Ancient Mediterranean

Digital Project

Helladic galley

Cat. No.



LH IIIC middle developed


Phylakopi IV (architectural phases of sanctuary 2a-3c), Melos


(Outside): Sherd A: W: 17.7 cm; H: 4.4; Sherd B: W: 12.1 cm; H: 8.9 cm; Sherd D: W: 5.6 cm; H: 5.5 cm; Sherd E: W: 7.6 cm; H: 6.9 cm; (Inside): Sherd B: W: 11.8 cm; H: 9.3 cm; Sherd C: W: 6.9 cm; H: 5.2 cm; Sherd D: W: 5.5 cm; H: 5.7 cm; Sherd E: W: 6.8 cm; H: 6.5 cm


Kalathos, Light red clay, reddish-white slip, red paint.

Accession Number

Athens National Archaeological Museum 12079.1-6


Atkinson et al 1904: 145, pl. XXXII, nos. 11a-c; Basch 1987: 147, no. 307; Kirk 1949: 116; Marinatos 1933: pl. 13:16; Mountjoy 1999: 926, fig. 378, no. 198; 2007: 355-356, fig. 8.30; Sakellarakis 1992: 116-117, no. 256; Thomatos 2006: 126, 128, fig. 1.438; Wachsmann 1981: 201-2-2; 1998: 140-141, figs. 7.24, 7.25; Wedde 2000: 326, nos. 656-63

Outside sherd A: Lip figment below a thick decorative band. Only parts of the post, mast and rigging are preserved. Ship to the left. Vertical stempost ending in a zoomorphic figurehead with a seemingly downward-pointing snout and an ear. Vertical sternpost ending in a palmette-shaped decorative device. Mast amidships. The rigging comprises one forestay and three lines running from the mast's tip to the sternpost (backstays or one backstays and two halyards brought back to the helmsman's position). The horizontal line situated at the level just below the posts' decorative devices is probably a lowered yard given the absence of a second parallel line. The upper part of the quarter rudder survives, rendered as a simple thin line.

Outside sherd B: Lower body fragment, ship above a decorative line with zig-zags below it. The beginning of the handle can be made out on the left side of the sherd. Lower part of a ship facing right. Keel line that begins to curve slightly towards the stern. Crossing the hull are five oars, with the quarter rudder visible on the left-hand edge. The base of the mast survives. Remnants of a horizontal line along the top edge of the sherd possibly represent the gunwale.

Outside sherd D: Lower body fragment, ship (?) below a decorative line. Top of the mast with stays on each side.

Outside sherd E: Lower body fragment, possible ship below a decorative line. Flat keel line curving up to meet the gunwale. Four vertical parallel lines create five "rooms."

Inside sherd B: Lower body fragment, possible ship representation below a decorative line. Flat keel line curving up to a vertical post, probably the stern. The base of the mast is still visible. Horizontal line (probably the gunwale but possibly a deck) connected to the keel line by 7 closely spaced vertical parallel lines creating rooms (?). Mountjoy alternatively reads them as struts supporting the deck. To the left of the ship is an element that is probably a fish tail.

Inside sherd D: Lower body fragment. Irregular vertical post (stem ?) with two nondescript lines departing to the left. To the right there is a dark, roughly rectangular mass with six vertical parallel strokes on top.

Inside sherd E: Lower body fragment. Problematic reading as a ship. To the left there is an oblique line with three loops. There is probably a fish in the center, represented by a thick undulating line crossed by a thinner curving one. In the upper right corner is an oblique line joined by a thicker horizontal line above it.

Site (Renfrew 1982; 1985): Phylakopi IV began with the clearing away of the mansion which was replaced by a new and enlarged building on the same location, initially termed the 'palace' or 'megaron' in light of its similarities in plan with mainland centres of the Mycenean period. It was constructed in LH IIIA (c. 1380), after which imports come predominantly from the mainland rather than from Crete. The West Shrine was constructed c.1360 in the south side of the site, at the extreme edge of the settlement right against the fortification wall. This room measures 6.6m east-west by 6m north-south, with its main doorway facing east while another doorway in the west wall led to a small space to the east. The sanctuary was enlarged c. 1270 (LH IIIB1) by the addition of another room (the East shrine) to the east. The fortification system meanwhile was strengthened by the addition of a new length of fortification wall which reinforced the old defenses. Overall, the 13th century was a period of prosperity: its defense system was strengthened, the sanctuary was enlarged, and its recently constructed megaron was fully operational, possibly functioning as an administrative center. At its zenith, Phylakopi was a well-fortified and prosperous settlement. The sanctuary was destroyed c. 1120, possibly by an earthquake, after which it continued to function for a short time in a diminished form. In its post-destruction phase, the annexes A and B of the West Shrine were filled in. This was also the case of the southern half of the main room, with the south-west platform going out of use, being completely blocked off by a hastily constructed east-west retaining wall meant to hold back the destruction debris. The northwest altar was still in use, while a new platform in the north-eastern corner was probably built at this time. Many if not all of the figurines in use appear to have been salvaged from the pre-destruction phase. Renfrew describes this phase as one of "impoverished continuity."(Renfrew 1985: 381).

