seal and never by different seals
(unlike the comparable and contemporary Room DM at Lerna (Lerna IIIC) where one pithos
fragment was impressed by two seals (CMS V 44 and 45)).16 We cannot, of course, be sure that
co-stamping did not occur but there is yet no evidence of it.
The generally careless level of craftsmanship of some seals and poor preservation of
others do not allow us to say much about the workshops that manufactured them. It was already
clear in Geraki I, however, that several different hands – and very likely more than one workshop
– had fabricated G-1 to G-6. The new sealings further underline the diversity of hands and the
possibility of several workshops having manufactured the seals used at Geraki. While most
sealings secured vases or pithoi, there are enough other types to argue that the idea of marking
and protecting property was understood in a larger sense. Thus, seals and sealing practices seem
to have been integrated into economic activity at an early date in this inland location.
Two impressions of G-16, stamped side-by-side on a pithos sealing fragment (1699/
SF3; Fig. 15d), had an added deep, slightly curved line made by a ‘stylus’ or sharp tool on the
upper part of each impression. These marks are certainly not part of the original seal design but
deliberate additions, and thus must be meaningful in some sense. To my knowledge, such marks
supra sigillum are unprecedented in the EH II period – and, indeed, a rare sphragistic practice in
the Aegean at almost any time (Weingarten 1983, n. 417). While it is impossible even to guess at
the meaning of these signs, this intentional marking of some (but by no means all) impressions
of G-16 suggests an awareness of the seal as a functional sign capable of modification, perhaps
within a sealing system.
Another striking feature of the Geraki sealings is the series of motifs based on ‘circles
around central circle’: G-3 from Trench 17/11i (Geraki I, 366) and G-7, 8, 9, and possibly G-10
and 11 from the Casemate Room. Hence, visually related seals were used at different locations
across the site. Whether or not G-8 from the Casemate Room is identical with G-3 from Trench
17/11i, either the same seal was, in fact, used at both locations or the two seals were virtual
look-alikes, perhaps intentionally so. Although the basic ‘circles around central circle’ motif is
straightforward, it is (on current evidence) virtually restricted to Geraki, with few good parallels
elsewhere.18 More generally, the manufacture, and perhaps purposeful use, of visually related
seals is reminiscent of sealing practices in the House of Tiles (Lerna IIID). At Lerna, there is
good reason to think that some seals were made quite deliberately similar to one another – and
were not merely the result of a craftsman repeatedly carving variations on a few themes.19 Seals
15 Strictly speaking, we cannot claim that G-18, G-20 and G-21 are from this single event since they were found in
much later levels.
16 Sealing fragments with more than one impression include: 1699/SF8 (G-7), 1730/SF7 (G-7); 1699/SF13 (G-13);
1694/SF7 (G-14); 1699/SF3 (G-16), 1699/SF5 (G-16), 1730/SF5 (G-16); 6290/SF2 (G-18).
17 To which, now add PE Hc2 stamped on a roundel (=R1) from MM II Petras and PYR Wc 4 from LM IB Pyrgos
(Hallager 2000, 101–2; Tsipopoulou and Hallager 2010, 80).
18 G-11, however, finds a good parallel in Lerna CMS V 117 from the House of Tiles. The basic design of the series
is conceptually similar to the ‘trefoils around a central trefoil’ motif known at Lerna in the House of Tiles (Geraki
I, 366; cf. CMS V 104, 107).
19 Regarding the Lerna sealings, Krzyszkowska 2005, 49, declares it ‘a futile effort’ to analyse patterns of seal-use
because the material that we have in hand is inevitably the result of ‘accidental preservation’. This is a pessimistic
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containing a swastika motif, for example, seem to have been privileged at Lerna in some real
sense, perhaps, as we suggested, identifying an emerging elite (Weingarten 1997, 153–5). At
Geraki, it was sometimes only through the most careful measuring of circles and their distance
one from another that allowed us to distinguish variations with any security. Given the rather
careless workmanship of many seals, only a very well stamped impression (which is rare) could
have been certainly identified as ‘this specific seal or seal-owner’ rather than another. This
suggests that such distinctions were not the primary purpose of possessing and using a seal. On
the contrary, the unusually large, crudely engraved G-9 rather suggests that this seal was a
deliberate, if poor (wooden?) copy intended to ‘duplicate’ a standard image, thus cheaply
inserting itself into the series. Similarly, if G-3 and G-8 can truly be distinguished on the basis
of size (albeit the slightly larger diameter of G-8 is estimated from a very incomplete
impression), this might indicate the intentional duplication of a seal image as seems also to have
happened at Lerna.20 We thus have some reason to suspect that the ‘circle within central circle’
motif at Geraki may have been as much a ‘badge’for some group as were swastika seals at Lerna
IIID.
Nonetheless, the most frequently used seal on the site, G-16, was sui generis at Geraki.
Probably impressed by a stalk-handled metal seal with base design in relief (i.e. positive on the
seal, negative in the impression), G-16 was almost certainly an import.21 Glyptic craftsmen very
rarely reversed the seal design. Relief seals seem to be concentrated in the Cyclades: several are
found among impressions on hearths at Ayia Irini (Younger 1974, 172; CMS V 462, 467, 476);
another on a vase-sherd at Troy stamped by a Cycladic seal (Aruz 2008, 35; 1986), and a
stalk-handled lead seal from Aplomata on Naxos is also cut in relief (CMS V.IB 105, seven
embedded trefoils similar to seal designs found at Lerna IIID).22 Taken together, current evidence
points to the Cyclades as the place where G-16 probably was manufactured.
