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Πέμπτη, 23 Απριλίου 2020

An unprecedented navalscene from Pylos

First considerations


And then went down to the ship,
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
Heavy with weeping, so winds from sternward
Bore us out onward with bellying canvas,
Circe’s this craft, the trim-coifed goddess . . .
(Ezra Pound, Canto I)


We here describe what must surely be one of the most exciting and unexpected discoveries in Aegean art in recent years: a Naval Scene from Hall 64 of the Southwestern Building of the Palace of Nestor (Figs.1, 2).1 The publication of this collection of papers allows us to bring these finds to the attention of a broad audience and to present for the first time high quality images that illustrate the composition. Assembling the many fragments of this work has in itself been a laborious task that has occupied us for nearly a decade, but, even so, the restoration of the Naval Scene constitutes only one part of a much larger project: the reconstruction of the entire iconographic program of Hall 64. Pylos is unique in the Mycenaean world in that it permits such an approach. It is one of a very few places in the prehistoric Aegean where the archaeological record is so complete and the excavation history so well documented.


Our approach to the study of the wall paintings of the Palace of Nestor is considerably different from that represented by The Palace of Nestor II. In the latter work, Mabel Lang focused in the first instance on individual figures and scenes that were grouped according to their iconographic character: nonfigural, floral, animal, or human. Although in another part of the volume she did describe the palace’s wall paintings by individual rooms, her primary concern was with broad themes, and not with the meaning of specific iconographic programs. At Lang’s urging, however, the latter approach was later explored by Lucinda McCallum, who studied the iconographic program of the central corridor of the palace.2

In subsequent years a similar approach was pursued by other scholars, also drawing on Lang’s catalogue. John Bennet, for example, paid considerable attention to the interaction between viewers and painted spaces at Pylos, suggesting that the coherence of the program of wall paintings in the Throne Room depended on the wanax being seated on his throne.3 Iconography became scenery in a theater of power that was only completed by the presence of human actors. Closer to our central theme here, several years ago Bennet, together with one of the authors of this paper, considered the paintings in Hall 64 in their architectural context, emphasizing the emotional responses that those in attendance at feasts in the adjacent Court 63 might have had when confronted with scenes of war–such as the Battle Scenes between warriors in Mycenaean armor and Lang’s so-called Tarzans.4 Was it in such locations that a Mycenaean identity was shaped in opposition to a non-Mycenaean “other” as Davis and Bennet suggested? Although these newer analyses have produced many important insights, they and others like them, all suffer from the same shortcoming: the data on which they rely is incomplete.5 In the case of Hall 64, this is well illustrated by Lang’s near exclusive emphasis on the paintings on the room’s northeastern wall, a “glorious display” that was “sufficient to take our breath away.”6 Large parts of its dado were preserved in situ, while vast amounts of plaster were found in front of the northeast wall, apparently because the wall fell inwards and protected the plaster on its face. For the most part these pieces were laid out in order so that it is possible to reconstruct the appearance of this wall more certainly than that of any other wall in the palace.7
Lang restored the composition of the northeastern wall almost from floor to ceiling. The dimensions and number of ashlar blocks from the wall that collapsed into Court 88 suggested to Blegen and Rawson that the distance between the ground and upper floor was ca. 3.25–3.50 m. Lang imagined that the friezes were separated by colored bands, and that finished horizontal edges had abutted horizontal wooden beams. She further speculated that the dado with painted imitations of cut stone panels continued onto the room’s northwest wall (on both sides of the doorway leading to Lobby 66).
While she described the room’s northeastern wall in considerable detail, Lang had little to say about the decoration of the remaining walls of Hall 64, and it is here that our principal contribution lies. The discovery and mending of unpublished fragments has filled out the picture and gives us some idea of how other parts of the room were decorated. The most significant find has been the discovery of the Naval Scene, originally positioned, in our view, on the room’s northwestern wall.
In the remainder of this paper, we examine the history of our work on this particular scene. First, we consider the circumstances of its discovery and the evidence for its original position within Hall 64. We then discuss the composition itself in detail, its art historical precedents, and finally, its meaning within the room’s overall iconographic program.

