Lesson 22_ Narrative _ Aegean Prehistoric Archaeology

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  Lesson 22: Narrative  Aspects of Mycenaean Trade 1. The Cape Gelidonya Shipwreck LocationThe Wreck The IngotsTinBronze ScrapPottery  WeightsScarabsCylinder SealConclusions2. The Amber Trade 3. General Remarks on Trade in the Aegean Late Bronze Age Raw MaterialsManufactured Goods Agricultural Produce The Cape Gelidonya Shipwreck  LocationThe wreck lies in ninety feet of water on a rocky bottom off the point of a small island located just offshore fromCape Gelidonya, which forms the western end of the Gulf of Finike, the major gulf on the south coast of AsiaMinor. The cape is known today, and was known in antiquity, as a dangerous point for coastal shipping.The Wreck  Very little of the ship itself was preserved because of the rocky bottom on which it settled and the strong currentsin the area which prevented the wood of the ship from being covered in the marine silts necessary for thepreservation of ship timbers in submarine environments. Most of the archaeological remains consist of the ship’scargo, whose distribution on the bottom indicates that the ship settled evenly rather than tipping over in theprocess of sinking. The most striking portion of this cargo is a series of copper and bronze ingots, mostly of thefour-handled or so-called “oxhide” type weighing ca. 20 kgs. (= 45 lbs.) apiece. The oxhide ingots were foundstacked in three major piles, although some of these stacks had slid apart down the rocky slope of the bottom overthe centuries. Traces of matting on many of the ingots suggest that there were layers of matting between theindividual ingots in the stacks. Most of the smaller “bun” and “slab” ingots were also found in stacks. The rest of the metal cargo, consisting of both complete and fragmentary bronze implements, was found scattered throughoutthe site, although often patchily concentrated in the form of small clumps. These tools had probably been storedsrcinally in wicker baskets, one partially preserved example of which was found. The distribution of the metal  A  EGEAN  P REHISTORIC  A  RCHAEOLOGY  This site contains information about the prehistoric archaeology of the Aegean.  finds suggests that the ship was some ten meters long. The small amount of pottery found on the site had nomeaningful distribution. A concentration of artifacts which are best interpreted as personal possessions (scarabs,ship’s lamp, maceheads, a sheep { astragal}, a cylinder seal, weights, and traces of food in the form of fish bonesand olive pits) was found in Area G and indicates that some kind of cabin was located at this end of the boat, in allprobability the stern. Between some wood fragments interpreted as the inner lining of the hull and the metalcargo was found a layer of sticks which presumably protected the ship’s hull from possible grinding action caused by shifts in the heavy cargo on top of it. The ship was a small merchant vessel, comparable to modern caïques / kaïkis , which was carrying at least a ton of non-perishable cargo. It may also have been carryingperishables, but these have not survived. There is no evidence from the remains of the ship itself, in the form of preserved portions of a distinctive method of ship construction, for the nationality of the ship.The Ingots The Oxhide Type Measuring on the average ca. 0.60 m. long by 0.45 m. wide by 0.04 m. thick, at least thirty-four such ingots werepart of the cargo. No less than twenty-four of these had signs stamped into them while the metal of the ingot wasstill soft. A few have had secondary, incised signs scratched into them since the metal cooled. Similar oxhideingots have been found in Syro-Palestine (Tell Beit Mirsim, Ras Shamra), Cyprus (Enkomi, Mathiati), the sea off the coast of Asia Minor near Anatalya and Kas, Crete (Palaikastro, Zakro, Mochlos, Knossos, Kommos, AyiaTriadha), Mainland Greece (Mycenae, the sea off the coast of Euboea), Sicily, and Sardinia. Small models of thistype of ingot have also been found in Egyptian Thebes. All full-sized ingots of this type which have been analysedare of pure copper, aside from those of pure tin found more recently on the Ulu Burun wreck (see below).Representations of such ingots occur quite commonly in Egyptian art, mostly in tomb paintings from the reign of Thutmosis III (1490-1436 B.C.) onwards. Particularly well-known are the paintings in the tombs of Useramon,Rekhmire, and Meryra. The latest of these representations, a relief of the reign of Ramesses III (1192-1160 B.C.) atMedinet Habu, is probably simply a copy of a representation in the Ramesseum of Ramesses II (13th century B.C.)at Thebes. In other words, no Egyptian representations portraying such objects still in use date after ca. 1200 B.C.Oxhide ingots also appear to be represented on several Linear B tablets from Knossos and also possibly on a few Minoan and Cypriot seals of the Late Bronze