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Open AccessArticle

Bringing Back the (Ancient) Bodies: The Potters’ Sensory Experiences and the Firing of Red, Black and Purple Greek Vases

1
The Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
2
Department of Near Eastern Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
Received: 27 March 2019 / Revised: 25 May 2019 / Accepted: 27 May 2019 / Published: 4 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ancient Mediterranean Painting (vol. 1))
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Abstract

The study of Athenian black-figure and red-figure ceramics is haunted by nearly a thousand “hands” of the artisans thought to be responsible for their painted images. But what of the bodies attached to those hands? Who were they? Given the limited archaeological and epigraphic evidence for these ancient makers, this study attempts to recover their physical bodies through the ceramics production process—specifically the firing of vessels—as a communal activity potentially including a large cast of participants including craftsmen and craftswomen, metics, freed people and slaves. Using an experimental archaeology approach, I argue that we can begin to approach the sensory experiences of ancient potters and painters as they produced all the colored surfaces (and not only images) that endure on Greek vases. I propose a four-stage sensory firing in combination with the three-stage chemical firing process known for the production of Athenian ceramics, suggesting that each stage—and the colors produced at each stage—had their own “sensory signatures.” Examining extant vases with this awareness of the bodily experience of their ancient makers has the potential to bring back these ancient bodies, moving us beyond the limiting narrative of a single hand wielding a paint brush. View Full-Text
Keywords: Greek ceramics; Athens; ceramics production; red-figure; black-figure; sensory experience; potters Greek ceramics; Athens; ceramics production; red-figure; black-figure; sensory experience; potters
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Balachandran, S. Bringing Back the (Ancient) Bodies: The Potters’ Sensory Experiences and the Firing of Red, Black and Purple Greek Vases. Arts 2019, 8, 70.

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