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Pseira X

Pseira X: The Excavation of Block AF

Philip P. Betancourt
Philip P. Betancourt
Costis Davaras
Eleni Armpis
Costis Davaras
Heidi M.C. Dierckx
Cheryl R. Floyd
Glynis Jones
John C. McEnroe
George Mitrakis
George H. Myer
Marianna Nikolaidou
David S. Reese
Mark J. Rose
Maria C. Shaw
Ian Smith
Eleni Velona
Fotini Zervaki
Volume: 28
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: INSTAP Academic Press
Pages: 330
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  • Book Info
    Pseira X
    Book Description:

    This book is the tenth volume in the series of excavation reports about the harbor town of Pseira, which is located on the island of the same name, just off the northeast coast of Crete. The book focuses on the excavation and interpretation of the architecture and material culture in Block AF. This southern group of buildings is one of the most important areas in the settlement because of its long succession of building phases. Block AF provides the fullest sequence of building phases from any one area at Pseira, with habitation extending from before MM II to LM III. It has examples of complex architectural details including a "pillar crypt," elaborate upstairs floors, a well-preserved U-shaped staircase, and a well-designed kitchen, all of which contribute significantly to our knowledge of East Cretan building practices. In addition to domestic pottery, the houses furnish examples of stone tools, stone vessels, loom weights, inscriptions in Linear A, cult objects, animal bones, marine shells, and a wide range of material recovered from water sieving. This latter category, with burned grain, fish bones, shells, and other categories of materials, fills many gaps in our knowledge of Pseiran life.

    eISBN: 978-1-62303-111-4
    Subjects: History, Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations in the Text
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. List of Figures
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. List of Plates
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Philip P. Betancourt
  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  9. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-xxii)

    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-4)
      Philip P. Betancourt

      Pseira Island, occupied intermittently from the Neolithic period until the Byzantine era, was an important Minoan seaport along the northeastern coast of Crete during the Bronze Age (Ill. 1.1). Its excavation uncovered substantial remains from a Minoan town consisting of about 60 buildings (see Pseira I–IX). Houses were arranged in irregular blocks that were divided by roadways providing easy pedestrian access between different parts of the community.

      Block AF is situated at the southern tip of the peninsula where the main part of the Minoan settlement was constructed (the peninsula is named Katsouni, a local Cretan word for a...

    • 2 Architectural Phases 1 to 3 (Early Phase)
      (pp. 5-16)
      Philip P. Betancourt, Marianna Nikolaidou and Eleni Velona

      Pseira is an offshore island on the eastern side of the Gulf of Mirabello, a large bay in northeast Crete (Ill. 1.1). Its Minoan town was excavated by Richard Seager in 1906 and 1907 (Seager 1910), and the editors of this volume returned to the island in 1984 to begin a new project (Betancourt and Davaras, eds., 1995, 1998a, 1998b, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003; Betancourt, Davaras, and Hope Simpson, eds., 2004, 2005). Block AF was excavated by the modern expedition.

      Block AF is at the southern end of Katsouni Peninsula on a level part of the peninsula’s spine (Frontispiece; Ill....

    • 3 Architectural Phases 3 (Late Phase) to 5
      (pp. 17-26)
      Philip P. Betancourt, Eleni Armpis, George Mitrakis, Marianna Nikolaidou, Eleni Velona and Fotini Zervaki

      This chapter discusses the excavation of the northern part of Block AF. Rooms AF 1, AF 5A, and AF 5B were re-used after the rest of this building was destroyed near the end of LM IA. Additional rooms at the north (Rooms AF 6, AF 7, AF 8, and AF 9) were built across land that had previously been a courtyard, and they were used during LM IB and later.

      Area AF North was excavated in 1990 and 1991 under the supervision of several trench supervisors: Eleni Armpis, George Mitrakis, Marianna Nikolaidou, Eleni Velona, and Fotini Zervaki. Assistance and advice...


    • 4 Architecture in Block AF South
      (pp. 29-32)
      John C. McEnroe

      The buildings in Block AF South were built close to bedrock. The location, at the southern tip of the peninsula, meant that the architecture was exposed on three sides (Ill. 1.2). As a result, the area has been severely eroded since the Bronze Age. Lost areas include the entire east side, much of the south side, and the northeast corner.

      While the erosion has damaged much of the latest Minoan structure, it has provided us with a rare opportunity to investigate at least small parts of the earlier buildings that underlie the later Minoan walls. Parts of three distinct chronological...

    • 5 Architecture in Block AF North
      (pp. 33-38)
      John C. McEnroe

      Compared to most of the rest of the site, Block AF North is remarkably well preserved (Ill. 2.5; Pls. 7–13). Many of the walls stand to an impressive height. Problems are presented by the loss of the eastern edge of the area and some confusion in the northwest corner.

