The Duration of the Hyksos Rule
In recent discussions in Egyptology Kim Ryholt considered the 108 years as sum of the 15th Dynasty in the royal canon of Turin as uncertain and proposed that the timespan of this dynasty could also be read as 140 ± x years. Thomas Schneider even argued that the duration of this period could be read as 160 - 169 or even 180 - 189 years.
The stratigraphy of Tell el-Dab‘a which comprises continuous strata of the 12th, the 13th, the 14th, the 15th, and the 18th Dynasties incorporates time lines such as the 5th year of Senwosret III, the end of the Hyksos Period, the reign of Amenhotep II and the reign of Horemheb. This offers the opportunity to calculate a mean duration of each of the 23 occupation phases of the Tell el-Dab‘a between 30.4 and 30.7 years what corresponds to a generation in Ancient Egypt (Henige 1974, Jansen-Winkeln 2006). The Hyksos Period incorporates 31/2 phases what is the equivalent of c. 107 years and nearly meets the 108 years, read for the total of the Hyksos Dynasty by Giulio Farina and Jürgen von Beckerath. The Hyksos Period at Tell el-Dab‘a shows distinct changes which started with a conflagration of the palace of the 14th Dynasty and changes in material culture and other features versus the 14th Dynasty occupation and ends with the abandonment of the town of Tell el-Dab‘a/Avaris. One also cannot add the first New Kingdom occupation of the site to the Hyksos Period as these features – mainly silos and magazines – are restricted to the western part of the town while the rest of former Avaris was deserted. This finding rules completely out to start the 15h Dynasty earlier in the occupation of the site and end it later. Therefore, higher options for the duration of the Hyksos rule can be definitely abandoned. This chronological result is confirmed by the first appearance of scarabs of the 12th, the 13th, the 14th the 15th and the 18th Dynasties within these phases and is an important result that helps to find a realistic chronology model for the Second Intermediate Period.
Bottoms up: A View of the Theran Volcanic Eruption in the Neopalatial
Thomas Brogan, Chrysa Sofianou, Vili Apostolakou, Philip Betancourt, Melissa Eaby
Previous attempts to trace the relative chronology of the Theran Eruption at East Cretan settlements can best be described as preliminary. Much of the problem stems from site formation processes which have preserved LM IB destruction deposits and removed or
redeposited earlier MM IIIB and LM IA material. Recent excavations at Mochlos and Papadiokampos provide good illustrations. Large houses at both sites contain substantial primary destruction deposits from the end of LM IB. A single dwelling like House C.3 at Mochlos or House A.1 at Papadiokampos contains more than 100 vases with full profiles.
Excavations beneath these LM IB floors have recovered mixed assemblages of earlier MM IIIB and LM IA pottery often used as construction fills. In a few cases (e.g., C.1 at Mochlos) deposits of Theran ash were found in association with this rebuilding, suggesting that these LM I settlements were damaged during the eruption and subsequently rebuilt (e.g., House C.1 at Mochlos).
Because of publication strategies favoring primary deposits, these earlier MM IIIB and LM IA deposits are rarely studied and illustrated in the same detail as the final LM IB levels. Our presentation takes a fresh look at the problem with material from three Neopalatial buildings recently excavated by the Lasithi Ephorate on Chryssi. All three structures contain well-preserved LM IB destruction deposits like those found in the houses at Mochlos and Papadiokampos. The buildings also contain MM IIIB, LM IA, and possibly even early LM IB material, again primarily in secondary deposits.
Careful study of the Chryssi deposits has revealed a very different local taphonomy. Unlike the 2-3 story rubble houses typical of East Cretan LM I settlements, dwellings on Chryssi were, in most cases, just one story. This was probably not a matter of taste but instead the
result of limited building materials on the island and the absence of hillslopes. These simpler designs also required less excavation during construction, resulting in less damage and mixing of earlier deposits. While there is considerable evidence for frequent rebuilding during the Neopalatial period, these processes often involved the addition or abandonment of rooms rather than deep, new foundations. These primary and relatively clean secondary deposits from Chryssi appear to offer a better illustration of the earlier Neopalatial phases. Our paper draws particular attention to the cups from the LM IA and LM IB phases, as they represent the most abundant vessel types and are also the most sensitive to changes in shape and decoration. In one case, traces of tiny pumice fragments were recorded in the stratigraphy, suggesting that the two layers above both belong to LM IB.
