Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives


Prof. H. Haskell

Hal Haskell Book Cover (courtesy Stephen Hooker [©SHooker])


Classicists must by nature be broadly trained, as Classics covers the ancient eastern Mediterranean world, from the prehistoric period through the dissolution of the Roman Empire. While my teaching spans these ares, my primary research interest lies in the archaeology of the Greek Aegean Bronze Age, especially the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1600-1100 BCE).

Transport stirrup jars of the Bronze Age Aegean and East Mediterranean

I have been studying transport “stirrup jars,” which are found throughout the eastern Mediterranean. These jars were used to transport olive oil, a major commodity in antiquity. Olive oil was used for cooking, scents (base for perfume), and bathing. The peak of their movement is ca. 1400-1200 BCE. Many jars bear “Linear B” inscriptions; Linear B is a Late Bronze Age syllabic system used to record an early form of Greek. The inscription on the jar at the below [TH Z 853], found at Thebes on the Greek mainland, records the collector, owner, and Cretan town of origin.

File written by Adobe Photoshop¨ 5.2


Thebes, Kadmeion, TH Z 853 (Thebes Museum)


rs_inscr_ed2Minet el Beida, SJ (det.), Cypro-Minoan sign (Paris, Musée du Louvre AO 16093)

Knowing where these jars were made and filled, and where they traveled, has significant political, economic, and social implications in the period right around the time of the Trojan War. These jars help us to understand where the important olive oil producing districts were located, what administrative centers handled their packing and export, and what centers received the goods. IMapn turn, such knowledge leads to a better grasp of who the movers and shakers were in this period.

This is a collaborative, interdisciplinary project. My task, in addition to developing the historical implications and serving as overall editor, is to establish the typology of the vases themselves; these jars vary in shape, fabric, and finish according to where and when they were made. Linear B specialist Prof. John Killen (Cambridge University) is assessing the Linear B inscriptions. Archaeological chemist Dr. Richard Jones (Glasgow University) is analyzing the jars spectroscopically (optical emission spectroscopy and atomic absorption spectrophotometry) to determine origins. Dr. Peter Day (University of Sheffield) is studying the clay fabric by petrography (thin sections of clay examined under polarizing light).

Crete Our results show that most of the stirrup jars that were produced for export were manufactured in western part of the island of Crete (image at left), surprising given the hypothesized administrative importance of sites elsewhere on the island, such as Knossos. Many west Cretan jars were sent to administrative centers on the mainland such as Thebes, Mycenae, and Tiryns. Central Cretan shops seemed to have cornered the eastern market, including Cypriote and Syrian sites. West Crete exported a few jars to south Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia.

As a next phase for this work, we hope to do organic residue analysis. This will enable us to confirm stirrup jar contents and perhaps even to get a sense of different grades of oil (plain and perfumed) as they relate to various producers and consumers.

Other research projects

In my “spare time,” I occasionally write book reviews and manuscript assessments. Among works reviewed is La céramique mycénienne de l’Égée au Levant. Hommage à Vronwy Hankey (Lyon), a collection of essays focused on Bronze Age Greek pottery exported to the Near East. I have also reviewed The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean, E. Cline (ed.), (Oxford University Press, 2010), in American Journal of Archaeology 115.2 (2011). I assessed the manuscript for The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age (Cambridge University Press). Such scholarly exercises enable me to keep current in my field, and in the case of the Cambridge Companion to get a sneak preview of scholarship that is on the verge of publication.

Selected Bibliography

Day, P.M., and H.W. Haskell, “Transport Stirrup Jars from Thebes as Evidence for Trade in haskell book 5Late Bronze Age Greece,” in Trade and Production in Premonetary Greece: Aspects of Trade, C. Gillis, C. Risberg, B. Sjöberg, eds., Jonsered, 1995, pp. 87-109.

Haskell, H.W. “Coarse Ware Stirrup Jars at Mycenae,” Annual of the British School at Athens 76 (1981),  225-238.

——-“From Palace to Town Administration: The Evidence of Coarse-Ware Stirrup Jars,” in Minoan Society: Proceedings of the Cambridge Colloquium 1981, O. Krzyszkowska and L. Nixon, eds., Bristol, 1983, pp. 121-128.

——-“Pylos: Stirrup Jars and the International Oil Trade,” in Pylos Comes Alive: Industry + Administration in a Mycenaean Palace, C. Shelmerdine and T. Palaima, eds., New York, 1984,  97-107.

——-“The Origin of the Aegean Stirrup Jar and Its Earliest Evolution and Distribution (MB III - LB I),” American Journal of Archaeology 89 (1985), 221-229.

——-“Were the LM III Inscribed Stirrup Jars Palatial?,” Kadmos 25 (1986), 85-86.

——-“LM III Knossos:  Evidence Beyond the Palace,” Studi micenei ed egeo-anatolici 27 (1989) 81-110.

——-Bronze Age pottery section,  in C. Picon, Greek Vases in the San Antonio Museum of Art, University of Texas Press, 1995.

——-“Mycenaeans on Crete: Patterns in the Evidence,” Bulletin de correspondence hellénique Supplément 30 (1997), 187-194.

——-“Aspects of the Nature and Control of Mycenaean Foreign Trade, Aegaeum 20.2 (Festschrift for Malcolm Wiener) (1999), 339-342.

——-“wanax to wanax:  Regional Trade Patterns in Mycenaean Crete,” in Essays in Honor of Sara A. Immerwahr, A. Chapin, ed., Hesperia Suppl. 33 (2004), 151-160.

——-“Region to Region Export of Transport Stirrup jars from LM IIIA2/B Crete,” in Proceedings of the International Workshop held at Athens, Scuola Archeologica Italiana, 5-6 April 2003, “Ariadne’s Threads: Connections between Crete and the Greek Mainland in the Post Palatial Period (Late Minoan IIIA2 to LM IIIC),” A.L. D’Agata, J. Moody, eds. Tripodes 3 (2005), 205-221.

——-book review of La céramique mycénienne de l’égée au levant: Hommage à Vronwy Hankey, edited by Jacqueline Balensi, Jean-Yves Monchambert, and Sylvie Müller- Celka (Travaux de la Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée 41), American Journal of Archaeology 111 (2007), 807-808.

——-“Archaeological Science or Scientific Archaeology:  Missions and Misunderstandings,” in Trade and Production in Premonetary Greece: Crossing Borders, C. Gillis and B. Sjöberg, eds., Jonsered, 2008, pp. 9-20.

——-, Jones, R.E., Day, P.M. and Killen, J.T., Transport Stirrup Jars of the Bronze Age Aegean and East Mediterranean.  Philadelphia, 2011; rev. by Dr. Vassilis Petrakis, Society for Aegean Prehistory; rev. by Dr. Andrea Vianello, AJA 117.2 (2013).

——, “Elite Economic Relationships between Crete and Thebes,” Minos, in press.

——, “Crete’s Octopus Trademark,” Πρακτικά Γ’ Παγκρήτιας Επιστημονικής Συνάντησης. Rethymnon, 2016.

——, “Seaborne from the Beginning: Transport Stirrup Jars,” in Maritime Transport Containers in the Bronze–Iron Age Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, Stella Demesticha and A. Bernard Knapp (eds.), Uppsala, 2016, pp. 129-144.



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