Neolithic Pottery

The Neolithic potters knew well how to choose a suitable clay, clean it and temper it with other materials (grit, sand straw) to give it the qualities they wanted, depending on the kind of vessel they were making. Neolithic pots as a whole are handmade and usually monochrome, the shapes are few and the decoration, where it exists is incised or painted and limited to linear or geometric motifs. There are of course a few curious vessels with distinctive shapes and peculiar decoration. The basic types of pots, at least in the Early Neolithic period, were much the same or with slight differences throughout Greece, an indication of the communication between the inhabitants of the different settlements. The local variations that can be seen are usually due to local conditions, such as the geological formation of the terrain, on which the quality and varieties of the clay depend. Pottery, because of its importance for dating, has been particularly studied and classified into "styles" corresponding to successive chronological periods and also into phases within each period.

The Neolithic pottery of Thessaly, which is described here, forms the basis for a study of the Neolithic pottery of Greece as a whole, both because of its variety and also because it has been studied exhaustively; furthermore it constitutes the main bulk of the Neolithic finds in the National Archaeological Museum. From its first appearance in the Early Neolithic period (6500-5800 BC) Thessalian pottery was of Excellent quality. Hardly anywhere have first trials at making pots or unsuccessful results been found. The first pots are monochrome with the shapes of open bowls. Soon, however, decoration appears, painted ("Protosesklo"), and incised ("Vorsesklo"). The Middle Neolithic period (5800-5300 BC) or "Sesklo Culture", is |characterised by painted pottery. This chiefly takes the form of red paint on the light ground of the pot, or the opposite. The usual decorative motifs are variations of zigzag lines (solid style, Sesklo I), a flame pattern (Sesklo II) and linearlones (linear style, Sesklo III).

In the Middle Neolithic a "scraped" decoration is also used, fine examples of which come from Lianokladi in Phthiotis. The Late Neolithic period (5300-4500 BC), or Dimini Culture", is divided into the Late Neolithic I or Predimini (5300-4800 BC) and the Late Neolithic II or main Dimini (4800-4500 BC) subperiods; these in chronological order comprise the phases of Tsangli (grey), Larisa (black burnished), Arapi (polychrome), Otzaki (white on red), Agia Sophia (Black on red)   and Classical Dimini (black on white painted and elaborately incised ware).

The Final Neolithic period (4500-3300 BC), or «Rachmani phase , is characterised by the use of a thick paste instead of a paint on the painted vases and by the appearance of horn-like lugs instead of handles on the monochrome ones.

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