Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Unexpected uses of Greek Shapes in Central Apulian Funerary Contexts


Classics Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


In 1977, a large Attic red-figured skyphos attributed to the Penelope Painter came to light during the excavations of a fourth-century B.C.E. central Apulian tomb in the necropolis of Rutigliano. Inside it, the excavators found the remains of eggshells. The skyphos was decorated on both sides with scenes of women making offer-ings and pouring libations. The use of this shape as a container is rather unusual, as skyphoi have always been considered drinking vessels; however, it could have been its iconography that made this vase appropriate for the purpose of storing offerings. Yet food offerings in central Apulian burials have been found mainly in undecorated pots (including an Attic black-gloss lekane and a black-gloss South Italian skyphos). Therefore, the decoration although suitable might not have been the deciding factor in the selection of this vase. This skyphos was part of an elite funerary assemblage, which also included metal artifacts and more than 90 vessels: a mix of local wares, Apulian red-figure pottery, and several other Attic red-figure vases. Using this burial as a case study, my paper explores how imported objects were appropriated by central Apulians and used in concert with locally produced objects to stage identities in death. Traditionally, archaeological literature has approached the study of Attic pots abroad through the lens of Athenian behavior. As the adoption of elements from the Greek drinking set is still often interpreted as a sign of the Hellenization of a population, scholars usually assume that the role and function of Greek vases everywhere mirrored that of their counterparts in Athens. Yet, as the skyphos from the necropolis of Rutigliano indicates, different cul-tural entities could appropriate Greek shapes and imagery and use them in unexpected ways to fit their local needs. Once appropriated by the consumers, the imports became part of a broader narrative made of local needs, logics, and strategies; thus, we must reexamine our assumptions about the function of vases in non-Greek contexts to understand their meaning and shed light on the identity of their consumers.

Conference Name

AIA Annual Meeting

Conference Location

New Orleans, LA

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