Evidence of Cycladic sealings is increasing, too. In addition to the well known stamped
hearths, pottery and weights from Keos, Syros, Amorgos and Ios (one sealing from Skarkos
[CMS V S.3 169] stamped by a metal seal),23 we may now add stamped pottery sherds at Kavos
on Keros (Ugarkovic´ forthcoming), also likely to have been impressed by a metal seal;24 a clay
sealing from Vouni, Amorgos (CMS V S.3 46); and four unbaked sealings from the Zas Cave on
Naxos (CMS V S.3 106–9). The seal devices on the sealings from Zas Cave underline the
international spirit of Aegean seal imagery, strongly suggesting that ‘...seals and sealing
constituted a key factor in the economic life of the Cyclades, as they did for the people of the
reading of the archaeological record and our ability to interpret (inevitably partial) material remains. As with any
model, we do not assume to know the ‘real truth’ but attempt to explain such contexts as we have – as much in
glyptic as in any other sub-discipline of archaeology.
20 At Lerna, one of the rare sealing pairs, i.e. two different seals stamped on the same sealing, CMS V93+94, was
clearly distinguished by size but visually related by identical borders of ‘arrows’ and U-forms around the central
element, suggesting a deliberate iconographic pairing (as first suggested by Heath [-Wiencke] 1958, 115).
21 Stalk-handled metal seals first appeared in Anatolia at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age, becoming ‘a
hallmark of the glyptic of this period’ (Aruz 1999, 10).
22 Anatolia cannot be excluded: cf. the torsional swastika impression in negative on a sealing from local EB II (=
Troy I) Karatash (Mellink 1972, 259); possibly the original seal was a Cycladic import (Aruz 2008, 39); also cf.
seal impressions in negative on an imported sherd from Poliochni on Lemnos (Hood 1997, 246–7; perhaps eastern
Anatolian or Levantine).
23 Note: a simplified, very irregular ‘circle around central circle’ motif: CMS V S.3 172.
24 I am grateful to Marina Ugarkovic´ for discussing the new seal impressions with me prior to their publication.
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EBA in general’ (Zachos and Dousougli 2008, 94–5) – and now for people of inland Geraki as
well.25
One may very tentatively suggest that a kind of ‘seal route’ had been opened from the
Cyclades to Laconia early in EH IIB (contemp. Lerna IIIC), probably piggybacking on
established economic connections. Such a route is not entirely speculative: an EH II clay sealing
was recently found at Boza, near Goulas on the Laconian coast (surface find: Zavvou 2007,
418–21, fig. 15), a site with some ‘Geraki Ware’ and easily accessible from Kythera. Evidence
from Geraki itself is very thin: besides the metal seal which, we suggest, was manufactured in the
Cyclades, there is only one possible Cycladic sherd (Inv. no. 1193/11),26 and an imported EM II
stone vase (Crouwel in Crouwel et al. 2004, 6, 13–15 with fig. 3 and pl. IX) to suggest overseas
relations. EH Laconian–Cycladic connections are an obvious area for further research.
Conclusions
At the end of our study Geraki I (369), I posed what seemed to me a conundrum: ‘Either
every settlement in the EH II world had learned, and taken to heart, this method of marking and
protecting property; or Geraki was special in some sense.’ The new finds on the site as well as
those in the Cyclades appear to have settled this argument in favour of a widespread use of
sealings during Early Helladic II. Why, then, despite widespread EH IIB fire destructions, do we
have so few sealing deposits on the mainland (only Lerna and Petri near Nemea (Kostoula 2000);
the latter still sadly unpublished),27 and further only scattered seals or sealings? Possibly, the
difficulty of recognizing fragmentary jar sealings among thick layers of similar-looking burnt
and decayed mudbrick may partly be responsible for missing sealing evidence.28 Perhaps more
to the point, the Geraki sealings come from a level contemporary with Lerna IIIC (thus, earlier
than the large sealing deposit in the House of Tiles and most of the EH II sealings elsewhere).
This earlier phase is often represented by scattered deposits in small test trenches, not unlike the
situation at Geraki. The period is rarely documented as well as at Lerna, with substantial walls
and floor levels related to architecture (such as Rooms DM/CA and the narrow rooms of the
fortifications) and the contemporary corridor house BG. House BG was not burnt (so sealings
were unlikely to have been preserved) but rather razed to the ground with its foundations partly
underlying the succeeding House of Tiles.29
25 CMS V S.1B 108 from Zas Cave share certain stylistic links with Geraki G-16 (if I have interpreted the CMS
photograph correctly [not from the drawing]): more a trefoil than ‘T’ motif and outlined by ellipses rather than
C-spirals.
26 Found in a mixed context (EH II and Classical–Hellenistic sherds, and roof tile fragments) in Trench 17/12r in
1997; the clay is grey, with a red-brown core. On the basis of a drawing of the sherd J. Alexander MacGillivray
thought it was likely to be Early Cycladic: ‘the hatching and pointillees patterns certainly fit, as does the form, a
spherical pyxis or rounded jar. The fabric description could also work well.’We hope for autopsy in the near future.
27 We note that Petri is in the vicinity of Tsoungiza, ancient Nemea, where a lead conoid seal was discovered in
Building A (contemp. Lerna IIIB: Pullen 1994, 36–7, fig. 1) along with probable Cycladic ceramic imports.
Although unrecognized by the excavator, the seal is very likely to be an Anatolian import (Aruz 2008, 31, 45).
