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The Human Face of Radiocarbon

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Zoï Tsirtsoni

Thessaly

Chapter 21. The settlement at the Mikrothives interchange and the transition from the Chalcolithic to the Early Bronze Age

Vassiliki Adrymi-Sismani
Traduction de Nicola Wardle-Hunter

Texte intégral

The site and the excavation2

  • 2 Text translated from Greek by Nicola Wardle-Hunter.
  • 3 See Adrymi-Sismani 2007.
  • 4 For Neolithic settlements in Thessaly in general, see Kotsakis 1996; Gallis 1996.
  • 5 For Neolithic settlements in the area of Phthiotides Thebes, see Vouzaxakis 1997.

1A new prehistoric settlement, dating to the transitional period from the Final Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age, was discovered and excavated in 1998 at the Mikrothives interchange, 1.5 km from the modern village of Mikrothives, during the widening of the National road from Athens to Thessaloniki (fig. 1)3. The site developed on a low natural hill (magoula)4. A natural spring, called “Mannes” or “Manarema” is located to the north of the magoula and the plain of Almiros is located to the south. A natural pass to the west links the central Thessalian plain to the Pagasetic Gulf, the Aegean islands and Anatolia. The site is 104 m above sea level at a distance of ca 3 km from the sea, though this distance was considerably smaller in the 4th millennium BC5. Passage to the lowland hinterland is possible from the site, which is also on the route connecting Southern to Northern Greece and the Balkans.

2The prehistoric settlement extends over at least 2 hectares. The excavation covered an area of only 3300 m2, which has been expropriated, while the excavated buildings are nowadays covered by a permanent roofed structure.

3Three layers of occupation were identified: a surface layer (0‑0.40 m), disturbed by constant modern ploughing, a second layer (0.40‑0.65 m), with no architectural remains that contained pottery of the late Roman period, as well as a few examples of coarse handmade pottery, and a third undisturbed layer (0.65‑1.10 m), where architectural remains of wattle-and-daub buildings were preserved along with large quantities of handmade pottery. Bedrock was revealed immediately beneath this layer.

4The third layer included the fragmentary remains of five rectangular buildings (fig. 3). The walls were constructed using small wooden posts interwoven with branches or reeds and covered with clay both on their interior and exterior surfaces; they were either built directly onto the ground or set on a layer of compacted clay bordered with small stones, enabling the identification of the buildings’ plan. Judging from the partly preserved clay floors, these were roofed spaces, most probably used as habitation areas. Small post-holes found outside and in front of the buildings probably belong to sheltered open spaces rather than indoor structures. No post-holes, directly defining the building plans, were found.

5Among these five discovered house units, only unit D exhibited enough preserved elements, allowing a valid reconstruction (fig. 2: a, b).

Fig. 1 – Mikrothives. Aerial view of the excavation.

Fig. 2 – Mikrothives, building D. a: plan of the remains; b: reconstruction.

Fig. 3 – Mikrothives. Plan of the excavation with the remains of five buildings (A‑E).

Architectural remains

6House D is a rectangular wattle-and-daub building, covering an area of 54 m2 and consisting of more than one room, but these are difficult to identify given the absence of stone foundations. Architectural remains consist mainly of clay fragments with one smoothed surface and impressions of branches or reeds on the other, as well as a few impressions of the slender wooden posts which supported the walls. A line of small stones to the south and along part of the west side, next to piles of clay, outline the long, narrow, rectangular shape of the building, which is oriented southeast-northwest. In all probability, it appears that this building was divided into three rooms.

7The first room is outlined by a series of small stones on the outside, while an internal clay partition was also found. Part of a clay floor was revealed, where two small cylindrical pits (up to 0.30 m deep and approximately 0.30 m in diameter) were cut, lined in the interior with sherds and stones. These pits do not constitute post-holes but were probably intended to support clay jars or objects that would not stand on their own, such as leather bags. A well-preserved “case” (dimensions 0.30 x 0.60 m; height 0.18 m), made from unbaked clay, in which fragments of raw clay were preserved, was located on the clay floor, in the northeast part of the room. A completely preserved “scoop”-like vessel, containing a mass of red clay (fig. 20: top) was found north of this “case”, while the lower half of a jar, also containing a mass of pale clay, was uncovered nearby, alongside a dark burnished bowl, a small handleless conical cup, a small pithoid vessel and a larger vessel with plastic and incised decoration. Several stone tools, such as axes, flint blades and querns, as well as clay spindle whorls and bone awls, indicate an area of intensive domestic activity.

8The possible next (second) room is indicated only by the trace of a clay partition. An oval “platform” was found on the floor near the partition. A clay spool-shaped object was attached using clay on top of this “platform” (fig. 4: a). Clay spindle-whorls were found around this “platform”, along with sherds from coarse undecorated vessels. A refuse pit, containing fragments of pottery, stone tools and food residues, was found in the same area.

Fig. 4 – Clay “tables” on the floor of two adjacent rooms in building D.

9In the third and smaller room, also defined by a clay partition, another complete, well-preserved, roughly oval clay “platform” (dimensions 1.28 x 1.20 m, height 0.08 m) was found (fig. 4: b), set directly on the clay floor. A complete spool-shaped object, flat underneath and 0.50 m long, was also found on one edge, fixed to the “platform” using the final coating of clay. The “platform” exhibits successive layers of clay with traces of severe burning, suggesting the prolonged use of this structure, perhaps for food preparation. Burnished dark-faced bowls, handleless burnished conical cups, fragments from coarse pithoid vessels with plastic decoration, stone and bone tools and many clay spindle whorls were found around it. A row of three small post-holes, forming an arc, found to the north of the “platform” may be interpreted as the base of a wooden bench, where the abovementioned vessels could have been placed. In addition, the carbonised wheat grains, found scattered on the clay floor around this “platform” would have been most likely contained in these vessels. It seems very plausible, therefore, to suggest that this room was used for food preparation and perhaps consumption, as well as for storage of farming tools and production of woollen clothing.

