William C., West
Building on studies by James Whitley (1997, 1998, 2001), Paula Perlman (1992), and Alan Johnston (2006), this paper calls attention to graffiti on pottery from Azoria, a site in East Crete with a significant Late Archaic phase. Owner’s inscriptions, dedications, labels, control marks, etc. allow us to appreciate emerging literacy from the 8th to the early 5th c. B. C. Graffiti inscriptions, in particular, from Kommos and other sites as well are considered, integrating them into our understanding of writing from such texts as the Spensithios decree and inscribed armor from Aphrati.
Seventeen graffiti and dipinti from excavations at Azoria date from the late 6th or early 5th c. and several come from kitchens, storeroom, or service complexes. These rooms served public buildings, but they may be considered private space because access to them was restricted to workers and service personnel who worked in them. Moreover, sherds with marks which may be interpreted as potter’s marks, when they can be identified as pre-firing, can surely be understood as originating in the potter’s workshops. They permit continued insights into the developing literacy of the island, balancing our appreciation of both long and short inscriptions.
Several of the Azoria texts are of particular note. A short inscription on the rim of a basin may be interpreted as the name of a Dorian woman or even an Eteocretan text. The handle of a small vase bears on its base, at its interior join, another potter’s mark, the Doric letter san, which would not have been visible after the firing of the finished vase. Two pithos handles are inscribed with words which are probably Eteocretan. As these are marks incised pre-firing, they must have been made by a potter. Saro Wallace, commenting on the significance of the locations of Protogeometric – Archaic settlements on Crete, has stated that “use of the term ‘Eteocretan’ by Homer (Odyssey 19.176) and later authors and its narrative context suggests that this ancestry was crucial to political definition” (ABSA 98  272). Eteocretan inscriptions of an informal nature at Azoria would suggest continuity of the language or at least knowledge of the language by craftsmen in the area. A further connection with Eteocretan may be seen in the Daedalic figurines found in the Archaic shrine, considering that most of these figurines on Crete have come from Praisos, Siteia, and Roussa Ekklesia, sites near Azoria.
Graffiti and Their Supports: Informal Texts in Context