Protogeometric style

The Protogeometric style (or "Proto-Geometric") is a style of Ancient Greek pottery led by Athens produced between roughly 1050 and 900 BC, the period of the Greek Dark Ages and the beginning of the Archaic period.[1] After the collapse of the Mycenaean-Minoan Palace culture and the ensuing Greek Dark Ages, the Protogeometric style emerged around the mid 11th century BCE as the first expression of a reviving civilization. Following on from the development of a faster potter's wheel, vases of this period are markedly more technically accomplished than earlier Dark Age examples. The decoration of these pots is restricted to purely abstract elements and very often includes broad horizontal bands about the neck and belly and concentric circles applied with compass and multiple brush. Many other simple motifs can be found, but unlike many pieces in the following Geometric style, typically much of the surface is left plain.[2]

Like many pieces, the example illustrated includes a colour change in the main band, arising from a firing fault. Both the red and black colour use the same clay, differently levigated and fired. As the Greeks learnt to control this variation, the path to their distinctive three-phase firing technique opened.

Some of the innovations included some new Mycenean influenced shapes, such as the belly-handled amphora, the neck handled amphora, the krater, and the lekythos. Attic artists redesigned these vessels using the fast wheel to increase the height and therefore the area available for decoration.

From Athens the style spread to several other centres.[3]

Protogeometric amphora BM A1124
Proto-Geometric Amphora c.975–950 BC. Athens, now British Museum.

See also


  1. ^ Cook, 30
  2. ^ Cook, 31
  3. ^ Cook, 30-31
  • Cook, R.M., Greek Art, Penguin, 1986 (reprint of 1972), ISBN 0140218661
  • Murray, R. L. The Protogeometric Style: the first Greek style (1975).
  • Eiteljorg, H., "The fast wheel, the multiple brush compass and Athens as home of the Protogeometric style" American Journal of Archaeology (AJA) 84 (1980) pp. 445–452.

Further reading

  • Betancourt, Philip P. 2007. Introduction to Aegean Art. Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press.
  • Preziosi, Donald, and Louise A. Hitchcock. 1999. Aegean Art and Architecture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

External links

Aegean art

Aegean art, which effectively means Greek Bronze Age art (2800–1100 BC), refers to art that was created in the Grecian lands surrounding, and the islands within, the Aegean Sea before the start of Ancient Greek art, which is normally dated around the 11th century BC. Greek Bronze Age art follows the art of Neolithic Greece. Included in the category Aegean art is Mycenaean art, with lavish metalwork in gold, imagery of combat and massively-constructed citadels and tombs, Cycladic art, famous for its simple "Venus" figurines carved in white marble, and the Minoan art of the Minoan civilization, which is famous for its palace complexes with frescos, imagery of bulls and bull-leaping, and sophisticated pottery. These are very differenrt arts, reflecting very different cultures. Taking all this into account, the term "Aegean Art" is thought of as contrived among many art historians because it includes the widely varying art of very different cultures that happened to be in the same area around the same period.

In the Bronze Age, about 2800–1100 BC, despite cultural interchange by way of trade with the contemporaneous civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Aegean cultures developed their own highly distinctive styles. After the Greek Bronze Age civilizations collapsed, the early part of the Greek Dark Ages saw minimal artistic production until the Protogeometric style in pottery emerged about 1050 BC, which is taken as the first phase of "Ancient Greek art". This traditional disjunction was to some extent a result of the uncertainty as to whether the Mycenaean Linear B script recorded a form of Greek or not. This was settled when the script was decoded in the 1950s, confirming it was Greek. The same uncertainty remains as to the Minoan Linear A.

The elegant art of the Aegean daidala figurines has recently been used at the 2004 Summer Olympics,held at Athens; specifically, during the opening ceremony and as the original idea behind the games mascots: Athina and Fivos.

. This type of figurines are furthermore particularly intriguing, because of the high resemblance they have with modern sculptures (e.g. Henry Moore's works).