10The other four, more fragmentary, houses, present a similar picture. A large number of clay fragments, with impressions of branches, reeds and slender posts, most probably deriving from the destroyed walls and roofs of the buildings, were also found. Underneath the clay debris, clay “cases” and “platforms”, set on the clay floors, were also uncovered. Oval pits, containing large quantities of bones from butchered animals, had also been cut into the floors. Other finds of particular interest include a complete bowl, containing 59 flint blades, as well as a bowl containing carbonised acorns, both found in building C (fig. 5: a, b).

Fig. 5 – Finds from building C. a: bowl containing 59 flint blades; b: bowl with carbonised acorns.

  • 6 The successive layers of clay coatings on the platform of House D suggest, however, some duration.

11Apart from the architectural remains, the excavation has yielded large quantities of finds, among which enormous quantities of pottery (2200 bags weighing ca 3 kg each), 70 complete vessels, approximately 3200 tools made of stone, bone and clay, a few stone and shell ornaments, and large assemblages of food remains. The latter consisted principally of butchered sheep and goat bones, a few cattle and pig elements, as well as low quantities of wild game and birds. All these finds provide a complete picture for these dwellings, which, even though they were not occupied for a long period of time6, contained a particularly large number of artefacts, mainly farming and cloth production tools. Unfortunately, no graves or organized cemeteries, related to the settlement, have been found.

The pottery

  • 7 A third sample measured at Lyon/Saclay provided a modern date. From the four 14C datings made at De (...)

12A preliminary study of the pottery dates the use of these buildings to the 4th millennium BC and, more specifically, to the transitional phase from the Final Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age. The same chronological horizon (3650‑3380 BC) is provided by 14C dating of four samples processed at the Demokritos Laboratory and two samples processed at Lyon/Saclay7.

13The pottery found inside the buildings is only handmade and could be divided into the following categories, according to their shape:

Unpainted pithoid vessels (jars)

  • 8 Parallels at Doliana (Douzougli & Zachos 2002, p. 124‑138, fig. 6: 7); Kastritsa (id., pl. 13: 14). (...)
  • 9 Parallels at Pefkakia (Christmann 1996, pl. 20: 19‑20); Petromagoula (Hatziangelakis 1984, fig. 7).
  • 10 For the Rachmani phase at Pefkakia, see Weisshaar 1989, pl. 59: 3 and pl. 60: 2, 3, 10, 13.
  • 11 For the Rachmani phase at Dimini, see Tsountas 1908, p. 251‑254. Also Phelps 1975, p. 332; Phelps 2 (...)
  • 12 Hatziangelakis 1984, fig. 8.
  • 13 Zachos 1987, p. 68‑69, 122; Zachos 2008, p. 20, fig. 25‑26, pl. 11, 12a.
  • 14 Coleman 1977, p. 106, pl. 23 (103, 109).
  • 15 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, p. 127, fig. 5: 3‑4; fig. 6: 1‑7.

14a) Small or large handmade pithoid vessels, made from clay with many inclusions, represent one of the largest categories in all five buildings. These include medium-sized jars with conical necks and handles8 and wide-mouthed jars, either with applied lugs9 or decorated with rope-like plastic bands with incised or finger impressions (fig. 6: a-c). Jars with rope-like decoration are common in Thessaly, more specifically, in the last two Rachmani phases at Pefkakia10, as well as at Dimini11 and Petromagoula12 and they have parallels in Southern Greece, i.e. in the Peloponnese13 and the Chalcolithic Attica-Kephala culture14, as well as in Epirus at Doliana15.

Fig. 6 – Pithoid vessels. a: wide-mouthed with applied lugs and incised decoration; b: fragments with rope-like decoration; c: wide-mouthed with applied lugs.

  • 16 For the jar from Platygiali, see Delaporta et al. 1988; for the one from Strofilas, see Televantou  (...)

15b) There are a few examples of jars with tap holes near their bases (fig. 7) and smaller holes on their bodies, resembling those from Platygiali Astakos (in Western Greece) and Strofilas on Andros (in the Cyclades)16.

Fig. 7 – Jar fragment with hole near the base.

  • 17 Adrymi-Sismani 2000, pl. 37: 1.
  • 18 Aslanis 1987, p. 105, 114, pl. 2: 23.

16c) Another common type of pithoid vessel has vertically set tubular lug handles (fig. 8), identified in the last phase of occupation at Neolithic Dimini17, the Neolithic settlement at Servia (Phase 8), and other Neolithic sites in Western and Central Macedonia, as well as further north in the Balkans (Baden Ib)18.

Fig. 8 – Pithoid vessels with vertically set tubular lug handles.

  • 19 Sperling 1976, pl. 79.
  • 20 Virág 2000, fig. 1‑10.

17d) A less common type of small jar has relief decoration. Only two examples have anthropomorphic relief figures on the shoulder (fig. 9), while similar vessels are known from Kum-Tepe Ib in the Troad19 and the Northern Balkans20.

Fig. 9 – Jars fragments with anthropomorphic relief figures.

  • 21 Hatziangelakis 1984, p. 79.
  • 22 Christmann & Karimali 2004, p. 49, fig. 4.9: 41‑42.
  • 23 Maran 1998, p. 40‑41; Alram-Stern 2004, p. 764.
  • 24 For instance at Dikili Tash: Demoule 2004, pl. XXI: 4‑5; XXII.

18e. Vessels with mat impressions on their bases (fig. 10) are also categorised as pithoids. They are known in Thessaly, from sites located around the Pagasetic Gulf, such as Petromagoula21 and Voulakalyva22, but also from the Peloponnese (e.g. EH I levels at Tiryns), the Cyclades (EC I levels), Kum-Tepe Ib23, and from Northern Greece and Bulgaria in the LN I‑II period24. Since they exhibit a very wide geographical and chronological distribution, their diagnostic value as chronological markers is low.

