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Le Péloponnèse

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Josette Renard

Regional Survey Projects and the Prehistory of the Peloponnese

Christopher Mee

Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 See especially Cherry 1994 : 91-112 ; Rutter 1993 : 747-58 ; Shelmerdine 1997 : 5504.
  • 2 Mee and Taylor 1997 : 42-56.
  • 3 Asea : Forsén et al. 1996 ; Berbati-Limnes : Wells et al. 1996 ; Laconia : Cavanagh et al. 1996 ; (...)

1One of the most significant developments in Greek archaeology in the last two decades has been the number of regional survey projects1 and my intention in this paper is to consider what they can tell us about the prehistory of the Peloponnese. I will concentrate on the intensive survey of the Methana peninsula, which I codirected in 1984-872, but will mention other projects — in particular the Asea Valley Survey, the Berbati-Limnes Archaeological Survey, the Laconia Survey, the Nemea Valley Archaeological Project, the Pylos Regional Archaeological Project and the Southern Argolid Survey3 — as appropriate.

Neolithic Period

  • 4 Cherry et al. 1988 : 172-3.
  • 5 Asea : Forsén et al. 1996 : 85-8 ; Berbati-Limnes : Wells et al. 1996 : 37-8 ; Laconia : Cavanagh (...)
  • 6 Bintliff 1985 : 212-15.
  • 7 Cherry et al. 1988 : 175.
  • 8 MS 10, the site of ancient Methana — Mee and Taylor 1997 : 42.
  • 9 Cherry 1981 : 59-60 ; Halstead 1981b : 194 ; Demoule and Perlès 1993 : 388-9.

2Except in the Nemea Valley4, Neolithic sites, especially of the Early and Middle Neolithic periods, have proved rather elusive5. This has led Bintliff to suggest that, because of post-depositional processes, in particular erosion and alluviation, we might expect to find no more than 20 % of the sites which once existed6. The assumption that there has been progressive site loss must be correct but it is doubtful whether this can be accurately calculated and the compensation factor proposed for the Neolithic period has specifically been criticised7. It is difficult to make more than the most tentative analysis of Neolithic settlement on Methana on the basis of the one site which we identified8. Nevertheless, we believe that the lack of evidence for Neolithic activity is genuine. For early farmers the rugged landscape of Methana would not have been a particularly attractive proposition and we assume that settlement will have been on a limited scale and possibly on a temporary or seasonal basis. This is quite typical of the more marginal environments in southern Greece9.

Early Helladic Period

  • 10 Mee and Taylor 1997 : 42-51.
  • 11 James et al. 1994.
  • 12 Renard 1995 : 115-16.
  • 13 Wells et al. 1996 : 65-72 and 118-20 ; Jameson et al. 1994 : 347-8.
  • 14 Cavanagh 1995 : 84.
  • 15 Cherry et al. 1988 : 175.
  • 16 Forsén et al. 1994 : 88-9 ; Davis et al. 1997 : 417-9.

3In the Early Helladic period there is a spectacular increase in site density on Methana (Fig. i)10. Since it did seem possible that some of the concentrations of Early Helladic artefacts were the resuit of geomorphological processes rather than human activity, we made a detailed study of the effects of erosion11 and concluded that 21 of the sites should be regarded as certain. Most of the sites are clustered on the eastern side of the peninsula. There was evidently a preference for a coastal location, in that twelve of the sites are less than 100 m above sea-level and only one (11) is up in the mountains. The distribution map suggests that each of the larger sites (10, 67, 108, 124) was surrounded by satellites, which would imply that there was a simple settlement hierarchy. But this assumes that the sites were contemporary — it could be argued that there was a pattern of nucleation and dispersion12. Our problem on Methana is that most of the Early Helladic pottery, in a distinc tive ‘rather coarse gritty reddish’ fabric, cannot be dated more precisely. Nevertheless, it is our impression that the increase in the number of sites began in EH I or even in the Final Neolithic period. This is reminiscent of Berbati-Limnes and the Southern Argolid13, whereas the Laconia14 and Nemea15 surveys report that EH II is the period of intensive settlement. The Asea and Pylos projects have identified few Early Helladic sites16. Clearly the sequence of events is not precisely the same in every region but the evidence of a major, if protracted, expansion, at least in the eastern Peloponnese, cannot be denied.