The “Rediscovery” of the Naval Scene
Carl W. Blegen first came to Pylos in the late 1920s at the invitation of his friend and then current director of the National Museum in Athens, Kostantinos Kourouniotis.
A decade later an academic partnership was formed between the two men, and on April 4, 1939, they broke ground on the ridge of Englianos. On that first dark and stormy day, work was eventually interrupted by rain–but not before walls, Linear B tablets, and numerous fragments of painted plaster had been uncovered.8
After Kourouniotis’s death in World War II and following a long hiatus, excavations at the palace resumed in 1952 and continued uninterrupted through the 1960s. Over thirty individuals joined Blegen’s team, including some of the most renowned archaeologists in Greece: George Mylonas, Dimitris Theocharis, Lord William Taylour, George Papathanasopoulos, David French, and William A. McDonald. Over a decade of study resulted in the publication of three substantial volumes in the series The Palace of Nestor at Pylos. These seminal works describe in detail what remains of the most complete Mycenaean palatial complex, as well as its surroundings.9
From the time of Blegen’s death in 1971 through the 1980s, research at Pylos was intermittent and no longer centrally coordinated. This situation changed dramatically in 1991. First, a team from the University of Minnesota (Minnesota Archaeological Researches in the Western Peloponnese, under the direction of the late Fred Cooper) began to study the architecture of the palace with the aim of producing an architectural state plan, a task that Blegen never undertook.10 At the same time, between 1991 and 1995, the Pylos Regional Archaeological Project (PRAP), sponsored by various institutions, including the University of Cincinnati, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Michigan, and the University of Ioannina, investigated surface archaeological remains on the Englianos Ridge and in the surrounding area.11
Following the completion of fieldwork for PRAP, work at the Palace from 1997 onwards continued under the auspices of the Hora Apotheke Reorganization Project (HARP).
The main goal of this project has been to reexamine finds from Blegen’s excavations that are stored in the basement of the Hora Archaeological Museum in order to gain a more sophisticated understanding of the development of the community on the Englianos Ridge throughout its long life.12
As HARP got underway, it became immediately apparent that large numbers of artifacts from the palace were either partly or completely unpublished. The animal bones are a case in point. Some 300 kg have now been studied. Cattle bones found in a heap on the floor of Room 7, Annex to the Archives Room, and in several pits northwest of the palace attest to sacrificial rituals similar to those known from Homeric and later times. A deposit of miniature kylikes found near the bones in Room 7 is indicative of ritual discard.13
Also under the auspices of HARP, in 2000, a long-term plan to clean and register all painted plaster fragments began, and today more than 17,000 pieces–the majority of which were previously unpublished–have been documented. This project has resulted in the discovery of entirely new iconographic elements and scenes and has prompted us to reconsider many of the reconstructions published in The Palace of Nestor II. Among the first of the new representations to be uncovered were two joining fragments of a female archer that had been excavated in 1939. This composition, now fully published, had already been removed from the walls of the palace prior to its final destruction and was found outside Room 32.14 An even bigger surprise among the wall-painting fragments, however, was a scene depicting a squadron of ships making its way through a purple sea populated with fish; it had been on the upper part of the northwestern wall of Hall 64 in the Southwestern Building.
The discovery of this exciting scene encouraged us to reconsider carefully the program of wall paintings in Hall 64, and, as a result, we now have much more to add to Lang’s discussion. Since our goal has been to reconstruct the room’s entire program, this has required attention to the precise contexts in which the fragments of the painted plaster were found at the time of excavation.
Fortunately, in the archives of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and those of the University of Cincinnati there is a wealth of documentation pertinent to Blegen’s campaigns at Pylos: detailed excavation notebooks, Blegen’s own log recording the progress of the excavations, preliminary plans, manuscripts and early typescripts, and photographic albums and slides. These sources of information, together with storage labels found accompanying many unpublished fragments, have allowed us to be relatively certain about the original findspots of our new pieces.

Locating the Naval Scene
The following section contains a brief description of the way in which we approached the study of Hall 64, and how the original location of the Naval Scene came to be determined.
Our first step was to unravel the complicated excavation history of Hall 64, which was problematic because Blegen’s team dug without using a grid and trenches were of various shapes, sizes, and orientations. Furthermore, the Southwestern Building in which Hall 64 is located is itself a complex structure, believed by Blegen (and more recently confirmed by Nelson) to have been, in its basic elements, older than the Main Building of the palatial complex.15 At least part of the building in its final form was two-storied. On the ground floor, a dog-legged passageway led into a broad courtyard (Court 63) that faced the majestic Hall 64. From Hall 64, one could have turned left to enter Hall 65, with its megaron-like plan, or one could have continued straight into a rabbit warren of rooms to the northwest. Court 63 and Court 88, located between Hall 64 and the Main Building, may have been loci for feasting, provisioned with tablewares stored in Room 60 and in the Pantries (Rooms 18–22) of the Main Building.16
The area of Hall 64 was first explored in 1939 by McDonald in two trial trenches:
Trench II and Trench V. Trench II, measuring 2 m wide and 36 m long, cut across Court 63, passed directly over Anta “B,” continued through Hall 64, and entered Hall 65—passing cleanly through the doorway of the room without hitting either jamb. In his excavation notebook, McDonald observed plaster on the southwestern face of Anta B and on the floor of the room, but did not note that it was painted. Trench V extended about 4.5 m into Hall 64, exposing the northern corner of the room where many wall paintings were found but not removed. As McDonald noted: “A good deal of plaster fallen above the floor and this has been left.”17
In 1952, George Mylonas cleared the larger, southeastern entrance to Hall 64, located all three of its columns, and exposed the southern end of the room’s northeastern wall. Mylonas did not explicitly mention any fallen wall plaster, only a floor of thin “cement” in part of the area, with outlines of circular fluted column bases impressed into it. He did, however, find plaster adhering to the inner face of Anta B (as McDonald had observed) but, unlike McDonald, mentioned that it was painted.
In 1953 Rosemary Hope and McDonald excavated the remainder of Hall 64 in a series of smaller trenches that cleared the northern and northeastern parts of the room down to the plaster floor. Nearly all wall plaster found in Hall 64 were removed in that same year; the fragments were labeled by trench, with the findspots of only a few individual pieces located on sketch plans. The fact that the 1953 trenches were smaller than those dug in 1939 allowed Lang to gain a reasonably good idea of the fragments’ original locations (Fig. 2).18
Information from the excavators’ notebooks has also been sufficient for us to determine the original placement of Naval Scene. Although the largest pieces of the composition were found unlabeled, contextual information associated with small joining fragments pointed to Trench H7, extension 6, making it clear that the composition originally adorned the northeastern end of the northwestern wall of Hall 64.19