Fig. 10 – Vessels with mat impressions on their bases.

Bowls

19The main category of pottery, characteristic of the settlement at Mikrothives, consists of dark, usually burnished, shallow bowls, which can be divided into two main groups: undecorated bowls, which are more common, for the first one and bowls with incised or impressed (pointillé) decoration for the second one.

Undecorated bowls

  • 25 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 9: 7‑8, 10‑11; fig. 10: 6; Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 3: 4, 5.
  • 26 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 9: 6; Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 3: 6; Christmann & Karimali 2004, fig. (...)
  • 27 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 9: 9; Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 3: 13.
  • 28 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 9: 5‑6; Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 3: 5; Christmann & Karimali 2004, fi (...)
  • 29 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 7: 1‑7; Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 3.
  • 30 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 9: 4; Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 3: 13; Christmann & Karimali 2004, fig (...)

20The majority is comprised of large shallow bowls, 30‑40 cm in diameter, with a usually burnished surface, dark grey to brown/red or red in colour. The clay has a few inclusions and its firing is uneven. The following types have been identified: hemispherical (fig. 11: a)25; biconical (fig. 11: b)26 and shallow bowls (fig. 11: c)27; bowls with incurving rims (fig. 11: d)28; bowls with an S-profile (fig. 12)29; and bowls without a thickened “rolled rim”, with or without horizontal tubular handles below the rim (fig. 13)30.

  • 31 Maran 1998, p. 40; Alram-Stern 2004, p. 341, 508, 764.
  • 32 Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 4: 2, 4, 6, 8.
  • 33 Adrymi-Sismani 2000, pl. 2.
  • 34 Christmann & Karimali 2004, p. 43, fig. 4.4.
  • 35 Johnson 1999, p. 325.
  • 36 Christmann 1996, p. 233, 301‑303, fig. 136.
  • 37 See also the discussion by G. Toufexis, chapter 19 in this volume.

21This last type of bowl does not exhibit the slightly incurving thickened rim (“rolled rim”), characteristic of the early EH I phase in Southern Greece31. An attempt toward the formation of a slightly thickened rim can be discerned with difficulty only on a few examples from Mikrothives, yet still not forming a typical “rolled rim”. Bowls of this type are extremely rare in Thessaly, since to date they have been found only at Petromagoula32, at Dimini33, and recently a few sherds were located at Voulokalyva34. M. Johnson, who studied this type of bowl, in Greece and elsewhere35, as well as E. Christmann36, agree that this feature (i.e. the rolled rim), sometimes accompanied by a pierced ledge lug below the rim, characterizes vessels that belong to a phase before the beginning of the Early Bronze Age37.

  • 38 Christmann 1996, pl. 1: 2 (Pefkakia); Hanschmann & Milojčić 1976, pl. 1 (A7) 22, pl. 6: 13 (Graben  (...)
  • 39 Adrymi-Sismani 2000, pl. 1.
  • 40 Weisshaar 1989, fig. 49: 11.
  • 41 Wace & Thompson 1912, p. 169.
  • 42 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 9: 7, 10: 6.
  • 43 Ridley & Wardle 1979, fig. 14: 72.
  • 44 Maran 1998, p. 347‑355; Alram-Stern 2004, p. 205‑208.

22Both biconical bowls38 and bowls with incurving rims39 constitute typical forms of the beginning of the Early Bronze Age in Thessaly and Western Macedonia and they frequently have a more or less exaggerated hollow (“navel-like”) base. Hollowed bases are rare in Thessaly, but not absent. There are examples from the Rachmani phase at Pefkakia40, the Early Bronze Age at Aidiniotiki Magoula41, as well as Doliana in Epirus42, phase 8 at Servia in Macedonia43 and Baden (Ib) in the Balkans, dated to the beginning of the Early Bronze Age44.

Fig. 11 – Undecorated bowls. a: hemispherical; b: biconical; c: shallow hemispherical; d: with incurving rim.

Fig. 12 – Undecorated bowls, with S-profile.

Fig. 13 – Bowls with or without horizontal tubular handles below the rim.

Bowls with incised decoration

23Among the bowls with incised decoration, which are the only decorated vessels in the settlement, the following types may be identified:

  1. Slipped and burnished bowls with incised and impressed (pointillé) decoration;

  2. Bowls with no slip, with incised and impressed (pointillé) decoration;

  3. Burnished deep bowls with impressed decoration, placed only below the rim.

  • 45 Hatziangelakis 1984, fig. 10, pl. 4.
  • 46 Christmann & Karimali 2004, p. 43, fig. 4.5: 17.
  • 47 Christmann 1996, fig. 4.6.
  • 48 Spyropoulos 1970.
  • 49 Alram-Stern 2004, p. 550, fig. 3a-b.
  • 50 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, p. 132‑136, fig. 10: 4‑5; 11: 1‑2.
  • 51 Hauptmann 1981.
  • 52 Maran 1998, p. 344‑346; Alram-Stern 2004, p. 205, 752‑753.
  • 53 Johnson 1999, p. 333‑334, fig. 5.