Age. Ingots of this kind are also represented on two major works of Cypriot 12th century B.C. art, a bronze stand from Kourion and the famous “Dieu au Lingot” (= god standing onan ingot) from Enkomi.The term “oxhide” is almost certainly a misnomer in the sense that such ingots were not   intended to be copies of an actual dried oxhide nor were they somehow equivalent to an ox in value. The four handles were developedsimply to make the ingots more easily portable. These ingots were cast in open terracotta moulds, but were notalways cast in the same size and certainly did not always weight the same. They therefore cannot be interpreted asunits of currency. The stamped and incised marks which they often bear are not signs of any particular script andare probably best interpreted as miners’ or smelters’ symbols, loosely comparable in significance to the marksfound incised or impressed quite frequently on pottery in the Bronze Age Aegean. These marks thus may haveidentified the source of the copper in an ingot. The distribution of such ingots, particularly those known fromunderwater sites, suggests that they were produced to facilitate the transportation of copper as a raw material.Because of the paintings in the Egyptian tomb of Rekhmire where the carriers of such ingots are labelled as “menof Keftiu”, it has been assumed that the principal carriers of such ingots were Minoans or possibly Mycenaeans.However, there is considerable debate over the precise location of “Keftiu” and, in any case, we have no firm basisfor believing that the “men of Keftiu” had a monopoly of the trade in oxhide ingots. George Bass feels that theLevantines, whether Syrians or Canaanites, could equally well have trafficked in such ingots. The balance of ourevidence suggests that the copper of the ingots themselves was mined on Cyprus where, Bass feels, production of the ingots themselves was managed at various times under Minoan and Syrian control. After ca. 1400 B.C. and thecollapse of Minoan palatial civilization, Bass feels that control of ingot manufacture passed into the hands of the  Syrians, but others feel that the Minoans may have been replaced in this role, as they were in so many others, by the Mycenaeans. Vassos Karageorghis, the director of the Cypriot Antiquities Service, feels that the copperindustry on Late Bronze Age Cyprus was entirely contolled by the Cypriots. At the moment, we simply do not haveconvincing evidence as to which, if any, national group dominated the production of copper and its distributionthroughout the eastern Mediterranean in the 14th and 13th centuries B.C.Samples from a substantial number of copper ingots of “oxhide” type have been subjected to lead-isotope analysis with the aim of establishing the source of the copper they contain. The ingots from the Cape Gelidonya and UluBurun wrecks are (almost?) without exception cast from Cypriote ores, as are all the LM III ingot fragments fromthe Minoan harbor site of Kommos. But the LM I ingots from Ayia Triadha have a lead isotope “signature”incompatible with a Cypriot source and may be derived from Anatolian ores. Sardinian ingots have been claimedto be products of Cypriot ores on the grounds of their lead isotope ratios, although this makes little sense in view of the frequency of copper ore sources on Sardinia itself; of course, the Sardinian sources have not yet been shownto have been exploited during the Bronze Age, so it is just conceivable that Cypriot metal may have beentransported to the island from the eastern Mediterranean when the traffic in metal ingots was dominated by Cypriot and Aegean (whether Minoan or Mycenaean) carriers. The “Bun” or Plano-Convex Type Measuring ca. 0.20 m. in diameter and 0.03-0.04 m. thick, twelve complete ingots, eight almost complete, nine broken half-ingots, and fragments of other miscellaneous ingots of this type were found in the Gelidonya wreck.Of three such ingots analysed, one analysed by Bass was of bronze (87% copper, 7% tin) while two others analysedin 1976 were of pure copper. It has now been suggested that all of these ingots were actually of pure copper, Bass’ bronze analysis having somehow resulted from a confusion of samples in the laboratory. None of the ingots of thistype bear markings. Plano-convex ingots are common throughout the eastern Mediterranean in the Late Bronze Age and are normally of pure copper. Early examples of Middle Bronze Age date are known from Acemhüyük and Alaca Hüyük in central Anatolia. Although similar in terms of metallic composition to the oxhide ingots, buningots are smaller, hence more portable, and were probably cast more simply within the base of the smeltingfurnace rather than in moulds located outside the furnace. The “Slab” Type Measuring ca. 0.20-0.30 m. long by 0.06-0.08 m. wide by 0.01-0.015 m. thick, all nineteen of these ingots werefound in Area G. The three such ingots analysed had tin contents of 1.83%, 1.0%, and 5.27% but are