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The Neolithic Settlement of Knossos in Crete

The Neolithic Settlement of Knossos in Crete: New Evidence for the Early Occupation of Crete and the Aegean Islands

Nikos Efstratiou
Alexandra Karetsou
Maria Ntinou
Volume: 42
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: INSTAP Academic Press
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    The Neolithic Settlement of Knossos in Crete
    Book Description:

    The site of Knossos on the Kephala hill in central Crete is of great archaeological and historical importance for both Greece and Europe. Dating to 7000 B.C., it is the home of one of the earliest farming societies in southeastern Europe, and, in the later Bronze Age periods, it developed into a remarkable center of economic and social organization within the island, enjoying extensive relations with the Aegean, the Greek mainland, the Near East, and Egypt. After the systematic excavation of the deep Neolithic occupation levels by J.D. Evans in the late 1950s and later and more limited investigations of the Prepalatial deposits undertaken primarily during restoration work, no thorough exploration of the earliest occupation of the mound had been attempted. This monograph fills the gap, detailing the recent studies of the stratigraphy, architecture, ceramics, sedimentology, economy, and ecology that were a result of the opening of a new excavation trench in 1997. Together, these studies by 13 different contributors to the volume re-evaluate the importance of Neolithic Knossos and place it within the wider geographic context of the early island prehistory of the eastern Mediterranean.

    eISBN: 978-1-62303-280-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. List of Tables in the Text
    (pp. ix-xii)
  2. List of Figures in the Text
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xix-xxii)
    Alexandra Karetsou
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
    Nikos Efstratiou

    The construction of a staircase extension in the northeastern part of the Central Court of the Palace of Minos at Knossos prompted the opening of a new excavation trench in 1997. After the systematic excavation of the deep Neolithic occupation levels by J.D. Evans in the late 1950s (1964, 132) and later, more limited investigations of the Prepalatial deposits undertaken primarily during restoration work, no thorough exploration of the earliest occupation of the mound had been attempted. Although our operation was to be swift and limited in extent, we knew that the opening of a trench destined to reach the...

  5. 1 The Excavation
    (pp. 1-24)
    Nikos Efstratiou, Alexandra Karetsou and Eleni Banou

    Two trenches were opened in the northeastern corner of the Central Court of the palace in February of 1997 in a salvage operation that lasted for five weeks (Figs 1.1–1.3).* Trench I, a 2.0 x 2.0 m sloping area, was the first to be opened, but its excavation was stopped as soon as we realized that the area was heavily disturbed and had been used by previous investigators of the site as a dumping place for archaeological materials such as stones and broken pottery. We then shifted our efforts to Trench II (Fig. 1.3). The rescue character of the...

  6. 2 The Stratigraphy and Cultural Phases
    (pp. 25-46)
    Nikos Efstratiou

    The Knossos Neolithic excavation of 1997 took place within a 3 x 2 m trench (Trench II) that was excavated to a depth of 8 m (see Efstratiou, Karetsou, and Banou, this vol., Ch. 1).* The deposit was excavated in 39 levels that were defined in accordance with field conditions such as soil characteristics, the thickness of the natural layers, the presence of architectural features, and digging difficulties. Although the excavation was restricted in both its spatial extent and the time available for its completion, these limitations were mitigated to a considerable degree by our understanding of the stratigraphy of...

  7. 3 Fabric Diversity in the Neolithic Ceramics of Knossos
    (pp. 47-52)
    Sarantis Dimitriadis

    This chapter, which is a short version of an earlier report by the author (Dimitriadis 2008), presents in succinct form the results of the petrographic analysis of the pottery found during the 1997 excavation at Knossos.* It focuses on the diversity of fabrics in relation to the pottery types of the Early Neolithic (EN) I and II periods, paying particular attention to issues of technology and provenance.

    The study is based on the petrographic analysis of 268 thin sections from ceramic sherds retrieved from the different levels of the excavation. Because of the limited scale of the dig and the...

  8. 4 Neolithic Sedimentology at Knossos
    (pp. 53-62)
    Maria-Pilar Fumanal García

    This study was initially undertaken by the late Maria-Pilar Fumanal García, who took part in the fieldwork at Knossos in the winter of 1997 and carried out the sampling of the sections.* Unfortunately, the analysis of the samples, which was already in an advanced stage at the Laboratorio de Geomorfología, Departamento de Geografía, Universidad de Valencia, was interrupted by her sudden death. Her colleague P. Carmona González kindly agreed to resume the study of the material and to summarize the principal findings, taking into account the preliminary remarks made by Fumanal García in the field. This was a very difficult...