24Bowls of the first type are very shallow, perhaps intended as lids, made from well-fired grey or grey-brown clay with a few inclusions. They are slipped and well burnished both on the interior and exterior surface. These bowls have triangular rims, more or less thickened internally. Their decoration is always precisely executed: it consists of incised concentric circles or spiralled motifs, composed by one to four spirals, which unwind from the centre and lead to the rim, and are frequently accompanied by pointillé decoration and fill motifs, such as triangles, arcs or semicircles (fig. 14, 15). Incised or pointillé decoration is also found on the rim. All the motifs are filled in with white paste. Similar bowls have been found at Petromagoula45 and Voulokalyva46 in the Almiros plain, and at Platia Magoula Zarkou in the Larissa plain47. Further to the south, they have been found at the settlement of Rachi Panagia in Phthiotis48 and possibly at the cemetery of Tsepi in Attica49, and further to the north at Doliana in Epirus50. Many archaeologists have debated the origin of these vessels. H. Hauptmann suggested initially an Early Cycladic origin51, but J. Maran observed that shallow bowls with such decoration do not exist in the Cyclades, linking the bowls from Petromagoula and Doliana, as well as bowls from the Balkans, to the bowl-lids that first appeared in the eastern Carpathian plain near Bratislava between 3600 and 2800 BC, according to radiocarbon dates. The route, by which they reached Greece and specifically the Thessalian coastline, would be either through Western Bulgaria to Macedonia, or through Kosovo, Southern Albania and Epirus52. M. Johnson, on the basis of radiocarbon dates and a typological study of pottery from Southeast Europe, the Balkans and Greece, has recently dated “Bratislava” bowls between 3700 and 3300 BC, i.e. to the transitional phase from the Final Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age53. As already mentioned (supra), recent 14C dates from Mikrothives, also correspond with this period.

Fig. 14 – Bowls with slipped and burnished surface with incised and pointillé decoration (“Bratislava” bowls); spiral motifs, simple or double.

Fig. 15 – Bowls with slipped and burnished surface with incised and pointillé decoration (“Bratislava” bowls); other motifs.

25The second type of bowl with incised decoration includes bowls, which, even though they do not have burnished surfaces, have incised or pointillé decoration and are made from dark red-brown clay with inclusions. They have convex walls and slightly in-turning rims. They differ from the first type in terms not only of clay mixture but also decoration: it usually consists of incised lines below the rim, which border rows of small squares and triangles, filled with pointillé decoration. Occasionally, shallow, roughly incised, spirals occur beneath the triangles (fig. 16). As also in type (a), all incised motifs are filled with white paste. A characteristic feature of this type is the existence of an internal ledge lug beneath the rim, which serves as a stopper for the lid.

  • 54 Cf. parallels from Petromagoula, in Hatziangelakis 1984, p. 78‑79.

26The third type includes bowls with impressed decoration only, presented in one or two rows of dots below the rim, which can be sharply everted or inverted (fig. 17). The rest of the bowl is undecorated and usually burnished54.

Fig. 16 – Bowls with unslipped surface with incised and pointillé decoration.

Fig. 17 – Bowls with burnished surface and impressed decoration below the rim.

Vessels with channelled decoration

  • 55 Alram-Stern 2004, p. 206, 509; Vitelli 1999, p. 64‑95.
  • 56 Adrymi-Sismani 2000, pl. 15.

27A further characteristic category of vessels are those with channelled decoration55. A few examples have been also found at Dimini56, dating to the beginning of the Early Bronze Age. These are closed vessels with a brown/grey slip (fig. 18).

Fig. 18 – Bowls with dark slipped surface and channelled decoration.

Handleless conical cups

  • 57 Hatziangelakis 1984, fig. 3: 2.
  • 58 Adrymi-Sismani 2000, pl. 26.
  • 59 Christmann 1996, fig. XIII: 1‑2.
  • 60 Hanschmann & Milojčić 1976, pl. 7: 4; Alram-Stern 2004, pl. 61: 4.
  • 61 Christmann 1996, fig. XVIII: 2, pl. 78: 5.
  • 62 Coleman 1977, p. 64: no. 103, pl. 23, 67.
  • 63 Sperling 1976, pl. 70.
  • 64 Fol & Lichardus 1988, p. 106‑107. The link is further supported by the evidence for a marble worksh (...)

28Handleless conical cups also belong to the category of burnished wares (fig. 19). They are made from clay with a few inclusions, are unevenly fired and they sometimes have a very well burnished surface. These are also known from Petromagoula57 and Dimini58. It should be noted that the majority of these cups could not stand on their own, even the few examples with narrow hollowed bases. Although the way they were used is puzzling, their abundance is impressive. These vessels are related neither to the Early Bronze Age single-handled conical cups from Pefkakia59 and Argissa60, nor to the depas amphikypellon of the Early Bronze Age61. Only the marble handleless conical cups from Kephala on Kea62 may be considered similar, to some extent, yet these have pierced lugs. Distant parallels can be also seen in the marble cups from Kum Tepe Ib63 and Varna64.

Fig. 19 – Handleless conical cups.

Scoops

  • 65 Hauptmann 1981, p. 120, 124‑126, Beil. 10: 28; Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 12: 1‑2.

29Several “scoop” or “scuttle”-shaped vessels, rather clumsily fashioned, made from clay with many inclusions, were found in all five buildings (fig. 20). Similar vessels are known from Otzaki Magoula, Rachmani, Pefkakia and Doliana65.

  • 66 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 8: 5‑6.
  • 67 Hanschman & Milojčić 1976, 136, fig. 67: 1.
  • 68 Treuil 1992, fig. 157‑158.

30Several vases with conical profiles (fig. 21), made from clay with many inclusions66, were also found, as well as some individual examples of vessels, such as a stamnos67, a single-handled jug (fig. 22), a couple of miniature pithoid vessels (fig. 23), a small handleless feeding bottle, and a few clay spoons (fig. 24)68.

Fig. 20 – “Scuttles”.

Fig. 21 – Handleless conical bowls.

Fig. 22 – Jug.

Fig. 23 – Miniature vessels.

Fig. 24 – Clay spoons.

Tools

31Ground and chipped stone tools are exceptionally common. Chipped stone tools, usually made from chocolate-brown flint from Pindus, are more numerous (forming 85% of the total percentage of stone tools). Tools made from obsidian or flint of other origins are infrequent (around 0.3%). The main types include parallel-sided blades without retouches, possibly reused as scrapers after their edges became blunt.

  • 69 Warren 1975.
  • 70 Ktenas 1927.

