Former Excavations

The 2009-2010 season

The Greek-American excavation at Mochlos resumed in the summer of 2009, after a four year hiatus to work on publications. The project has multiple goals, one of which is to document the settlement history of the area and the role that each settlement played in its wider geopolitical context. We have completed a lot of this work, and this summer we made a composite map, using a DGPS system, to
illustrate the settlement history on the island: starting with the Byzantine period in dark blue which is dated as late as the 4th crusade by Venetian coins; the Late Hellenistic period in light blue when the site was the northernmost outpost of the polis of

Hierapytna when it fell to the Romans in 67 BC. Natalia Vogeikoff, who is studying these remains, has just finished preparing the publication of the Beam Press Building, which will be Volume IIIA in the Mochlos series; the Mycenaean period in red, when a small settlement was founded at the end of LM II probably as an outpost of Knossos. The site and cemetery were published in 2008, and Angus Smith’s and Eleni Banou’s publication of the pottery will appear in March. The largest part of the site which you see in purple, dates to the Neopalatial period, particularly LM IB, when the settlement was part of the Gournia polity. What we do not have a good picture of is the earlier occupation on the site, and the current 2009-2010 campaign is designed to investigate this occupation and explore a number of associated theoretical questions, especially those concerning state formation, including issues of rank and gender, and the human ecosystem.
We are particularly interested in uncovering the Prepalatial settlement, which is contemporary with the cemetery Richard Seager dug in 1908, including EM II workshops. In the course of this work, the project is also uncovering a more complete plan of the LM IB town, exploring its northern limits, and clarifying areas partly excavated in the past but still in need of further investigation.

With these goals in mind we opened trenches in three areas this summer. The first is located along the south side of the LM IB ceremonial building, much of which was built on top of EM II remains (in yellow). A terrace located along the south side of the building leads to a small hypaethral shrine at its west end, the “Theatral” Area. Our goal was to excavate beneath the terrace and to finish excavating the theatral area in front of the building. Figure 2 shows a view from the east with the ramp on the right that leads along the building’s south facade and the terrace itself which is built above the street level with a retaining wall along its outermost east and south sides. We removed the LM IB pavement (some
of which is still preserved here) and opened two trenches on the east and west at the same time we continued to excavate in the theatral area. We believe this area was the locus of ancestor worship. This is a view from east with the steps that served as seats that led down into the area and the three rooms at its rear. The area accommodated a ceremony that involved communal feasting with the dead, and this slide illustrates some of the reasons why we believe this to be so. A human skull was being curated in the adjacent west wing of the building; most of this wing rests directly on top of EM II remains; two altars are located here, one on top of the EM II house, and the other in the theatral area where a vase (top right) was embedded in a bench altar for libations; in 2008 David Reese found the remains of two human individuals on the steps overlooking the area. They appear to have been the remains of skeletal bundles that participated in the feast. These are some of the finds from the floor of the area where the hearth with cooking vases and the remains of the feast – sheep/goat, pig, crab – were located. We continued excavating on the west side of the area where the two rooms to the north, 1 and 2, were used for storage. Room 1 contained pottery that dates to the very end of the LM IB period, the time of the last feast, and this Early Cycladic marble palette probably of the Keros-Syros culture; the central room contained two large jars and awaits further excavation, and the southernmost room (Room 3) was excavated by Seager in 1908. It contained a large mortar, visible at the top of the slide, and may have been used for food preparation.

Beneath the LM I terrace pavement to the east of the area, we uncovered the remains of two earlier houses, the later of the two with its entrance at the northwest contained a large hearth and what is probably a bench along one side. Figure is a view from the south. A large amount of undecorated kitchen ware for cooking and eating lay alongside the hearth including half a dozen large round plates, jugs of various sizes, and numerous cups that provide a date for the house at the very beginning of the MM IIIA period. A three-sided prism seal also lay alongside the hearth, made from a soft steatite with a hand-turned solid drill, it depicts two men with a long saw on one side, a bucranium, and a radiating whirl (or octopus) on another. It comes from a Malia workshop, the Atelier des Sceaux, which was destroyed at the end of MM IIB, and the artisan who worked here produced several other prisms with the same material and the same motifs, three of which you see here. The seal and the pottery from the hearth, which resembles pottery from Malia, lends further evidence to the suggestion that Malia extended its influence into east Crete at this time and played an important role in the expansion of settlement in this part of the island. Remains of an EM II house lay beneath the MM III house but were not nearly so well preserved.

