Vrije Universiteit BrusselMediterranaean Archaeological Research Institute


Alassa Plain Wares

Modelling pottery production, consumption and distribution at the Late Bronze Age site of Alassa: questions on socio-economic organisation in the Kouris Valley (Cyprus)

Since 2005, dra Ariane Jacobs has been studying the Late Bronze Age material from Alassa-Pano Mandilaris in the Kourion Museum (Cyprus). Dr Hadjisavvas is the director of the excavations of Alassa, where rescue excavations have started in 1983, first in the location of Pano Mandilaris, then at Paliotaverna (500m to the north of Pano Mandilaris). Alassa- Pano Mandilaris is situated on a plateau surrounded by a large territory of arable land and two rivers (Kouris and Limnatis).  The settlement comprises a small square and a street with a number of  houses (Hadjisavvas 1989: 33, fig. 3.1.).  Different contexts can be identified within the settlement (rooms, pits, courts, well, tombs, cultic areas) which allow to make correlations between ceramic assemblages and context. The material under study represents the bulk of ceramic material deriving from those different contexts. The central aim of this study is to examine the ceramic material from Alassa-Pano Mandilaris in order to provide more information about the nature and the scale of this site and the impact of the ceramic distribution on local, regional and inter-regional level.  This examination will be viewed in three variation levels: ceramic variability, intra-site variability and inter-site variability.
Plain wares are the largest group of ceramics uncovered on site. The production of these plain wares indicates a wide variation in fabrics and shapes, which is assumed to be the consequence of local production (misfired sherds and waisters were found). In hand specimen, six fabric groups and subgroups were distinguished based on fabric attributes, namely technique, texture, inclusions, firing and fabric colour. Dra Barbara Borgers analysed 20 samples in thin section petrography at the University of Sheffield (under the supervision of Dr. S. Patrick Quinn). The compositional analysis of the Plain ware ceramics indicates that several distinct technologies were employed. A total of nine different petrographic classes were identified within the 20 samples from Alassa. The products of this site were characterised by one or more calcareous and non-calcareous clays, tempered with varying amounts of sand, mudstone, micrite and organic material.
Both methodologies, the study of the ceramics in hand specimen and petrography, have allowed to answer questions concerning the raw materials and the production technology of the pottery. In the plain ware assemblage, one group of vessels seems to bethe result of a specialized production, which fits in an island-wide tradition of the production of jugs and craters. There seems to be more variation amongst the other ceramics, which have a utilitarian function. The intra-site variability between Paliotaverna and Pano-Mandilaris can be explained in terms of a different function: Paliotaverna as the administrative seat with storage complexes and Pano Mandilaris as a settlement with domestic and industrial activities.
These preliminary results need to be considered against a larger corpus of ceramics in the Kouris Valley (such as Kourion, the newly excavated sites at Erimi) in order to highlight the consumption and distribution pattern (inter-site variability) and to understand the social organisation. Permission was given by the Department of Antiquities Cyprus to study the published material from Kourion. Once we have collected these data, we will be able to see to what extent the sites are related to each other, in order to explain the social organisation: an administrative, centralised or non centralised organisation.

Anita Cecil O’Donavon fellow 2009 (CAARI fellowship):
With the support of the Anita Cecil O’Donavon Fellowship, I spent almost seven weeks in Cyprus, of which I stayed five weeks in residence at CAARI. I was also able to collaborate with Prof. Maria Iacovou’s Palaepaphos Urban Landscape Project during two weeks (partly funded by the Erasmus Staff Mobility Exchange Program between the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium and the University of Cyprus). In addition, my study season coincided with the opening of the ‘Views on Phlamoudi exhibition’ and the CAARI 2009 annual workshop which gave me the opportunity to meet many scholars and exchange ideas on my research topic.
During my study season, I examined the Bamboula ceramics at the Kourion Museum and recorded both similarities and differences with regards to the ceramic assemblage of Alassa. Fine wares such as Base-Ring and White Slip were found in largest quantity at Bamboula which might indicate a different function of that site. However, at both sites local productions were observed: for Bamboula these peculiarities were already described by Benson (1972) in terms e.g. of wash ware, fused temper, burnished slip. The plain ware assemblage from Bamboula is characterised by far less variation of fabrics compared to the plain ware assemblage from Alassa. This observation raises new questions about the organisation of pottery production: is the use of different fabrics related to different potters or workshops operating in the Kouris Valley? Was pottery production centralised rather than localised? Were some clay sources put under elite control? On the other hand, the forming, firing and finishing techniques seem to be identical indicating a common technology used by the Late Bronze Age Kouris potters. I am still working on this issue and with the results of petrographic analysis we will be able to provide answers on these questions.
Read more in CAARI newsletter 37 (November 2009).

Short Bibliography on Alassa

S. Hadjisavvas, 'Alassa.  A New Late Cypriot Site'. Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus 1986, 62-67.

S. Hadjisavvas, 'A Late Cypriot Community at Alassa', in: E. Peltenburg (ed.), Early Society in Cyprus, Edinburgh 1989, 32-42.

S. Hadjisavvas, ' LC IIC to LC IIIA without Intruders: The Case of Alassa-Pano Mandilaris', in Barlow, J. A., Bolger, D. L. & Kling, B. (eds.), Cypriot Ceramics: Reading the Prehistoric Record, Philadelphia 1991, 173-180.

S. Hadjisavvas, 'Alassa Archaeological Project 1991-1993'. Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus 1994, 107-114.

S. Hadjisavvas. 'Alassa: A Regional Centre of Alasia?', in: P. Aström & E. Herscher (eds.), Late Bronze Age Settlement in Cyprus: Function and Relationship (SIMA-PB 126) Jonsered 1996, 23-38.

S. Hadjisavvas. 'Crete and Cyprus: Religion and Script. The Case of Alassa', in: Anonymus, Verein zur Förderung der Aufarbeitung der Hellenischen Geschichte, Kreta und Zypern: Religion und Schrift. Von der Frühgeschichte bis zum Ende der Archaischen Zeit. Oberbayern 2000, 205-231.

Hadjisavvas, S. 2000. Ashlar Buildings and their Role in Late Bronze Age Cyprus, in  Praktika (Lefkosia, 16-20 April 1996), Lefkosia 2000, p. 386-398.


Alassa-Pano Mandilaris

Alassa Pano Mandilaris


Alassa Pano Mandilaris



Plain White Wheel-made II


Plain Sherds


Plain Sherds


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