      Block AF North was the product of a long and complex building history involving a series of constructions, demolitions, re-use, additions, and alterations. At the time of the LM IB destruction, Area AF comprised parts of two distinct blocks. In the southeast corner, Rooms AF 1, AF 2, AF 5A,...

    • 6 Pottery from Block AF
      (pp. 39-94)
      Cheryl R. Floyd

      The architecture of Block AF has been divided into five phases, with three of them present in Block AF South. No strata were associated specifically with architectural spaces from before Phase 1, although this earlier phase (before Phase 1) was recognized by the presence of early pottery in later contexts. It is only possible to state that the phase could not have continued any later than MM I–IIA (the date for the Phase 1 Building). Block AF South seems to have had a succession of buildings, some of which pre-dated Architectural Phase 2, which stood during MM II. Later,...

    • 7 Ground and Chipped Stone Tools from Block AF South
      (pp. 95-98)
      Heidi M.C. Dierckx

      The total number of stone objects recovered from this area amounts to 46 pieces. Most of the objects are what one would expect from Minoan households (Dierckx 1995a, 1995b, 1995c, 1995d, 1998a, 1998b), but Space AF 2 is unusual because of its quartz crystals (6 pieces). Nine more pieces can be added from elsewhere in the building, with five coming from the floor level of Room AF 3. This might suggest a workshop for quartz and other small stone objects within the area of AF 2 and AF 3. However, the only other evidence to support this conclusion is a...

    • 8 Ground and Chipped Stone Tools from Block AF North
      (pp. 99-104)
      Heidi M.C. Dierckx

      Area AF North was the LM IB and later phase of this block. The complex includes Spaces AF 1 and AF 4, Rooms AF 5A, AF 5B, AF 6, AF 7, AF 8, AF 9, and the street east and north of the building (AF 11). The number of stone tools, mainly ground stone implements, recovered from AF North amounts to 43 pieces. They were scattered throughout the rooms and the street (AF 11). In general, the stone implements appear to have been used for domestic functions (Dierckx 1995a), in contrast to the industrial use for many of the tools...

    • 9 Stone Weights from Block AF
      (pp. 105-106)
      Heidi M.C. Dierckx and Philip P. Betancourt

      Stone weights are common from Minoan sites, although they were clearly not used as much as clay ones. A good selection has been published from Pseira (Betancourt and Dierckx 1998a, 1998b), and the ones from Block AF are similar to the others known from this Minoan town. Three stone weights came from the excavations in Block AF. Two of them (from AF 6 and AF 11) were collected as small stones that were naturally waterworn and had natural holes. The third piece is a large unworked stone slab that was modified by drilling a hole in it (found in Room...

    • 10 Miscellaneous Objects from Block AF
      (pp. 107-112)
      Philip P. Betancourt

      The miscellaneous objects from the block provide some of the details about its use that are not available from other evidence. They include objects used in the household chores performed in the succession of buildings that occupied the block, and they also add to the evidence for the ritual use of the upstairs space in the House of the Rhyta (Building AF North) during LM IB.

      This chapter records objects in the following categories: bone tube, clay weights, clay molds(?), clay drain, clay pierced object, gold foil, sealstone, and stone vessels. They are arranged by rooms so that the reader...

    • 11 Plaster from Block AF
      (pp. 113-120)
      Maria C. Shaw and Philip P. Betancourt

      Evidence for several different uses of plaster comes from Block AF. The earliest plastered surface, from Architectural Phase 3, dating to LM IA, survives only as a single fragment painted red from Room AF 3A/B. From Architectural Phase 5, dating to LM IB, the partial remains of two plastered floors come from Area AF North, one above Room AF 1 and one above Room AF 6. Additional fragments in the fill of Rooms AF 5 and AF 8 indicate that other plastered surfaces, perhaps on walls, were also present during Phase 5 of the building dating to LM IB.


    • 12 Analysis of the Plaster
      (pp. 121-124)
      George H. Myer and Philip P. Betancourt

      A sample of one of the plaster strips found in Room AF 1 was analyzed at the Mineralogical Laboratory in the Department of Geology at Temple University in Philadelphia. It was prepared as a thin section and examined with a polarizing microscope using standard techniques for optical petrography (for the methodology, see Bambauer, Taborsky, and Trochim 1979; for the advantages of optical petrography over other techniques in the study of ancient plasters, see Barnett 1991).

      The description follows the standardized system used at Pseira for the petrographic description of manmade materials (see Pseira I, app. A).

