Skip to main content

The Intellectual Consequences of Collecting Corinthian Pottery

I was very struck by a recent comment by Nancy Bookidis who has excavated at Corinth since the late 1960s. In an extended discussion of the 1990 theft of antiquities from the museum at Corinth she noted:
This year I suggest a dissertation topic to a graduate student at the American School in Athens, who is interested in trade between Greece and the West. I proposed that she examine the foreign find-places of Corinthian vases that have been attributed to specific painters or workshops in order to determine whether or not certain cities only bought from a limited group of artists. Ultimately, she gave it up—too many vases with unknown proveniences.
In other words, the student was proposing to study the export of Corinthian pottery to Italy and Sicily (and beyond). What percentage of Corinthian pots in, say, Tuscany come from scientifically excavated tombs?

In another (but related) context I have noted that only some 13% of the Attic red-figured pots attributed to the "Berlin painter" come from "a relatively secure archaeological context"—indeed, some 50% of the pots have no context at all.

How far is extensive looting making a study of the distribution of Corinthian pottery in the west impossible? We are unlikely to know if "groupings" of pots from the same workshops relate to consignments or batches of Corinthian material. (I feel that this is more likely than workshops or potters "targeting" particular cities.)

I also note Corinthian pots appearing in recent postings concerning negotiations with Italy:
  • A Corinthian column-krater (Cleveland 1990.81). [List]
  • A Corinthian plate with the Ransom of Hector (to remain in Princeton y1989-25; Museum purchase, anonymous gift in memory of Isabelle K. Raubitschek and to honor Antony E. Raubitschek).
Reference
Bookidis, N. 2007. "The Corinth theft." In The acquisition and exhibition of classical antiquities: professional, legal, and ethical perspectives, edited by R. F. Rhodes, pp. 119-31. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.