mostly of copper. The low tin content, too low for good bronze, may indicate that they were produced from remelted scrapmetal. There are no markings on these slabs, but since they have a uniform weight of ca. 1.0 kg. and were all foundin the hypothetical cabin area of the wreck, they may represent a primitive form of currency.TinUnder the copper ingots in Areas G and P were found three piles of powdery, white tin oxide, seemingly all thatremained of the tin which the ship was also carrying as part of its cargo. The source of tin for the Bronze Agecultures of the Aegean is a very hotly disputed question. Although the ultimate source of the Gelidonya tin isunknown, specialists are quite sure that it did not  ~come from Cyprus. The tin from this wreck is significant in alarger sense as the earliest known, purely industrial tin after that recently found in much greater quantities and inthe form of oxhide ingots of metallic tin at the Ulu Burun wreck, which dates some 100-150 years earlier.Bronze ScrapThis material includes a wide variety of objects useful in agriculture, woodworking, metallurgy, warfare, andseveral purely domestic activities: picks, hoes, shovel, mattock, pruning hooks, sickle, double axes, adzes, axe-  adzes, chisels, hammer, swage block, awls, nails, punch, needle, knives, spearheads, razor, spatula, bronze vesselfragments, tripod stand fragments, spit, bracelets/anklets, rings, and hooks. Most of these were already fragmentary at the time of the wreck and were presumably being transported for their scrap value. The bestparallels for most of these objects come from Cyprus, and it is therefore theorized that the last port of call in themerchantman’s voyage west to the Aegean had been on Cyprus.Pottery Relatively little pottery was found, and what there was was poorly preserved. The pottery may be characterized as“cosmopolitan” and could have been readily obtained in Lebanese, Syrian, or Cypriot ports. There is someMycenaean pottery, but all of this is of types current in the Levant. Both Cypriot and Syro-Palestinian ceramictypes have also been identified. Unfortunately, the pottery cannot be closely dated; a fairly broad chronologicalrange of ca. 1250-1150 B.C. has been suggested for it. Weights Weights would have been necessary for a merchant captain conducting trade in any commodity but would have been especially needed by one who dealt with metals which were normally alloyed, for the creation of such alloys would have required reasonably precise measurements of the constituent metals, tin and copper in the case of  bronze. Of the sixty weights found on the wreck site, all but two were found in the cabin area. In view of thedifficulties encountered in excavating at a depth of ninety feet and because of the diminutive sizes of the weightsthemselves, it is likely that the number of weights on the ship when it sank was a good deal higher. In shape, the weights are sphendonoid (shaped like sling-bullets), domed, truncated conical, spherical with a flat base,cylindrical, and discoid. Eight are of metal, fifty-two of stone. At least six “weight standards” were claimed by Bassto be represented, namely:(1) A standard based on a unit of 7.30 gms., identified as the “Phoenician standard” of 7.32 gms. Multiples of 4, 5,6, 8(?), 9, 15, 20, 28, 32, and 64 units were identified among the weights.(2) A standard based on a unit of 9.32-9.33 gms., identified as the Egyptian qedet  . Multiples of 1, 3, 6, 7(?), 10, 19,20(?), 25, 30, 49, and 50(?) units were identified among the weights.(3) A standard based on a unit of 9.50 gms, identified as the Syro-Palestinian qedet  . Multiples of 1, 5, 7, 8, 9(?),30, and 4 1/2 (?) units were identified among the weights.(4) A standard based on a unit of 10.30 gms., identified as the Syrian nesef  . Multiples of 1, 2, 5, 18, 3 1/2, and 42/3 units were identified among the weights.(5) A standard based on a unit of 10.50 gms, identified with some hesitance as the Phoenician nesef  . Multiples of 1, 1/3, 4 1/3, 2 1/2, 7 1/2, 3 2/3, 3 1/3, 4 2/3, and 6 2/3 units were identified among the weights.(6) A standard based on a unit of 11.50 gms, identified as the Canaanite shekel  . Multiples of 4, 5, 6, 8, 7 1/2, 6 2/3,and 8 2/3 units were identified among the weights.(7) A standard based on a possible unit of 12.30 gms., the identity of which remains unknown. Multiples of 1 andpossibly of 4, 7, 4 1/2, and 5 1/2 units were identified among the weights.These weights were viewed by Bass as allowing the merchant to trade with Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Cyprus, theHittite Empire, Crete, possibly Troy, and probably the Greek Mainland. Unfortunately, the wide geographicalrange of the identified weight standards, as well as our relative ignorance of the prevalent weight systems in use inthe prehistoric Aegean, preclude any conclusions about the route of the ship or its nationality.
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