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White Slip II Vessels and Cypriot-Soli Relations in the 2nd Millenium B.C.
Remzi YAĞCI*

In the course of three years, the excavations at the Soli Tumulus produced important finds that illuminate the history of the city. This work is carried out within the Soli / Pompeiopolis Archaic Harbor City Excavations in two zones, the Soli Tumulus and the Colonnaded Avenue, in a project conducted since 1999 by the Archaeological Department of Mersin University, with the participation of İçel Museum. In this article, the fragments of the White Slip II type vessels found in Soli, and other relavant vessel finds, the areas of distribution, function, the conditions of finds, and their definitive or relative datings, plus trade relations are examined. Moreover, by considering the probable trade routes, the part and significance of Cyprian-Soli relations in Cilician-East Mediterranean commerce are touched upon.

The three fragments of Cyprian White Slip II type vessels, from an upper stratigraphi-cal layer which is densely Hellenistic (D6), and from the inside and bottom of the clearings on the eastern slope, full of Archaic and Iron Age materials (D8, F9), on account of their rarity in Cilicia, bring a new dimension to Anatolian-Cyprian relations in the Late Bronze Age, in terms of defining trade routes and areas of distribution. These vessels were made in Cyprus for religious or secular purposes, from Late Cyprus IB (1450 B.C.) to the end of Late Cyprus IIB (1290 B.C.). The majority of intact vases were retrieved from tombs as "prestige" wares or presents, and represent a long tradition in Cyprus and in the East Mediterranean trade network within which the island of Cyprus is located.

White Slips are typical Late Bronze Age vessels of Cyprus. Some White Slip fragments are found in the Levant, the Aegean and in the Late Bronze Age centers in the East Mediterranean. They are found as complete vessels or in hundreds of fragments belonging to such vessels. Because of their characteristics, they are easily distinguished from other types, having a white slip with decoration often in dark brown or black, and usually having a hemispherical form, exceptions are the crater, tankard, jug and bottle (bulbil) shapes. In both form and ornamentation, White Slips seem to develop from Cyprian Middle Bronze Age white painted wares. This vessel type lasted the longest in the history of Cyprian pottery, and was in use for at least four centuries (1600/1575-1190 B.C.). The earliest specimens are Proto White Slip, Late Cyprus IA1 and end with White Slip II in Late Cyprus IIB. One can link the development of White Slips in Cyprus to the requirements of daily life. Beginning in 1600 B.C., the eating habits of Cypriots changed, the population began to consume more soups, other liquid and cooked foodstuffs. Due to this change in habits, small to medium scale vessels with white primings and ring bases were produced and used widely in Cyprus. White Slip vessels were also used to contain liquids and are also thought to have been used for serving food, as they are sometimes found in tombs with fish, bird, goat or sheep bones on them.

White Slip vessels were produced between 1600/1575 and 1190 B.C., (in Cyprian chronology from Late Cyprus IIA:1) and are widespread in the Levant in the 14th century. From excavated finds a greater quantity was produced in the 13th century, and White Slip disappears at the end of the 13th or the start of the 12th century.

Within the scope of our subject, White Slip II vessels are more widespread than White Slip I. The conservatism of the Cypriot ceramic tradition explains the longevity of production. Other reasons are: functionality and decorative function, because of this, only the outer surfaces and bases of the hemispherical vessels are decorated. The use of different forms leads us to suggest different functions.

The spread of the White Slips is understood to be due to the shortage in Cyprus and the Levant of the Mycenaean kylix used profusely during this period. Like the Soli specimens, the hemispherical White Slip vessels are table wares already known in the Late Bronze Age. Vessels of White Slip I and II are retrieved in the North Levant, particularly at seaports: RasBassit, RasShamra (Ugarit), TellSukas, TellSimiriyan, TellKazel, TelArqa, Tripoli, Tell Arde, Byblos, Beirut, Sidon, Dakerman, Tyre and in regions further inland. In the West, beyond Syria-Palestine, the most obvious and equally mass produced examples from the Central Mediterranean area were transported, together with the ring based wares, by merchant ships to centers in the Aegean, to Athens, Aegina, Thera, Rhodes and Crete (Kydonid). Similarly, the mass produced Cyprian White Slip vessels and ring based wares reached the Aegean via the same sea routes. One can talk of Cypriot merchants engaged in business at harbor towns like Kommos, Poros and Chania. Although the White Slip pottery is rare in the Central Mediterranean, it is found in Sicily (Canaletto) and Sardinia.

