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by Archaeology Newsroom

Indications of a formal pot-marking system in Thessaly in the Bronze Age

This is the first presentation of two inscribed shards, surface finds from a topographic survey carried out recently in the plain of East Thessaly. The one shard was found on the wellknown site of Gonnoi, lying on the NW of the entrance to Thessaly from Tempi Valley. The site shows a prehistoric settlement, lasting from the Early Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age and is located only 300 m. to the south of Gonnoi of the classical period. The shard was incised before firing with a symbol very common to the Cypro-Minoan and Mycenaean texts (J. Chadwick. The Decipherment of Linear B, 2nd edition, Cambridge 1967). This symbol occurs not only in tablets but also on other sorts of objects, either alone, e.g., on handles of stirrup jars or in combination with other symbols of the Cypro-Minoan texts and of the Linear A and B.

The other shard comes from Kyparissos 3, seventeen kms south of Larissa. This site, an unknown until now settlement, was located during the aforementioned topographic survey. The surface finds coming from there also show a prehistoric inhabitancy from the Early Neolithic to the Mycenaean period as well as during the classic years. The shard, part of the rim of a pithos, was incised, after firing, with a linear pattern formed by two horizontal, four vertical lines and a symbol resembling a quadrilateral; from the latter only the fourth side has not been entirely preserved. The pattern of the two horizontal and four vertical lines can very well be considered as a number of the Cypro-Minoan and Mycenean writing system, in this case, the number 24. The horizontal lines stand for the decades, while the vertical ones for the units (J. Chadwick. op. cit., p. 44}. We know many examples of this numbering system, since it appears on tablets and also on a variety of objects, such as shards of pottery or on a silver skyphos from Engomi.

The two presented shards were found on sites, also inhabited during the Mycenean period.They are surface finds and, due to their preservation, can not be precisely dated. Nevertheless, they can be regarded as promising indications for the discovery of more relevant data in the future. They also support the argument that Thessaly can well be ascribed to the broader area of the Agean, East Mediterranean and Cyprus, where a common system of writing notions and numbers were in use during the Late Bronze Age.