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Excavations at Sissi

Jan Driessen

8. The Excavation of Zone 6

Simon Jusseret

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  • 1 Aspirant F.R.S.-FNRS, UCL. N. Kress was of great help; our workers were M. Mandelenis and M. Tzana (...)

1Note portant sur l’auteur1

  • 2 See P. Hacigüzeller, above, chapter 2.

2The 2007 campaign highlighted an extensive Late Minoan occupation on top of the Kephali hill (Zones 3 and 4), while the peripheral, topographically lower terraces (Zones 1, 2 and 5) revealed more evidence for earlier periods of activity. The location of a series of trenches in the southeast part of the summit of the hill (fig. 1.16) offered the possibility to assess the date and nature of occupation in this area, at the same time allowing a better, diachronic understanding of the topographical organisation of the Minoan settlement. The excavated area is located about 50 m southeast of the nearest trenches (Zones 3, 4) and its eastern border is only 3 m away from the steep southeast cliff of the hill. Zone 6 itself is at about 17 m asl, with the ground rising gradually towards the west. The excavation proceeded in two steps. First, a trench of 4 by 4 m (BK/BL 90/91) was opened north of Wall F7 (cf. below), visible on the surface and spotted during the 2007 topographical survey2. The trench included a very large block (1.10 x 0.63 m), perhaps a cornerstone related to F7. Afterwards, the original trench was enlarged to the west and south and included grids BK/BL/BM 89/90/91) (fig. 8.1).


1. Trench BK/BL 90/91

3Wall F1, running west-northwest to east-southeast, was partly visible before the excavation of the area (fig. 8.2 for the location of architectural features and main finds). Poorly preserved, this wall only runs for a length of 1.10 m. Walls F3 and F4 may have served as the footings for F1. Wall F3 runs north-northeast to south-southwest and F4 runs parallel to F1. The two meet at right angle. The difficulty of identifying a clear junction between Walls F3 and F4 may imply that these constructions may turn out to be sections of the same L-shaped wall.


  • 3 Preliminary observation made by H. Prokopiou.

4The evidence provided by Walls F1, F3 and F4 suggests two different architectural phases. No stratified, diagnostic ceramic material can as yet be associated with Walls F1, F3 and F4. However, the masonry of these walls is similar to that attested in Zones 3 and 4, where the architecture is at present dated to LM IIIB. The spatial proximity between sherds of a LM IIIA2-B storage/transport stirrup jar (08-06-2002-OB001) and Wall F1 may reinforce this impression but the shallow depth at which these sherds were recovered does not allow confidence. Fragments of a badly damaged small stirrup jar (08-06-2002-OB002) (fig. 9.20) were also recovered directly south of Wall F1 making a LM III occupation of this area very likely. A rough limestone mace head (08-06-2004-OB001), possibly bearing traces of the hafting system3, was also found north of Wall F1, resting on Walls F3 and F4.

  • 4 The western cut block is not shown on the plan in figure 8.2

5Wall F2 runs west-northwest to east-southeast. Like Wall F1, Wall F2 was partly visible before the excavation of the area and the large block forming its eastern extremity was already noticed during the 2007 architectural survey. Two cut blocks form the western extremity of Wall F2 at the present state of excavation. The size of the eastern cut block4 (1.30 x 0.52 x.]0.30 m) is similar to the monumental threshold in Zone 3 and may be of a similar date. In between these blocks, however, Wall F2 is poorly preserved.

6Wall F6 forms the eastern continuation of Wall F2. Walls F2 and F6 are described as two separate walls because of their different masonry and thickness (1.30 m for F6 against 1 m for F2). Wall F6 was constructed with boulders. The vagueness of the junction between Walls F2, F5 (cf. below) and F6 makes the relation between these three features unclear. The large block forming the eastern extremity of Wall F2 could have functioned as a cornerstone projecting out of façade F5 (Palyvou 1986, also Preziosi 1983: 26) since the location and orientation of Wall F5 in comparison to that of the cliff makes this function likely. The apparent bonding of Walls F5 and F6 seems to imply that these walls belong to a single phase of construction. Wall F5 is well preserved and was constructed with boulders, with sizes varying between 0.10 and 0.80 m. At least two courses are visible.

7The space located directly east of Wall F5 (Space 6.4) was the only part of the trench where the excavation of lower levels was possible. Elsewhere, the density of architectural remains prevented this. This area, which should be an exterior space if Wall F5 was indeed a façade, yielded a fill but excavation stopped before reaching the outside floor level. Mainly comprising burnt clay, with charcoal, pumice, bones, mudbrick, marine shells, pottery sherds and a mix of plaster fragments – of which a few pieces were decorated with red and black paint – this fill also yielded a S-profile cup (08-06-2010-OB001) and a fragment of the rim of a large stone vase (08-06-2011OB001). The latter fragment, perhaps belonging to a small pithos or amphora, is decorated with three horizontal grooves. The onset of a handle is preserved. The material used for the manufacturing of this stone vase corresponds to a gabbro-dioritic rock. The closest outcrops of such rocks are in the Mirabello area.