History of the Southwestern Building and Its Paintings
By the time of excavation most of the walls of the Southwestern Building had been leveled to one or two courses, and in some places only beddings for walls remained.20 Erosion had also taken its toll, a particularly pronounced problem in Hall 65. Nelson, nonetheless, was able to conclude that a “Building A,” including the basic unit that later formed Hall 64 and Hall 65, was one of two or three buildings built on the Ano Englianos acropolis in LH IIIA.21
Building A stood on the edge of the acropolis plateau and was built in an ashlar style of masonry. Its northeastern facade extended farther northwest than the later 13th-century B.C. wall of Hall 64, as did its southwestern facade.22 The original placement of doorways is unclear, since interior walls were at least partly rebuilt after LH IIIA. It seems, however, that in LH IIIA there were rooms of Building A northwest of Hall 65, since the northwestern wall of Hall 64 was not of ashlar construction. To the southeast of Building A, a set of monumental steps led down into the ravine that borders the Englianos Ridge on the northwest.23
Since the walls of Hall 64 must have been rebuilt in LH IIIB when Building A was transformed into the Southwestern Building, it is almost impossible that wall paintings which fell from its walls in the final destruction of the palace could have been residual from a decorative program of the 14th century B.C. Any paintings that may have adorned the walls of Building A should be sought in plaster dumps on the periphery of the acropolis.



Reconstructing the Naval Scene
During the summer of 2004, while we were reorganizing wall paintings in a storeroom of the Hora Museum, a fragment with an unusual zigzag pattern and an oar-shaped motif attracted our attention (Fig. 3). It was stored with 11 more fragments that had been plastered with modern gesso on the reverse and which, although heavily affected by fire, preserved traces of purple and brown paint (Fig. 4). Surprisingly, there was no record of any of these fragments in Lang’s publication and no contextual information was recorded on their backs. Presumably, the poor state of their preservation had discouraged Lang and Piet de Jong, who spent nine seasons at Pylos as a member of Blegen’s team, from spending time cleaning and studying them. Also in 2004, more unpublished fragments from Hall 64 were found in old boxes in the same storeroom, and this time, there were indications of the context in which they had been recovered (Fig. 5). After a preliminary cleaning, we found among them a small fragment that joined perfectly to the edge of our larger fragment with the zigzag pattern, allowing us to determine with certainty the findspot of the enigmatic fragments. The identification of the painted motifs as parts of ships was initially made when we first recognized hulls and fish, next rudders and oars, and then possible superstructures.24 The first Mycenaean wall painting of a naval scene was gradually emerging (Figs. 6a, 6b).

Since the discovery of these first fragments, great effort has been invested in their documentation, cleaning, and restoration, as well as in the search for additional fragments and joins.25 The application of optical microscopy and analytical techniques has allowed us to document what the naked eye cannot capture,26 while reconstructions by Rosemary Robertson and Emily Egan have materialized our observations and interpretations on paper.
In addition, we recognized that a large and thick fragment from Hall 64, identified by Lang as belonging to a “nautilus frieze,” (Fig. 7a) in reality is part of another ship (probably related to the Naval Scene), its hull decorated with a row of argonauts (Fig. 7b, 9).27
According to the contextual information presented above, the Naval Scene adorned the northwestern wall of Hall 64, probably to the right of the doorway leading into the domestic quarters of the Southwestern Building (Fig. 1). Considering the fact that the wall decoration of this room took the form of friezes, as Lang has demonstrated was the case for the paintings on the northeastern wall of the room, we would expect that the Naval Scene was originally positioned at eye level, like the well-known Battle Scenes, and that there were two large friezes below it that were decorated with other motifs (certainly a dado and possibly a frieze of hunting dogs like those that adorned the northeastern wall). The Naval Scene would have immediately attracted the attention of the viewer as he entered the Hall, and would undoubtedly have been visible from Court 63.
Given the fragmentary state of the Hall 64 Naval Scene and the frequent absence of critical details, our reconstructions are based in part on wall paintings that are better preserved, such as the well-known miniature fresco from the West House at Akrotiri and the rich corpus of Mycenaean ship images in other artistic media.28 Although certain details of Mycenaean ships in LH IIIB–IIIC are depicted in similar ways over a large geographical area and a broad time span (from Pylos in the west to Enkomi in the east), there is considerable variety in the overall representation of ships, and it seems that the artists who drew them did not follow strict iconographic conventions.



Elements and Composition of the Naval Scene
We want to emphasize that the thoughts that follow are preliminary. In addition, although we recognize the many problems associated with indiscriminate use of the Homeric poems as evidence for the Mycenaean period, we think that they may be judiciously employed to shed light on certain intractable conundrums, and have used them here with caution.
The best-preserved parts of the Naval Scene are the hulls of the ships, the sea with fish, and its lower border, which consists of a four-rowed black and white checkerboard, a motif that is also used to frame the Hall 64 Battle Scenes.29 In the largest and best-preserved group of fragments three seagoing ships sail from left to right across a light purple background, prows and sterns overlapping slightly (Figs. 8a, 8b). Evidence for the order of the ships was provided by a fragment depicting the prow of the lead ship. The right edge of the fragment curves upward slightly–an indication that it abutted against a vertical beam or corner that marked the end of the frieze.


A characteristic feature of our composition is the regularity and symmetry with which ships and fish are rendered; it is also peculiar that they are the only subject matter of the scene (as opposed to the Theran miniature fresco where the ships are part of a broader landscape packed with lively subsidiary compositions). Furthermore, the paratactic disposition of the ships, with crossing prows and sterns, recalls the overlapping arrangement common in Egyptian painting and naval reliefs: e.g., the well-preserved New Kingdom reliefs at Deir el-Bahri, which also lack the free rendering of the Theran ships.30 Worth noting too is the austere and repetitive rendering of the fish, which swim to the left, creating a movement in opposition to that of the ships they accompany. The hulls of the ships vary from 0.70 to 0.90 m, allowing us to reconstruct the total length of the frieze at 2.50m.
By analogy with the height of the Battle Scenes, that of the Naval Scene must be ca. 0.65m. The ship with argonauts on its hull likely had dimensions similar to those in the Naval Scene, and probably belonged to a frieze of comparable height (Fig.9).