32Ground stone tools exhibit lower percentages (just 4.5%) and include axes, adzes, chisels, pounders, rubbers and whetstones. Rubbers are the most frequent, either cubic or roughly spheroid in shape, with flat surfaces and rounded edges, typical of the transitional phase from the Final Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age; in the latter period the purely cubic type is predominant69. Quernstones are common, made from basaltic lava, probably coming from the nearby volcanic hill, where the settlement of Pthiotic Thebes is located70.

33Bone tools, forming about 4% of the total tool assemblage, are made from sheep/goat metapodials and occasionally from cattle ribs. They include awls, spatulae, burnishing tools and hafts, used for stone tools.

  • 71 Branigan 1974.
  • 72 Illustrated in Papadimitriou & Tsirtsoni 2010, p. 123 (cat. no. 73‑75).
  • 73 Sperling 1976, fig. 71; Zachos 2010, p. 77‑91.

34Three bronze leaf-shaped double-edged daggers (fig. 25; Branigan’s type IIIC and VI71) are very interesting72, as their manufacture presupposes a rather developed technology. These belong to an advanced phase of the Neolithic period, before the beginning of the Early Bronze Age. Similar daggers have been found at Petromagoula, Kum-Tepe Ib, Dikili Tash and the cave of Zas73.

  • 74 Moorey 1988; Smith 1973.
  • 75 Moorey 1988.
  • 76 Ibid. About this issue, see also recent discussions in Day & Doonan 2007.

35Apart from the daggers, eight additional bronze objects were uncovered during the excavation, which cannot, however, be assigned to a particular type. During their conservation, in order for them to be displayed in the new exhibition at the Archaeological Museum of Volos, the museum’s conservator E. Asderaki, specialising in conservation techniques of metal objects, discovered that these objects had been tin-plated (fig. 26). She conducted a non-destructive analysis (using XRF) on a few of the objects, which revealed that most of them were made either from pure copper or from an alloy of copper and arsenic, with surface enrichment of arsenic at 10‑18%. Surface enrichment with arsenic during the casting process is also known from other early examples74. It is not completely understood, however, how Final Neolithic metalworkers managed to manufacture objects with arsenical bronze. Even so, it is clear that they had fully mastered the properties of this alloy, which not only made the casting process easier, but also gave a silvery sheen to the surface. This particular alloy was used to make more complex objects75, or tools and weapons, as the arsenic added resilience and hardness to the metal. Alternatively, the high arsenic content could also be due to the use of copper ores with a high arsenic content rather than the intentional creation of a specific alloy76.

Fig. 25 – Bronze leaf-shaped small daggers (max. length 5.5 cm).

Fig. 26 – Tin-plated copper object (length 7.5 cm).

  • 77 Bassiakos & Michailidou, forthcoming; Rehren et al., forthcoming.
  • 78 Since the topic is especially important and no similar analyses on samples from Thessaly have so fa (...)

36In the case of some objects, however, such as one metal sheet (ID36678), which may have belonged to the rim of a vessel, the use of an alloy of copper with tin and arsenic has been observed. The presence of tin is not strange, since, according to recent research77, it appears that it was circulated in the Aegean much earlier than was originally thought, at least in the Early Bronze Age, if not even earlier78.

37The origin of the daggers, as well as of the other metal objects, is usually regarded as the result of trading activity and exchange. Their presence is considered typical of changes, occurring in self-sufficient Neolithic farming communities, and of the gradual appearance of new conditions that prevail after the establishment of metalworking in the Early Bronze Age. Accordingly, stone axes with incised decoration of herringbone or concentric semicircles may suggest an Early Cycladic origin or influence. The same may also apply for the stone seal, with the shallow oval concentric incisions (fig. 27), thickly filled with white paste, which could have potentially been used for the decoration of incised bowls.

Fig. 27 – Stone seal with shallow concentric oval incisions.

Economy and subsistence

  • 79 For parallels for the large clay spool see Treuil 1992, fig. 156 (“bobines”).

38The remaining tools, about 5.7% of the total tool assemblage, are made from clay and they include spindle whorls (discoid, conical and biconical) and spools, with some very large examples79. These clay tools possibly imply the exploitation of animal secondary products, such as wool. As far as the economy is concerned, the accumulation of a large quantity of farming implements indicates engagement with agricultural activities and animal husbandry. The existence of many animal bones from bovids of advanced age (established by P. Halstead and V. Isaakidou, currently studying the faunal assemblage) indicates the raising of animals not only for their meat but perhaps also as draught animals.

  • 80 Two bone samples (one from each pit) were collected and dated at the Laboratory of Demokritos. The (...)

39The zooarchaeological assemblage, apart from disarticulated animal bones, also includes concentrations of bones, predominantly from domesticates, scattered throughout the excavated area. Two of these concentrations (in the north and south pits of building D; fig. 2) were excavated and recorded by P. Halstead and V. Isaakidou in 200280. According to their observations, part of a cow skeleton (Bos taurus) was found in the south pit, alongside part of the foetal cattle skeleton, while in the north pit part of a skeleton of a juvenile female cow was found. The preliminary study of the bones revealed important details both for the life history of these individuals and the circumstances of the deposition of their remains. More specifically, the cow from the south pit appears to have been used as a draught animal, a fact inferred by the presence of pathological deformations on the joints of the lower limbs.

40The long bones from the two adult animals show traces of butchering, resulting from slaughtering and cutting up of the carcasses into “parcels” of meat, as well as from the removal of flesh (filleting), using metal knives. In addition, some bones had been deliberately broken up, in order to facilitate marrow extraction. In the absence of evidence suggesting that these bones were exposed to fire, macroscopic analysis cannot determine whether they had been cooked or not. After butchery and consumption of meat, some of the bones (even broken ones) were carefully gathered up and deliberately deposited in selected areas. It is very likely that the parts of the skeleton, which were not found in the pits, had been removed to different areas, either to be consumed or simply to be disposed of. The selective deposition both of meat-bearing bones (e.g. humerus) and of anatomical elements with no/less meat (e.g. metapodials and phalanges), as well as the presence of an articulated half skeleton, suggest the intentional character of this depositional episode, perhaps imbued with “ritual”/“ceremonial” value. This suggestion is strengthened by the existence of a number of other concentrations, smaller in size, which are still under study. The analysis of these concentrations will provide a better understanding of this uncommon practice.

