The Warrior Vase
some time after its discovery, scholars dated the bowl to the seventh
century B.C. They regarded its peculiar bulls head handles as
definitely derived from those found on eighth-century vases.(1)
They likewise considered the registers of spearmen as a development
from the eighth-century processional friezes on funerary jars found
near the Dipylon Gate at the Kerameikos cemetery of Athens. They unhesitatingly
attributed the soldiers on the bowl to the Protoattic Period (i.e.,
early seventh century B.C.) on the basis of style, comparing them to
the warriors on another mixing bowl (Fig. 4) painted by a known seventh-century
artist; some even ascribed both bowls to the same man. (2)
They felt that still other technical and stylistic features of the bowl
and its decoration indicated a date between 700 and 650 B.C. for the
Warrior Vase.(3) That
same vase is now firmly assigned to the early LH III C period, which
Egyptian chronology fixes at ca. 1200 B.C.,(4)
leaving as problems the peculiar handles and the figural style. Over
seventy years ago, D. Mackenzie replied to those who derived its bulls
head handles from eighth-century prototypes, that the Warrior Vase itself
proved that such a device had a much earlier history. (5)
Still, they stood in isolation from the much later handles, originally
thought to be their prototype. The more recent discoveries of two other
LH III C handles of the same type(6)
has provided companion pieces, but has not alleviated the problem.
Irrespective of the absolute dates for LH III C pottery, scholars had always considered bulls head handles as a later development from double-loop handles, now artistically rendered as horns surmounting a bovine face. In 1966 N. R. Oakeshott treated the topic in great detail. If the LH III C vases belonged to ca. 700 B.C., as early scholars believed, there would be no problem in deriving the developed handles from the double loops on vases from the Protogeometric Period (i. e., no earlier than ca. 1050 B.C.) onward; but since scholars now assign LH III C to ca. 1200 B.C., and since Oakeshott searched in vain for double loops earlier than that date, she concluded that the original idea, first seen in the three LH III C examples, was to fashion a fully-articulated bulls head attachment, both as a decorative and a functional device. She spoke of a continuous tradition from LH III C onward, but, reversing the previous consensus, she assumed that the Iron Age examples descended from those on the Warrior Vase, only later degenerating into mere double loops of clay.(7)
Oakeshott branded the early Iron Age handles very debased, part of a holding operation, almost a tactical retreat. (8) Her evidence for a continuous tradition is solid from perhaps 1050 B.C. (at the earliest) on, but there is a lacuna of at least 150 years between the developed LH III C bulls head handles and the earliest known debased double loops, which they supposedly engendered. Additionally, of all the numerous Iron Age handles from the Protogeometric Period onward, only the most developed forms of ca. 700 B.C. again began to look like articulated bulls heads, and were very similar to those of the Warrior Vase.(9) A vase from Cyprus displays not only very similar handles, but also a similar bird to those depicted on the Warrior Vase; the decoration of the Cypriote bird and the friezes of filling ornaments above the handle are also very similar to other LH III C pots.(10) Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholars assigned the same dates to the Warrior Vase and the Cypriote pot. After Egyptian chronology set the former into the early twelfth century, while independent Cypriote chronology has fixed the latter in the early seventh, the gap between the Cypriote products and the Warrior Vase, to which they are typologically closest, has widened by half a millennium.(11)
Confronted by a lacuna of 500 years between the typologically closest, very similar examples of bulls head handles, Oakeshott suggested that a continuous tradition culminated in this area [Cyprus] in a revival. (12) We shall soon see that numerous scholars note a revival of LH III C pottery styles in Cyprus and throughout the East Mediterranean after a 500-year gap; still, Oakeshott, faced with a gap of at least 150 years, which unsettles the idea of a continuous tradition and observing the closest similarities between fully-developed bulls head handles of the seventh century (which went through ca. 350 years of continuous evolution from double loops) and 500-year-older handles (which were just as fully developed, but seem to have come about suddenly, and without any ascertainable forerunners) was in a quandary. She concluded that this is a feature of great interest that others must elucidate. (13) A chronological revision of 500 years not only elucidates the feature, but also eliminates the problems.
The turn-of-the-century scholars, who assigned the painted figures on the Warrior Vase to the seventh century, did so at a time, when there was a general consensus that the latest Mycenaean pictorial pottery lasted that late. After Egyptian chronology pushed the end of Mycenaean civilization some 400 years earlier than they believed (and the Warrior Vase 100 years still earlier), two problems arose, which remain today. The first is that, during the intervening centuries, there seems to have been what J. N. Coldstream has termed the darkness of taboo on figured representation in Greek art. Because he felt that eighth-century painters who revived the figural style did so as a result of experimentation and with no earlier models to guide them, and because he also considered that artistic revival to be the eighth centurys most striking innovation of all, (14) one must explain how the style of ca. 700 B.C., which was a natural development from an only-slightly-earlier invention, came to resemble so closely the figural style of ca. 1200 B.C. after such a long break in the artistic tradition. The second problem is, why there should have been a centuries-long period when figures disappeared from arta phenomenon which one recent observer considered both strange and curious. (15)
Despite those problems, modern scholars, like Vermeule(16) still see analogies between the friezes of men on the Warrior Vase and those on eighth-century pottery. Unlike earlier commentators, who also saw that similarity, but who had the former develop from the latter, modern specialists must see the Warrior Vase as ca. 450 years earlier than, and devoid of historical connection with eighth-century figural pottery. O. W. von Vacano, like his predecessors impressed by the close similarity of the soldiers on that bowl to seventh-century figures, recently spoke of an obvious link between them.(17) If, however, 500 years really do separate the Warrior Vase from the later pottery, with nothing similar to fill the gap, there is, as everyone has noticed, an obvious similarity, but there can be no link, obvious or otherwise.
The spearmen of the Warrior Vase not only resemble the men depicted on seventh-century Protoattic Pottery from Greece, but, as L. Woolley justly noted, they also look remarkably similar to soldiers painted on terracotta roof tiles from Phrygia in Asia Minor, currently dated sometime between the late eighth century and the sixth (fig. 6)(18) Regarding Greek art, one might almost say that the decorators of Protoattic pottery took up the animal [and human] designs where their predecessors of late Mycenaean times had left off. The similarity is very striking. (19) With 400 years separating the end of one from the beginning of the other, without anything comparable between the two, the similarity is very striking indeed!