  9. 5 The Economy of Neolithic Knossos: The Archaeobotanical Data
    (pp. 63-94)
    Anaya Sarpaki

    The archaeobotanical data presented in this paper came principally from the 1997 rescue excavation in the southeastern area of the Central Court of the Palace of Knossos.* The discussion is enriched, however, with information from the unpublished report of Hans Helbaek on the Neolithic botanical material excavated by J.D. Evans (Evans 1964, 1971, 1994; Renfrew 1979). I have also examined some seed finds from Evans’s excavation stored in the Stratigraphical Museum at Knossos, but more archaeobotanical material recovered by Evans remains to be studied. Unlike Evans’s samples, the archaeobotanical finds from the 1997 excavations derive from a long diachronic sequence...

  10. 6 Wood Charcoal Analysis: The Local Vegetation
    (pp. 95-118)
    Ernestina Badal and Maria Ntinou

    The excavation of a small trench in the Central Court area at Knossos in 1997 explored the Neolithic sequence of the site. Previous excavations of the Neolithic deposits (Evans 1964) had already established the prominent role of Knossos in the early spread of agriculture in the Mediterranean. New excavations at the site, although much more limited in scale, presented us with the opportunity to add complementary information on various aspects of the process of neolithization.

    One of the aims of the 1997 excavation was to undertake paleoenvironmental research at the site.* Charcoal analysis, or anthracology, has proven to be a...

  11. 7 Plant Economy and the Use of Space: Evidence from the Opal Phytoliths
    (pp. 119-132)
    Marco Madella

    Knossos is a key settlement for understanding the spread of farming societies in southeast Europe and the Mediterranean islands.* Research on the introduction of agricultural practices and cultigens in the islands has regained momentum with the appearance of new evidence for the spread of farming populations to Cyprus as early as the eighth millennium B.C. (Peltenburg et al. 2000). With the possibility that island Mesolithic populations, wherever they existed, were capable of exploiting local plants (e.g., einkorn, barley, lentils) still archaeologically undocumented, the conclusion that domesticated crops were brought from the east by people who were either the first colonists...

  12. 8 The Knossos Fauna and the Beginning of the Neolithic in the Mediterranean Islands
    (pp. 133-170)
    Manuel Pérez Ripoll

    The island of Crete is situated in a key geographical zone for the understanding of the spread of the Neolithic from east to west. The fauna associated with the Neolithic deposits of the settlement of Knossos reveals that the domestication process was at an advanced stage when it was introduced on the island, as demonstrated both by the size of the bones and by the sex and age selection process. The economy of the site was mixed, and there was a close link between agriculture and animal husbandry. The homogeneity of the new subsistence regime present from the beginning of...

  13. 9 The Earliest Settlement on Crete: An Archaeozoological Perspective
    (pp. 171-192)
    Liora Kolska Horwitz

    The maritime capabilities of pre-Neolithic human populations in the Mediterranean are attested by the presence of obsidian from the island of Melos at continental sites and by ephemeral occupations, best defined as landfalls, on insular sites such as Akrotiri-Aetokremnos on Cyprus, Grava on Corfu, Maroula on Kythnos, the Cave of the Cyclops on Youra, and several sites on Corsica and Sardinia (Cherry 1990; Vigne and Desse-Berset 1995; Simmons 1999; Costa et al. 2003; Mavridis 2003; Broodbank 2006; Masseti 2007).* Permanent settlement on a Mediterranean island is, however, a relatively late phenomenon, with Cyprus providing the earliest evidence. This event, dating...

  14. 10 Radiocarbon Dates from the Neolithic Settlement of Knossos: An Overview
    (pp. 193-200)
    Yorgos Facorellis and Yiannis Maniatis

    Recent archaeological excavations of the Neolithic settlement levels at Knossos, Crete (35°31' N, 25°10' E) yielded carbonized material suitable for radiocarbon dating.* Ten of the samples collected were dated in the Laboratory of Archaeometry, N.C.S.R. “Demokritos,” using the CO2conventional radiocarbon technique, while seven more were dated by the accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) method at the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit of the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, Oxford University. The radiocarbon dates obtained previously in the Research Laboratory of the British Museum from samples collected by J.D. Evans during his 1957–1960 and 1969–1970 archaeological campaigns...

  15. 11 Knossos and the Beginning of the Neolithic in Greece and the Aegean Islands
    (pp. 201-214)
    Nikos Efstratiou

    Until very recently the Aegean archipelago seemed to be a desolate place for Neolithic communities and their archaeology (Cherry 1981, 1990; Davis 1992).* A number of articles based on limited fieldwork and armchair valuations of the area gave the impression that the islands of the Aegean experienced little or no cultural stimulus until well into the fourth millennium B.C. The very few exceptions of early island communities such as Hagios Petros in the Northern Sporades (Efstratiou 1985) and Saliagos in the Cyclades (Evans and Renfrew 1968), dated to the preceding sixth and fifth millennia, respectively, have material records that are...