The appearance of Handmade Burnished Ware (HBW) in Mycenaean contexts represents one of the most intriguing topics of Late Bronze Age (LBA) research. First noted at Mycenae, within Postpalatial (LH III C) contexts, HBW was, in terms of fabric, forming and surface treatment, totally alien to the Mycenaean pottery tradition, being handmade and the product of open firing. Research on HBW has since tried to identify its origins and reconstruct its patterns of distribution. Recent recognition that much of HBW was produced locally in the Aegean has led to a suggestion of the presence of a foreign group in Postpalatial Greece, believed to reflect the presence of invaders, slaves, metalworkers, or even mercenaries. Alternatively, HBW has been seen as a reaction to the destructions at the end of the 12th century B.C., a relatively ‘unsophisticated’ pottery technology arising from a return to domestic production. More recent work accepts that its origins should be sought in South Italy, and Italo-Mycenaean interaction has been well documented in ceramics throughout the LBA.
After Kilian’s excavations (1978-1988), the potential of the Tiryns citadel as the most significant site for the study of the HBW became clear. The rich finds from well stratified contexts in the Lower Citadel enabled contextual, stratigraphic and typological studies, with its appearance in LH III B2 and expansion in LH III C Early.
This project aims to investigate the assemblage of Handmade Burnished Ware from Tiryns. Through an integrated analytical approach that will exploit thin section petrography, SEM, and incorporate a full study of morphology, decoration and traces of forming, I aim to reconstruct the production technology of this ware. Based on a chaîne opératoire approach and an informed social approach to technology, the project will address issues of social change and identity in Tiryns immediately after the collapse of the Mycenaean palatial system. This important opportunity to investigate both the provenance and technology of this pottery, and to examine its production in the context of previous craft practice in the area, offers the possibility of illuminating processes of social and economic collapse, the mobility of populations and, indeed, technologies.