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Historical Overview

Excavation at Mochlos has uncovered archaeological remains spanning more than two millennia belonging to several different civilizations: Minoan, Mycenaean, Archaic, Late Hellenistic, and Byzantine. The earliest of these begins c. 3100 BC and the latest ends c. 1200 AD. The excavation’s focus is the Bronze Age (c. 3100-1250 BC), and the 1989-2012 excavations have succeeded in isolating well-stratified remains for each phase of Bronze Age Crete. These include parts of the Prepalatial settlement, dating to the 3rd millennium BC, the Protopalatial settlement, dating c. 1900-1670 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 c. 1400 to 1250 BC, and remains of Late Hellenistic and Early Byzantine settlements. 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, was a prosperous manufacturing, trading and religious center during the floruit and final century of Minoan civilization. The Mycenaean, Late Hellenistic and Early Byzantine 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
Archaic & After
3000 - 1900 BCE
1900 -1670 BCE
1670 - 1430 BCE
1430 - 1250 BCE
600s BCE - 365 CE
Relative Chronology
Site Chronology

(3000-1900 BCE)

The island of Mochlos was initially occupied around the year 3100 BCE by migrating settlers from the Cyclades. Like the inhabitants of most coastal settlements that appear on Crete during this period (known as the Prepalatial era), many members of the community were engaged in seafaring, as they were to be through all periods of Mochlos’ history. It is estimated that the settlement may have grown to 0.8 hectares, giving it a population of between 220 and 330 people and perhaps even 500 if settlement extended on the other side of the isthmus connecting Mochlos to Crete is included. Around 2600 BC, the first evidence for social ranking appears in Mochlos suggesting the emergence of a chiefdom society. Elite structures have been identified within the settlement and in the cemetery. Each of the families cooperated with one another while also maintaining independence between households. 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,


For a description of the Prepalatial Cemetery at Mochlos, 

Prepalatial Period

(1900-1670 BCE)

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, 


Protopalatial Period

(1670-1430 BCE)

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.

For more information on the Neopalatial Period, 

Neopalatial Period

(1430-1250 BCE)

After the Theran eruption, Minoan society bounced back remarkably well and flourished for another hundred years. Sometime c. 1430 BC, however, perhaps after repeated invasions over several years, Mycenaeans seized control of Crete, destroying many Minoan settlements, including Mochlos, and occupying Knossos. After two or three decades of abandonment, Mochlos was reoccupied by Mycenaean Greek settlers c. 1400 BC. The Mycenaean settlement was much smaller and poorer than the Minoan town that preceded it and showed evidence of a sharp hierarchical social structure quite unlike the heterarchical pattern of the earlier town. It is doubtful that any Minoans returned to the site, but the Mycenaean settlement remained an important harbor. It resumed trade with other sites on Crete but did not resume the manufacturing activities of the Minoan town.

For more information about the Mycenaean Period, 

For a description of the LM III Limenaria Cemetery at Mochlos, 

Mycenaean Period

Archaic Period and After

7th Century BCE - 365 CE

After the collapse of the Bronze Age , Mochlos remained unoccupied until the 7th century BC. The finds of this period mostly preserved on the summit of the island imply short-term occupation, not extended occupation. However, Mochlos again emerged as an important site during the Hellenistic period under the control of Hierapytna (modern Ierapetra). There was a fortification wall, a beam press, and a few hostels that catered to travelers during Roman period as well. Finally, in 365 CE, a storm of earthquakes struck Greece, resulting in the sinking of the land bridge that connected the settlement of Mochlos from the Cretan mainland. This effectively marked the end of occupation on the island, with only a small degree of occupation found during the Byzantine period which was mainly located along the coastline and not on the island itself. The main occupation of the Byzantine period appears to be a reoccupation of an earlier Hellenistic fort on the top of the island. The excavation has uncovered parts of a large house, however, located outside of this fort and to its south near the modern shore line.

For more information on the Hellenistic Period, 

Archaic Period & After
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