The evidence for intersection between the Aegean and Egypt around the time of the Bronze Age eruption of Thera
More than 20 years ago, the archaeological world had put before it a date range, based on new radiocarbon datasets and other evidence, of 1627-1600 BCE for the end Late Minoan IA period eruption of Thera. This 17th century BCE date (known as the Aegean High Chronology - AHC) presented a quandary to some archaeologists, like myself, as to how this could be synchronized with the material culture intersections that were known and used to determine chronological connections between the Aegean and Egypt, and also with the Levant and Cyprus. As Kenneth Kitchen observed at that time, it had been the case that the Aegean looked to the historical chronology of Egypt for anchor dates. Thus, prior to 1999, the intersection between the Aegean and Egypt at the time of the Late Minoan IA eruption had favoured a date considered to align it with the early New Kingdom period or ca 1525-1500 BCE – what is now known as the Aegean Low Chronology (AGL). The historical dates for the absolute dating of the New Kingdom were later also closely paralleled by the radiocarbon analysis by Christopher Brock-Ramsey and his team at Oxford who determined a start date for the New Kingdom of ca 1570-1544 BCE, thus still well after the 1627-1600 BCE date proposed for the Thera eruption. Thus, there was this seemingly huge time difference between an eruption and the early New Kingdom period, and it seemed to some that the material remains strained to accommodate this proposal. The question – when exactly, in Egyptian history, did the Minoan eruption of Thera occur still seems elusive. Now that the evidence for the 1627-1600 BCE date for the Thera eruption has been attributed to another volcanic event, it is worthwhile taking another look at the material evidence for intersections between the Aegean and the lands to the East. This is what I shall attempt to do in my contribution.
Mediterranean Chronology during the Iron Age: Where do We Stand?
Much of the relative ceramic typology for the Iron Age in the Aegean is well established, and since Greek decorated pottery was frequently traded throughout the Mediterranean, this relative system, which is based on fairly rapid changes in style, provides the entire basin—from Spain to the Levant—with excellent anchors for the study of historic and cultural connections. Yet, it is difficult to tie the Aegean relative sequence into an absolute dating system. This is so because the period between the Late Helladic IIIC in the late 2nd millennium BCE and the archaic colonization of Italy and Sicily toward the end of the 8th century BCE lacks archaeological contexts that can be directly or indirectly (via Egyptian objects) related to events carrying absolute dates. Scholars of the Aegean Iron Age who tried to resolve this problem have therefore been compelled to resort to dates offered for layers in the east—that is, for Levantine sites that yielded Greek Protogeometric and Geometric items, such as the old excavations at Samaria, Megiddo, Tell Abu Hawam and Hama. This, however, did not provide a solution, since (a) the Aegean items found at these sites did not come from stratigraphically secure contexts; and (b) the date of the relevant layers in the Levant was also debated. This resulted in two contrasting systems for the Iron Age phases in the Greek world: the Conventional Aegean Chronology, which followed the Samaria based Low Palestinian Chronology of Crowfoot-Kenyon (which resembles, in turn, the current Low Chronology for the Iron Age in the Levant, suggested for different reasons), and a system based on the traditional High, biblically based, Palestinian Chronology. In order to resolve this dispute, scholarly attention has turned to radiocarbon dating, both in the Levant and more recently in Greece and the western Mediterranean. Today, the vast majority of scholars working in the Levant follow the Modified Conventional or the Low Chronology perspective and the differences are no longer as distinct as they may have been even a decade ago. Simultaneously, most scholars working in the Aegean world follow the conventional Aegean chronology that fits better the Low Chronology in the Levant. However, the jury is still out on this subject. In this lecture, I will try to demonstrate that perhaps with a few slight adjustments, the conventional Aegean Chronology (Low Chronology in Levantine terms) should be maintained across the entire Mediterranean.