28 Because of earlier finds from Trench 17/11i, trench supervisors subsequently collected large quantities of
mudbrick that might otherwise have been discarded. The sealings from the Casemate Room, too, were dug out of
narrow strata in a confined space; excavating was difficult (in some cases digging sideways or even upside down)
– a setting which might have defeated a less skilled excavator than Stuart Thorne.
29 Some corridor houses elsewhere may also pre-date the House of Tiles (e.g. at Tiryns, Asine, Berbati, Zygouries,
Kolonna (Heath-Wiencke 1989, 497–8, n. 6; Wiencke 2000, 298–304)).
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In Geraki I, 360, I noted that the circumstances of the finds of sealings in Trench 17/11i
reminded one forcefully of the sealings from Rooms DM/CA at Lerna IIIC (CMS V 44–51).
Similarly, the new sealings from the casemate at Geraki are reminiscent of the location of the
earliest sealing fragments from Lerna in a mid-IIIC bothros within the fortifications (CMS V 43
Room B; which had sealed one or more pithoi, as had the sealings from the slightly later Rooms
DM/CA). We can but wonder if, somewhere on the Geraki acropolis (still 95 per cent
unexcavated), might lie a central building similar in purpose if not necessarily in architecture to
Building BG.30
To help explain the introduction of a complex of new sealing practices in the Lerna IIIC
period (seal-impressed pottery, roller-impressed pithoi and hearths, the use of seals for marking
and securing property), I suggested that an important trade route had been opened between
western Anatolia and Lerna at this time, and that this was driven by the exploitation of the metals
of Siphnos (Geraki I, 370; Weingarten 1997, 158–9).31 I further pointed to Anatolia as the source
of glyptic innovations as well as the source of striking architectural features (Kastenmauer
casemate fortifications, horseshoe bastions, the plan of the corridor house, herringbone masonry
for substructures32) found at Lerna and elsewhere in the Aegean.
Since 1997, of course, the discoveries at Liman Tepe (and elsewhere in coastal western
Anatolia) have revealed monumental architecture in the form of fortifications with horseshoe-
shaped bastions and a central complex belonging to the Aegean EBA II period. The importance
of the maritime contacts of the settlement is strongly supported by pottery and other evidence
from well stratified archaeological deposits (S¸ahog˘lu 2008, 352, 483, 489–90).
The widespread use of metals and the development of metallurgy played an important
role in disseminating cultural innovations over a wide area in central and western Anatolia and
the Aegean during the third millennium BC. In the second half of the third millennium BC
material remains and technical developments thus began to appear over a wide area, spreading
from northern Syria to southern and central Anatolia (and beyond) and from central and
south-western Anatolia and the islands of the north and east Aegean to the Cyclades and
mainland Greece, a widespread cultural continuum aptly named the Anatolian Trade Network by
Vasif S¸ahog˘lu (2005). S¸ ahog˘ lu argues that merchant traders in the region played an active role
in both the land and sea trade and also established ‘colonies’ through which the Anatolian Trade
Network extended over the Cyclades and Greek mainland, especially Euboea, towards the end of
the Early Bronze Age II period.
But even earlier, it now seems, a network of trading links had been established, which
provided an exchange mechanism for precious metals like silver and tin as well as for
30 There is now evidence for a Final Neolithic or Final Neolithic/Early Helladic I defensive wall at least partly
underlying the EH II wall (MacVeagh Thorne in Crouwel et al. forthcoming). This appears to be not only the
earliest defensive wall at Geraki but in the whole of Laconia and possibly beyond. It seems reasonable to believe
that the construction of these massive walls was meant to protect an important settlement within.
31 Krzyszkowska 2005, 49, n. 34, dismisses this hypothesis as ‘completely without foundation’ since no silver was
found at Lerna and the ‘mass of lead’ (from Room 12 in the House of Tiles) that I cited in evidence amounts, she
says, to ‘two tiny bits’. However, the words ‘a mass of lead’ is a direct quotation from John Caskey (Hesp. 1958,
127–8), the excavator of Lerna and a man not given to exaggeration. That only two tiny bits are still preserved is
sad, but changes neither the force of Caskey’s remark nor its possible implications.
32 Heath-Wiencke notes, however, that the use of herringbone masonry ‘is not uniform in the House of the Tiles and
Building BG but partial, even incidental’(Wiencke 2000, 656, n. 2). She also doubts the eastern inspiration of the
corridor house form ‘although it may be influenced in part by Anatolian constructions....’(idem).
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archaeologically invisible materials. Perhaps, along with their cargo, sea traders brought ideas
and impulses that were carried, too, from ship to ship, and down the line, until they reached even
into Laconia.
Acknowledgements
It is our pleasure to thank R. Dooijes (excavation conservator) for the conservation and
preparation of silicone moulds of the sealings, A. Hom (draughtsperson) for the excellent drawings used
in this paper, and J. Fokkema for the maps. Photographic credits: Figs. 2–4 J. Fokkema; Figs. 5–7 and
Fig. 15a, d A. Dekker; Figs. 10 and 15b, c J. Weingarten.
We are most grateful to the Greek Ministry of Culture and to the Ephoreia of Prehistoric and
Classical Antiquities for Laconia for permission to work at Geraki and for their continued help and support.
We also wish to thank INSTAP for their generous and continued support.
(JW) Lauriergracht 82
1016 RM Amsterdam
THE NETHERLANDS
E-mail: judith@judithweingarten.com
(SMT) 26 Natalie Avenue
Melrose,
MA 02176
U.S.A.
