The Pithos Garden

The Pithos Garden

The large (tall, slender and somewhat barrel-shaped) storage vessels known as pithoi represent one of the earliest shapes typical of Mediterranean and Near Eastern pottery. The pithos provided not only cool and safe storage for olive oil, wine, and grain, but served in nautical transport as well. Often as tall as a man, these thick-walled vessels are frequently found half-buried in the earth of pantries and storerooms (explaining why they are typically pointed at the bottom with no flat base upon which to stand). Discarded pithoi sometimes lined the edges of wells, and -from the Early Bronze Age onward- were often "recycled" as burial urns.

Ceramic Water Pipes

The Roman architect and writer Vitruvius, who elucidated nearly every detail of contemporary building in his work De Architectura, discussed water pipes in Chapter vi of Book VII, which describes three methods for channeling water: stone channels, lead pipes, and pipes of clay. Of the three, he recommended pipes of clay as being easier to produce and more economical than stone, and much better for health than those of lead. The sturdy clay pipes found at Troy, articulated to fit one inside the next, correspond to his recommendations -and resemble as well many other water pipes found throughout the Roman world. The joints were sealed with a mixture of slaked lime and oil. Bends and bifurcations were usually facilitated by units chiseled from stone.

Grinding Stones and Pestles

The cereal grains represent one of the very earliest foods in the human diet. Seeds of wild grasses gathered in the surroundings had always provided a source of nourishment, and it was probably the grains that were first selected for planting and reaping some 10,000 years ago at the very beginnings of the Neolithic settled economy; they very soon became a staple. Before the harvested grain could be used, however, it had to be hulled and ground.

Threshing sleds and basins for stamping came into play -as well as grinding stones (the latter remaining in use through recent times). To facilitate storage and preservation, only as much grain as required would be cracked or pulverized shortly before use; this meant at least one grindstone for each household. Over the centuries these articles have remained practically unaltered in form. Grain is scattered over the surface of a flat or saddle-shaped grinding stone and energetically stroked with a hand-held pestle (generally ovoid or cylindrical in form).

To achieve a relatively fine flour-like substance, both stones employed must be rough in texture, yet hard and resistant -the latter to minimize the amount of grit in the resulting product. Granite, basalt, and porphyry were used whenever available. Such hand-mills represented standard practice until the practical "turnstile" mill was eventually introduced in Mesopotamia ca. 1000 BCE, reaching some outlying regions only one millennium later.

It seems to have been the girls and women of antiquity who were primarily responsible for this long and exhausting process. This is suggested not only by ancient Egyptian frescoes, but also by morphological alteration in the joints of female skeletal evidence.