Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Classical Studies

Reader 1

David Roselli

Reader 2

Michelle Berenfeld

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Red and black figure pottery played an integral role as storytelling objects associated with rituals and festivals in Athens and its colonies during the Classical Period (c. 500-323 BCE). These vessels functioned as both artistic centerpieces and drinking, bathing, or oil-storage containers in celebrations of all kinds. Many Ancient Greek festivities showcased pottery, but the amphorae produced for the Panathenaia are some of the most notable for their impressive craftsmanship and detailed vase paintings. Ceramics not only served various ritual functions during ceremonies but also as commemorative objects and tokens of victory. In the archaeological record, these vases represent the region’s cultural emphasis on art and spectacle. Creating these vessels was laborious, complex, and time-consuming for the potters, vase painters, and their assistants who produced these pieces of functional ritual art. Their hard work was prominently featured in the processions, rituals, and feasts associated with the Athenian city state’s most major festivals.

Through this thesis, I examine the relationship formed between the ancient artist and their work firsthand, taking on the role of the craftsman myself and manufacturing, from start to finish, my own black-figure amphora (Ancient Greek oil vessel) associated with Scripps College Graduation, specifically the Matriculation ceremony. By harvesting and processing the clay, creating the ceramic vessel, decorating and firing it, and then finally engaging with it as a ritual object, I take the point of view not only of the potter and the vase painter but act as a participant in the spectacle as well. While the methodology behind the modern craftsmanship of my vessel

and that of the Ancient Athenian potter differ, the effort exerted and the time spent result in the same feelings of pride and deep connection to the vessel both then and now. By depicting this life milestone in the form of an amphora, I demonstrate how these art pieces – which served as both functional storytelling devices and commemorative objects in Ancient Greece – can evolve and find a place in modern ceremonies. In a way, this thesis is a practical application of reception studies, physically bringing a piece of the classical world to life as art within the context of modern-day ritual.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.