Timescale

Bronze Age to Hellenistic timescale

Greek painted pottery has a long history. Conventionally the earliest examples are dated around 1000BC, the latest around 300BC. The tradition can be traced back, to Bronze Age (Cretan and Mycenean) ceramics, and carried on through later Hellenistic, but both of these groups are sufficiently different from the main sequence that they tend to be studied separately.

What holds the main sequence together? The answer is political, social, and economic history, as much as knowledge of potting and painting handed down through generations. Conventionally the finer pottery of these 700 years is divided into groups, by centuries or half, even quarter, centuries, according to styles and techniques of decoration. Because the pottery can be dated closely, often to within 20 or 25 years, through absolute and relative dates, there is a tendency to use it to date other types of objects, found both in Greece and in lands where Greeks travelled, traded and settled. There is also a tendency to use terms adopted for styles of pottery decoration to denote periods of time. For example, people often speak of 'Geometric Greece', but this terminology is not precise and should be avoided; 'Geometric Athens' is not the same chronologically as 'Geometric Corinth'.