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Greek Pottery Used to Track Ancient Migration

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

ATHENS, GREECE—According to a Science in Poland report, archaeologist Bartłomiej Lis of the British School at Athens was able to track the movement of potters away from the island of Aegina some 3,200 years ago by analyzing pottery uncovered on the island and the areas surrounding the Gulf of Euboea. Lis said that potters working on the island of Aegina characteristically built the walls of their vessels without using a potter’s wheel, and marked their pots with an identifying sign, perhaps because they shared kilns. He also analyzed the chemical composition of the clay used to make the pottery through a technique known as petrography, which allowed him to determine where they clay had originated. Lis suggests that potters left Aegina in two stages over several decades, since pottery typical of that made on Aegina has been found in many places along the Gulf of Euboea, made from local materials. The potters may have left home for political and economic reasons, he explained. “Many of the previously flourishing settlements were deserted, and people apparently moved to safer areas,” Lis said. “In fact, the only trace of these movements are vessels made by potters who were part of these migrations.” To read about the only known female master potter in the ancient Greek world, go to "Breaking the Mold."

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