2. Trench extension BK/BL/BM 89/90/91

8Because the results of the first trench (16 m²) were not conclusive, a larger trench (72 m²) was opened. It incorporated the features discovered in trench BK/BL 90/91 (fig. 8.1). The removal of the first centimetres of topsoil brought to light several new walls, clearly defining two spaces (6.1 and 6.2). A third space (6.3) was also identified but only a small part of it lies within the trench and most of it is located west, i.e. outside, of the excavated area.

2.1. Space 6.1

9Space 6.1 (2.80 x 2.20 m) is bordered by Walls F9, F10, F11 and F12 (fig. 8.2). Within were traced another wall (F15) and Feature F17. Wall F15 is oriented north-northeast to south-southwest and is partly covered by Wall F12. Whether F17 was a partition wall or a fixed installation is not clear yet, due to its very irregular masonry made of undressed stones. It was built against Wall F12, however.

  • 5 One should note the poor quality of the masonry covering the cut stone block (small, irregular, an (...)

10Walls F9 and F12 join at right angle. Wall F9, oriented north-northeast to south-southwest, is 3.10 m long and 0.60 m thick. One metre south of its junction with Wall F12, Wall F9 makes a slight angle to the west. The three southernmost stones of the east face of Wall F9 were visible before excavation. Wall F9 is built of undressed stones (with dimensions between 0.06 and 0.60 m). The largest boulders are on the east face of the wall, i.e. to the exterior of Space 6.1. The west face of Wall F9 shows two to three irregular courses. Wall F12 is, at the present state of excavation, 4.20 m long and 0.40 m thick, constructed with undressed stones slightly smaller than those of Wall F9 (with dimensions between 0.08 and 0.41 m). The largest stones of wall F12 face the exterior of Space 6.1. One to three irregular courses are visible. Moreover, Wall F12 includes a cut stone block (0.56 x 0.29 x 0.10 m) of which the function remains unclear. Perhaps it is a reused threshold or a doorjamb5.

11Only the first metre of Wall F10 was cleared. It is oriented west-northwest to east-southeast. Four very irregular courses can be distinguished on its north face. Wall F10 abuts Wall F11. F11 runs north-northeast to south-southwest. It is 2.88 m long and 0.50 m thick and is made of undressed stones (with dimensions between 0.10 and 0.70 m). Four regular courses can be seen on the eastern face of Wall F11.

12The entrance of Space 6.1 is probably located north of Wall F11 although it is not impossible either that it was located in the unexcavated southeast corner of the room. The two possibilities are of course not mutually exclusive. The northwest « entrance » could in any case only have been functional before the construction of F17, which blocks the access.

13Space 6.1 has not yet been completely cleared. The excavation stopped at a floor level, as suggested by the discovery of a patch of tarazza (08-06-2028-FE014) in the north part of the room, covering a surface of about 0.20 m². The sediments excavated in Space 6.1, comparable to those described in Space 6.4, are interpreted as a fill deposit, containing a mix of plaster fragments, charcoal, mudbrick debris, marine shells, bones, pumice, obsidian blades/ flakes and ceramic sherds. The similarity between these two fills raises the question of whether a distinction should be made between the « outside » and the « inside » of the excavated structures, something which, on the basis of the sediments, is not yet possible.

  • 6 A unique parallel for this discovery is a 15.5 cm-long triton (Charonia sequenzae) shell which was (...)

14The most notable finds within Space 6.1 is a fine, fragmentary LM III conical cup (08-06-2024-OB005), two incomplete bowls (08-06-2024-OB002, 08-06-2024-OB003) and a fragmentary kalathos (08-06-2024-OB004), the latter three perhaps in situ in the northeast corner of the room. There was also a loomweight (08-06-2024-OB006) and a complete triton shell (08-06-2032-OB001), the latter tightly set in Wall F12 near the northeast corner of Space 6.16. Finally, a fragment of a potter’s wheel (08-06-2024-OB001, fig. 8.3) was also found: it is a simple disc, with vertical channels on the edge, three shallow concentric grooves on the base and four on the top, defining the rim area. It seems to follow Evely’s Type 3A (Evely 1988) and two similar examples are known from Gournia and one from Myrtos Pyrgos. All are dated to MM III-LM I. A flat stone (0.10 x 0.10 x 0.05 m) with a shallow, circular depression on one of its sides (08-06-2028-OB001), is perhaps also related to potting activities as a basal socket, on which the wheel was revolving. These finds open the possibility that the masonry represented by F17 could perhaps be related to pottery production and represent a working installation.


15A conical ‘Mycenaean button’ (08/06/2013.OB002) was also found in the surface levels of Space 6.1 (Iakovidis 1977). From the tumble north of Space 6.1 came a circular lead weight (08-06-2026-OB001).