E-mail: stuartthorne@cybercom.net
(MP) VU University Amsterdam
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
THE NETHERLANDS
E-mail: a.prent@let.vu.nl
(JC) c/o Amsterdams Archeologisch Centrum
Turfdraagsterpad 9-BG 1
1012 XT Amsterdam
THE NETHERLANDS
E-mail: joostcrouwel@telfort.nl
appendix i. suggested reconstruction of post-depositional changes in the
casemate room33 (s. macveagh thorne)
The collapse of the roof and breaching of the walls of the Casemate Room during the destruction
of the town allowed for the influx of rainwater and silted soil from the south and south-west (MacVeagh
Thorne in Crouwel et al. 2004, 14–15). Architectural stone and fragments of fired mudbrick were found on
the floor of the destroyed room, in some cases trapping beneath them ash and burned lathyrus seed that had
spilled from pithos no. 2 – which had contained a mass of such seed (Cappers and Mulder in Crouwel et al.
2004, 25 ff). In other places, where not protected by material fallen immediately after the fire, the fine clay
surface of the floor had been largely lost, exposing the stone and gravel fill used as preparation below. The
33 See MacVeagh Thorne in Crouwel et al. 2000, 62–4; 2001, 14–18; 2002, 5–9.
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gradual silting up of the room, which served as a sort of catchment area for water runoff from the hill to
the south, is witnessed both by the presence, in two of the pithoi excavated, of large stones resting on
sequential levels of silted soil, and by the discovery of large fragments of the rims and walls of the jars in
question resting similarly on various layers of accumulating silt within them. The stones, of course, suggest
the gradual collapse of the surrounding superstructure as the different layers of silt upon which they were
to fall slowly built up. The large sherds at various levels within the pithoi indicate that breakage had taken
place over time. Further confirmation of the gradual silting up of the room is provided by impressions left
by the characteristic plastic decoration of the ‘Geraki Ware’ pithoi (and ‘fruitstand’) in the fine silted soil
that had grown up around them. This soil had built up against the interior walls of the room, eventually
burying and preserving its contents. Some time after the room had been silted up and the remains of the
pithoi buried, the north wall of the room – which had acted to retain the silted material – collapsed and
allowed further erosion of the accumulated soil to occur down the slopes of the hill to the north. Gradually
the loss of the silted soil previously retained by this wall exposed the upper portions of the buried pithoi,
which then broke off and were found to be lying flat on the slope created by the erosion of soil downhill.
This eroded material provided a surface for the construction of Wall 170 during the MH period (MacVeagh
Thorne in Crouwel et al. 2004, 5–9).
The seal impression G-16, which occurs most frequently among the sealings recovered from the
Casemate Room, provides a glimpse of some of the results of the geomorphological processes responsible
for the post-destruction distribution of material in that room (Fig. 3). One example of G-16 occurs in zembil
1694 (1694/SF1). Zembil 1694 cleared the accumulated silt from the uppermost preserved layer in pithos no.
9. This was at the interface between the EH and MH levelsat a height of 383.02 masl (see construction of Wall
170 above). The sealing was here accompanied by one impression of G-14 (1694/SF7).Three more examples
of G-16 (1699/SF3, 1699/SF5 and 1699/SF10D) were uncovered near the bottom of the pithos in a layer of
burned material at 382.56 masl. Found with these pieces were 47 unstamped fragments of the rim sealings
for a pithos or large jar, two G-7 impressions (1699/SF4 and 1699/SF8), one of G-8 (1699/SF2), and one each
of G-13 and G-19 (1699/SF13 and 1699/SF9 respectively). While the carbon and burned earth at this lower
level indicate that the deposition of these pieces occurred during or shortly after the destruction, large sherds
from the pithos found at different levels suggest that the pithos itself remained partially intact at the time of
the destruction and only collapsed over time as the superstructure of the room degraded. Another G-16 was
found on the floor of the room just south of pithos 9 (1720/SF2A) and another in a group of stamped and
unstamped pithos sealings to the east of pithos no. 24 (stamped sealings G-7, G-12, G-15 and two G-17s:
1730/SF7, 1730/SF9, 1730/SF15A and 1730/SF14 and 1730/SF15B respectively). To the north-east,
likewise resting on the floor, was another G-16 impression (1917/SF2). This one lay close by a sealing
stamped by G-11. On the floor immediately south and south-west of the pithos excavated from below Wall
170 (no. 24), and accompanied by large sherds of the pithos likewise resting on the floor, were three further
examples of G-16 (1744/SF1, 1744/SF1A and 1744/SF1C).Along with the 24 unstamped rim sealings here
was also found one example of G-10 (1744/SF1A). Inside pithos no. 24 were two copies of G-16 (1749/SF1A
and 1751/SF5A). The first of these came from a level of red silt, a context we have associated with the erosion
of fired mudbrick from the EH II destruction. Although inside the pithos, it lay at about the level of the
surrounding floor. The second rested in a layer of charcoal and burned earth related, in all probability, to the
fire destruction in the area. A G-9 (1751/SF6B) and a possible G-12 (1751/SF9A) impression lay close by.
Just above, though still in the layer of destruction material, a large piece of the rim of the pithos lay as it had
fallen, upside down. This was accompanied by a number of unstamped pithos sealing fragments.
appendix ii. distribution of sealing fragments at geraki (m. prent)
In addition to the sealing fragments found in the EH II storeroom in Trench 17/11i (discussed in
Geraki I) and those found in the EH II Casemate Room in 17/13q, which form the main subject of this
article, at least another 12 sealing fragments were identified elsewhere at the site. Although only four of
these bore seal impressions, the distribution and archaeological contexts of these sealing fragments – which
we assume were all preserved by the same EH IIB fire destruction – merit a closer look in order to decide,
however tentatively, whether or not there were additional areas of sealing activity on the acropolis of
Geraki, the summit of which was widely occupied in EH II. This entails an examination of the processes
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involved in the formation of the different relevant deposits, as well as a brief assessment of recovery
procedures.