Minoan Eruption chronology: a five decade long debate. Ice cores, tree rings and archaeological 14C-Gauged Correspondence Analysis as a tool for an integrated approach
The volcanic eruption of Santorini/Thera Island, which occurred in the 2nd millennium BCE or the Late Bronze Age (LBA), is one of the biggest catastrophic events recorded in world archaeology. Moreover, it marks a key-moment for Aegean and eastern Mediterranean chronology as it happened at the very height of the Minoan Neopalatial civilization, a society with interconnections all over the eastern Mediterranean from Egypt to the Levantine coast, Cyprus and Anatolia. Notwithstanding its importance, the absolute (calendric) date of this event is still unsettled and forms the object of a debate which has been ongoing over the last five decades. The issue at stake is particularly difficult to assess, as it involves an extremely high degree of multidisciplinarity, including in-depth studies in disciplines that include Mediterranean (and Global) Archaeology, Egyptian Epigraphy, a wide range of Environmental Sciences, Physics and Mathematics/Statistics. Given this extreme complexity, obtaining a comprehensive view of the problem is not an easy matter, in particular for those archaeologists who have little background in the issues of isotopic dating, on the one hand, and for natural scientists that have partial command of the problems and intricacies of the specific archaeological sources, on the other hand. The aim of the present paper is to provide a synthetic view and a summary of the recent state of the art of the debate, and to provide a possible key to the subject for non-specialists, with a particular focus on the 1561 BCE hypothesis for the eruption.
Kolonna on Aegina and its contribution to the absolute and relative chronology of the Aegean Bronze Age
The settlement of Kolonna on Aegina has been viewed as one of the key sites for understanding the Aegean Bronze Age in particular for the time period between roughly 2500 and 1600 B.C.E. This is due to various factors: 1) Kolonna on Aegina is continuously inhabited since the Neolithic, and the 2002 to 2010 excavations uncovered a well stratified sequence of subsequent architectural and settlement phases from the late Early Bronze Age to the beginning of the Late Bronze Age. 2) The analysis of the respective ceramic provides evidence of at least eight distinct ceramic phases corresponding well with the development of the settlement. 3) Due to its privileged geographical position in the Saronic Gulf Kolonna received imports from many regions; imports from the Greek mainland and the Cycladic islands are most common, followed by Cretan ones. 4) Ceramic products from the island of Aegina are recovered at many places on the Greek mainland and the Cyclades and help to establish local relative chronologies. 5) The 14C analysis from Kolonna (Wild et al 2010) provide first time evidence on absolute dates from Kolonna on the abovementioned periods. This is of importance not only for Kolonna, but for the Greek mainland and adjacent islands, as there is still a major lacuna of well-defined absolute dates.
The current presentation is threefold: It aims to shed light the combination of C14 and archaeological / ceramic data from a Kolonna perspective. Archaeological data associated with a scheduled new 14C analysis are introduced, and finally comparisons to other approximately contemporary sites on the Greek mainland are discussed.
Reconsidering Aegean and Mediterranean chronology from an Iron Age perspective
Scholarly debate over chronology in the Mediterranean is subject to certain disciplinary divides and biases. Restricted understanding of advances in archaeological research of other disciplinary fields still impedes a holistic approach to Mediterranean chronology and distorts the interpretation of scientific evidence. A real multidisciplinary approach integrating different perspectives from Classical, Near Eastern and European Prehistoric archaeologies has only recently been pursued. A bias in Aegean archaeology emerged out of the barely transcending disciplinary boundaries between Aegean Prehistory and Classical Archaeology, where chronology is treated from two different temporal perspectives, either a Late Bronze or an Early Iron Age one. Another bias is the reliance on periodisation models that were constructed more than hundred years ago depending on even older tripartite schemata that were invented during some of the earliest attempts to study human history. Such models still present the framework for the archaeological embedment of recent dendro- and radiocarbon data and affect reconstruction of the temporal modes of cultural change.