41Neither fish bones, nor fishing equipment, such as hooks or weights, were found at the settlement, despite the proximity of the site to the sea. Marine shells are also infrequent and possibly their role in the basic diet of the inhabitants was either minimal or absent, as opposed to the settlement of Petromagoula, where a great number of seashells were found.

42Finally, charred grains of wheat and a few peas, figs and possibly cornelian cherries, as well as a bowl filled with acorns (supra, p. 399, and fig. 5: b), were found. Future archaeobotanical analysis will undoubtedly provide a more detailed insight into the plants cultivated and consumed.

Ornaments and figurines

  • 81 For parallels see Karali 1992, sp. p. 163‑164, fig. 207 g; Karali 1996, p. 165‑166.
  • 82 For the trade networks for Spondylus gaederopus, see Séfériadès 2000, p. 423‑427; Séfériadès 2010.

43Several stone and shell jewels were found, comprising about 1.5% of the total assemblage of small finds. Circular and cylindrical beads were made of Cardium shell, clay, and occasionally quartz. Pendants are made of stone and are either pear-shaped or cylindrical. Several bracelet fragments made from Spondylus gaederopus81, as well as the presence of unworked shells of the same species, illustrate the use of this shell, which is characteristic both of Final and Late Neolithic communities82.

44It should be noted that not even a single anthropomorphic figurine was found, while only a fragment of a clay zoomorphic figurine was recovered. A few small, four-sided, clay objects of unknown use were also collected.

Conclusions

45Summarizing the results of this excavation, it is possible to suggest that, around the middle of the 4th millennium BC, a large settlement was established at the Mikrothives interchange, comprised of rectangular wattle-and-daub buildings; the settlement was occupied for a single period and afterwards abandoned. The inhabitants, as shown by the quantities of farming tools, engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry, while evidence for fishing is absent. A change in the technology of pottery is evident, in comparison to the pottery from earlier Neolithic phases found in other sites; this change is characterized by a shift towards the production of coarse handmade pithoid jars and bowls, possibly reflecting (and/or affected by) the development of new dietary practices. Moreover, it must be noted that, while painted pottery or crusted wares are completely absent, production of several Final Neolithic shapes (such as pithoid jars with a rope-like applied band or vertical handles, “scoop”-like vessels, bowls) continued, as well as the production of unslipped and unburnished incised pottery. New pottery shapes and wares appear, such as incised “Bratislava” bowls, channelled wares, handleless conical cups, bowls with horizontal spool-like handles and pithoid jars with relief figures. These are absent from settlements dating to the last phase of the Final Neolithic in Thessaly or the first phases of the Early Bronze Age.

46In the beginning of the Early Bronze Age, as is known so far in Thessaly from Argissa, Pyrasos, Dimini, Pefkakia, Aidiniotiki Magoula and Voulokalyva, most of these new pottery shapes seem to be forgotten, whereas only S-profile bowls, bowls with in-turning rims, and bowls with internally thickened rims and horizontal tubular lug handles, were used, along with two-handled vases and small jugs.

  • 83 Weisshaar 1989.
  • 84 Christmann 1996.

47The settlement at Mikrothives is hence especially significant, since it defines a new cultural phase, which must be placed at the very end of the Final Neolithic and before the beginning of the Early Bronze Age. This new well-stratified phase can be dated, as demonstrated, after the end of the Rachmani phase and the Final Neolithic, as known until now in Thessaly, yet it is certainly earlier than the beginning of the Early Bronze Age and than Argissa and Pefkakia. These finds, therefore, fill a gap, identified by several scholars after the publication of the Rachmani phase at Pefkakia by Weisshaar83 and of the Early Bronze Age by Christmann84.

  • 85 Sperling 1976, p. 327‑328, fig. 13 (402).
  • 86 Renfrew 1972, p. 152‑169; Coleman 1992, p. 264.
  • 87 Alram-Stern 2004, p. 880‑881.
  • 88 Ibid., p. 721‑722.
  • 89 Alram-Stern 2004, p. 538.

48The settlement at the Mikrothives interchange is contemporary, based on the “Bratislava” pottery type (supra, p. 407), with Petromagoula and Voulokalyva in Thessaly, Doliana in Epirus and Rachi Panagias in Phthiotis. We must note that all three settlements (Mikrothives, Petromagoula and Voulokalyva) share a common characteristic dark-faced burnished pottery, as well as the “Bratislava” pottery type, occurring with great frequency, mainly characterized by shallow bowls, sometimes with thickened incurving rims. Another common characteristic are the coarse unburnished pithoid jars, with non-perforated lugs. In addition, based on bowls typical for Kum-Tepe Ib85, the site is synchronized not only with Petromagoula and Voulokalyva but also with the Grotta-Pelos culture86, which constitutes an early phase of the Early Cycladic I and Early Helladic I in Southern Greece (Tiryns), as well as with Doliana and the last phases of the Final Neolithic from the cave of Zas on Naxos87, the Skoteini cave on Euboea88 and the north slope of the Acropolis89. All these sites have similar bowls but lacking the horizontal handle.

  • 90 Supra, n. 57.
  • 91 Alram-Stern 2004, p. 538.
  • 92 Ibid., p. 824‑830.

49As far as the handleless conical cups are concerned, no similar vessels are known, apart from those from Petromagoula90, while channelled wares, absent from all other settlements with the “Bratislava” pottery type, were found in the Athenian Agora in a Final Neolithic level91, as well as at Eutresis III and Sitagroi IV92.

