The scholars of the 19th and early 20th century

July 1st, 2017

The following information comes from the authors PhD thesis on Attic Geometric and Orientalising pottery. This is an isolated article that discusses the contribution on the early scholars on the subject, which form the German Tradition (Whitley 2000, 32-6).

The scholars of the 19th and early 20th century
The discovery of pottery in the area of Kerameikos and the ‘Dipylon’ cemetery in Athens during the late 19th century drew archaeological attention on Attic Early Iron Age finewares for the very first time (Knigge 1988, 1991). One of the most important ceramic finds from the early excavations was the monumental belly-handled amphora Athens NM804 (Brückner & Pernice 1893, 104), which still remains one of the most famous Geometric pieces. Before that time, Early Iron Age decorated vases such as those of the Elgin collection (see Coldstream 2010) were already known and exhibited in various European museums; however, such vessels were neither appreciated as sources of archaeological information, nor examined with focus on their archaeological context.

The first systematic analysis of the Geometric style was by Alexander Conze (1870; 1873), who identified it as independent and dated it towards the end of the second millennium BC. Under the influence of Semper (1860; 1863), Conze (1870) suggested that the Geometric style originated from primitive Northern European styles, which arrived in the southern Balkans by Indo-German invaders. Hirschfeld (1872) introduced the term Dipylon pottery for decorated burial amphorae and argued against Conze that the Geometric style was to be placed later than the end of the second millennium BC. Following Conze, Wolfgang Helbig (in Helbig & Conze 1875) supported the idea that the rough and incised Geometric pots had been developed after Indo-Germanic influence; however, the fine painted Geometric pottery was influenced by the Phoenicians and the East. By contrast, Furtwängler & Loeschcke (1876) supported the resemblance between Geometric and Mycenaean styles, and argued that the Geometric style appeared together with invading Dorians.

Böhlau (1887) diversified Geometric and Protoattic styles and set their chronological limit towards the end of the 8th century BC, a time when Athens was the most dominant production centre. By contrast to the Phoenician influence suggested by Helbig & Conze (1875), Böhlau (1887) suggested that the Protoattic style was not only local, but it also derived from the preceding Athenian Geometric style (also see Stais & Wolters 1891; Brückner & Pernice 1893). Furthermore, he saw that the Geometric style had survived from the Middle Helladic period throughout the Mycenaean era (Böhlau 1895). Sam Wide (1896; 1899) noted this relationship between some Attic Geometric and Mycenaean vases; however, he rejected the idea of direct continuity and linear evolution of Attic pottery, and saw relationships with other production areas. In 1903, Hans Dragendorff noted the importance of Euboea as a transmission centre (in Hiller von Gärtringer et al. 1903).

Frederik Poulsen (1905) supported the linear continuity between Attic Geometric and Mycenaean styles; however, the chronological gap between those two was still evident until Bernard Schweitzer (1917; 1918) introduced the first definition of the Protogeometric style (for chronology see Section 2.1.2). Schweitzer argued that the Protogeometric style stood between the Mycenaean and the Geometric style, and therefore, the latter was not the product of a Dorian invasion.

Along the years between Böhlau (1887) and Schweitzer (1917; 1918), a series of excavations in the Attic countryside conducted by Greek archaeologists (e.g. Philios 1885; Skias 1898; 1912; Kourniotis 1911; Stais 1917) offered evidence for the Athenian influence on other peripheral Attic Geometric styles. However, the most important and thoroughly recorded ceramic assemblages from Athens were produced in the 1920s and 1930s, during the new German excavations at Kerameikos. These were followed by the excavations of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA) at the Athenian Agora (1) in 1931, and by a series of other excavations undertaken by the Greek archaeological services in central Athens, the port of Piraeus (2) and the Athenian suburbs (3).

In 1939, Wilhelm Kraiker published the first report from the excavated necropolis north of the river Eridanos and saw that the Protogeometric style was something new and originally developed under the influence of a preceding Submycenaean style. Kraiker (1939) provided a first summary of the most popular decorative motifs that were painted on each ware. He conducted the first correlation of forms, shapes and decorative elements, and examined the continuity of past traditions and the gradual evolution of Attic Early Iron Age styles (Kraiker 1939, 131-64). His work at Kerameikos was followed by Kübler (1943; 1954), Krause (1975) and Ruppenstein (2007).


  1. For general information on the history of the Agora excavations see Hamilakis (2013). The reports from the Athenian Agora used in this study are: Burr (1933); Shear (1933; 1935; 1936a; 1936b; 1939; 1940); Young & Angel (1939); Pierce-Blegen (1948); Thompson (1940; 1947; 1953; 1953); Blegen (1952); Young (1949; 1951); Brann (1960; 1961a; 1961b; 1962); Smithson (1968; 1974); Camp (1998; 1999; 2001-4). On Athenian Early Iron Age pottery and production sequence see Papadopoulos (1994; 1998; 2003; 2007).
  2. Some examples or Greek excavations in Athens are: Theocharis (1951); Stavropoulos (1956; 1958; 1959; 1960; 1961; 1962; 1963); Donta (1961-2, 86, 90-1); Andreionemou (1966, 84-5); Philippaki (1966, 61-3, 71); Tsirivakos (1968, 112-3); Alexandri (1968, 36-8, 48-9, 55-6, 61, 7, 73-4, 82, 89, 89-92; 1969, 26-7; 39, 1973, 32; 1976, 26-7; 1977, 18-20, 27-8); Charitonidis (1973); Karagiorga-Stathakopoulou (1979, 16-17, 18, 27); Tsouklidou-Penna (1981, 19; 1983, 19); Spathari & Chatzioti (1983, 23); Zachariadou (1984, 11); Lykouri-Tolia (1985, 25, 32; 1990, 31-3).
  3. For other Greek excavations in Attica see: Kallipoliti (1963); Verdelis & Davaras (1966); Geroulanos (1973); Mylonas (1975); Theocharaki (1980, 84); Zoridis (1981, 33-4); Rozakis (1982, 60); Kasimi-Soutou (1984, 35); Kavogianni (1984, 43-4); Arapogianni (1985, 207-28).