All of the preserved elements of the ships in the Naval Scene are rendered in lighter and darker tones of brown and yellow. Although we may not fully appreciate the chromatic range employed in the composition because the surface of the plaster has been so severely damaged by fire, it is clear that the ships lack the richness in color and decoration displayed in the Theran fleet. Even the color of the fish seems to respond to the overall chromatic austerity characteristic of the scene. The lines that define the sheer of the hull and keel are dark brown, outlining the mass of the hull which itself is a lighter yellowish-brown (Figs. 8a, 8b). For the zigzag pattern of the lead vessel, the painter combined paints of dark and light brown hues (Figs. 6a, 6b). The only other color employed, besides carbon black and calcium carbonate white, is the light purple used to indicate the sea. The combination of purple and yellowish brown hues conveys a delicate and appealing effect that is based on the harmony of complementarity and points to a use of color more sophisticated than the “primitive” tricolor scheme of yellow-red-blue typically employed in Mycenaean painting31
Physicochemical analyses by means of both nondestructive and destructive techniques have confirmed that all of the pigments used to represent the ships were iron-based ochers, while the sea was rendered with murex purple, mixed with tiny grains of Egyptian blue (Fig. 10).32 Pigments were applied in the a secco technique, with both egg and vegetable gums (principally tragacanth) used as binders.33

The Shape of the Hulls
The ships of the Naval Scene are long and svelte, as is appropriate for seagoing vessels; their curving prows face to the right (Figs. 8a, 8b). Their gentle crescent-shaped hulls are typical of Minoan and Cycladic ship depictions on pictorial style pottery, on “talismanic” seals, and in early Aegean wall paintings.34 Generally, the hulls of our ships appear to have more in common with the Theran examples than with contemporary and postpalatial ships on pottery, which have rectangular profiles, flat keel-lines, elongated vertical stemposts, and employ a “horizontal ladder” pattern to represent significant features (e.g., from Tragana, Kynos, Asine, and Skyros).35 A ship incised on the verso of a Linear B tablet from Pylos (An 724) also has a crescentic hull (Fig. 11) that is similar to many images of Minoan and Cycladic vessels and may be compared to the ships from Hall 64.36 The possibility that a sign for “ship” existed within the Mycenaean ideographic repertoire is also worth noting.37 Since the extremities neither of the sterns nor the prows are preserved, it is uncertain if the latter are slightly higher than the former or if they were of equal height. In any case, there is no clear physical distinction between bow and stern-in stark contrast with the Theran ships, which have decorative emblems on elongated prows (Fig.12).


The Steering Oars
Clearly preserved on the first two ships of the Naval Scene, and seen as a shadow on the third, are steering oars that cross the hulls of our ships diagonally, one to port and another to starboard (Fig. 8b).38 Despite the similarity between these steering oars and those strung up at the rear of the stationary ship N.1 on the Medinet Habu reliefs, we believe that the Pylian ships were meant to be seen as if in motion, since the steering oars are immersed deeply into the water and not banked as in the Egyptian reliefs.39
The presence of the two steering oars, which are frequently required on sailing ships in order to steer in a strong wind, make it likely that sails and rigging devices were represented in the original painting even though there is little evidence for such preserved on our fragments. Using two steering oars also increases a ship’s ability to maneuver quickly in confined areas such as harbors and narrow passages, and in combat. Because it was common for steering oars to break, crafts that had only one were probably small and rarely sailed far out to sea.40 The depiction of two steering oars is, however, very unusual for Mycenaean ships. Indeed, as Shelley Wachsmann has noted, a single steering oar is far more characteristic of the Late Bronze Age Aegean depictions of ships, while a pair is common for contemporary ship illustrations elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean.41
Despite the presence of the steering oars, there is only scant evidence for the presence of helmsmen. One figure may be indicated by a few swipes of yellowish- brown paint above the stern of the lead ship (Figs. 8b). The Tragana and Kynos ships have an aftercastle on which we can imagine a helmsman standing to steer the ship. In the miniature wall painting from Thera, a helmsman stands on the deck at the stern, grasping the shaft of the steering oar.42
The person at the helm (the κυβερνήτης) would have been second in importance to the captain, a personal repository of knowledge concerning winds, important landmarks, and celestial navigation. His death during a voyage could signal the doom of a ship, as it did on Menelaus’s return voyage from Troy.43 Thus it is likely that helmsmen would have been pictured on our ships in the Naval Scene as well.

Mode of Propulsion
In the Naval Scene, the ships that preserve steering oars also employed traditional rowing oars (Figs. 8a, 8b), the most common means of propulsion, together with paddles, in the Aegean Bronze Age.44 The use of paddling, however, must have been an old-fashioned mode of transport at the time of the Theran paintings, and not appropriate for massive seagoing ships.45 The evidence for the depiction of rowing oars on Bronze Age ships is very homogeneous, the number usually ranging between four and six per ship, the strokes in all instances oriented towards the bow. In the three ships of the Naval Scene there are traces preserved for three oars on the lead ship, one on the middle ship and two on the rear one.
Based on the estimated length of the hulls, however, the original number of oars per ship was six. On the hull of the ship decorated with argonauts are evanescent traces of two oars whose positions were marked out with shallowly incised lines (Fig. 9). Linear B texts from Pylos (An 1, An 610, An 724) list large numbers of rowers (e-re-ta) with specific military, administrative, and geographical associations.46 Around 600 rowers (An 610) are related to important coastal centers and with several individuals of high status. An 724 records a smaller number of rowers who were absent from ro-o-wa, a coastal site that may have been the main port of Pylos. Thirty rowers from five coastal districts are recorded in An 1; they were dispatched to a specific location, perhaps as the full crew for a single ship. John Killen has demonstrated that these nautical “recruitment records” document levies organized according to normal principles of Mycenaean taxation, reflecting a regular system by means of which communities annually supplied naval personnel for a fleet controlled by the palace.47