First, it should be emphasized that none of the 12 or more additional sealing fragments were
found in closed EH II contexts comparable to the storeroom in Trench 17/11i or to the casemate in Trench
17/13q. In the course of excavations at Geraki seven other deposits with EH II destruction material – and
the potential for providing sealing fragments – were encountered. These deposits were located in four of
the test trenches dug in 1997: in 52/7r to the south of the rocky eastern crest of the acropolis, in 20/15g in
the southern field and in Trenches 19/1d and 19/2a in the south-western part of the summit (Fig. 2).34
During ensuing excavations in Field 17, three more deposits with EH II burnt destruction material were
found, in the areas of Trenches 17/12–13r, 17/12p and 17/12l respectively (Fig. 3).
That none of these seven deposits yielded any sealing fragments may, of course, simply mean that
no storage of sealed goods took place in those areas. The simplest explanation often is the best, although
afewcaveats should be posed, considering the size of the excavated areas and the role of post-depositional
processes.
In the case of three test trenches, 52/7r, 20/15g and 19/1d, the areas of exposed EH II destruction
material were very small. In Trench 52/7r the destruction material was encountered in a test no larger than
1.25 ¥3 m, which also exposed a roughly built EH II wall (see MacVeagh Thorne in Crouwel et al.
forthcoming). While no complete vessels were found here, the presence of large unworn pithos sherds
indicates storage in the immediate vicinity, but perhaps no sealing activity. In Trench 20/15g, levelling
operations had left only sparse remnants of EH II destruction material, while ‘Trench’ 19/1d was a circular
depression in the bedrock (c.1.40 m deep and with a diameter of 1.50 m) that had been filled with
redeposited destruction material.35 In neither instance can much be said about the nature and function of the
original deposits.
The absence of sealing fragments in Trench 19/2a, on the other hand, may present a case where
the adage ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’ comes into play. This trench is located at the
steep and rocky south-western tip of the acropolis, where only one course of the ancient acropolis wall was
still standing. Much damage had been done in recent times, both by erosion and by the digging of trenches
during the Civil War of 1946–9. Despite these disturbances, portions of two broken EH II pithoi were found
lying on their sides against the one preserved course of the acropolis wall. Signs of burning and the
decomposed red mudbrick typical of EH II destruction deposits elsewhere at the site were slight and,
initially, the possibility that these pithoi had been redeposited from elsewhere was kept open (Prent in
Crouwel et al. 1997, 54).36 Further study, however, has made this interpretation unlikely. After restoration,
one of the pithoi, c.0.85 m tall, turned out to be at least 70 per cent complete and must have fallen and
broken on the spot (Crouwel and Prent in Crouwel et al. 2009, 4–5, with pl. I). There were also many
unworn sherds of other EH II vessels which joined up all the way from the lowest layers, where the pithoi
were encountered, to surface levels. This suggests disturbance of a primary EH II deposit by Civil War
trenches, which are also attested elsewhere on the site (Fig. 2). Immediately south of 19/2a are the ruins of
a stone-built hut from the Civil War, one of more than ten still visible at the site. In other words, Trench
19/2a probably housed an EH II storage area, but post-depositional factors, in this case Civil War trenching
combined with severe erosion, could easily have led to the loss of evidence for sealing activities, had there
been any.37
The three EH II destruction deposits found during excavation in Field 17 – aside from the
storeroom in 17/11i and the casemate in 17/13q – were all associated with architectural remains, but had
suffered from extensive levelling or disturbance. Consequently, much less material and information was
available for these areas.
To begin in the east, in Trench 17/12–13r, a c.0.80 m wide wall, running north–south over a
length of c.2.20 m, indicates a sturdy EH II building directly behind the acropolis wall. Further to the
34 None of the five test trenches on the (unfortified) slopes of the acropolis yielded any such material in situ.
35 For a more complete discussion of the evidence, see Prent in Crouwel et al. 1997, 50–67.
36 This was partially fuelled by the stories of local informers, who remembered that during the Civil War ancient
vessels were dug up and used for target practice by the government soldiers stationed here.
37 One piece of burnt clay (2108/SF5) was sent in as a possible sealing, but it is more likely a piece of burnt
mudbrick.
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south, this wall (and any EH II destruction material associated with it) was lost due to localized
subsidence of the hillside and erosion, followed by building activities in the Classical and Hellenistic
periods. The EH II destruction deposit was found against the north-west face of this wall, which abuts
the EH II fortification wall. The debris yielded pottery and a fine stone pendant (Prent in Crouwel et al.
1997, 57 and fig. 4), but there are few indications for the storage of goods and no sealing fragments
were found.
In Trench 17/12p, c.12 m further west, only a small concentration of EH II destruction material
was preserved, due to disturbances in the MH, Archaic and ensuing periods. This concentration was found
against the east face of the westernmost of two parallel walls, which are similar to the EH II wall in Trench
17/12–13r in terms of their substantial width, construction and orientation. The area between the two walls
in 17/12p would have formed a narrow room, c.2.10 m wide, which is located only 2 m south-west of the
Casemate Room, but lacks a direct connection to it. Material from the EH II levels of Trench 17/12p is still
under study and there may be too few finds to ascertain the function of this room. Although several pithos
sherds were noted, no sealings were found in either the destruction material itself, which rested on a floor
level, or in the layer of washed mudbrick on top and around it.
