Breaking the Mold

Digs & Discoveries September/October 2018

(Courtesy Anagnostis Pan. Agelarakis)

Researchers at Eleutherna, a fortified city-state in Crete that reached its apogee around 800 B.C., have concluded that a woman whose remains were discovered at the site in 2009 spent her life crafting ceramics. Using a range of technology, including medical imaging and anatomical models, the team, led by anthropologist Anagnostis Agelarakis of Adelphi University, found patterns of skeletal wear consistent with years spent seated and working clay on a kick-wheel-operated turntable, making the woman the only known female master ceramicist in the ancient Greek world. Significantly, Eleutherna has an association with women in positions of importance and power. Four women related to one another and thought to have been priestesses were discovered in ornately furnished burials nearby. “While this is a rare discovery in Greek archaeology,” Agelarakis says, “in some ways it is unsurprising given the importance and privileged social position of the Eleuthernian matriline.”

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    Base of a Qingbai-Glazed Molded Box

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    (© The Field Museum, cat. no. 344404. Photographer Gedi Jakovickas)
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    (Courtesy Jack Dykinga, U.S. Department of Agriculture)
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    Ice Age Necropolis

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    (Archives of the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio della Liguria - Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage)
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    (De Agostini Picture Library/G. Sioen/ Bridgeman Images)