A second area where we continued excavation was Building C7 which was also built on top of EM and MM remains. This building was used in the LM I period as a manufacturing center, particularly in the earlier part of the period before the Artisans’ Quarter was built on the coast opposite. The rooms on the east, including some that were being used for storage, like this one, were abandoned at the end of LM IA. Among other finds, this one produced a recumbent flat based nodule used to seal a parchment or papyrus document. Finger marks are preserved on two side and the lines of the string that was wrapped around the document on a third. So we can now add a Mochlos PO Box to Eric Hallager’s list of Minoan addresses that received these documents. For our present purposes however the most important discovery was made inside Building C7 where we continued to dig beneath LM I floors. This is the so-called perfume making workshop with the impressive vat that we uncovered still in situ in 2005; the stratigraphy in the room is typical of what we find over much of the site: Late Hellenistic (or LM III) on top; LM I beneath (walls of the perfume workshop), crushed purple schist (roof collapse for whatever lies beneath), MM II in this case (this is pottery from these deposits), and then an EM II wall and the floor deposit with a Koumasa style vase. An EM II obsidian workshop was located here with all stages of production represented in the lithic remains. But this workshop was involved in other activities as well, and the floor deposit also preserved a small crucible, only 6 cm in diameter, a piece of gold sheet metal, and two small bronze tools. We think we have part of a jewelry workshop. The crucible would have been suitable for pouring small amounts of precious metal, the gold sheet metal is left over from making a larger piece of jewelry, (strip), the obsidian blades could have been used to cut hammered metal, and the pointed tool on the right would be suitable for making dot repoussé decoration. We excavated about half the workshop last summer.

The third area we investigated lies above the blocks that Seager excavated in Ano Mochlos. The main north-south street that separates Blocks B and C runs up in this direction, makes a sharp turn to the east, and then turns again at an angle and continues up the hill to the northeast. We uncovered parts of three houses here, B3, B4 and C10. The most impressive architecturally is B4 which is located in the angle where the street turns to the ne. Here you see its south and east facades from the southeast and here from above with the street running along its south side at the top of the slide and turning to the ne where it disappears into the balk outside the house’s entrance. A Hellenistic house with a terrace wall overlies the north side of the house. The entrance leads into a paved vestibule provided with an ashlar bench at its north, an upright ashlar slab just inside the doorway, perhaps designed to support a lamp, and a mortar carved from an ashlar block. The vestibule leads into a hall with a plastered floor where an interior staircase led up to a second floor level and down to a basement room in the sw corner of the house. It is unclear when the house was built, but it was certainly renovated in LM IB when ashlar was introduced as a building material on the site. It was badly plundered at the end of this period, with only a few bronze tools surviving to suggest the wealth of its original contents. The stone sword pommel on the left lay inside the house and may have belonged to its owner who defended it or to the warrior who looted it with a sword like the one on the right.

Another house, C10, lay on the other side of the street. It was badly damaged during the Hellenistic occupation which destroyed its LM I floor levels, but an MM IIIA floor deposit survived here also. The facade of the house running along the eastern side of the street across from B4 also survived, and our conclusion as a result is that the street itself should date to the MM IIIA period. It suggests that the Neopalatial town was planned at this early date and that its major streets were laid out at this time. If this is true, the MM IIIA feast that we discovered in front of the Ceremonial building marks the beginning of the Neopalatial town very much in the way that the feast in the Theatral Area marks its end. These two cultural events frame the Neopalatial occupation of the site. But what a difference there must have been between the two feasts, the first full of expectation and excitement at the foundation of a new town, the latter marked by sad remembrance of the past.
The northern part of this house remains to be excavated, along with the continuation of the street itself. It appears to be leading to an important destination and we hope to discover exactly what that destination is next summer.

