Neolithic vessels with animal characteristics from Northern Greece: Modifications of material corporeal sings, negotiations of clay bodyscapes
Evangelia Voulgari [+]
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Stemming from the study of the late Neolithic pottery from Dispilio, Northern Greece, this paper proposes a theoretical and methodological approach in an effort to shed light on the social significance of vessels decorated with animal characteristics. In the ceramic assemblage of this lakeside settlement a variety of vessels resembling animals has been found, amongst which a remarkable number of the so-called rhyta, a peculiar class of shallow, slanted vessels on four legs, with large vertical handles. Their enigmatic form, unique decoration and territorial spread -from southern Greece through Albania to northern Italy, to Lipari and the Aeolian Islands, and to Kosovo and central Bosnia- have puzzled many researchers and led to a number of theories. The ceramic assemblage of Dispilio gives the opportunity to examine these “peculiar” vessels alongside not only other zoomorphic representations but also anthropomorphic and “x-morphic” ones. Taking vessels with animal characteristics as a baseline, I shall attempt to propose an alternative approach, seeing vessels’ surfaces as the contact zones between humans, things and animals, where exchanges and interaction take place through representation. These zones of interaction, where the boundaries of worlds jostle each other, are considered as the outcome of bodyscapes’ negotiations, distinguished from the flesh and blood they seek to imitate and enframed by human desire in order either to leap or to emphasize the dichotomies between human–animal or animate –inanimate.