Hellenistic Period

The Hellenistic settlement at Mochlos was extensive, spread over most of the earlier Minoan settlement on the south slope of the island, but in a haphazard manner without a street system. It appears to have been fortified by a circuit wall and included several different types of buildings, some residential, others industrial, and others devoted to cooking. The best preserved of these has been published in Mochlos III: the Late Hellenistic Settlement, the Beam-Press Complex, which is nicely described in the following review by Scott Gallimore in Antiquity 90:345 (2016) pages 259-261:

“The Hellenistic period (c. late fourth–first centuries BC) on the island of Crete has never garnered even a fraction of the attention granted to the Bronze Age. Indeed, historical remains were often considered a nuisance, to be removed to provide better access to prehistoric material. Such was the case for the site of Mochlos, a small island located off the north-east coast of Crete, approximately 18km west of the city of Siteia. Home to an important Bronze Age settlement, the site was first excavated by Richard Seager in 1908. His report (Seager 1909) on these excavations shows a lack of enthusiasm for the Hellenistic and Roman-period structures situated above the Bronze Age town—he removed them without documentation. When excavations at Mochlos recommenced in 1989 under the direction of Jeffrey Soles and Costis Davaras, they decided on a different approach and gave equal treatment to historical remains, which included several Hellenistic buildings. Vogeikoff-Brogan’s book represents the first full publication of Hellenistic material from Mochlos. Her focus is on the beam-press complex, a structure of the late second century BC located outside the circuit wall that enclosed an extensive Late Hellenistic settlement at Mochlos. The complex was excavated from 1991-1992 and stands as one of the site’s largest and best-preserved Hellenistic structures. The name derives from a beam-press feature uncovered in one of the rooms of the complex, consisting of a platform of large boulders topped by flat schist slabs, with a stone back support that could have held the wooden beam of the press. Vogeikoff-Brogan employs a holistic approach, presenting the architecture and stratigraphy alongside significant finds from each room of the complex, with critical consideration of formation processes. Allison’s (2004) work at Pompeii, which sought to generate an improved understanding of the function of individual rooms and of the overall structures, serves as an important influence. In adopting this methodology for the beam-press complex, Vogeikoff-Brogan provides an exemplary overview of its occupation and use. Finds from each room help to confirm a non-residential function for the structure. This volume also differs from other excavation reports of Hellenistic material on Crete in its presentation of finds. Traditional artefact types are described in detail – including a pottery catalogue of 128 vessels primarily associated with floor and destruction deposits, and a chapter dedicated to small finds – but comparable treatment is also afforded to stone tools, which are rarely given proper consideration in historical period excavations in the Classical world. Most of the stone tools from the Hellenistic beam-press complex are probably residual Bronze Age implements, although Tristan Carter, a collaborator and author of the chapter, presents a critical assessment, noting that examples of complete or near-complete prehistoric tools on floor surfaces could be evidence of reuse. This has far-ranging implications for understanding the life-history of these objects, particularly when they are recovered from historical structures elsewhere on Crete. Vogeikoff-Brogan also follows in the footsteps of prehistoric excavations on Crete by making effective use of archaeometric analyses and palaeo-environmental data. These results are presented in a series of appendices written by collaborators: petrographic analysis of amphorae (Marie-Claude Boileau and Ian Whitbread) and cookware (Eleni Nodarou); archaeochemical analysis of amphorae and cookware (Andrew Koh); animal bones (Dimitra Mylona); marine invertebrates and land snails (David Reese); and olive remains (Evi Margaritis). The beam-press complex was a multi-purpose structure that housed numerous activities, including the production of olive oil. Ceramic evidence suggests it was destroyed sometime around 69 BC, a date that coincides with the Roman invasion of Crete. It stands as one of the only published industrial complexes of Hellenistic date on the island. Vogeikoff-Brogan also uses data from this building to develop conclusions about the political and economic status of Mochlos. Perhaps the most significant of these is that the site was no longer independent by the late second century BC, and instead may have been under the hegemony of Hierapytna, a large city-state located some 25 km away on the south coast of Crete. Pottery finds, specifically a large concentration of East Cretan Cream Ware – thought to have been produced at or near Hierapytna – provide the basis for this conclusion. While Vogeikoff-Brogan notes the difficulties of connecting pottery to political geography, evidence from preserved treaties, historical sources and archaeological survey also point to Hierapytna’s dominance over most of east Crete by the second half of the second century BC. This included control of numerous small ports, of which Mochlos would be an example. Collection of harbour taxes and customs dues was a common source of revenue on Hellenistic Crete. Mochlos would have served as an important collection point along the north coast. The reason for the final abandonment of Mochlos in the late first century BC, a few decades after the destruction of the beam-press complex, also becomes clearer. Data from archaeological surveys in this region of Crete show the development of an overland transport infrastructure between Hierapytna and the north coast during the first century BC. Mochlos was not easily accessible by land and was probably replaced by recently founded port sites to the west that could better accommodate this new arrangement. Vogeikoff-Brogan’s book provides an outstanding paradigm that future publications of historical material from Crete, and elsewhere in the Greek world, should strive to follow. Incorporation of numerous lines of evidence provides a strong foundation for her conclusions. The main limitation at present is the inability to compare these results with other sites and excavations on Crete due to the limited availability of published Hellenistic material. This study demonstrates how careful and detailed analysis of finds from a single structure can provide insight not only into the occupational history of a particular settlement, but also into wider questions of political and economic history.”