The 2010 Greek-American excavation at Mochlos was carried out during the months of June, July and August. Its main goal was to reveal earlier settlement remains, particularly Prepalatial remains lying beneath the Neopalatial settlement on the site, in order to answer questions about state formation. To reach these remains at Mochlos, however, it is necessary to dig through multiple layers of later occupation: Hellenistic, Mycenaean, Neopalatial and Protopalatial, all of which are stacked on top of each other (Soles, Kentro 12, 2009, fig. 1). While digging through the Hellenistic levels at the western side of the site, in the area Richard Seager identified as Block A in his 1908 excavation (designated as Area 4 in this year’s excavation), the project made a spectacular and wholly unexpected discovery. A large Hellenistic building, which appears to have been used as a public dining facility, was located here lying just below surface. In 2004 the project excavated its kitchen and found a coin of P. Canidius Crassus lying on its floor (Soles and Davaras, Kentro 8, 2005, 11, fig. 2). Dating to 34-32 BC, it provides a good date for the end of the Hellenistic occupation at Mochlos. This year we
excavated the building’s dining room, and then digging beneath this room we encountered wall collapse of a LM IB building on top of which the Hellenistic building sat. The remains of an ivory pyxis (Fig. 1) and ten ivory hair pins lay inside this wall collapse. They originally sat on an upper floor of the Minoan building along its eastern wall facade, and when this wall collapsed at the time of the LM IB destruction, they fell with the wall into a basement room located beneath. They were broken in the collapse and the ivory pyxis also showed traces of burning, but many pieces survived, and Stephie Chlouveraki, Chief Conservator of the INSTAP Study Center, was able to do an excellent job reconstructing the pyxis and the pins.

The pyxis was a rectangular box with its sides and lid made of elephant ivory and its base made of wood. Its lid measures ca. 0.11 by 0.14 m. and was designed to be lifted on and off the box below. The side panels were carved in low relief with a seascape while the lid was carved with a scene showing the epiphany of the Minoan Goddess. It is a well-known scene shown on many contemporary gold signet rings, including the Ring of Minos, where the goddess appears twice, both descending from the sky and then seated after her arrival (Dimopoulou and Rethemiotakis 2004). It resembles other depictions, including the fresco of crocus gatherers from Xeste 3 at Akrotiri, in that the scene is set on a stage supported by incurved altars. As C. Palyvou has recently noted (2006), this was a prefabricated stage that could be assembled, disassembled and moved around. It was used for the performance of religious spectacles, like the one depicted in Xeste 3 or the one on the Mochlos pyxis. On the pyxis the goddess sits enthroned beneath a tree shrine and appears to hold a lily in her left hand. A procession of four figures approaches her from the right, two men and two women. The figure of the goddess survives virtually intact, but unfortunately, the upper part of the figures to the right was lost during the building’s destruction, so it is unclear exactly who they are or what is happening. It appears however to be a presentation scene in which the first male figure, who is larger than the other figures, introduces a male-female couple to the goddess, while a female attendant stands at the rear. The first figure is recognizable by his pose with his left arm lying at rest behind him and by the elongated proportions of his legs: he resembles the figure on the gold ring from Poros who stands and addresses the goddess with outstretched arm (Dimopoulou and Rethemiotakis 2000). He is sometimes identified as a god or king, but he might also be a hero or ancestor figure who has the
ability to communicate with the goddess. Whoever he is, the scene depicts a real event, one of a number of spectacles that were performed around the island of Crete and dominated Minoan society. Eighty amethyst beads lay inside the pyxis, many of them in situ with traces of string still preserved so that it was possible to identify two necklaces, one of small and another of larger beads. Other beads included a silver pendant in the shape of a bull’s head, an assortment of carnelian beads, including one in the shape of a figure eight shield, glass paste beads, including one in the shape of a lily, and other beads of lapis lazuli.
The project excavated in three additional areas of the Neopalatial settlement, and in the course of this work uncovered a more complete plan of the LM IB town, exploring its limits on the northeast, and excavating areas that had been incompletely excavated in the past. It also uncovered earlier phases of the Neopalatial town and evidence for the way it (and Minoan civilization with it) was destroyed.

