Greater Mesopotamia

Greater Mesopotamia

Research stay in Crete

Field WorkPosted by Joachim Bretschneider Fri, August 02, 2013 15:24:47
In the framework of interrelations between the Levant and the Aegean world, Prof. Joachim Bretschneider and Greta Jans from the KU Leuven conducted a research excursion on Crete from the 6th until the 20th of July. They visited the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion and several sites in northern and eastern Crete, like Knossos, Malia, Sissi, Dreros, Ithanos, Palaikastro and Azoria.

Prof. Bretschneider and Greta Jans were generously guided by Prof. Jan Driessen (UCLouvain) at the site of Malia and Sissi, by Dr. Florence Gaignerot (Université de Picardie Jules Verne) at Dreros, by Prof. Carl Knappett (University of Toronto), Dr. Tim Cunningham (UCLouvain) and Dr. Nicoletta Momigliano (University of Bristol) at Palaikstro, by Prof. Donald Haggis (University of North Carolina) at Azoria and by Prof. Didier Viviers (rector ULB) and Prof. Athena Tsingarida (ULB) at Ithanos.

At the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion Joachim Bretschneider rendered digital images of sphinxes on mural painting and plaster reliefs for the research of his doctoral student Nadine Nys.

A short introduction to the visited sites:


The famous Knossos, near Heraklion, was excavated by the British School at Athens. It is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and was inhabited continuously from the Neolithic period until the 5th century AD. The palace of Knossos was undoubtedly the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. It appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and storerooms close to a central square. The palace was abandoned at the end of the Late Bronze Age.


The excavation of Malia is under the direction of the French Archaeological School at Athens. It is situated by Hersonissos in Northern Crete and is one of the largest Middle and Late Bronze Age urban centres on Crete. It was first built around 1900 BC. It subsequently followed the same cycle as the other palaces of the time, and it was destroyed around 1650 before it was immediately rebuilt. The ruins at the site today reflect this second rebirth of the palace and the excavations reveal a place of significant economic and political activity which lasted until its final destruction by fire in 1450 BC. An extensive complex of settlements had developed around the palace itself.

With Prof. Driessen at Malia


The Sissi Archaeological Project (S.Ar.P.edon) is a collaboration of the French and Dutch speaking universities of Louvain/Leuven directed by Prof. Jan Driessen (UCLouvain) and operates under the auspices of the Belgian School of Athens. The archaeological site of Sissi lies just a few kilometres from Malia, and was occupied in the Middle Bronze, Late Bronze and Early Iron Age. Between 1450 and 1200 BC, Sissi was probably the most important regional centre.

With Prof. Driessen at Sissi


Dreros excavations are directed by the French Archaeological School at Athens. Dreros, near Neapoli in the regional unit of Lasithi, existed as an Iron Age settlement that later grew to become a classical city-state.

With Dr. Gaignerot at Dreros


Since 1996 the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) has been conducting fieldwork in the North Necropolis under the direction of Prof. Didier Viviers. Ithanos is a city-harbour located in Eastern Crete. The archaeological record shows that the site was occupied from the 10th century BC to the 6th century AD. Earlier excavations focused on the urban centre of the city. The recent campaigns in the North Necropolis brought to light a densely occupied cemetery dated to the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods (4th-1st c. BC), and early funerary activity dated to the Geometric – Orientalizing periods (8th and 7th c. BC).

With Prof. Viviers, Prof. Tsingarida, Prof. Driessen and Dr. Gaignerot at Ithanos


The excavation of the site is directed by Prof. Carl Knappett, Prof. Alexander MacGillivray, and Prof. Hugh Sackett under the patronage of the British School of Archaeology in Athens. The Bronze Age town is situated some kilometres north of the Minoan town and palace of Zakros at the edge of the eastern coast of Crete. The site was occupied from the Early Bronze Age until the end of the Late Bronze Age. The site ceased to be inhabited at the same time when Zakros was abandoned (1450 BC) but was reoccupied during the Late Minoan III period (1300-1200 BC).

With Prof. Knappett, Prof. Driessen and Dr. Cunningham at Palaikastro


Fieldwork is conducted by permission of the Greek Ministry of Culture under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Archaeological Service of Eastern Crete. The Azoria Project is directed by Prof. Donald Haggis of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The project is investigating an Early Iron Age and Archaic site to the southeast of Agios Nikolaios.

With Prof. Haggis, Prof. Driessen and Dr. Gaignerot at Azoria

The close resemblance between some cultural phenomena of the Aegean and the Levant makes a partnered research very beneficial. An attempt was made to synchronize certain assemblages of archaeological material in the Northern Levant and the Eastern Mediterranean, like the transitional Late Bronze - Early Iron Age evidence, with the ‘Sea Peoples’ coming from the Aegean to the Near East. For example, large amounts of hourglass-shaped loom weights - a type of weight generally interpreted as a cultural marker of the ‘Sea Peoples’ - were excavated in Sissi as well as in Tell Tweini.

A further challenging research topic focused on the Syro-Phoenician influence on the architecture and architectural decoration of the oldest Greek temple at Prinias (8th -7th c. BC) decorated with sculptures. Most recent finds (from miniature house and temple models in Syria and Palestine) allow new interpretations of the impact of Levantine cultures on the Prinias religious architectural decoration of the Archaic Period.

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