Evidence for Sails and Rigging Devices
As already noted, there is little evidence for sails on our vessels, and no mast, yardarm, or boom is clearly preserved.48 Several incised lines on a single nonjoining fragment (Fig. 13) may, however, depict rigging, probably associated with the middle ship, considering the thickness of the plaster. Two fragments from a fresco dump on the slope northeast of the palace portray parts of a ship’s mast-cap, lifts, and yardarm on a bright blue background.49 Since Maria Shaw first recognized the significance of these fragments, which she tentatively assigned to an early phase of decoration in Hall 64, a few more relevant pieces have been found in the Chora Museum.50 One from Room 31 shows part of a boom and rigging which probably belong to the same composition (Fig. 14), and rigging and possibly part of a furled sail come from a second ship depicted on a fragment from the slope southwest of Hall 64 (Fig. 15).

Decks and Superstructures
Even though there is little evidence for decks on Bronze Age ships in general (because a silhouette style of drawing removes all depth perspective from compositions), it seems likely that they are represented in our Naval Scene (Fig. 8b). On the lead ship (Fig. 16) a brown line at the stern likely represents the upper part of a triangular deck that may have supported a small structure (an ikrion? ).51 A triangular deck is also visible on the bow of the ship decorated with argonauts (Fig. 9). Lyvia Morgan has emphasized that the stern of the vessel is the logical place for any type of preparatory ritual or ceremony connected with the safety of the ship and the success of its voyage.52 Homer mentions sterns quite often: for instance, in the Odyssey (2.413–434), Telemachos, on embarkation, prays and sacrifices to Athena there. The Theran fleet provides the clearest evidence for the structures as represented on the Pylian ships (Fig. 12). In contrast to Pylos and Thera, raised castles on the bow and stern are standard features of Mycenaean ships (e.g., at Tragana and Kynos). Traces of three posts (two vertical and one horizontal) on the stern of the rear ship in the Naval Scene may belong to another type of superstructure or a wooden object (Fig. 17). Behind these posts is an area of mottled black and white paint whose interpretation remains enigmatic. Currently, the elliptical shapes visible in the design suggest either stones or stone-patterned cloth.
The line at the stern was obviously meant to continue toward the bow and it may represent a gangway connecting it to a stern ikrion. Such a gangway could also have served to protect the heads of rowers, as is the case in a representation from Kynos.53 The lead ship and the rear ship in the Naval Scene also preserve evidence for wooden superstructures set amidships, probably cabins with divided compartments. Middle Kingdom Egyptian ship graffiti at Rod el-Air are more like these cabins than are the lighter awnings found on the Theran and other Mycenaean vessels.54 A semicircular construction amidships in the sketch on the obverse of An 724 may, however, represent such an awning, and similar constructions are found in earlier Middle Bronze Age ship depictions from Argos.55 The most characteristic element of Mycenaean ships is not depicted: that is, the vertical stanchions attached at regular intervals along the open galleries for rowers.
There is little evidence preserved for people on the decks, but some has come to light.
Traces of one person are visible beneath the superstructure of the rear ship, and two more joining fragments found in June 2012 yielded secure evidence for depictions of people and a cabin on the lead ship (Figs. 8b, 18).



Decoration of the Hulls
Years ago, Morgan suggested that a star and spiral frieze on a small fragment from the northwest slope of the palace might be a nautical emblem similar to those depicted on Theran ships.56 Now, on the lead ship in the Naval Scene a complex vertical zigzag pattern has been recognized (Figs. 6a, 6b, 19). The zigzag was executed with remarkable regularity and skill and traversed the entire length of the hull. This same geometric pattern in a simpler form (i.e., a single horizontal zigzag line) is often found on the hulls of ships represented on Early Cycladic II “frying pans” and in the miniature frieze from Kea.57 At Pylos, the zigzag motif was often used to recall textiles, as indicated by the use of the pattern in a large-scale skirt depicted on a fragment of a wall painting from the plaster dump immediately northwest of the Palace of Nestor, and in a number of painted floor squares in the palace’s megaron (Fig. 20).58
It is also possible that the image was meant to suggest that the chevron pattern was made of wood and was not painted onto the ship. Whatever the artistic inspiration and intention might have been,59 the angular and repetitive pattern probably evoked the idea of speed. On the other hand, because numerous examples are associated with cultic performances, mainly on Late Minoan talismanic seals, but also on the Theran ships, such decoration has often been considered to be an archaizing device, employed only in special circumstances.60
Despite the paucity of paint on the ship with the argonauts, certain decorative elements are preserved there also. As already noted, Lang identified this fragment as part of a nautilus frieze (Fig. 7a), although she reported that “it does not appear to have the usual bands above and below but shows traces of what may have been a shrine façade above.”61 In 2010 and 2011, more fragments were associated with the piece and the structure of a ship with a row of argonauts on its hull was recognized (Figs. 7b, 9). Argonauts (usually called nautili) seem to be a favorite motif at the Palace of Nestor, one used mainly for decorative friezes but also in large-scale compositions.62 This motif, has not previously been attested as decoration on a ship, although animals and fish were used on the Theran ships, and dolphins are seen on examples from Kea.63 But why nautili? Davis and Bennet discussed the overall iconography of Hall 64 several years before ships were recognized at Pylos and then posed the following question in regard to the nautili: “What did a nautilus mean to a Mycenaean?” They argued that a frieze of nautili (now recognized more correctly as argonauts) might not have been purely decorative “wallpaper,” but that it might have invoked “the ancient belief that a nautilus ascended from the depths to travel the surface of the sea, using its tentacles as sails and rudder.”64 Indeed, the primary function of the shell of a female octopus is to allow the animal to ascend from and descend into the ocean by using trapped air to regulate its position, just as a deep-sea diver would do.
The discovery now that these argonauts were applied to a ship’s hull seems to corroborate Davis and Bennet’s suggestion that these “chariots of the sea” served metaphorically to remind Pylians of their naval power, just as depictions of horse-drawn chariots expressed their dominance on land.

