Ancient Greek ceramic workshop discovered in Crimean Chersonesos


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Remains from the Hellenistic period of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC have been discovered during the course of rescue excavations conducted by the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the central part of Sevastopol at Cape Khrustalny. In particular, a section of an ancient paved road, storage pits, and the remains of stone walls most likely related to a large ancient farmstead situated 2 kilometers from Tauric Chersonesos in the agricultural area of the city were uncovered here.

Ancient Greek ceramic workshop discovered in Crimean Chersonesos
Remains of a circular kiln. Sevastopol, Cape Khrustalny
[Credit: Russian Academy of Sciences]

The most important finding of the expedition in the last weeks was the discovery of a large ceramic manufacturing complex in this area. Four firing kilns made of raw bricks were discovered. Two of them were circular, used for firing earthenware and amphorae, and two were square, probably used for the firing of roof tiles. 

Ancient Greek ceramic workshop discovered in Crimean Chersonesos
Cleaning the round oven [Credit: Russian Academy of Sciences]

The kilns were about 3m x 3m in size. In one of the circular kilns, stamped ceramic weights for weaving looms were found. In the debris of another circular kiln, a small ceramic stamp for applying patterns on clay products was also retrieved.

Ancient Greek ceramic workshop discovered in Crimean Chersonesos
Tilery. Sevastopol, Cape Khrustalny [Credit: Russian Academy of Sciences]

A few fragments of discarded tiles and amphorae were found not far from the kilns. There was also an area about 10m wide, strewn with fragments of burnt mud bricks and amphorae, where the finished products were likely to have been stacked after firing.

Ancient Greek ceramic workshop discovered in Crimean Chersonesos
Left: Loom weight; Right: stamp [Credit: Russian Academy of Sciences]

This discovery of large ceramic production complexes from Hellenistic times is an extremely interesting archaeological discovery, which illustrates the level of development of local pottery and the daily life of Chersonesos’ Greek population. Pottery was widespread all over the ancient world. Pottery satisfied everyday life needs of people with the most various utensils, containers, tiles, small domestic wares (toys, weights, corks, spindles, etc.) and other things. Chersonesos exported a considerable amount of wine and there was a steady demand for ceramic containers like amphorae. There were specialized workshops which mass-produced this container.

Ancient Greek ceramic workshop discovered in Crimean Chersonesos
Stamped weight [Credit: Russian Academy of Sciences]

However, finds of well-preserved ceramics workshops are quite rare. These fire-prone production sites were usually situated behind city walls, and on the vast agricultural area of Chersonesos as well. It is rare to find them in the built-up areas. The most famous Hellenistic pottery kilns were excavated behind the southern defensive wall of Tauric Chersonesos about 70 years ago, in the 1950s. Every new production site excavated with modern methods enables archaeologists to reconstruct the ancient past of Sevastopol in more detail and solve a lot of complicated scientific questions concerning technology and organization of ceramic production, import of goods in amphorae and dating of layers and finds.

The research on the site is not finished and will undoubtedly yield more unexpected discoveries.

Source: Russian Academy of Sciences [trsl. TANN, November 26, 2020]

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