This paper approaches Mediterranean chronology from an Iron Age perspective and explores by means of recent archaeological, dendro- and radiocarbon data their broader temporal implications. In the first place, advances in pottery seriation that were achieved during the last two decades in the Aegean by means of extensive stratigraphic sequences are concisely presented. The new archaeological data are discussed in juxtaposition to recently obtained radiocarbon data suggesting that not only Greek chronology but also its periodisation have to be revised before addressing the issue of Mediterranean chronology. The new data are examined in a comparative manner with archaeological and radiocarbon data that were recently obtained in the eastern and western Mediterranean within new multidisciplinary projects.
‘Ezbet Helmi and the eastern Mediterranean - New details and interpretations towards chronology
The site of ‘Ezbet Helmi is undoubtedly one of the most important sites in Egypt, specifically in the eastern Nile Delta, which offers several points of departure for the development of eastern Mediterranean chronology. The archaeology of the site was explored from 1991 to 2005 by the Austrian Archaeological Institute in cooperation with the University of Vienna.
The uncovered large structures of several mud-brick platforms have generated a great interest among experts, as they are the remains of palace complexes of the Egyptian Second Intermediate Period and the early 18th Dynasty from the Nile delta, which include workshops and the already published finds of Minoan frescoes.
Within the framework of a project funded by the Austrian National Bank (P17916) from 2019-2021, conducted at VIAS (Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science), the records of the excavation from the area of the so-called small platform F (areas H/I and H/IV) were digitized in a GIS project. The analysis of these digitized data has provided opportunities to create Harris matrices, so that details of the stratigraphy become visible, respectively secure or raise new questions.
The integration of the find material also shows clear references to the eastern Mediterranean, especially Canaan and Cyprus, and the Aegean, which can be confirmed in stratigraphic sequences.
The paper will present details and interpretations of the stratigraphic analysis of the area as well as a new virtual model of the small platform F and surroundings, based on the GIS database.
Tell el-Ajjul and the Hyksos Realm – new chronological evidence
No site along the Mediterranean coast is traditionally more associated with the Hyksos than Tell el-Ajjul. It is said to be the strongest candidate for ancient Sharuhen, the city where the Hyksos retreated after they were expelled from Avaris by Ahmose at the beginning of the 18th dynasty.
Excavated by Petrie in the early 1930ies, its stratigraphy and historical position was and still is a matter of debate in Near Eastern chronology. Comparison of the material culture from the Hyksos sphere and the Bronze Age culture existing in Tell el-Ajjul might help to shed some new light on the chronology of the late Middle and early Late Bronze Age at that site and the relationship between these two harbor cities.
Statistical evaluation and proposals for a chronology of the Copper Age cemetery of Varna
Raiko Krauss and Clemens Schmid
The Varna cemetery is one of the most spectacular burial sites in European prehistory. Discovered in 1972 near the Bulgarian harbour town, it immediately attracted attention because of the extremely richly furnished burials, many of them with numerous gold and copper objects. When it became clear that the burials dated back to the 5th millennium BCE, this had serious consequences for our understanding of the development of metallurgy in particular, but also of the course of early European cultural history in general. Subsequently, Varna served as a projection surface for numerous reflections on the social structure of early societies.
Within the framework of a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), we worked on the anthropological and archaeometallurgical evaluation of the graves of Varna from 2011 to 2013. Parallel to these evaluations, we used statistical methods in our Tübingen working group to investigate various aspects of the burials. This involved questions of age and social structures, but also the chronological development of this site.
Of particular relevance for the topic of the workshop are insights on the chronology of the cemetery. Using the multivariate methods of seriation and correspondence analysis, we first tried to bring the graves into a relative chronological order, which also allows the reconstruction of a horizontal stratigraphic development of the burial site. In a later step we confronted this burial sequence with the radiocarbon dates and worked out an archaeological age model.