The Color of the Sea
Aside from the iconographic importance of the Naval Scene, the choice of color is also very significant. Even though the surfaces of the painted fragments are badly worn and damaged by fire, remnants of purple color are visible here and there in the plain gray matrix of what was originally the sea. In all other known depictions of the sea or seascapes in Aegean painting, the color of the water is always blue, and obtained from Egyptian blue pigment.65 The use of murex purple to depict the sea in our composition is unique (Fig.8b). The Homeric sea is, of course, also described as πορφύρεος, while in the Iliad the verb πορφύρειν is used to describe a surging sea. 66 In the Odyssey, Homer used two other adjectives to describe purple and violet hues of the sea (5.56, 5.132, 5.221, 5.349, etc.): ἰοειδής , and οἶνοψ, the colors of violets and wine. Did the use of purple for the sea in the Naval Scene from Hall 64 represent a specific cultural idea about the meaning of this color in the Late Bronze Age? Did it convey information about the time of day or weather conditions? Aegean Bronze Age artists who worked for palatial patrons certainly did not innovate for the sake of innovating, and we should expect that each representation had a specific meaning.
In Homer, ships usually sail out of sight of land at sunset, at a time when the sea is reddened by the setting sun and before the stars come out. Perhaps a purple color for the sea, whether οἶνοψ or πορφύρεος, was a good omen then, as it is today, forecasting a clear night. Telemachοs’s voyages to and from Pylos were night trips: he set sail from Ithaca to visit Nestor with a following west wind “κελἀδοντ᾽επἰ οἰνοπα πὀντον.” An experienced sailor can navigate by the stars, and Calypso tells Odysseus “to make his way over the sea, keeping the Bear on his left hand” (5.271–277).67 Since “Homeric sailors lacked charts, written sailing directions, and navigational equipment,” plotting a course through the open sea at night posed less of a problem than during the day.68
In light of the preceding discussion, we might speculate about a possible narrative function for the purple background of the Naval Scene: does it perhaps represent a departure at sunset by ships that intended to navigate by the stars? Is it possible that in Court 63 there took place some kind of departure ritual related to safe navigation? The ships in Hall 64 would have been visible to large numbers of individuals gathered in Court 63 and certainly could have served as a backdrop for rituals.
In the Homeric epics, the success of a voyage can be predicated on the basis of whether or not proper prayers and sacrifices to the gods were made before the voyage. Every journey must be preceded by proper libations. Furthermore, because sailing is inherently dangerous, it is likely that sailors sought to receive a favorable omen from the gods before attempting such a voyage. In Homer there is, for example, considerable anxiety about sailing over the horizon and out of sight of land when he describes Nestor and others debating how best to make the crossing from Lesbos to Euboea (Od.3.165-178).69



The Naval Scene in Context
The discovery of a large Naval Scene in Hall 64 has greatly expanded our knowledge of the iconographic repertoire of the Palace of Nestor. As discussed above, the Pylian ships have affinities with other representations of seagoing vessels found throughout the Mediterranean in a wide range of artistic media. They also, however, evince many local choices in iconography and artistic technique that make the composition unique.
Clearly maritime affairs were significant for Pylos. As Thomas Palaima has demonstrated, Linear B tablets from Pylos provide sufficient evidence for us to conclude that the central palatial administration organized the building, maintenance, and manning of sizable fleets, certainly for military reasons, if not also for other purposes.70 The tablets refer to ship builders, and two (PY Vn 46 and Vn 879) may be interpreted as recording materials required for ship construction. Rowers are also listed. Can, however, a more precise “meaning” be squeezed from the Naval Scene?
We know from Linear B texts that Poseidon was the principal male deity worshipped at Pylos, and po-ro-wi-to in the Pylian calendar seems to have been the month of sailing.
We cannot exclude the possibility that representations of ships in Hall 64 recorded an event or ceremony of religious character, conducted for the sake of the larger community during the month of po-ro-wi-to.
Naval scenes in Hall 64 would also have served as illustrations of state power and expertise in maritime affairs. Inasmuch as they were positioned in the Southwestern Building, possibly the domain of the lawagetas71, the ships may have had special iconographic significance, advertising the naval prowess of the Pylian kingdom to members of the palace community and others.