The functions of White Slips are also discussed. For example, while the White Slips of fine quality, found together with other Cyprian wares like the ring based water jugs, high quality Mycenaean earthenwares and the items from Ugarit (Minet el-Bedia and Ras Shamrd) and Sidon-Dakerman, made of ivory or faience, luxury items, were the most favored presents in the richly supplied tombs of the 14th-13th centuries, White Slips, towards the end of the Late Bronze Age (the beginning of the 12th century B.C.), joined the lower grade, common and cheap objects massproduced for everyday usage with less emphasis on quality.

The question of who produced White Slip vessels and who distributed them is debated. Even if it were a significant factor in the palatial economy, it is difficult to prove, because economic relations were not confined to the palace only. The expansion of the maritime trade in connection with Cyprus indicates the power of the Cyprian economy. Indeed, Cyprus was one of the states with strong economies in the 13th century and probably earlier. The affluent seaports and the cities with tombs containing a profusion of presents for the wealthy, like Hala Sultan Tekke, Enkomi, Kition and Kalvasos-Ayios (Dhimitrios), show remarkable progress from the 13th century to the 12th century B.C.

As for the technological features, the White Slip I and II vessels were kiln-dried under conditions regulated to attain high temperatures in excess of 1080° centrigrade. According to the physical and chemical analyses made on the production technologies of White Slip II vessels, it was experimentally determined that they were dried in a kiln heated to an approximate temperature of 1050-1080 °C, and they contained the element manganese (Mn) as a coloring agent, plus a compound of micaceous clay (+feldspar+quartz) to produce the white slip. Sanida was one of the centers of White Slip pottery production in Cyprus, and is the first of such locations to be excavated, revealing left over fragments, fire rods, kilns for drying the White Slips, etc providing substantial evidence of White Slip production.

The geographical distribution of the Cypriot pottery types found in Anatolia in the Late Bronze Age is examined by dividing them into six regions. In the region encompassing Cilicia, our subject matter, the centers where the White Slip II vessels are found are rather few in number, such as Tarsus, Yumuktepe, Kabarsa and Kinet Höyük. The distribution of these vessels to the hinterland is questionable. White Slip vessels, with a tradition of more than four centuries in Cyprus and distributed throughout the Levant, the Aegean and the Central Mediterranean, failed, according to the surviving evidence to penetrate Anatolia and was concentrated only in coastal centers. This can be explained in two ways: firstly, like Cyprus, Anatolia has a conservative character with its own food culture and secondly, and more open to question, due to the limited trade relations of Anatolia with the coast, such as the Hittite embargo on Mycenean pottery imports in favour of local production.

The finds at the harbor city of Soli of White Slip II vessels, the "prestige objects" of the period and dated to the first half of the 14th century B.C., shows Soli to have been a center of the coastal trade. Soli, or Ellipra by its proposed name in the 2nd millenium B.C., was undoubtedly a harbor city of Kizzuwatna under Hittite sovereignty, where the import-export business was conducted and, with its location, should have been near to coastal cities, such as the grain import port of Ura, Lamiya, Pitura and Zallara, all mentioned in various written documents, and thought to be located in Cilicia. A true estimation of the importance of Soli in the trade hub of the Levant will be revealed by the continuing excavations at the port.

*Yard. Doç. Dr. Remzi Yağcı, Dokuz Eylül Universitesi, Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi, Kaynak Yerleşkesi, Buca - İzmir

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