Euboean vase painting

Euboean vase painting was a regional style of ancient Greek vase painting, prevalent on the island of Euboea.

The Iron Age pottery of Euboea is subdivided into four phases Subgeometric (1125-1050 BC), Protogeometric (1050-900 BC), Subprotogeometric (900-750 BC) and Late Geometric (750-700 BC). The finds from the cemeteries of Toumba, Skoubris and Palia, we well as from the settlements at Lefkandi and Xeropolis demonstrate the wealth of the island at that time. Although conditions changed several times, positively and negatively, afterwards, the pottery changed little. The Protogeometric style remained in existence until the mid-8th century. From about 825 BC onwards, an increased influence of Attic pottery is notable.

The Geometric vases of Euboea were products of high quality. The centres of production were at Eretria and Lefkandi. Some pof the vessels were covered in a thick cream-coloured slip . Initially, the potter-painters followed Attic precedents, later also Corinthian ones. Around 750 BC, the Cesnola Painter, displaying strong Attic influence, was active. He introduced the Attic style of figural painting. Euboea was the only region to produce vessels decorated with suspended concentric semicircles. Also only here, white paint or slip were used to enclose or fill ornamental motifs. The Subgeometric style subsequently survived for a considerable duration; it took some time for the Orientalising style to become established. Once it had done so, floral and other ornaments were very popular. Some experimentation took place with added colours (red and white) and with figural motifs (animals and humans). The influences were more evidently Attic and East Greek than from the true centre of the orientalising style, Corinth.

Euboean black-figure vase painting was influenced by Corinth and predominantly Attica. The distinction of Boeotian from Attic products is not always easy. Scholars assume that the bulk of the finds was produced in Eretria. Especially amphorae, lekythoi, hydriai and plates were painted. Large format amphorae were normally used for mythological imagery, such as the adventures of Herakles and the Judgement of Paris. Very large amphorae, derived from shapes of the 7th century, had conical lips and often showed images related to weddings. They were probably funeral vases, made especially for children who died before marriage. Typical of Eretrian black-figure pottery is the restricted use of incision and the regular use of white paint for floral ornaments. Apart from images orientated on Attic tradition, there was also wilder imagery, such as the rape of a deer by a satyr, or Herakles with centaurs and daimons. Vases of the Dolphin Class were originally considered Attic by scholars, but are now recognised as Euboean. However, their clay does not resemble that from any known Eretrian sources, suggesting that they were made in Chalkis.

For some black-figure styles, the origin is disputed. Thus, Chalkidian vase painting was initially considered Euboean, but is now usually assumed to be from Italy.

Greek Dark Ages

The Greek Dark Ages, Homeric Age (named for the fabled poet, Homer) or Geometric period (so called after the characteristic Geometric art of the time),

is the period of Greek history from the end of the Mycenaean palatial civilization around 1100 BC to the first signs of the Greek poleis (city states) in the 9th century BC.

The archaeological evidence shows a widespread collapse of Bronze Age civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean world at the outset of the period, as the great palaces and cities of the Mycenaeans were destroyed or abandoned. At about the same time, the Hittite civilization suffered serious disruption and cities from Troy to Gaza were destroyed and in Egypt the New Kingdom fell into disarray that led to the Third Intermediate Period.

Following the collapse, fewer and smaller settlements suggest famine and depopulation. In Greece, the Linear B writing of the Greek language used by Mycenaean bureaucrats ceased. The decoration on Greek pottery after about 1100 BC lacks the figurative decoration of Mycenaean ware and is restricted to simpler, generally geometric styles (1000–700 BC).

It was previously thought that all contact was lost between mainland Hellenes and foreign powers during this period, yielding little cultural progress or growth, but artifacts from excavations at Lefkandi on the Lelantine Plain in Euboea show that significant cultural and trade links with the east, particularly the Levant coast, developed from c. 900 BC onwards. Additionally, evidence has emerged of the new presence of Hellenes in sub-Mycenaean Cyprus and on the Syrian coast at Al-Mina.