Hariclia Brecoulaki, Sharon R. Stocker, Jack L. Davis, and Emily C. Egan
An unprecedented navalscene from Pylos: First considerations

1. We are grateful for the support and cordial relations we enjoyed from 1991 until 2011 with Xeni Arapogianni, former Director of Antiquities responsible for the Palace of Nestor, and currently enjoy with Anna Karapanayiotou, the present Acting Director. We would also like to express our sincere thanks to the Institute for Aegean Prehistory and to the Semple Fund of the University of Cincinnati for the financial support that has made possible the study and publication of the wall paintings that form the focus of this paper. Davis and Stocker collaborated in composing the introduction and first three sections of this paper; the remainder is the work of Brecoulaki and Egan.2. McCallum 1987.
3. Bennet 2007.
4. Davis and Bennet 1999.
5. Notably, Lang’s research “team” consisted only of herself and Piet de Jong; she was fortunate if she had even a single conservator to help with the restoration of paintings. Limited human resources meant that there was no labor to invest in particularly time-consuming activities such as the joining together of small or damaged fragments. The Palace of Nestor II consequently offers us only a partial view of the total decorative program of any particular room or area.
6. Palace of Nestor II, p. 214. For Lang’s discussion of Hall 64, see pp. 42–49, 214–215; see also Palace of Nestor I, pp. 247–253.
7. Palace of Nestor II, p. 214.
8. See CWB 1939, p. 45. That there were antiquities at the site had long before been reported to the Archaeological Service by Konstantinos P. Tsakonas, and Blegen and Kourouniotes had visited Englianos already a decade earlier; see Palace of Nestor I, p. 4.
9. Blegen’s excavations at Pylos were organized for the University of Cincinnati, operating in Greece under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.
10. The results of this study have thus far been presented only in Nelson 2001, but will be fully published in Cooper forthcoming.
11. Davis et al. 1997; Zangger et al. 1997; Davis and Bennet 1999; Lee 2001; Stocker 2003; Davies 2004; Alcock et al. 2005; Zarinebaf, Bennet, and Davis 2005; Davis 2008; Parkinson and Cherry 2010. In the final year of PRAP, a season devoted exclusively to study for publication of finds from fieldwork, Cynthia Shelmerdine suggested that Stocker look in the storerooms of the Museum of Hora for ceramic finds similar to those of the Middle Helladic period that she and Yiannos Lolos were then preparing for publication. It was in the course of that visit that the seed was planted that grew into HARP.
12. HARP has been funded entirely by the Semple Fund of the University of Cincinnati and the Institute for Aegean Prehistory. For a summary of research and principal publications see Stocker and Davis 2011.
13. Halstead and Isaakidou 2004; Stocker and Davis 2004.
14. Brecoulaki et al. 2008. In the summer of 2011, in the course of photographing the entire inventory of watercolors from Pylos now stored in the Archives of the Blegen Library of the ASCSA, an unlabeled, unsigned, and unpublished drawing of the larger fragment of this composition was recognized (ASCSA, Pylos Frescoes 44). The style is not obviously that of de Jong, nor is there any indication that the artist understood it to represent an archer.
15. Palace of Nestor I; Nelson 2001.
16. Davis and Bennet 1999.
17. WAMD 1939, pp. 80, 120.
18. Cleaning the fragments and initial discussion of their iconography was the work of Watson Smith, an attorney and archaeologist experienced in conserving Hopi frescoes in the American Southwest. Smith worked briefly at Pylos in 1954 and summarily recorded his observations in a notebook entitled: “Preliminary General Observations on Pylos Mural Paintings,” now stored in the Archives of at the ASCSA.
19. Wall paintings from Hall 64 were stored by “baskets” in order to preserve spatial information. Within baskets, fragments were sometimes individually recorded (adjacent numbers having been found next to each other), beginning with those found farthest to the west. Basket 49 included fragments from Trench HS7, extension 6 that were believed to have fallen from Wall HSW, the northwestern wall of Hall 64.
20. Nelson 2001, p. 11.
21. Nelson 2001, p. 201.
22. Sections 1, 2, and 3 of 17L were built of heavy limestone slabs. Blegen and Rawson thought they were repairs and, since they abut Section 4, that they must be later in date. See Nelson 2001, p. 202.
23. Nelson 2001, p. 203.
24. We acknowledge the contribution of Caroline Zaitoun, who first identified the curved shape of the ships’ hulls, which constituted a point of departure for the subsequent reconstruction of the Naval Scene. Warm thanks are due also to Shelley Wachsmann for sharing his thoughts with us and for his wise advice “not to reconstruct what cannot be proved.” Since the oral version of this paper was delivered, many new fragments have been added to the Naval Scene. A more complete reconstruction will be presented in our final publication of Hall 64 and its paintings.
25. The careful cleaning and restoration of the fragments has been the work of conservators Alexandros Zokos, Luigi Musella, Georgina Chela, Eleni Kottoula, Silia Kliafa, and Penny Vounissiou.
26. Andreas Karydas (Institute of Nuclear Physics, DEMOKRITOS) performed in situ nondestructive XRF measurements. In situ Raman spectroscopy was applied by Giorgos Oikonomou (Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration) and subsets of microsamples of pigments were analyzed both at IGME and, under the direction of Maria Perla Colombini, at the Instituto di Chimica e Chimica Industriale.
27. See also Egan and Brecoulaki, this volume.