The area of 17/12p, however, is of interest because at least two sealing fragments were found in
levels higher up. The first of these was an unstamped sealing with a rope impression on the reverse
(6318/SF1A).38 It was embedded in a cobble layer with grey, ashy soil, much animal bone and MH pottery,
immediately above the eroded burnt mudbrick in the central part of the EH II room, partially overlying the
ruinous EH II acropolis wall. This cobble layer probably represents the eroding remains of a MH wall fill
placed there to repair the earlier rubble-filled acropolis wall. It is difficult to decide whether 6318/SF1A is
to be associated with the dispersed destruction material from this room itself or with the eroding contents
of the Casemate Room 2 m to the north-east.39
The second sealing fragment in 17/12p consists of a stamped jar sealing (6290/SF2; Fig. 17).
Although fragmentary, four impressions could be detected of a seal, G-18, which on present evidence was
not used elsewhere (see the contribution by JW). This sealing was found in an earth fill for a late Classical
or Hellenistic floor some 0.60 m above the EH II one. The red colour and occasional patches of diffuse grey
and black suggest this fill was made up of redeposited or redistributed burnt mudbrick, the source of which
is uncertain. The Casemate Room should be excluded, as this shows no signs of the removal or levelling
of EH II destruction debris, but, instead, a history of gradual collapse and erosion followed by MH
overbuilding (see Appendix I). This and the fact that G-18 is not represented amongst the more than 80 seal
impressions from the casemate suggest another origin for this redistributed destruction material, either in
17/12p itself or elsewhere.
The third EH II destruction deposit was found in Trench 17/12l, some 25 m west of the Casemate
Room and c.12 m north-east of the storeroom in 17/11i. The architectural situation is reminiscent of that
in Trench 17/12p. Two sturdy walls (each only preserved for a short length) ran south from the acropolis
wall with a distance between them of c.2 m. In this instance, however, the EH II destruction material was
not found in the narrow space between the walls, but as a thin layer on an EH II floor against the east face
of the easternmost wall (Wall 26). This indicates the presence of an EH II room east of Wall 26, of which,
unfortunately, little else was preserved.40 Aside from architectural similarities, there are other
correspondences with 17/12p. In 17/12l, too, the double-faced and rubble-filled EH II acropolis wall (Wall
30) remained visible into Archaic times or even later. There are signs of repairs to its upper courses and of
the replenishing of its gravel fill in the MH and Archaic or early Classical periods. The massive stone socle
of Wall 30 later served as the foundation for the inner wall of the Hellenistic enceinte. As in 17/12p, one
or two unstamped sealing fragments (7200/SF2) were found within a patch of rubble fill in Wall 30, which
represents an Archaic or later repair. The same patch contained reddish earth and rim sherds of EH II pithoi,
indicating the reuse of EH II destruction material.
38 A fragment nearby (less certainly a sealing) did not have a rope impression (6318/SF1B).
39 At this level, the stratigraphy in 17/12p is complex, with evidence not only for the reuse and repair of EH II
structures in the MH period, but also for the robbing of stones of the acropolis wall from the Archaic period on.
As a result, contexts of widely differing periods are found in close juxtaposition.
40 One sealing fragment, 3049/SF2, showing the imprint of woven material (see contribution JW) was found in the
excavation dump from this area. This was a relatively small and irregular piece.
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The remaining eight sealing fragments were all found in much higher and later layers, varying
from plough soil to wash levels that post-dated the abandonment of the Hellenistic houses in the course of
the second or perhaps first century BC. Their distribution is of interest, as it seems far from random:
Figure 3 indicates two clusters in the north-west part of Field 17, i.e. one in the area around Trench 17/13g
and another in an area of c.5 ¥7/8 m in Trenches 17/13i and 12j.
In the area around Trench 17/13g, two fragments of jar sealings, 4670/SF2 (unstamped) and
4461/SF1 (stamped by G-20; Fig. 19), were found in plough soil close to the surface. Although sealing
fragments may, depending on the degree of burning, be expected to survive recurrent ploughing, we doubt
that the seal impressions would remain legible very long. The ceramic material collected from plough soil
levels at Geraki, at least, is usually extremely worn. That two sealing fragments were found here in
relatively good condition suggests that they had been brought up fairly recently. As in Trench 19/2a, Field
17 has provided ample evidence for CivilWar disturbances, both in the form of trenches along the acropolis
wall and of other ditches and pits (used for cooking and sleeping) somewhat further away from this wall.41
The latter have been encountered particularly in the western portion of Field 17, where another Civil War
hut is located (visible on Figure 2). Taken together, this might imply that the sealing fragments here are
likely the result of digging on the spot during the Civil War and subsequent ploughing. It may be added that
in the western part of Field 17 there is generally less depth of fill than in the east, because the bedrock is
much closer to the surface. Consequently, any preserved prehistoric layers are likewise much closer to the
surface.
The presence of sealing fragment 452/SF1 (stamped by G-21; Fig. 20) in 17/13h is somewhat
harder to explain. During excavation its stratigraphical context was described as a partially eroded
Hellenistic collapse layer, but subsequent study has made it clear that just to the north and north-east there
were traces of some kind of disturbance, perhaps a robbing trench for Hellenistic Wall 102 or a Civil War
trench.
