Geometric Hellas


The period after the destruction of the Mycenaean palaces (ca. 1200 BC) was characterised by a slow recovery reflected in the changes of Greek pottery from the turn of the millennium. The area in between the handles of the footed cup (1) was divided into two sections by a frame that follows the shape of the vase, and is decorated with concentric circles drawn with a compass. This is in stark contrast with the decoration of the 12th-century BC storage jar (2), the shoulder of which exhibits hand-painted concentric motifs. The two vases provide a modest sketch of the period of cultural retrenchment and renewal that followed the collapse of the Mycenaean world. It shows that the Greeks strived to preserve their traditions, and were thus able to transmit their language, gods and myths. At the same time it is also evident that the continuation was really a new beginning.

This period saw the formation of Greek poleis. The pottery of each polis is well distinguishable. Most of the vases on display were created in Athens. The shape of the kotyle, however, was a Corinthian invention (5) soon taken over by Athenian potters (6).

One of the most significant motifs in Geometric art was the horse (7–8). The drinking cup (8) also represents an object beside the horse, which may be a manger or a stand meant as a contest prize. The scene thus hides the seeds of a story.