Naukratis: Greeks in Egypt

Alexandra Villing, Marianne Bergeron, Giorgos Bourogiannis, Alan Johnston, François Leclère, Aurélia Masson and Ross Thomas

With Daniel von Recklinghausen, Jeffrey Spencer, Valerie Smallwood, Virginia Webb and Susan Woodford

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Supported by

The Leverhulme Trust
  • The Shelby White - Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications
  • Christian Levett and the Mougins Museum of Classical Art
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Attic Pottery


Alan Johnston

Painted pottery from Athens is perhaps the most common category of artefact retained from the excavations at Naukratis, with a date range between the late seventh and the early fourth century BC. It is found in all contexts, though the later excavations in the area of the Hellenion, conducted by Hogarth were particularly rich and account for the large percentage of Attic vessels today in museums in Oxford and Cambridge. This chapter provides an overview of shapes, decoration and uses of Attic painted pottery at Naukratis, going well beyond previous studies of the material by integrating sherds distributed over a wide range of museums.

Shapes represented are many – few are not found at all – but the great majority are drinking vessels or mixing bowls. Attic black-figured cups are the most common ceramic finds of the period c.550-500BC, when the products of few other mainland or East Greek production centres reached Naukratis. Nonetheless, Ionian and Aeginetan ships probably were the main carriers before the fifth century BC.

As elsewhere, Attic products are the rule in fifth century BC Naukatis, with a tail into the fourth century BC down to the foundation of Alexandria and, just, beyond. While there are red-figured pots of both iconographic interest and high artistic achievement, the majority of Attic imports of the period are run-of-the-mill decorated wares or wholly black-glazed vessels. The tombs excavated by Gardner were largely furnished with such pieces. Comparison with Attic imports at other Near Eastern sites shows a broad similarity of make-up. We see little to suggest that Attic workshops targeted Naukratis with specifically designed products.

 Attic lekanis Ashmolean Museum

Lid of red-figured lekanis with a pursuit scene; 420-400 BC. Oxford, Ashmolean Museum AN1896-1908-G.747. Photograph © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. Photography by British Museum staff