Jeffrey S. Soles

Mochlos IIA: Period IV. The Mycenaean Settlement and Cemetery.

Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press, 2008

 

Mochlos is an important, multi-period island settlement in eastern Crete (just east of the Bay of Mirabello) famous primarily for its remarkable Pre-palatial tombs excavated in 1908 by Richard Seager.1 Since 1989, the joint Greek-American project of renewed excavations under Jeffrey Soles and Costis Davaras has not only reinvestigated and re-evaluated those tombs, but paid far greater attention to the hitherto largely neglected, but very informative, later life of the settlement. Some volumes, dealing with the Neopalatial settlement, have already appeared as part of the projected multi-volume publication of the site.2 The subject of the latest volume in the Mochlos monograph series is the sites of the LM III periods, which consist of houses within the settlement and two cemeteries—the main one at Limenaria across from the modern village of Mochlos and a smaller cemetery near the earlier Artisans' Quarter. As with the preceding Mochlos publications, this volume will be accompanied by two others covering the LM III pottery and small finds, respectively, which will help flesh out the framework of sites presented here.

Beginning in 1989 (as a result of the discovery of the later burials) ten houses were excavated in the settlement, which were re-occupied between the LM III/LM IIIA1 and LM IIIB periods. These dwellings occupy a broad band approximately 100 m wide across the site, which was much further back from the coastline than the Neopalatial settlement. The houses range from one- to two-room structures, some with cook sheds and some with yards, to the sizable House A (8.11 m by 13.70 m on the exterior, with eight rooms and two exterior areas).

The LM III occupation differed from that of the preceding Neopalatial period (when the site was at its acme) in a number of important ways: there was a much smaller population that occupied a much smaller area of the site; the placement of the dwellings was haphazard and governed by previous architecture, which was re-used by all the LM III occupants; all the buildings were only one storey; and, to judge from the finds, there seems to have been a gradual abandonment of the site (7–9).

Thirty-one tombs in total were excavated in the two cemeteries, producing finds that are contemporary with the two settlement phases. The twenty-six chamber tombs, two deep pit-tombs and three smaller pit-tombs varied widely in size, construction type, and location, but also regarding the type of burial container, manner of burial, and grave goods. These burials, although remarkably diverse, are grouped into three sets that roughly correspond to the house size groupings, reinforcing the evidence for social ranking from the settlement and providing more detailed information about individual status and identity. Correlating the osteological information with the other burial evidence, the excavators are able to suggest further some hypotheses about the ritual practices and beliefs of the population who lived at Mochlos in LM III. For example, the authors give a fairly detailed account of burial ritual, and how it may have differed based on the individual, burial container, and tomb type. Moreover, the portable objects have led the excavators to suggest that the inhabitants believed that the deceased experienced three different stages of existence in the afterlife (196).

Presenting evidence from both the settlement and its corresponding cemeteries allows the excavators to posit a hypothetical reconstruction of social structure, individual status and identity, and even ethnicity. The settlement remains provide clear evidence for a hierarchical social ranking system, in particular the distinction between House A and the dwellings in the rest of the settlement. House A was more elaborate with respect to location, size, architecture, construction material and technique, and the portable finds suggest connections with Palaikastro, Gournia, Knossos, and even the Levant. The other houses had differences among them, but for the most part only with respect to their size and layout (the paucity of portable finds reduced the ability to make...

 

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