Friday 18 December 2009

Kostas Sbonias
Ionian University

Investigating the dynamics of a regional zone: the evidence from seals and settlement patterns in the Asterousia Mountains in the Early and Middle Bronze Age.
It is commonly held that, during the Prepalatial period, the region of the Asterousia in south central Crete is characterized by a dense network of small settlements or farmsteads, accompanied by small cemeteries of one or two tholos tombs, which were largely abandoned as the process of urbanisation and political centralisation progressed with the old palace of Phaistos as the centre. Phaistos, and by extension, circumstances in the Mesara, take pride of place in discussions of the socio-political make-up at the end of Prepalatial and during the Old Palace period. Recent research at Phaistos, however, suggests that MM II was the main period of expansion of the palace and reinforcement of its authority. Within this context and using the example of the Asterousia, this seminar examines the role of small social groups in peripheral areas in their progress towards this socio-political make-up.
The start of all this was my participation in the group publishing two important excavations of Antonis Vasilakis in the Asterousia region, the excavation of the Prepalatial cemetery of Moni Odighitria and the Prepalatial settlement of Trypiti. The study of 52 Prepalatial seals found in the course of the excavation gives us the chance to discuss this material within the context of the wider region as evidence for local social practices and strategies of the small elite groups of the wider Asterousia region. It is particularly the study of the MM I seals of white paste, the so-called ‘white pieces’ which are linked to a workshop in the area of Moni Odighitria, that illustrates how, at the end of the Prepalatial period and the transition to Protopalatial, small local social groups of the western Asterousia, by importing innovative and new techniques, acted as instruments of local economic and ideological power, in the context of parallel developments in other regions of Crete. Access to maritime trade networks via the south coast may have been the factor that is linked with the special location of the western Asterousia. This dynamic does not appear to continue during the Old Palace period.
Evidence for settlement organisation in the Asterousia during the Old and New Palace periods is provided by the archaeological survey recently organised by A. Vasilakis and the speaker within the context of publishing the Prepalatial settlement of Trypiti. This investigation brought to light two Middle Minoan settlements on the low sea-flats on either side of the end of the Tripiti gorge, which do not fit into the picture of abandonment of the Asterousia during the Old Palace period. Both the aeolian erosion and the absence of a modern habitation site in the area permit the arrangement of the houses to be studied, which follow a scattered, loose lay-out. The importance of sea-routes and trade networks via the south coast becomes particularly obvious in the course of the New Palace period, with the important presence of a settlement with densely arranged houses on the Phylaka akroteri, which closes off the Trypiti cove from the west.         


Next Seminar

Friday 12 May 18.30

M. Marthari
Raos on Thera...