      I. Matrix (groundmass):


    • 13 Plant Remains from Block AF
      (pp. 125-126)
      Glynis Jones and Ian Smith

      Botanical samples were collected in the field by Ian Smith and studied at the Archaeobotany Laboratory at the University of Sheffield, in the United Kingdom.

      For buildings, where possible, five samples of soil were taken from each level within each room: one from each corner and one from the center of the room. Samples were also collected on a judgment basis, especially where charcoal was apparent in a deposit. The average size of sample was one bucket (approximately 15 kg). Extra buckets were processed from additional deposits that were more promising. Fifty-five samples were collected from Block AF.

      The samples...

    • 14 Lithic Materials from Block AF
      (pp. 127-130)
      Philip P. Betancourt

      Block AF was important both for the stones it had and for those that were missing. More than 45 pieces of pumice, two pieces of emery, and a few other unusual stones came from the location. In contrast with some of the other buildings at Pseira, however, it had no unworked pieces of serpentinite or other stones used for stone vases and few examples of finished or broken stone vessels. In this case, the pumice and emery were probably not used for stone vase production or for other lapidary work, as has been suggested for elsewhere in the town (i.e.,...

    • 15 Faunal Remains from Block AF
      (pp. 131-142)
      David S. Reese

      Block AF includes portions of several buildings. They were constructed between MM I–II or earlier (Architectural Phase 2), in LM IA (Architectural Phase 3), and in LM IB (Architectural Phase 5). Faunal remains come from the following periods:

      MM II (Architectural Phase 2)

      LM IA (Architectural Phase 3)

      LM IB (Architectural Phase 5)

      Mixed LM IB-Final (re-use of Architectural Phase 5)

      LM IB–IIIA (re-use of Architectural Phase 5 with sherds as late as LM IIIA:2)

      Modern (upper levels and modern surface)

      Large mammal bones are rarely found in Block AF. Two MM II deposits produced identifiable Ovis/Capra (sheep/goat)...

    • 16 Fish Remains from Block AF
      (pp. 143-150)
      Mark J. Rose

      The fish remains from Pseira’s Block AF, totaling 1,330 bones and otoliths from 24 deposits, are one of the largest Bronze Age fish assemblages from the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean. Taken with other assemblages from Pseira, as well as those from Kommos and Mochlos, they help elucidate Minoan fishing practices and foodways. At a minimum, 12 taxa are present (Table 16.1), with the most abundant remains (NISP or Number of Identified Specimens) being from Spicara (picarels): 786 of the 940 remains assigned to at least a family, if not closer. Most other taxa are represented by only a few elements....

    • 17 Comments on the Mud Mortar
      (pp. 151-152)
      Philip P. Betancourt

      Valuable information on the construction of Building AF North was discovered in several parts of the building. Most of the techniques used here were not unusual for Pseira, so the information can be regarded as normal for a house constructed on the island during LM IB (Ill. 2.5). The building of Architectural Phase 5 included new construction at the north as well as a re-use of Rooms AF 5A and AF 5B at the south, because these small southern rooms were still standing after the earthquake that occurred near the end of LM IA. The fact that objects from a...


    • 18 Architectural History
      (pp. 155-162)
      Philip P. Betancourt

      The history of Block AF is long and complex. Because it has several successive building phases, it is one of the best locations on Pseira for an examination of the community’s architectural development. In addition, its well-preserved individual contexts offer information on Minoan agricultural production, domestic economy, religious activity, and household organization. The block’s LM IB-Final reoccupation is an interesting chapter in Pseira’s history, and it provides information on this little-known occupational phase. Pseira is one of the few East Cretan sites with evidence for habitation immediately after the LM IB destruction that affected many Cretan settlements.

      The block’s architecture...

    • 19 Room Functions and Activities in the Buildings
      (pp. 163-170)
      Philip P. Betancourt

      The succession of buildings that occupied the southern part of Katsouni peninsula provides much more evidence for the activities during LM IB than in earlier or later times. The early structures are not well preserved, and the latest use of the block seems to have been casual and intermittent. For the main period of the settlement just before its destruction during LM IB, however, the evidence provides important information for the social history of the site and for Pseira’s relation to the dynamic events that were happening elsewhere in Crete at this time.

      Small rooms at a low level at...

  13. Appendix A. Pottery Statistics
    (pp. 171-222)
    Cheryl R. Floyd
  14. Appendix B. Fabric Percentages
    (pp. 223-228)
    Cheryl R. Floyd
  15. References
    (pp. 229-236)
  16. Index
    (pp. 237-240)
  17. Figures
    (pp. None)
  18. Plates
    (pp. None)