The project continued excavation along two of the town’s major streets. To the north of Block C it excavated along the street that led up through the center of the settlement separating Blocks B and C (Area 3). This was the major street in the town, and certainly the longest. It employed cobbles as pavement but more often used simple bedrock, and both surfaces were worn smooth from frequent foot traffic. It was not possible to follow the road to its end, but it appears to have been heading toward a small cave located along the eastern side of the island. During the summer a fresh water spring was discovered below this cave lying about 2 m. below sea level, and it is thought that a natural spring may have been located in the cave above during the late Bronze Age, providing a water source for
the Neopalatial town. The project also continued the excavation of the house that lay along the east side of this street, the southwest corner of which was exposed in 2009. The house was constructed at the beginning of the MM IIIA period, when the town’s street system was laid out, and appears to have been occupied and remodeled through the whole course of the Neopalatial period. The town’s major street runs along its west facade, turns to the east along its north facade and continues beyond it to the northeast.
The project also explored the area between Blocks C and D (Area 2) where it found the continuation of the street that runs north-south separating Blocks C and D, the southern part of
which was discovered in 1989 (Soles and Davaras 1992, 439, fig. 15, pl. 101C). A large stone-vase workshop was discovered in this area. It dates to the LM IB period and was remarkable for its size and the quality of its products, including a large unfinished vase of gypsum imported from Knossos and a large stone lamp with four spouts and a low pedestal that would have been a worthy product of a palatial workshop (Fig. 3). At the time of the LM IB destruction, one spout of the lamp was broken off with a hammer stone and thrown across the room in an act of malice. It is an act characteristic of a lifelong enemy and one of several that can be documented on the site at the time of its destruction.

The project also continued excavating along the south side of the town’s ceremonial building in Area 1 (Soles, Kentro 12, 2009, 12, fig. 2), where a paved terrace led to a small hypaethral shrine, the Theatral Area, which is thought to have been used for ceremonies involving ancestor worship (Soles 2010). Excavating in this area last summer we uncovered a MM IIIA cooking space with a great hearth and a three-sided prism from Malia This summer we removed the remaining slabs of the terrace and found four more closed deposits of the MM II, MM IIIA, MM IIIB, and LMIA periods. Most of them belonged to kitchens and contained hearths with a rich array of organic material, including short-lived floral remains that should produce a good sequence of C14 dates. The area is especially significant, however, because it was preserved, encased behind stone walls and paved over; it provided the only access to the Theatral Area that lay at its west end and one had to walk over the houses of earlier inhabitants on the site in order to reach this area.

In many places underneath the Neopalatial remains, the project came upon the Prepalatial remains it was seeking. EM IIB deposits were widely scattered across the site, one located toward the west beneath the LM IB House of the Lady with the Ivory Pyxis in Block A (Area 4), another located toward the northeast above Block C (Area 3), and still others in the area between. As a result, it is possible to estimate the size of EM IIB Mochlos at 6000 sq. m., about four times that of the contemporary village at Myrtos (Fournou Korifi). The extensive overlay of later occupation will probably prevent us from ever uncovering an EM II town plan, however; what we have are the extent of the town, a number of streets that may indicate a very different plan than that of Myrtos, and parts of several houses, two of which include workshop areas. One reported on last year, which contained a very small crucible for melting precious metals, a piece of gold sheet metal, obsidian blades for cutting sheet metal and a bronze tool for producing dot repoussé, was apparently used to make gold jewelry. Another found in 2005 (Soles and Davaras, Kentro 8, 2005, 13, figs. 6, 7) was producing stone vases. The finds from these workshops resemble those from the Prepalatial cemetery that Seager excavated and provide sufficient evidence to refute any revisionist dating of that cemetery.

The most surprising of the early remains uncovered this summer, however, was a building complex located along the eastern edge of the Prepalatial cemetery (Fig. 4). It was used during the EM I, EM IIA and EM IIB periods, which makes it the oldest building ever uncovered at Mochlos. During this time it underwent several changes in design and apparently also in function. Initially in the EM I period it was occupied as a dwelling and used as an obsidian workshop. Part of its southwest room was actually excavated in 1989 and identified as part of Building Ξ (Soles and Davaras, Hesperia 61, 1992, 424, pl. 92); the small Building N also discovered in 1989 with over 10 kg. of obsidian cores, blades, burins and retouched flakes lies a short distance to its east (Soles and Davaras 1992, 424, pl. 91) and served as a waste depot for the workshop’s production. At a later point in its history the building complex was used for a new purpose: several rooms were blocked and terrace walls were erected above, at least one burial was made in a small cist grave, the earlier southeast room of the building was reopened and redesigned for offerings, and the terrace walls were designed to accommodate cooking and feasting areas.