Friday 30 March 2012

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The Sea Guard- House, Karoumes: History of occupation at a small site of the East-Cretan countryside from the Protopalatial to the Final Palatial Period

Habitation in the hinterland of the Cretan urban and palatial centres during the 2nd millennium BC was rather scattered; it took the form of small settlements or, more often, of isolated habitation sites. The latter are usually interpreted as farmhouses, or, if larger, country house estates. Until now, the picture given by research concerning these sites, such as their role in the agrarian economy and social organisation is mainly based on evidence from surface surveys. Excavated buildings are rather few. Most of them are country houses – sites, associated with the higher levels of social hierarchy and are dated solely to the LM I.
This presentation deals with one of the few excavated country sites that can be associated with the lower levels of settlement hierarchy. This is the Sea Guard-House, in the cove of Karoumes, at the east end of Crete. The excavation, as well as the surface survey of the broader area, was carried out as part acheter viagra pfizer tarif of the research project “Minoan Roads”, under the direction of Stella Chryssoulaki.
The site provided evidence for four successive phases of settlement or use, during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. In the first occupation phase, dated to the MM IB-II, an isolated terrace was erected. A small outbuilding was added, perhaps similar in use to modern metochia. The terrace served the production of purple dye, an industrial activity, which was especially important for the economy of coastal areas of East Crete during this formative period. The character of the site changes in MM III, when a megalithic building was erected next to the existing terrace. The site reached its full development at the end of LM IA and in LM IB, when it took the form of a building complex comprising two or three structures surrounded by courtyards and agricultural terraces. The building complex was destroyed at the end of the Neopalatial period, being succeeded by a small structure, which continued to be used until early LM IIIA2.
The study of the pottery and architecture shows that during the Neopalatial and Final Palatial periods the site was a farm house occupied throughout the year. The inhabitants could be regarded independent small-scale farmers – a position they apparently retained regardless of the important changes in the settlement organization of the area, and the historical development of the neighbouring centres of Zakros and Palaikastro. The surface survey showed that the majority of the existing farm houses were abandoned during LM IA. This phenomenon can be linked to wider developments, namely the expansion of the urban centres and the emergence of a landed aristocracy, which was based in the so-called country houses or villas. In LM IB, social hierarchy was fully established, and the inhabitants of the site would have belonged to the poorer segments of the population. However, the finds show bearable living conditions, at least. The transition to the Final Palatial period signifies a radical change in the character of the occupation: the earlier buildings dominated the landscape due to their megalithic structure and their tower-like form. This monumentality does not exist in the re-occupation phase. However, it is possible that the social position of the inhabitants was, in fact, better: the abandonment of the palaces and the country houses or villas means that, even if the previous elites survived, the economic base of their power had been hurt, and their ability to impose power and authority onto the country-folk had been diminished.


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