History

 

The archaeological history of Mochlos dates from the Early Bronze I period (c3100 BC) to the Hellenistic Age (1st century BC). This entire span is divided into the periods discussed below. The area which the project is investigating was extensively occupied during the Bronze Age (c3100-1250 BC) and much later during the Late Hellenistic (1st century BC) and Byzantine periods, and the 1989-2012 excavations have succeeded in isolating well-stratified remains for each of these periods. These include parts of the Prepalatial settlement, dating to the 3rd millennium BC, extensive remains of the Late Minoan IB settlement, dating to the 16th and 15th centuries BC, remains of the LM III reoccupation in the Mycenaean era, dating from 1400 to 1250 BC, and post-Bronze Age remains belonging to the 7th and 4th centuries, the Hellenistic and Early and Middle Byzantine periods. Each of these settlements played a different role in its contemporary society and was important for a different reason. The Prepalatial settlement flourished during the formative years of Minoan civilization and played a large part in the development of that civilization. The Late Minoan IB settlement, the largest part of the excavation, served as a second-order administrative and important religious center during the floruit and final period of Minoan civilization. The Mycenaean and later historical settlements in contrast were quiet agricultural settlements remote from the centers of Mycenaean, Hellenistic and Byzantine power.

Minoan Period Prepalatial Period Protopalatial Period Neopalatial Period Mycenaean Period
Years 3000-1900 BC 1900-1700 BC 1700-1425 BC 1425-1250 BC
Relative Chronology EM I to MM IA MM IB to MM IIB MM IIIA to LM IB LM II to LM IIIB

Prepalatial Period (3000-1900 BC)

The island of Mochlos was initially occupied around the year 3100 BCE by migrating settlers from the Cycladic islands. Like most coastal settlements that appear on Crete during this period (known as the Prepalatial era), a large portion of the population was quite familiar with seafaring, a fact that persists across all periods of Mochlos occupation. It is estimated that the settlement may have grown to 0.8 hectares, giving it a population of between 220 and 330. Around 2500 BC, (the EM II period) the first evidence for social ranking appears in Mochlos which shows elements of a chiefdom society. Elite structures have been identified in the settlement and its cemetery. Each family cooperated with each other while also maintaining independence between the houses. These families were buried on the island in house tombs that reflected their status and control within the settlement as well as their ability to acquire goods through trade and seafaring.

For more information about the Prepalatial Period, click here.

For more information about the cemetery at Mochlos, click here.


Protopalatial Period (1900-1700 BC)

At the emergence of the Protopalatial period, palatial structures appeared for the first time in Crete. These large complexes served as locations from which centralized elites were able to control different territories through homogeneity in the sharing of material culture and perhaps through control of the economy including the distribution or acquisition of surplus and prestige goods. Though no palace has been discovered at Mochlos, the emergence of these palatial centers, mainly that of Malia with which Mochlos displays strong relationships, affected the life of the settlement and the transformation of its material culture. Mochlos adopts new systems of production, homogenous with the center, as a result of the need of its elites to establish close relationships with stronger social structures located in Malia.

For more information about the Protopalatial Period, click here.


Neopalatial Period (1700-1425 BC)

At the end of the Middle Minoan period, many of the palaces of Crete were destroyed either from a series of seismic events or possibly internal conflict, resulting in the need to rebuild. This era is known as the Neopalatial period. In some cases, centers declined after these destructions, but many of the sites became more elaborate and commanded a higher degree of cosmological significance than before. No palace elevated itself more than Knossos during this period. This meant that many of the sites, including Mochlos, began to copy Knossian expression of religion and material culture. Mochlos was rebuilt as a new town at the beginning of the period and was to become a major commercial and manufacturing center as well as a religious center that attracted pilgrims to its shores.

For more information on the Neopalatial Period, click here.


Mycenaean Period: Final/Postpalatial (1425-1250 BC)

After the Theran eruption, Minoan society bounced back remarkably well, but 100 years later, c1425 BC, the island of Crete was invaded by Mycenaean Greeks and Minoan civilization collapsed and disappeared. The settlement at Mochlos was sacked and destroyed. It appears to have suffered additional damage from an earthquake that occurred near the end of the century and the site was abandoned until the beginning of the 14th century. It was then occupied by Mycenaeans who established a hierarchical social order, probably with a “telestas” at its head, quite in contrast to the heterarchical organization of the earlier Minoan town. After the collapse of the Mycenaean palace at Knossos later in the 14th century, the population of Mochlos dwindled and eventually abandoned the site for a safer location in the hills behind the Mochlos plain.

For more information about the Mycenaean settlement, click here.

For more information about the Mycenaean chamber tombs, click here.


Archaic and Hellenistic Periods

After a long period of abandonment, Mochlos was reoccupied briefly in the Archaic period and again in the 4th century. The occupation was sparse however and confined to the top of the island. Mochlos again emerged as an important site during the Hellenistic period in the 2nd century BC under the control of Hierapytna (modern Ierapetra). A large outpost was established here to control the northern limits of the Hierapytna polis, several houses were constructed in the areas of the old Minoan town, and manufacturing buildings were constructed to press olives and grapes. In the Byzantine period, perhaps as late as the 10th century CE, the island was extensively fortified when a watch tower was constructed on top of the island and a circuit wall was built around most of the island. Habitation was limited to a single structure along the south coast, however, and by this time the isthmus that once connected the island to Crete was completely submerged. Any number of local earthquakes may have been responsible for its submergence, but certainly by 365 CE when a storm of earthquakes struck Greece, the isthmus disappeared, it was no longer possible to walk across to the island, and the site lost its use as a sheltered harbor.

For more information about the Archaic and Hellenistic Periods, click here.