2.2. Space 6.2

16Space 6.2 is located directly east of Space 6.1 and has only barely been explored. According to the present state of excavation, it is defined by Walls F8 and F9 (west) and F7 (east). A few stones of Wall F7 were protruding and noted during the 2007 architectural survey. These three walls run north-northeast to south-southwest. Wall F8 abuts Wall F9, forming a slight projection toward the east. Wall F7 is 3.05 m long at the present state of excavation and 0.65 m thick. The east face of this wall was constructed with boulders, up to 0.70 m large and evenly dressed on their visible side. The west face is made of smaller stones, suggesting that Wall F7 could also represent a façade wall. The relationship between Walls F7 and F5 still needs to be clarified. Both probably belong to the same façade, implying that their slightly different orientation was intentional in order to create a projection. Only one obsidian nucleus (08-06-2026-OB004) and one obsidian blade (08-06-2026-OB005) were found inside this space. The concentration of pumice recovered in this space was remarkably higher (with pieces larger than an orange) than in any other excavated area of Zone 6.

2.3. Space 6.3

  • 7 I thank J.A. MacGillivray for this information.

17Space 6.3 is located west of Space 6.1 and probably represents the eastern part of a room of which the rest is lying west of the trench. The main discoveries inside this space consist of a fragmentary LM III A27 amphora (0806-2027-OB001) and a gourna (F16), partly covered by Wall F11. The sediments in this space are similar to those encountered inside Spaces 6.1 and 6.4.

18A preliminary analysis of the ceramic material, carried out by C. Langohr, assisted by F. Liard, showed that the pottery from Zone 6 was in general very eroded, hinting at a secondary, or even a tertiary context of deposition. When typical shapes could be identified, these were usually LM III including fragments of kylikes and champagne cups. The material found can generally be related to domestic use, including drinking vessels, cooking pots, low plates and coarse ware containers. There are also Neopalatial sherds and all material is mixed with isolated Protopalatial sherds, mainly MM II (tasses tronconiques; carinated cups; red burnished, dark and red slipped surfaces).

3. Conclusions

  • 8 On the problem of relating pottery/artefact concentrations to human activities, cf. Bintliff 2005. (...)

19Though still far from complete, the excavation of Zone 6 may show a peak of occupation in LM III although the sherd material may suggest that the area was also occupied throughout the Proto-, Neo-, and Postpalatial phases8.

20If the secondary to tertiary nature of the deposits is confirmed, it is not unlikely that the remains of Zone 6 were used at a certain stage as dumping grounds for various materials cleared out from domestic contexts elsewhere. The fill excavated in Space 6.1 hints at the possibility that a potter’s workshop existed in the vicinity.


4. References

▪ Bintliff 2005 = J. Bintliff, Human Impact, Land-Use History, and the Surface Archaeological Record : A Case Study from Greece, Geoarchaeology : An International Journal 20 (2005), 135-147.

▪ Bintliff et al. 1999 = J.L. Bintliff, P. Howard & A.M. Snodgrass, The Hidden Landscape of Prehistoric Greece, Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 12 (1999), 139-168.

▪ Evely 1988 = D. Evely, The Potter’s Wheel in Minoan Crete, BSA 83 (1988), 83-126.

▪ Iakovidis 1977 = S. Iakovidis, One the Use of Mycenaean ‘Buttons’, BSA 72 (1977), 113-119.

▪ Palyvou 1986 = C. Palyvou, Notes on the Town Plan of Late Cycladic Akrotiri, Thera, BSA 81, 179-194.

▪ Preziosi 1983 = D. Preziosi, Minoan Architectural Design. Formation and Signification, Berlin-New York-Amsterdam, 1983.

▪ Reese 1995 = D.S. Reese, The Marine Invertebrates, in J.W. Shaw & M.C. Shaw (eds), The Kommos Region and Houses of the Minoan Town, Princeton, 1995, 240-273.

▪ Shaw 1977 = J.W. Shaw, Excavations at Kommos (Crete) during 1976, Hesperia 46 (1977), 199-240.


1 Aspirant F.R.S.-FNRS, UCL. N. Kress was of great help; our workers were M. Mandelenis and M. Tzanakis.

2 See P. Hacigüzeller, above, chapter 2.

3 Preliminary observation made by H. Prokopiou.

4 The western cut block is not shown on the plan in figure 8.2

5 One should note the poor quality of the masonry covering the cut stone block (small, irregular, and loosely bonded stones), explaining why this section of Wall F12 is not represented on figure 8.2.

6 A unique parallel for this discovery is a 15.5 cm-long triton (Charonia sequenzae) shell which was discovered embedded in the doorway leading into the domestic shrine in Space 4 of the LM IIIA domestic shrine of the Central Hillside Houses at Kommos (Shaw 1977: 230 ; Reese 1995: 264). I thank E. Saunders for this information.

7 I thank J.A. MacGillivray for this information.

8 On the problem of relating pottery/artefact concentrations to human activities, cf. Bintliff 2005. On the problem of the bias introduced by the differential conservation of ceramic sherds, cf. Bintliff et al. 1999.

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© Presses universitaires de Louvain, 2009

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