Fig. 1. Early Helladic Methana

  • 17 Renfrew 1972 : 280-8 ; 1982 : 273.
  • 18 Runnels and Hansen 1987 : 299-308 ; Hansen 1988 : 44-8.
  • 19 Sherratt 1981.
  • 20 Van Andel and Runnels 1988 : 242 ; Pullen 1992 : 45-54.
  • 21 Halstead 1981a : 327-31.
  • 22 Halstead 1981b : 192-6.
  • 23 Cherry 1985 : 28, but Halstead 1981a : 326-7 is more cautious.

4Renfrew argued that it was the domestication of the vine and olive which made settlement in the Cyclades a practical proposition for subsistence farmers17. However, it is not certain that the olive and the vine were being intensively cultivated at this time18. Innovations in the use of animais, ‘the secondary products revolution’19, may have had a greater impact on Aegean agriculture20. The introduction of the plough, a woollier breed of sheep and the use of animal manure as fertiliser21 may have made the colonisation of marginal land possible, even if the risks were still significant22. Developments in agricultural technology might have opened up Methana but this does not explain the scale of settlement. Nor has the survey revealed a likely cause and we can only speculate that a population increase, in regions such as Thessaly, provided the initial impetus23.

  • 24 Bintliff 1982 : 107 ; Dickinson 1982 : 132 ; Rutter 1993 : 7°734 ; Renard 1995 : 117.
  • 25 Jameson et al. 1994 : 353-64.

5Because the Early Helladic pottery provides such a loose chronological framework, it is difficult to trace the spread of settlement but we believe that a simple site hierarchy developed on Methana. This is considered characteristic of EH II24, and is certainly attested in the Southern Argolid25, but there is no site on Methana which is as large as the town at Fournoi. A two-tier hierarchy of villages and hamlets or farmsteads seems more likely. Nor do we have the roof tiles, decorated hearth rims and the mass of obsidian which distinguish Fournoi from the other sites in the Southern Argolid, although the fine pottery is concentrated on our principal sites and these presumably functioned as rudimentary central places.

  • 26 Van Andel and Runnels 1988 : 242-5.
  • 27 Broodbank 1989 : 332-5.
  • 28 Cavanagh 1995 : 84.
  • 29 Van Andel and Runnels 1987 : 93. The volcanic rocks of the peninsula were certainly used for mills (...)

6Access to arable land will have been the major factor in site location on Methana. Nevertheless, there must have been some reliance on the sea, not least as a means of communication for an otherwise isolated peninsula. Maritime trade has been identified as a major component in the Early Helladic economy26 but it appears that the longship could not have served as a bulk carrier27 and Early Helladic Laconia suffers no obvious disadvantages despite being landlocked28. We do not see Methana as the haunt of ‘intrepid seafarers’29.

  • 30 Mee and Taylor 1997 : 45-6.
  • 31 Berbati-Limnes : Wells et al. 1996 : 119-20 ; Laconia : Cavanagh 1995 : 84 ; Nemea : Wright et al.(...)
  • 32 Rutter 1993 : 772-3.
  • 33 Cavanagh et al. 1996 : 16 ; Davis et al. 1997 : 419.
  • 34 Dickinson 1982 : 132.
  • 35 Rutter 1993 : 773.
  • 36 Forsén 1992 argues that the scale and impact of the destructions have been exaggerated and it shou (...)
  • 37 Van Andel et al. 1986 : 113-16 ; van Andel et al. 1990 : 382-5.

7In EH III there is a sharp decline in the number of sites on Methana30. This is also true of Berbati-Limnes, Laconia, Nemea and the Southern Argolid31. It should be pointed out that EH III pottery can be quite difficult to recognise, especially in a collection of surface sherds, and it is possible that this has distorted our perception of the situation32. There was not much enthusiasm for EH III pottery in Laconia and Messenia33and Dickinson34 has observed that, in the Argolid at least, EH II centres invariably emerged as major Middle and Late Helladic sites, which suggests some degree of continuity. Nevertheless, it is clear that a high proportion of the Early Helladic sites on Methana were abandoned, even if we do not know whether this was a sudden or protracted process35. The fate of EH II sites in the Argolid has traditionally been perceived as violent but the evidence of an invasion has recently been questioned36. Nor did Methana experience a major erosion event of the type which devastated the north-eastern Peloponnese in EH II, apparently as a resuit of agricultural intensification37. It would seem that surveys can register but not explain the events at the end of the Early Helladic period.

Middle Helladic Period

  • 38 Mee and Taylor 1997 : 51-2.
  • 39 Runnels and van Andel 1987 : 303.

