The Origins and Ancient History of Wine

By Patrick E. McGovern; Stuart J. Fleming et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 18

Empty Cups and Empty Jugs: The Social Role of Wine in Minoan and Mycenaean Societies

James C. Wright


1.

Introduction

Preserved texts and archaeological remains of winemaking installations document clearly enough the production of wine in Minoan and Mycenaean society. How wine was used is less clear, although Mycenaean texts record its use in a variety of ways. 1 Because of the important role that wine plays in social institutions and in the formation of complex societies (Dietler 1990), this is an important theme to pursue. The best evidence for studying this problem is found in pictorial and artifactual material illustrative of the consumption of wine. Because of the notorious ambiguity of such evidence in pre- and proto-historic societies, special attention has to be given to the study of its archaeological context. This perspective will be highlighted in this chapter, which will examine the evidence from the Minoan and Mycenaean periods. 2 For the period of the first palaces on Crete, this investigation cannot succeed because of the poverty of representations. In such instances where vessels are displayed, such as in association with activities of the “genii, ” other activities, such as lustration, are more plausibly argued (Weingarten 1991). With the advent of the Neopalatial period, a much broader scheme of artistic representation develops, but unfortunately, there is no scene preserved that shows vessels being used for drinking, a group of vessels that could be identified as a wine service, or recognizable attributes of grapes-all of which are common in classical Greece. Only two artifacts illustrate grapes, viz., painted vessels from Thera (Fig. 18.1; see also Marinatos 1970: pl. 56, 1; Marinatos 1974: pl. 79). 3

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