Pottery of ancient Greece

Ancient Greek pottery, due to its relative durability, comprises a large part of the archaeological record of ancient Greece, and since there is so much of it (over 100,000 painted vases are recorded in the Corpus vasorum antiquorum), it has exerted a disproportionately large influence on our understanding of Greek society. The shards of pots discarded or buried in the 1st millennium BC are still the best guide available to understand the customary life and mind of the ancient Greeks. There were several vessels produced locally for everyday and kitchen use, yet finer pottery from regions such as Attica was imported by other civilizations throughout the Mediterranean, such as the Etruscans in Italy. There were various specific regional varieties, such as the South Italian ancient Greek pottery.

Throughout these places, various types and shapes of vases were used. Not all were purely utilitarian; large Geometric amphorae were used as grave markers, kraters in Apulia served as tomb offerings and Panathenaic Amphorae seem to have been looked on partly as objets d’art, as were later terracotta figurines. Some were highly decorative and meant for elite consumption and domestic beautification as much as serving a storage or other function, such as the krater with its usual use in diluting wine.

Earlier Greek styles of pottery, called "Aegean" rather than "Ancient Greek", include Minoan pottery, very sophisticated by its final stages, Cycladic pottery, Minyan ware and then Mycenaean pottery in the Bronze Age, followed by the cultural disruption of the Greek Dark Age. As the culture recovered Sub-Mycenaean pottery finally blended into the Protogeometric style, which begins Ancient Greek pottery proper.The rise of vase painting saw increasing decoration. Geometric art in Greek pottery was contiguous with the late Dark Age and early Archaic Greece, which saw the rise of the Orientalizing period. The pottery produced in Archaic and Classical Greece included at first black-figure pottery, yet other styles emerged such as red-figure pottery and the white ground technique. Styles such as West Slope Ware were characteristic of the subsequent Hellenistic period, which saw vase painting's decline.

Sub-Mycenaean pottery

Submycenaean pottery is a style of ancient Greek pottery. It is transitional between the preceding Mycenaean pottery and the subsequent styles of Greek vase painting, especially the Protogeometric style. The vases date to between 1030 and 1000 BC.

Submycenaean pottery is not very well researched, as only few sites from the period have been discovered so far. The style was first recognised in 1939 by Wilhelm Kraiker and Karl Kübler, based on finds from the Kerameikos and Pompeion cemeteries in Athens and on Salamis. The existence of the style remained disputed among archaeologists until later discoveries in Mycenae clearly showed the existence of separate Late Mycenaean and Submycenaean strata.

Submycenaean pottery occurs primarily in contexts such as inhumations and stone-built cist graves. Find locations are widely distributed, suggesting a settlement pattern of hamlets and villages. Apart from the sites mentioned above, Submycenaean pottery is known from locations such as Corinth, Asine, Kalapodi, Lefkandi and Tiryns.

The quality of the vases varies widely. Only few shapes were produced, especially stirrup jars with a pierced shoulder, belly amphorae and neck amphorae, lekythoi as well as jars, some with trefoil-shaped mouths. By the end of the Submycenaean period, the stirrup jar was replaced by the lekythos. Submycenaean decoration is rather simple, the hand-painted motifs are limited to horizontal or vertical wavy lines, single or double hatched and overlapping triangles, as well as single or multiple concentric semicircles. The shoulders of lekythoi, amphorae and stirrup jars bore ornamental decoration. Amphorae, amphoriskoi and jugs were usually painted with one or several thick wavy lines. In general, the style was much shorter and less carefully made than the previous types of pottery.


Vrokastro was an ancient Minoan civilization settlement in the Lasithi regional unit of eastern Crete, Greece. It overlooks the Gulf of Mirabello.

The site was a mountain citadel located on a hill 1,5 km east of Priniatikos Pyrgos, another very early archaeological site. Nearby, there's a small resort town of Kalo Chorio, Lasithi.

Yet another important archaeological site in the area is Vasiliki, Lasithi. There's an Archaeological Museum in nearby Agios Nikolaos, Crete.

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