28. Morgan 1988; Doumas 1992; Televantou 1994. For recent studies of Aegean ships and related bibliography see Wedde 1991, 2000; Wachsmann 1997, 1998, 2013; Petrakis 2004, 2006, 2011; Tartaron 2013.
29. Palace of Nestor II, pls. M, N. This border has also been detected along the lower edge of the fragments of the ship with argonauts on its hull, strengthening our argument that this vessel is related to the Naval Scene.
30. Naville 1898, pls. LXXII–LXXV; Wachsmann 1998, pp. 18–27.
31. The basic triad of yellow-red-blue is characteristic of an earlier style in Mycenaean wall painting, as is also attested in the case of the recently discovered ship from Iklaina (Cosmpoulos, this volume). For the color systems employed in Pylian wall paintings, see Brecoulaki, Karydas, and Colombini, forthcoming.
32. Brecoulaki, Karydas, and Colombini, forthcoming.
33. The a secco technique is widely attested at Pylos; see Brecoulaki et al. 2012.
34. For ceramic examples, see the Kolonna (Aigina) pithos and sherds (Basch 1986, pp. 422, 424, figs. 6–8) and a sherd from Phylakopi with an incised ship (Casson 1971, fig. 46). For examples on seals, see Marinatos 1933, pls. 15–16; Casson 1971, figs. 44–45, 47–48 (see also figs. 46, 49, for examples on sherds and 50 for a gold ornament). See also Wachsmann 1998, p. 98, fig. 6.25.
35. For images of the Theran ships, see Morgan 1988; Doumas 1992; Televantou 1994. For ships on pottery, see Korres 1989 (Tragana); Dakoronia 1990, 1996, 1999, 2002, 2006 (Kynos); Casson 1971, fig. 29 (Asine); Sandars 1985, p. 130, fig. 85; Basch 1987, pp. 141–142, fig. 295 (Skyros).
36. Perpillou 1968; Palaima 1991, pp. 287–289, 302, 304; Wachsmann 1988, p. 125, fig. 7.2. See also a comment by Petrakis (2011, p. 194, n. 42).
37. But, according to Palaima (1991, p. 287), “It is now clear that the design on the verso of the tablet, previously thought to resemble phonogram *35, is in fact also a sketch of a ship, executed no doubt by the scribe whose imagination drifted seaward because of his assignment on the recto: recording rowers missing at ro-o-wa.”
38. On steering oars, see Wedde 2000, pp. 39–62.
39. Nelson et al. 1930, pl. 39; Wachsmann 1998, pp. 166–171. We thank Shelley Wachsmann for pointing out this parallel.
40. Mark 2005.
41. See Wachsmann 1998, p. 157. See also a ship on an LH IIIC pyxis from Tholos 1 at Tragana near Pylos which has a single rudder, the tiller of which seems to be held in place by a linchpin connected to the boom (Korres 1989).
42. Morgan 1988, p. 126.
43. Mark 2005, p. 148.
44. Wedde 2000, pp. 72–76.
45. Morgan 1988, p. 121.
46. Palaima 1991.
47. Killen 1983.
48. On the history of the sail, see Wedde 2000, pp. 76–90.
49. Palace of Nestor II, pl. L (19 M ne); Shaw 2001.
50. Shaw 2001. Shaw assigned these fragments to Hall 64 based on two lines of argument. (1) She believed that the ship was probably associated with military scenes; in her view a warrior depicted on a fragment from the same context tied the fragments to Hall 64, the proposed seat of the lawagetas. (2) Shaw concluded that a horizontal checkerboard border on one of the two fragments pointed to Hall 64, the only place at the site where she knew borders of this type had been found. Even though the checkerboard motif has now been recognized elsewhere (e.g., in Rooms 5 and 20), stratigraphic and architectural evidence suggest that Shaw’s fragments did come from Hall 64; if so, they would point to the existence there of a predecessor to our Naval Scene.
51. On ship cabins, see Shaw 1980, 1982.
52. Morgan 1988, pp. 137–141.
53. Dakoronia 1990, 2006; Wachsmann 1998, pp. 131–132, figs. 7.8–7.9.
54. Gardiner and Peet 1952, pl. 95.518; Wachsmann 1998, pp. 32–36.
55. Protonotariou-Deilaki 1990.
56. Palace of Nestor II, pl. H (18 F nw); Morgan 1988, pp. 137–141.
57. For “frying pans” see Coleman 1985, p. 199, fig. 5; for the miniature frieze from Kea see Morgan 1990.
58. Palace of Nestor II, pl. D (50 H nws); Palace of Nestor I, pp. 82–85, with reconstruction of the floor by Piet de Jong; Egan, forthcoming.
59. Could it be related to the schematized wave pattern, evocative of the movement of the sea, found in the reliefs from Deir el-Bahri? Could it have been inspired by patterns on some Mediterranean shells: e.g., the Arca noae?
60. Wedde 2000, figs. 134–141. On the painted decoration on the hull of the Gurob ship-cart model see Sidall 2013 and on ship colors in the Homeric poems see Davis 2013.
61. Palace of Nestor II, p. 214.
62. For the use of the argonaut motif in the wall paintings of the Palace of Nestor see Egan and Brecoulaki, this volume. For a recent overview of maritime imagery in wall paintings of the Late Bronze Age Aegean, see Petrakis 2011, p. 190, table 1.
63. Morgan 1990.
64. Davis and Bennet 1999, p. 111, n. 24.
65. On the depiction of the open sea by Aegean artists, see Berg 2011.
66. On the meaning and uses of the adjective see Grand-Clément 2011.
67. For seafaring on the “wine-dark sea,” see Mark 2005, pp. 138–152.
68. Agouridis 1997; Mark 2005, p. 143; Tartaron 2013, pp. 112–113.
69. Mark 2005, p. 139.
70. Palaima 1991.
71. As Davis and Bennet (1999, p. 117) have suggested: “It does seem clear, however, that by the time of the final destruction of the citadel, martial scenes were located only or at least principally in the Southwestern Building and that a visitor to this structure could have experienced a very different visual reception than a visitor to the Main Building. It is this thematic opposition that others have noted before us, suggesting that the complex of state rooms that included Hall 64 and Hall 65 may have been the seat of the lawagetas, and that the scenes of warfare depicted in Hall 64 were appropriate to the function of his office.”







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