8In the Middle Helladic period there were no more than four sites on Methana (Fig. 2) and only one of these (10) is >10, 000 m2 in extent38. Consequently, even if this is a period of nucleation, as defined by Runnels and van Andel39, the reduction in the number of sites at the end of the Early Helladic period cannot be explained as a synoecism of the type

Fig 2 Middle Helladic Methana

  • 40 Wagstaff and Cherry 1982 : 138-9.
  • 41 Note the comments by Rutter. 1983 : 137-9, on the relative visibility' of the pottery in each peri (...)
  • 42 Rutter 1993 : 776-80.

9proposed for Melos40, since we do not have fewer but larger settlements, and there must have been some reduction in the size of the population. Nor is it likely that we have overlooked Middle Helladic sites, because Grey Minyan and Matt-Painted pottery is so distinctive41. Some of our pottery had evidently been imported from Aegina but it would seem that the preeminence of Kolonna at this time42 did not benefit Methana.

  • 43 Berbati-Limnes : 0 sites, Wells et ai 1996 : 121 ; Nemea : 2 sites, Wright et al. 1990 : 609 and 6 (...)
  • 44 Cavanagh 1995 : 84.
  • 45 Davis et al. 1997 : 419.
  • 46 Rutter 1993 : 781-2 ; Shelmerdine 1997 : 550-2.
  • 47 Wright et al. 1990 : 641-2.

10It is extraordinary how few Middle Helladic sites have been identified in the Argolid43, whereas in Laconia there is a steady recovery44 and the number of sites actually increases in Messenia45. It is not until MH III-LH i that the Argolid is extensively resettled46 and this must surely reflect the rise of Mycenae as a major political and economic centre47.

Late Helladic Period

  • 48 Mee and Taylor 1997 : 52-5.
  • 49 Konsolaki 1995 : 242.
  • 50 Berbati-Limnes : 19 sites, Wells et al. 1996 : 170-3 ; Nemea : 10 sites, Wright et al. 1990 : 641  (...)
  • 51 Cavanagh 1995 : 85-7.
  • 52 Davis et al. 1997 : 4214 ; Shelmerdine 1997 : 553.

11On Methana the number of settlements remains more or less the same in the Late Helladic period (Fig. 3) but the size of some of the sites does indicate a larger population, at least in LH III48. The most significant of the sites, although we did not realise this at first, is Ayios Konstantinos (13) where Konsolaki has recently excavated a Mycenaean shrine49. Elsewhere in the Argolid the contrast between the Middle and Late Helladic periods is much more marked and the site density is once again at the Early Helladic level50. In Laconia there is stability, although developments at the Menelaion do have an impact on rural settlement51. In Messenia, a number of sites were abandoned in LH III, presumably when Pylos became the regional centre52.

Fig 3 Late Helladic Methana

Fig 4 Early Iron Age Methana

  • 53 Gill and Foxhall 1997 : 57-9.
  • 54 Asea : Forsén et al. 1996 : 89 ; Berbati-Limnes : Wells et al. 1996 : 177 ; Laconia : Cavanagh et (...)

12The collapse of the Mycenaean political system must have had serious repercussions for Methana but, despite the lack of LH IIIC pottery, there is some evidence of continuity in that three of the sites were still occupied in the Protogeometric period (10, 67 and 124 — Fig. 4)53. For most surveys this period is more or less a complete blank54. While we can trace the effects of the collapse, which were clearly catastrophic, the causes elude us.

13Christopher MEE

14Department of Archaeology

15University of Liverpool

1614 Abercromby Square

17Liverpool, L69 3BX Royaume-Uni

18e-mail : mailto:cmee@liv.ac.uk.

Bibliographie

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Notes

1 See especially Cherry 1994 : 91-112 ; Rutter 1993 : 747-58 ; Shelmerdine 1997 : 5504.

2 Mee and Taylor 1997 : 42-56.

3 Asea : Forsén et al. 1996 ; Berbati-Limnes : Wells et al. 1996 ; Laconia : Cavanagh et al. 1996 ; Nemea : Wright et al. 1990 ; Pylos : Davis et al. 1997 ; Southern Argolid : Jameson et al. 1994 ; Runnels et al. 1995.

4 Cherry et al. 1988 : 172-3.

5 Asea : Forsén et al. 1996 : 85-8 ; Berbati-Limnes : Wells et al. 1996 : 37-8 ; Laconia : Cavanagh et al. 1996 : 1— 5 ; Pylos : Davis et al. 1997 : 417 ; Southern Argolid : Jameson et al. 1994 : 340-8. See the paper by Cavanagh For an analysis of the Final Neolithic period.