The sanctuary at Phylakopi has been the subject of significant scholarly discussion regarding the nature and extent of potential contacts with the Levant. The relevant elements are the following:

1) two bronze figurines of the "smiting god" type, each found outside the shrines themselves but considered to be associated with the East Shrine (Ibid: 303-304, figs. 8.3, 8.4, pl. 67, 68). One was found five meters to the east of the East Shrine, while the other was discovered in the debris levels in the courtyard area amongst the stonework of the Extension Wall (Wall 661).

2) A head made of a sheet of gold found in the East Shrine itself, from assemblage L which represents the last use of the shrine (phase 3c)(Ibid: 302, no. 2, fig. 8.2, pl. 59).

3) The overall unusual concentration of foreign objects in the sanctuary, including fragments of an ostrich-egg rhyton in the same LH IIIC phase in which the head of gold sheet was found (Cf. Albers 2004: 136 + n. 85).

4) The irregular ground-plan of the East Shrine which Negbi has compared to examples from the southern Levant (Negbi 1988).

Maran has recently brought attention to the head of gold sheet which originally covered the head of a figurine of the "smiting god" type, as evidenced by the fact that the object shows the lowest part of the high conical headdress typically worn by such figurines. Drawing from Near Eastern examples where cult statues of gods were ceremonially dressed and adorned, he proposes that the head of sheet gold was an embellishment that was ritually removed. He points to the presence of deep grooves on Levantine bronze figurines (on the back of the head-dress, along the arms and legs) which indicate that the precious metal cover was fastened through mechanical gilding, which makes most sense if the intention was to be able to readily remove and reapply the foil cover as part of ritual (rather than the process of artistic production itself). He concludes that the Phylakopi find thus provides evidence for the transmission of the object as well as knowledge about its correct use, pointing to a deeper level of familiarity with Levantine forms of ritual practice (Maran 2011).

Vase: The kalathos is highly fragmentary so that the reconstruction of its shape may be inaccurate. The rim is unusual, being everted and very thin. Its decoration includes ships both on the outside and inside. The decoration includes two ships on the outside (one between each handle) above a frieze of ships. On the inside there is a wavy line which runs round the upper zone below which there are two more ships, one on each side, which are separated by panels with isolated semicircles (one panel under each handle). In contrast to LH I-IIIB, the LH IIIC pottery was locally made. The kalathos is well known from Perati and Ialysos, and is also present at Lefkandi Phases 1-2a (Mountjoy 2007: 355 with references).

Only sherds A and B on the outside can be securely identified as depicting ships.

Atkinson, T. D. et al 1904. Excavations at Phylakopi in Melos. JHS Suppl. Vol. 4. London: Macmillan.

Basch, L. 1987. Le musée imaginaire de la marine antique. Athens: Institut Hellénique pour la preservation de la tradition nautique.

Kirk, G.S. 1949. “Ships on Geometric Vases.” BSA 44: 93-153, pls. 38-40.

Marinatos, S. 1933. “La marine créto-mycénienne,” BCH 57: 170-235.

Mountjoy, P.A. 1999. Regional Mycenaean Decorated Pottery. Rahden: Deutsches Archäologisches Institut.

―――. 2007. “A Definition of LH IIIC Middle,” in S. Deger-Jalkotzy and M. Zavadil (eds.) LH IIIC Chronology and Synchronisms II: LH IIIC Middle. Proceedings of the International Workshop held at the Austrian Academy of Sciences at Vienna, October 29th and 30th, 2004. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences, pp. 221-242.

Sakellarakis, J.A. 1992. Mycenaean Pictorial Style in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Athens: Kapon Editions.

Thomatos, M. 2006. The Final revival of the Aegean Bronze Age: a case study of the Argolid, Corinthia, Attica, Euboea, the Cyclades and the Dodecanese during LH IIIC Middle. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Wachsmann, S. 1981. “The Ships of the Sea People,” IJNA 10: 187-220.

―――. 1998. Seagoing Ships & Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.

Wedde, M. 2000. Towards a Hermeneutics of Aegean Bronze Age Ship Imagery. Peleus Studien zur Archäologie und Geschichte Griechenlands und Zyperns, vol. 6. Bibliopolis: Mannheim and Möhnsee.

  • copyright icon © Mountjoy 1999: fig. 378 Click for fullscreen
  • outside

    copyright icon © Photograph by T. Manolova Click for fullscreen
  • inside

    copyright icon © Photograph by T. Manolova Click for fullscreen