Ancient Mediterranean

Digital Project

Single-levelled galley

Cat. No.





Khalasmenos, Crete


7.3 x 7.3 x 6 cm


Skyphos-type krater, upper body fragment broken below the rim. Mended from two sherds. Globular body, high, oblique, outcurving rim. Buff orange fine clay. No slip preserved, brown-black paint almost completely worn.

Accession Number



Wedde 2004: 143-148, figs. 1-2

Ship to the right with a rockered keel and a lightly outward-leaning vertical stempost terminating in an incurving club-shaped terminal. The keel extends into an upward-curving bow projection. The three horizontal lines above the keel are the gunwale and a double rail respectively. The reading of the latter as a rail is supported by the fact the uppermost line extends beyond the stempost. The vertical lines between the keel and the gunwale represent the frames of the hull, while those above the gunwale are stanchions for the rails. The frames outline at least six "rooms" for the rowers. Given the curvature of the keel it is likely that the hull extended further to the left for about 2 cm, bringing the total number of rooms to 10, and thus amounting to a twenty-oared ship (eikosoros).1 The black square above the gunwale represents a non-integrated forecastle. The solid field on the left edge of the sherd and the additional line above it are hard to interpret.

1. This size is popular in the Homeric epics: Od. I.280, II.212, IV.669-672, IX.322-323; Il. I.308-311.

From a surface dump deposit immediately to the southeast of the Late Geometric oikos. Since the diagnostic sherds (41%) included shapes associated with eating and drinking (pithoi, kraters, a jug, cups, and tripod cooking pots), it is likely that the dump represents broken vases that were cleared from the oikos.

The site was established and primarily occupied during LM IIIC late, after which it was abandoned and then briefly revisited in PRG and again in LG. During the LG the megaron-shaped *oikos* was constructed above its LM IIIC predecessors. The structure was the only LG intrusion on the site, reflecting back to the site's LH IIIC role as a religious center. One interpretation is thus to see it as "a revindication of ancestral rights by the inhabitants of a nearby LG settlement."(Wedde 2004: 148). The context of the krater was hence probably that of sympotic rites. The ship is located in the rim zone along with a floral motif or a tree. It is framed by a thick band on the upper part and three thin bands on the lower part.

The medium is securely dated but the morphology of the ship itself is an oddity for the 8th century, depicting according to Wedde a more "primitive" craft. Its most salient characteristic is the retention of the vertical stempost, which suggests that regions outside of Attica and Euboea such as eastern Crete saw the survival of older ship types. By the end of the MG period shipwrights had progressed from a vertical to a concave stempost while the horn is firmly established as a decorative device. A club-like ornament capping the stempost is known from one Attic representation (A124), while the Attico-Boeotian fibulae display a great variety of decorations at the horn's tip. Typologically and stylistically this ship does not resemble the other known Cretan depictions of ships. This stands in great contrast to the Cretan EM III to LM I pictorial record, when the effects of the palatial administration translate into uniform, single types succeed one another.

Wedde interprets this ship as a cargo-galley. Since no proper merchantmen are known from the Aegean prior to the Archaic period, it appears that the single-levelled galley (moneres) at some point split into two design strands which are detectable in the bow morphology. The more prevalent one in the imagery is the evolved version with the integrated bow projection and forecastle into the overall shape of the bow. The second version retains the vertical stempost of the Mycenaen and earlier EIA galleys characterized by an embryonic bow projection, and there is some reason to believe that the type was designed with improved cargo capacity in mind and should thus be considered a hybrid merchant galley. Although its cargo capacity would still have been limited compared to a proper merchantman, the type incorporates all the advantages of the galley design within an economic context: oar power ensuring independence from wind and an oar-crew able to double as a fighting force to protect the cargo.

Wedde, M. 2004. “The Late Geometric Ship from Khalasmenos,” in N. C. Stampolidis and A. Giannikouri (eds.) Το Αιγαίο στην Πρώιμη Εποχή του Σιδήρου: Πρακτικά του Διεθνούς Συμποσίου, Ρόδος 1-4 Νοεμβρίου 2002. Athens: University of Crete, pp. 143-148.

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