6 Bintliff 1985 : 212-15.

7 Cherry et al. 1988 : 175.

8 MS 10, the site of ancient Methana — Mee and Taylor 1997 : 42.

9 Cherry 1981 : 59-60 ; Halstead 1981b : 194 ; Demoule and Perlès 1993 : 388-9.

10 Mee and Taylor 1997 : 42-51.

11 James et al. 1994.

12 Renard 1995 : 115-16.

13 Wells et al. 1996 : 65-72 and 118-20 ; Jameson et al. 1994 : 347-8.

14 Cavanagh 1995 : 84.

15 Cherry et al. 1988 : 175.

16 Forsén et al. 1994 : 88-9 ; Davis et al. 1997 : 417-9.

17 Renfrew 1972 : 280-8 ; 1982 : 273.

18 Runnels and Hansen 1987 : 299-308 ; Hansen 1988 : 44-8.

19 Sherratt 1981.

20 Van Andel and Runnels 1988 : 242 ; Pullen 1992 : 45-54.

21 Halstead 1981a : 327-31.

22 Halstead 1981b : 192-6.

23 Cherry 1985 : 28, but Halstead 1981a : 326-7 is more cautious.

24 Bintliff 1982 : 107 ; Dickinson 1982 : 132 ; Rutter 1993 : 7°734 ; Renard 1995 : 117.

25 Jameson et al. 1994 : 353-64.

26 Van Andel and Runnels 1988 : 242-5.

27 Broodbank 1989 : 332-5.

28 Cavanagh 1995 : 84.

29 Van Andel and Runnels 1987 : 93. The volcanic rocks of the peninsula were certainly used for millstones which may have been exported, although Runnels, 1985 : 34-6, believes that Aegina was the principal source in this period.

30 Mee and Taylor 1997 : 45-6.

31 Berbati-Limnes : Wells et al. 1996 : 119-20 ; Laconia : Cavanagh 1995 : 84 ; Nemea : Wright et al. 609 ; Southern Argolid : Jameson et al 1994 : 366-7.

32 Rutter 1993 : 772-3.

33 Cavanagh et al. 1996 : 16 ; Davis et al. 1997 : 419.

34 Dickinson 1982 : 132.

35 Rutter 1993 : 773.

36 Forsén 1992 argues that the scale and impact of the destructions have been exaggerated and it should be noted that Aegina apparently flourished in EH III, Walter and Felten 1981 : 22.

37 Van Andel et al. 1986 : 113-16 ; van Andel et al. 1990 : 382-5.

38 Mee and Taylor 1997 : 51-2.

39 Runnels and van Andel 1987 : 303.

40 Wagstaff and Cherry 1982 : 138-9.

41 Note the comments by Rutter. 1983 : 137-9, on the relative visibility' of the pottery in each period.

42 Rutter 1993 : 776-80.

43 Berbati-Limnes : 0 sites, Wells et ai 1996 : 121 ; Nemea : 2 sites, Wright et al. 1990 : 609 and 641 ; Southern Argolid : 5 sites, Jameson et al. 1994 : 367, and none in Asea, Forsén et al. 1996 : 88-9.

44 Cavanagh 1995 : 84.

45 Davis et al. 1997 : 419.

46 Rutter 1993 : 781-2 ; Shelmerdine 1997 : 550-2.

47 Wright et al. 1990 : 641-2.

48 Mee and Taylor 1997 : 52-5.

49 Konsolaki 1995 : 242.

50 Berbati-Limnes : 19 sites, Wells et al. 1996 : 170-3 ; Nemea : 10 sites, Wright et al. 1990 : 641 ; Southern Argolid : 27 sites, Jameson et al. 1994 : 368-9.

51 Cavanagh 1995 : 85-7.

52 Davis et al. 1997 : 4214 ; Shelmerdine 1997 : 553.

53 Gill and Foxhall 1997 : 57-9.

54 Asea : Forsén et al. 1996 : 89 ; Berbati-Limnes : Wells et al. 1996 : 177 ; Laconia : Cavanagh et al. 1996 : 31-2 and 89 ; Nemea : Wright et al. 1990 : 641 : Pylos : Davis et al. 1997 : 424 and 451-3 ; Southern Argolid : Jameson et al. 1994 : 372-3.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1. Early Helladic Methana
URL http://books.openedition.org/pur/docannexe/image/20608/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 251k
Légende Fig 2 Middle Helladic Methana
URL http://books.openedition.org/pur/docannexe/image/20608/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 292k
Légende Fig 3 Late Helladic Methana
URL http://books.openedition.org/pur/docannexe/image/20608/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 249k
Légende Fig 4 Early Iron Age Methana
URL http://books.openedition.org/pur/docannexe/image/20608/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 251k

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