50This settlement, therefore, had undoubtedly developed contacts with the Cyclades (EC I – Grotta-Pelos culture), the islands of the Eastern Aegean and the Troad (Kum-Tepe Ib), as well as with Southern (north slope of the Acropolis) and Northern Greece (Doliana; Phase 8 at Servia) and the Balkans (Baden Ib). Thus, it provides a very clear picture, regarding the distribution of commodities and ideas throughout the Aegean, after the end of the Neolithic and before the beginning of a new Early Bronze Age world, where trade and exchange played a key role.

51Finally, we have ascertained that only three settlements in Thessaly (Petromagoula, Mikrothives and Voulokalyva) can be dated with certainty to this new phase, i.e. after the end of the Final Neolithic and before the very beginning of the Early Bronze Age. Nonetheless, the settlements at Mikrothives and at Petromagoula are not completely synchronized, showing a possible chronological progression, with the former appearing earlier than the latter. Both settlements are located on the eastern coast of Thessaly and next to the Pagasetic Gulf, which unquestionably formed a gateway to the Aegean world, explaining, therefore, the chronological differences in the development of various Bronze Age sites.

Notes

2 Text translated from Greek by Nicola Wardle-Hunter.

3 See Adrymi-Sismani 2007.

4 For Neolithic settlements in Thessaly in general, see Kotsakis 1996; Gallis 1996.

5 For Neolithic settlements in the area of Phthiotides Thebes, see Vouzaxakis 1997.

6 The successive layers of clay coatings on the platform of House D suggest, however, some duration.

7 A third sample measured at Lyon/Saclay provided a modern date. From the four 14C datings made at Demokritos, only three were in the framework of the “Balkans 4000” project: see chapter 2 in this volume, p. 58‑59. The other (DEM-1350: 4729 ± 30 BP, 3635‑3375 cal BC) was conducted before (result mentioned in Adrymi-Sismani 2007, p. 74).

8 Parallels at Doliana (Douzougli & Zachos 2002, p. 124‑138, fig. 6: 7); Kastritsa (id., pl. 13: 14). See also Hatziangelakis 1984, fig. 7 (from Petromagoula); Adrymi-Sismani 2000, pl. 28 (from Dimini).

9 Parallels at Pefkakia (Christmann 1996, pl. 20: 19‑20); Petromagoula (Hatziangelakis 1984, fig. 7).

10 For the Rachmani phase at Pefkakia, see Weisshaar 1989, pl. 59: 3 and pl. 60: 2, 3, 10, 13.

11 For the Rachmani phase at Dimini, see Tsountas 1908, p. 251‑254. Also Phelps 1975, p. 332; Phelps 2004, p. 7.

12 Hatziangelakis 1984, fig. 8.

13 Zachos 1987, p. 68‑69, 122; Zachos 2008, p. 20, fig. 25‑26, pl. 11, 12a.

14 Coleman 1977, p. 106, pl. 23 (103, 109).

15 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, p. 127, fig. 5: 3‑4; fig. 6: 1‑7.

16 For the jar from Platygiali, see Delaporta et al. 1988; for the one from Strofilas, see Televantou 2006b.

17 Adrymi-Sismani 2000, pl. 37: 1.

18 Aslanis 1987, p. 105, 114, pl. 2: 23.

19 Sperling 1976, pl. 79.

20 Virág 2000, fig. 1‑10.

21 Hatziangelakis 1984, p. 79.

22 Christmann & Karimali 2004, p. 49, fig. 4.9: 41‑42.

23 Maran 1998, p. 40‑41; Alram-Stern 2004, p. 764.

24 For instance at Dikili Tash: Demoule 2004, pl. XXI: 4‑5; XXII.

25 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 9: 7‑8, 10‑11; fig. 10: 6; Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 3: 4, 5.

26 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 9: 6; Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 3: 6; Christmann & Karimali 2004, fig. 4.8.

27 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 9: 9; Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 3: 13.

28 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 9: 5‑6; Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 3: 5; Christmann & Karimali 2004, fig. 4.5: 18.

29 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 7: 1‑7; Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 3.

30 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 9: 4; Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 3: 13; Christmann & Karimali 2004, fig. 4.7: 29‑30.

31 Maran 1998, p. 40; Alram-Stern 2004, p. 341, 508, 764.

32 Hatziangelakis 1984, pl. 4: 2, 4, 6, 8.

33 Adrymi-Sismani 2000, pl. 2.

34 Christmann & Karimali 2004, p. 43, fig. 4.4.

35 Johnson 1999, p. 325.

36 Christmann 1996, p. 233, 301‑303, fig. 136.

37 See also the discussion by G. Toufexis, chapter 19 in this volume.

38 Christmann 1996, pl. 1: 2 (Pefkakia); Hanschmann & Milojčić 1976, pl. 1 (A7) 22, pl. 6: 13 (Graben 2/3) [Argissa].

39 Adrymi-Sismani 2000, pl. 1.

40 Weisshaar 1989, fig. 49: 11.

41 Wace & Thompson 1912, p. 169.

42 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 9: 7, 10: 6.

43 Ridley & Wardle 1979, fig. 14: 72.

44 Maran 1998, p. 347‑355; Alram-Stern 2004, p. 205‑208.

45 Hatziangelakis 1984, fig. 10, pl. 4.

46 Christmann & Karimali 2004, p. 43, fig. 4.5: 17.

47 Christmann 1996, fig. 4.6.

48 Spyropoulos 1970.

49 Alram-Stern 2004, p. 550, fig. 3a-b.

50 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, p. 132‑136, fig. 10: 4‑5; 11: 1‑2.

