With just two weeks left of class, the Recreating crew met for one last lesson, exploring just who the Greek potters and painters were, where they worked, how they worked, and also the characterization technique of portable X-Ray Fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF). This end-of-the-course class had a particularly heavy reading load, as we explored ancient Greek ceramics beyond their mere technical fabrication, harkening back to our first lecture with Professor Alan Shapiro. We turned our eyes towards the workshops that produced the wares, reading the works of Elizabeth M. Langridge-Noti, Dyfri Williams, and the day’s guest lecturer, Professor Philip Sapirstein. All of these scholars zoomed us back in time to the ancient city of Athens, wherein clay wares permeated the urban landscape, from the workshops stationed next to major trading routes, to the commercial wares stands within the Athenian Agora, and even beyond, in long-distance commerce, to the regions around the Mediterranean, full of consumers hungry for the expertly-produced, fine Greek masterpieces.
After discussing the readings we found ourselves once again powering up the typically finicky technology that attempts to link us over video-call to the academics who otherwise would not be able to share with us their work in the field. Professor Sapirstein, beaming in from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, led us on a guided tour of his highly refined catalogue of potters, painters, potter-painters, and their extant corpora of vessels. His classification builds upon the landmark work of J.D. Beazley, whose index we explored regularly in our class. As Sapirstein presented, familiar names like “Makron” and “Douris” assumed identities beyond the slipped signatures they signed on their wares, as a network of these potters and their contemporaries were compared head-to-head in categories such as work span, number of works, and the number of people they worked with. Such a robust system was necessary in order to answer the larger question of, How large was the Greek pottery industry, and can we identify how productive vase painters were between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE? According to Sapirstein, the available evidence suggests that the more prolific specialist painters (about 36 in total) produced, on average, 8 vases per year.