Breaking the Mold


September/October 2018

Trenches Crete Eleutherna Ceramicist RemainsResearchers at Eleutherna, a fortified city-state in Crete that reached its apogee around 800 B.C., have concluded that a woman whose remains were discovered at the site in 2009 spent her life crafting ceramics. Using a range of technology, including medical imaging and anatomical models, the team, led by anthropologist Anagnostis Agelarakis of Adelphi University, found patterns of skeletal wear consistent with years spent seated and working clay on a kick-wheel-operated turntable, making the woman the only known female master ceramicist in the ancient Greek world. Significantly, Eleutherna has an association with women in positions of importance and power. Four women related to one another and thought to have been priestesses were discovered in ornately furnished burials nearby. “While this is a rare discovery in Greek archaeology,” Agelarakis says, “in some ways it is unsurprising given the importance and privileged social position of the Eleuthernian matriline.”