51 Hauptmann 1981.

52 Maran 1998, p. 344‑346; Alram-Stern 2004, p. 205, 752‑753.

53 Johnson 1999, p. 333‑334, fig. 5.

54 Cf. parallels from Petromagoula, in Hatziangelakis 1984, p. 78‑79.

55 Alram-Stern 2004, p. 206, 509; Vitelli 1999, p. 64‑95.

56 Adrymi-Sismani 2000, pl. 15.

57 Hatziangelakis 1984, fig. 3: 2.

58 Adrymi-Sismani 2000, pl. 26.

59 Christmann 1996, fig. XIII: 1‑2.

60 Hanschmann & Milojčić 1976, pl. 7: 4; Alram-Stern 2004, pl. 61: 4.

61 Christmann 1996, fig. XVIII: 2, pl. 78: 5.

62 Coleman 1977, p. 64: no. 103, pl. 23, 67.

63 Sperling 1976, pl. 70.

64 Fol & Lichardus 1988, p. 106‑107. The link is further supported by the evidence for a marble workshop at Kulaksizlar, in Asia Minor, producing such cups (Takaoğlu 2005); see Chapman 2013, p. 324. It should be noted, however, that no analysis has been conducted so far regarding the provenance of these objects.

65 Hauptmann 1981, p. 120, 124‑126, Beil. 10: 28; Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 12: 1‑2.

66 Douzougli & Zachos 2002, fig. 8: 5‑6.

67 Hanschman & Milojčić 1976, 136, fig. 67: 1.

68 Treuil 1992, fig. 157‑158.

69 Warren 1975.

70 Ktenas 1927.

71 Branigan 1974.

72 Illustrated in Papadimitriou & Tsirtsoni 2010, p. 123 (cat. no. 73‑75).

73 Sperling 1976, fig. 71; Zachos 2010, p. 77‑91.

74 Moorey 1988; Smith 1973.

75 Moorey 1988.

76 Ibid. About this issue, see also recent discussions in Day & Doonan 2007.

77 Bassiakos & Michailidou, forthcoming; Rehren et al., forthcoming.

78 Since the topic is especially important and no similar analyses on samples from Thessaly have so far been conducted, E. Asderaki undertook additional analyses to determine how surfaces became enriched with arsenic and to establish the origin of the metal objects found in the excavation, and perhaps also of those from Petromagoula which date to the same period.

79 For parallels for the large clay spool see Treuil 1992, fig. 156 (“bobines”).

80 Two bone samples (one from each pit) were collected and dated at the Laboratory of Demokritos. The sample from the southern pit was dated to 3520‑3360 cal BC (DEM-2001), and the other to 3360‑3100 cal BC (DEM-2002). See chapter 2 in this volume, p. 58‑59.

81 For parallels see Karali 1992, sp. p. 163‑164, fig. 207 g; Karali 1996, p. 165‑166.

82 For the trade networks for Spondylus gaederopus, see Séfériadès 2000, p. 423‑427; Séfériadès 2010.

83 Weisshaar 1989.

84 Christmann 1996.

85 Sperling 1976, p. 327‑328, fig. 13 (402).

86 Renfrew 1972, p. 152‑169; Coleman 1992, p. 264.

87 Alram-Stern 2004, p. 880‑881.

88 Ibid., p. 721‑722.

89 Alram-Stern 2004, p. 538.

90 Supra, n. 57.

91 Alram-Stern 2004, p. 538.

92 Ibid., p. 824‑830.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1 – Mikrothives. Aerial view of the excavation.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-1.jpg
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Légende Fig. 2 – Mikrothives, building D. a: plan of the remains; b: reconstruction.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-2.jpg
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Légende Fig. 3 – Mikrothives. Plan of the excavation with the remains of five buildings (A‑E).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-3.jpg
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Légende Fig. 4 – Clay “tables” on the floor of two adjacent rooms in building D.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-4.jpg
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Légende Fig. 5 – Finds from building C. a: bowl containing 59 flint blades; b: bowl with carbonised acorns.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-5.jpg
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Légende Fig. 6 – Pithoid vessels. a: wide-mouthed with applied lugs and incised decoration; b: fragments with rope-like decoration; c: wide-mouthed with applied lugs.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-6.jpg
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Légende Fig. 7 – Jar fragment with hole near the base.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-7.jpg
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Légende Fig. 8 – Pithoid vessels with vertically set tubular lug handles.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-8.jpg
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Légende Fig. 9 – Jars fragments with anthropomorphic relief figures.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-9.jpg
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Légende Fig. 10 – Vessels with mat impressions on their bases.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-10.jpg
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Légende Fig. 11 – Undecorated bowls. a: hemispherical; b: biconical; c: shallow hemispherical; d: with incurving rim.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-11.jpg
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Légende Fig. 12 – Undecorated bowls, with S-profile.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-12.jpg
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Légende Fig. 13 – Bowls with or without horizontal tubular handles below the rim.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-13.jpg
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Légende Fig. 14 – Bowls with slipped and burnished surface with incised and pointillé decoration (“Bratislava” bowls); spiral motifs, simple or double.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 84k
Légende Fig. 15 – Bowls with slipped and burnished surface with incised and pointillé decoration (“Bratislava” bowls); other motifs.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 112k
Légende Fig. 16 – Bowls with unslipped surface with incised and pointillé decoration.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-16.jpg
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Légende Fig. 17 – Bowls with burnished surface and impressed decoration below the rim.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-17.jpg
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Légende Fig. 18 – Bowls with dark slipped surface and channelled decoration.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-18.jpg
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Légende Fig. 19 – Handleless conical cups.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-19.jpg
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Légende Fig. 20 – “Scuttles”.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-20.jpg
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Légende Fig. 21 – Handleless conical bowls.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-21.jpg
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Légende Fig. 22 – Jug.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-22.jpg
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Légende Fig. 23 – Miniature vessels.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-23.jpg
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Légende Fig. 24 – Clay spoons.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-24.jpg
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Légende Fig. 25 – Bronze leaf-shaped small daggers (max. length 5.5 cm).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-25.jpg
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Légende Fig. 26 – Tin-plated copper object (length 7.5 cm).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-26.jpg
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Légende Fig. 27 – Stone seal with shallow concentric oval incisions.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/539/img-27.jpg
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Auteur

Director Emeritus of the Archaeological Institute for Thessalian Studies.

Nicola Wardle-Hunter (Traducteur)
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