The abundance of marble in the Cyclades, particularly at Naxos and Keros, favoured the development of marble carving to create vases and figurines in the third millennium BC. Marble carving tools were made of stone and metal. Modern experiments, the archaeological remains of “workshops”, and unfinished artefacts provide evidence for the manufacturing techniques of vases and figurines.
Vase making comprised two main stages: carving the basic shape and finishing and polishing. The manufacture of closed vessels was a more demanding process, as it also required emptying the interior and creating holes and incised details. Marble vases came in a variety of forms. The small krater, also known as the “kandela” for its resemblance to modern Greek ecclesiastical lamps, is probably the most characteristic Early Cycladic shape. The conical tumbler is characteristic of the first phase of the Early Cycladic period. Bowls display a great variety a shapes: the shallow bowl with vertical pierced lug, the bowl with four horizontal rim lugs and the spouted bowl. The kylix is this period’s most common footed cup. Pyxides, whether spherical, cylindrical, or spool-shaped, are also common. There are also composite vessels, such as double vases, kernoi, the “dove vase”, as well as anthropomorphic and zoomorphic vessels.
Traces of ancient repairs on vases and figurines are particularly interesting as they reveal both the value attributed to these objects and the period’s technical knowledge.
Broken vases and figurines were mended either by drilling holes on either side of the break and using leather or lead strips to hold the broken parts together, or by joining the broken pieces with lead clasps. Occasionally, broken objects were reworked, like a figurine now in the Museum of Cycladic Art, which had broken at the knees so these were reworked into feet
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