The World of the Ancient Greek Potters: Their Places, Practices, and Prayers
Speaker: Dr. Eleni Hasaki, University of Arizona
October 16, 2014, 6pm
ASU Tempe Campus, Schwada Building (SCOB) Room 152
Greek pots, with their delicate shapes, lively scenes, and varied contexts of use and deposition. have enjoyed great popularity with ancient and modern viewers alike. They have also been scrutinized as documentation of gender roles, extent of literacy, social and economic status, and as media for political propaganda. Scholars have recently widened their research scope to highlight the potters who produced these vessels. A closer look at the spatial layout and technological equipment of their workshops and at the workforce relationships brings these establishments alive with masters, apprentices, middlemen, and purchasers, constantly negotiating their roles inside and outside the workshop. Inside their workshops, potters operated the wheel or the kiln not by using high-tech settings but by applying low-tech techniques, fine-tuned over decades or even generations. Even when technical secrets were well-guarded in an environment of relentless competition, everyone knew and appreciated the long hours that a potter had to practice to achieve perfection. A potter’s apprenticeship at the wheel was so long and arduous that even Greek philosophers used it as the most effective metaphor for conveying the importance of mastering all topics in a slow and structured manner. But, while patiently controlling forms and fire, Greek potters often prayed to gods to secure successful firings and to protect their businesses from local and global competitors in ever-changing configurations of trade networks.
Professor Eleni Hasaki is born in Athens and received her BA at the University of Athens (summa cum laude) and went to the University of Cincinnati with a Fulbright fellowship where she received her Ph.D. with a dissertation on ceramic kilns. She is now an Associate Professor at the School of Anthropology and an Honors Professor at the Honors College at the University of Arizona. She co-directs the Laboratory of Traditional and Experimental Technology and is a collaborating partner at the Center for Mediterranean Archaeology and the Environment. Her publications cover the themes of the craft technologies of Classical antiquity, the spatial organization of workshops, craft apprenticeship, and the negotiation of social status through crafts, especially ceramics. Her archaeological fieldwork in Greece (Paros, Cyclades), the ethnoarchaeological project in Tunisia (Moknine) and an experimental open-air lab for pyrotechnology locally (Tucson) promote the knowledge of crafts both in antiquity and its relevance for modern societies.
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