The second cluster of sealings, in Trenches 17/13i and 12j, consists of five fragments from the
wash levels covering two Hellenistic rooms. Two unstamped jar sealings (4187/SF2 and 4214/SF1) were
found in the area of Trench 17/13i, north of Hellenistic house wall 10, at absolute heights of c.384.75 and
384.35 masl. This area was characterized by the accumulation (and perhaps occasional levelling) of a red
clay wash whose distinct colour is suggestive of decomposed burnt mudbrick. In Trench 17/12j, a small jar
spout (4258/SF1) and two (non-joining) sealings from a small vase (4280/SF4A and SF4B; Fig. 9a) of
which one was stamped (perhaps by G-12)42 occurred in the same wash level in the Hellenistic room south
of Wall 10. Contrary to the usual pattern of erosion in the area behind the acropolis wall, this wash level
did not represent downslope erosion from south to north; instead this was deposited from north to south,
with a fairly thick deposit in 17/13i spilling over Wall 10 into the neighbouring room after this had been
abandoned. No excavation was done in the c.3 m wide strip forming the northern part of 17/13i, where the
various incarnations of the acropolis wall, including EH II (Wall 30), are to be expected. In Trench 17/13k,
only 10 m to the east, the stone socle of this wall stood to a height of 384.05–22 masl and, as discussed
above, remained visible into Archaic times or later. Moreover, in Trench 17/13l, banks of eroded burnt
mudbrick were still present on top of Wall 30. A similar situation may be envisaged for the (unexcavated)
north part of 17/13i, leading to the hypothesis that the sealing fragments in the reddish wash layer over the
gradually abandoned and collapsed Hellenistic rooms derive from the eroding remains of the burnt EH II
acropolis wall or associated structures.
It may be clear from this discussion that the distribution of EH II sealings at Geraki is limited. The
analysis of the stratigraphical contexts and of the processes at play in the formation of these contexts
indicates that the find spots of hardly any additional sealings can be explained as a result of dispersal from
the storeroom in 17/11i or from the casemate in 17/13q. The observation that the stamps preserved on a few
of these sealings – with the possible exception of G-12 – were of designs that did not occur elsewhere is
also of importance, as the storeroom in 17/11i and the casemate each show the repeated use of their own
specific seal-types. It may therefore be proposed that there were more areas of sealing activity in addition
to these two well preserved storerooms: there may have been one or two in the west, close to the acropolis
41 These disturbances are often – though not always – datable by the presence of cartridges, remains of metal cans
and sometimes barbed wire.
42 If it is indeed a G-12, it is the only example of a stamp attested in the casemate that also occurs elsewhere.
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wall, and, less certainly, another south-east of the Casemate Room; if the evaluation of post-depositional
factors in 19/2a is accepted, the possibility of yet another EH II storeroom near the acropolis wall should
be kept open.
To conclude, a final note on recovery procedures may be added. Aside from the 12 to 14 examples
discussed here, the fact that no sealing fragments were found elsewhere in the excavation cannot, in our
view, be explained by the idea that they remained unobserved. We were lucky to find the large deposit of
sealing fragments in 17/11i in the first year of excavation (1997), as this made us acutely aware of their
possible presence. Initially we dry-sieved all soil from burnt destruction layers, but this procedure was
abandoned as it added little more than a few small bits of pottery, of bone and occasionally of obsidian. All
efforts were aimed at detecting possible sealing fragments in situ. The large concentrations of sealings in
the storeroom in 17/11i and in the Casemate Room in 17/13q were uncovered by slow and careful digging.
The use of a pick-man, watched by an experienced trench supervisor, the subsequent slow pouring of the
buckets of soil into the wheelbarrow and the simultaneous re-examination of this soil by barrow-man and
trench-assistant have proved effective.43 It must be noted, though, that only a few of the sealing fragments
from contexts other than EH II destruction layers were recognized in situ, the others only after washing and
sorting of the material in the apotheke. The excavation of plough and wash levels is done at greater speed,
but here our procedure of complete collection of artefacts appears to provide a safety net. In theory, all
artefacts from any layer, including all ceramic fragments (except for tiny slivers), are collected. While this
is admittedly a time-consuming operation, in our case it seems to have led to the discovery of additional
sealing fragments and to the possible reconstruction of further areas of sealing activities.
abbreviations
CMS =Corpus der minoischen und mykenischen Siegel (Berlin 1964–).
Geraki I =Weingarten, J., Crouwel, J.H., Prent, M. and Vogelsang-Eastwood, G. 1999: Early
Helladic sealings from Geraki, Lakonia: evidence for property, textile manufacture, and trade. OJA 18(4),
357–76.
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43 This is not a claim that we would never miss any. In fact, two sealings were missed: one was found in a soil sample
taken from the destruction level in the Casemate Room, the other was found in the dump (see note 40 above).
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Two Early Helladic II terracotta rollers from the Third Terrace at Asine are presented. The objects, used to impress relief decoration on pithoi and hearths, are unique in that no other examples are known from the Early Bronze Age Aegean. Their origin is discussed based on chemical characterization and their depositional contexts are reviewed from an archaeological perspective. Although there are no known impressions from these rollers on pithoi and hearths at Asine, it is shown that their owners surrounded themselves with different objects featuring similar glyptic impressions. Two such impressions find identical parallels at Tiryns and the combined evidence strongly suggest that Asine was the home for one or several potters who produced Early Helladic impressed hearths and pithoi.
