Network theory is increasingly used for discussing connectivity in the ancient Mediterranean. It has inspired innovative analyses of various past networks and present datasets, including ceramic groups. Whether or not a certain assemblage is suitable for a network approach, however, depends on the scale of analysis and the questions we ask. Barbarian or Handmade Burnished Ware (HBW) offers a case in point. Its appearance in the Late Bronze Age Aegean constitutes a dramatic departure from other contemporary locally produced ceramic traditions in the region. For this reason, HBW remains one of the most highly-debated ceramic classes in Aegean prehistory.
Most recently, it has been argued that HBW actually encompasses several types of unrelated pottery, and that one of these types might be the product of small groups of immigrants moving from Italy to the Aegean. In this respect, the assemblage offers some potential for understanding past networks. However, ‘Italian’ HBW is not an isolated phenomenon. Contemporary with its presence in the Aegean, several types of bronzes possibly connected to Italy appear in the Aegean as well. Some scholars suggest that these bronzes are related to ‘Italian’ HBW on the basis of distributions on a regional scale. However, at a more detailed level of analysis this correlation breaks down.
Through a reevaluation of the evidence, the paper seeks to demonstrate that it is problematic to envisage the ‘Italian’ HBW and bronzes as expressions of the same network, suggesting the possibility that these assemblages represent different sets of connections.