The Manufacture and Distribution of Tiles in Chalkidiki: an Archaeological and Archaeometric Study of the Ceramic Economy in the Archaic and Classical Greek World

→Èlena Cuijpers

Roof tiles were an essential architectural element in many ancient cultures, but they have received little attention in archaeological studies so far. Previous studies on tiles have shown the wealth of information that they can provide on multiple aspects of the ancient economy. Interestingly, according to e.g. Attic lease inscriptions of 306-305 BCE roof tiling did not always belong to the real estate, as people would take them along when they moved. This dissertation seeks to explore the ceramic economy of tiles in Chalkidiki in Northern Greece in order to shed light on different aspects of tile manufacture and distribution at an (intra-)regional level (fig. 1). The study focuses primarily on the archaic and classical tiles of ancient Olynthos and wishes to expand to smaller case studies in the region for comparison. The application of archaeometric techniques to the tiles will provide insights on the provenance of the material, the scale and organisation of production, distribution, local production versus ‘import’ and trade.

Fig. 1. A map of Chalkidiki with the site of Olynthos indicated in red (after Cahill 2002, 24, fig. 4)

The original settlement of Olynthos was located on the steeper South Hill and it dates back to the fourth millennium BCE. Around 432 BCE the city expanded due to a migration movement, known as the synoikismos/anoikismos (Thuc. 1.58; Diod. Sic. 12.34.2), from the coastal Chalkidic settlements to Olynthos. It is, however, unclear which settlements exactly joined this movement and how big the flow of immigrants could have been. Nonetheless, it resulted in the construction of a large new residential area with a Hippodamian grid on the North Hill and a further extension towards the east (fig. 2). The area was short-lived, as Philip II and his army conquered Olynthos in 348 BCE. It is unclear by whom and for how long Olynthos was inhabited after this event.

Fig. 2. A plan of the ancient settlement of Olynthos, showing the Resetnikia River and cemeteries in the west, the North Hill, the South Hill, the East Spur Hill (ESH) and the Villa Section on the east. Indicated are the excavated features from the 1930s and the hypothesized outlines of the remaining of the settlement (Cahill 2002, 26, fig. 6)

Fig. 2. A plan of the ancient settlement of Olynthos, showing the Resetnikia River and cemeteries in the west, the North Hill, the South Hill, the East Spur Hill (ESH) and the Villa Section on the east. Indicated are the excavated features from the 1930s and the hypothesized outlines of the remaining of the settlement (Cahill 2002, 26, fig. 6)

A central question that this research seeks to answer is whether the manufacture of tiles was locally organised in small-scale workshops, as corresponds to a primitivist view of the ancient economy, or whether the ceramic tile workshops performed on a larger and more centralised scale, following the modernist school of thought. How did the production of tiles change through time, considering their typology, fabric and technology? Do we have evidence that nonlocal resources have been exploited for the manufacture of tiles? This could indicate a larger region from where raw materials were procured or a movement of ceramics (perhaps as a result of the synoikismos) and perhaps trade. As we have recovered tiles both from houses and from graves, this study will look at potential differences in their production. Furthermore, an estimate will be made for the total number of tiles that were needed for the houses constructed on the North Hill.

In order to answer the research questions, this study focuses on (1) an archaeological study of the ceramic material excavated and surveyed in Olynthos and the wider area of Chalkidiki

Fig. 3. Analysing a thin section with polarising light microscopy

Fig. 3. Analysing a thin section with polarising light microscopy

(focusing on typology and fabric), (2) quantification methods, (3) the application of archaeometric techniques to the material. In order to identify the chemical patterns of the material related to clay sourcing and tile production, X-ray fluorescence spectrometry will be applied using a portable XRF analyser. Additionally, the mineral properties and inclusions of the material will be studied through an analysis of thin sections with polarising light microscopy. Furthermore, this study will include (4) ancient written sources and epigraphy as well as (5) ethnographic records dealing with ceramic building material.

 

 

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Frank Rumscheid (Bonn), Prof. Dr. Michael Heinzelmann (Cologne)