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Although the importance:of seal use on the Greek mainland during the Early Bronze Age has long been recognized, its significance still remains difficult to grasp. The pervasive priority given to the analysis of social complexity has meant that seal use is addressed as part of an early administrative apparatus employed to control the distribution of goods. The failure of the material to meet the expectations raised by this interpretation is often ignored and has yet to spur a reconsideration of the theoretical grounds on which analysis of seal use was built. Highlighting that such difficulties are the result of particular demands placed on this material, demands that are shaped, in turn, by untested assumptions about the function of the sealings, this article proposes the significance of seal use as a value-producing and transformative material practice. In this framework, it brings forward and discusses the employment of Early Bronze Age II (Early Helladic II) sealings in the organization of food practices as sustaining the circulation of agricultural labor. This reorientation is consonant with a more general shift from seeking to identify predetermined social formations with their concomitant modes of material management to placing strategies of goods reallocation within a continuous, and significantly open-ended, process of social association.
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Gaps are not desirable in archaeology, whether they refer to cultural gaps or to gaps in research. When Rutter defined a "gap" between the Early Cycladic IIB and Middle Cycladic I/Middle Helladic I assemblages, it was evident that there existed a real gap in archaeological research of the prehistoric landscapes and islandscapes of the northern and eastern Aegean and of western Anatolia, to the south of Troy. This short article discusses the rich archaeological evidence of the Aegean Early Bronze Age that has accumulated over the past 30 years. It emphasizes cultural dialogues that existed between the eastern Aegean Islands and western Anatolian littoral, on the one hand, and between both of these areas and the Cyclades, mainland Greece, and Crete, on the other; these dialogues are obvious in technology (pottery, metallurgy), in the development of trade networks, in the evolution of political and social practices, in symbolic expressions, and finally in the transformation of the parallel lives of the Early Bronze Age Aegean societies.
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The upheavals and transformations in Greece and the Cyclades during the late third millennium B.C.E. must be considered in the light of related events throughout the eastern Mediterranean, as well as in regions farther east and west. The prolonged desiccation event between ca. 2300 and 2000 B.C.E., for which there is extensive evidence in the Near East and Egypt (and perhaps a far wider region), is explored together with the potential impact of roughly contemporaneous developments including migrations, the displacement of trading networks, warfare, new weapons technologies, and the appearance of sailing vessels in the Mediterranean.
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The monumental Early Bronze Age settlement at Liman Tepe (Levels VI–IV) (predecessor of the classical site of Klazomenai), on the southern shore of the Gulf of Izmir, is a good indication of the emergence of settlements with centralised organisation on the west coast of Anatolia. Similar developments can also be followed in Troy at the northernmost limit of the western coastline, on the islands of the north and east Aegean, and at the inland site of Küllüoba in north-west Anatolia. Over a much wider geographical area, extending from south-eastern Anatolia via central and western Anatolia, the islands of the east Aegean, the Cyclades, and mainland Greece, a distinctive set of cultural features emerged at the end of Early Bronze Age II. An explanation of the cultural changes taking place along the west Anatolian coastline at this time should thus be sought in the perspective of this wider sphere. These features can be summarised as follows: These cultural changes, appearing suddenly in a wide geographical range at approximately the same time, can only be explained by the presence of wide international contacts. The character and the nature of these relations are becoming clearer as recent excavations yield new information. This paper aims to shed new light on the nature of the Anatolian Trade Network (ATN) period in the light of new archaeological data from Liman Tepe and Bakla Tepe located on the west Anatolian coastline. The importance of the Izmir region as a bridge between the land trade routes of Anatolia and the sea trade routes of the Aegean and various effects of this unique location on the region's cultural development are discussed.
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A lead seal was discovered at the prehistoric site of Tsoungiza, Ancient Nemea, in association with Early Helladic II remains. Lead seals are rarely preserved, and this is the first known for mainland Greece in the Early Bronze Age. The seal's motif of an angle-filled cross is widespread throughout the eastern Mediterranean during the fourth and third millennia B. C., and is found on seals, sealings, and terracotta objects. Using the sealing evidence from Lerna, seals and their use on sealings can be connected with the control of redistribution in chiefdoms, the principal form of social organization in the EH II period. The Tsoungiza seal is evidence for the emerging social complexity of the Early Bronze Age.
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The second Early Helladic period (Lerna III) has been the subject of much excavation and research since Caskey's authoritative article in Hesperia 29 (1960) 285-303, defining the differences between it and the subsequent period EH III (Lerna IV). In this essay I have tried to summarize the new contributions to our understanding of EH II and to suggest some possible interpretations. Excavations at Tiryns and elsewhere in the Argolid, Thebes, Aigina, Elis, Messenia, Euboea, and the Cyclades have added much new information and have led, particularly at Tiryns, to new interpretations for the end of the period. The discoveries of several more corridor houses like the House of the Tiles, and Shaw's recent study in AJA 91 (1987) 59-79, have focused attention on this remarkable monumental form. Surveys, particularly those of the Argive peninsula sponsored by Stanford University, have added to our knowledge of the size and distribution of sites; and new hypotheses developed by the Stanford team and by Renfrew and his colleagues, among others, have drawn on evidence of many kinds. My own study of the pottery and stratification of Lerna III has made clear to me some strong differences between earlier and later EH II, a distinction already demonstrated by Weisshaar and much earlier by Blegen. We can now see that the "corridor houses," associated with the fortifications, fired tiles, sealings, frequent potter's marks, and a range of pottery distinctly different from the earlier, belong to the end of the period, when an increasingly rapid pace of change was leading southern Greece toward a high level of social and economic complexity. These changes rest upon a longer and slower series of changes which began in the Neolithic age. The changes during late EH II probably coincided in part with the appearance of Kastri/Lefkandi I elements at many sites; there seems a possibility of some connection between them.