Apotropaic Devices and Practices in Greek Pottery and Coroplastic Production
Oliver Pilz, 2021-06-24
The firing of pottery and/or coroplastic objects in the kiln is a technically sophisticated procedure and certainly the most crucial and riskiest moment of the whole production process. If the firing fails, the work of several days or even weeks is going to be completely or partly destroyed. Moreover, fire as a destructive force per se could cause devastation in the workshop and severely injure the craftsmen. It is therefore not surprising that the perils of the firing process were personified as demonic beings which had to be warded off or at least propitiated by ritual means. The activity of these demons was thought to have been provoked by the evil eye and curses as it seems. Starting with a brief discussion of the literary sources as regards the ritual protection of workshops in general, the paper collects and investigates the scattered material evidence for apotropaic devices protecting against demonic beings potentially disruptive to the production of coroplastic objects and pottery. Whereas the depictions of kilns and other workshop scenes in vase painting showing apotropaic devices, have recently been discussed by Smith (2009, 72–94), the archaeological contexts yielding objects, which might have fulfilled protective functions for both the craftsmen and the production process, have not yet received adequate scholarly attention. The paper examines several (recently) excavated workshop sites and particularly focuses on the role that grotesque terracotta figurines might have played in averting mischievous demons plaguing Greek potters and coroplasts.