In our lecture we would like to present this extraordinary site and our project and then go into some of the methods used.
Deconvolution in Aegean chronology: radiocarbon, dated contexts, target events and history
The standard work on Aegean chronology published in 1989 stated: “The radiocarbon dating evidence for Aegean chronology after about 2000 BC is for the most part less precise than dates obtainable from the Egyptian correlations. The point has been made before…” (Warren & Hankey 1989:127). If this assessment were correct (at the time or since), then radiocarbon would not really have any relevance to second millennium BC Aegean chronology. Of course, this statement was only made then because it was becoming evident that some other scholars disagreed entirely. The subsequent 33 years have seen much, long, and often unproductive—ships passing in the night—debate on the relevance (or not) of radiocarbon dating to the chronology of the 2nd mill. BC in the Aegean and East Mediterranean. Ironically, world archaeology, in other areas, and times, from the 2nd mill. AD backwards, has seen an explosion of sophisticated radiocarbon-based dating. Indeed, even the circum-Ancient Near East from Egypt to Mesopotamia and beyond has seen radiocarbon usefully brought to bear on several high-resolution chronological questions, clarifying if not resolving long-running debates and uncertainties. The 2nd mill. BC Aegean has been a conspicuous exception. As the front line of Renfrew’s (1973) Chronological Faultline, when radiocarbon first started to shape a new prehistory of the Old World, this was perhaps inevitable. There has been concerted resistance to change the (pre-radiocarbon) orthodoxy and a reluctance to critique the very foundations of this orthodoxy.
To make progress we need to deconvolve the ‘problem’ into its constituent elements and then consider how better to integrate them towards answers. A first problem (1) will take time. The application of radiocarbon dating has been embarrassingly sparse across most Aegean Bronze Age sites. When one compares the large-scale dating projects in the Levant and Europe, to name two proximate areas, the Aegean stands out for the wrong reasons. Thus at present we lack modern, high-quality, large radiocarbon date sets from most sites and few sites are even potentially susceptible to standard Bayesian chronological modelling (e.g. sequence analysis) methods as applied at many other sites around the world. A second issue is calibration (2). Here there has been major change and progress in the last handful of years that offers the potential for real chronological resolution if only we could address (1). This relates both to substantially refining the calibration curve and starting to better understand growing-season effects at high-resolution. A third fundamental, long noted in the literature, is the need to define and understand what is actually being dated by radiocarbon and how it relates to the target event that the archaeologist wishes to place in time (3). The LM IB period on Crete is a very obvious example. The radiocarbon dates available nearly all relate to the close/end of the cultural period. They give no indication when this period began—and indeed defining what is earlier LM IB remains an archaeological challenge (and this earlier portion needs dating). A fourth issue, especially if we can get a handle on (1), (2) & (3), is to define the questions for which we want answers and then to define appropriate analytical approaches to address these questions and hope to achieve relevant answers (4). Archaeologists and historians in other regions have successfully reached (4).
I will end by examining approaches to the radiocarbon dating of three specific archaeological episodes in the Aegean-East Mediterranean: the Mazotos ship, the Uluburun ship, and the Minoan eruption of the Thera (Santorini) volcano. In each case if we ask appropriate questions and frame an apposite analysis it is possible to achieve well-resolved dates. These are not always what was expected by prior scholarship and its stated positions—if there was no solid basis to some of these previous beliefs.
Tackling questions of relative chronologies through Correspondence Analysis: The Neopalatial pottery sequence at Sissi as a case study
Iro Mathioudaki and Tiziano Fantuzzi
The Kephali hill at Sissi is located on the north coast of Crete, 4 km east of the palace complex of Malia. Since 2007 the site has been the focus of excavations by the Belgian School at Athens. The excavations have identified several phases of Neopalatial occupation, which take the form of large fills and secondary deposits encountered in both internal and external spaces of the site. These deposits consist of well-documented pottery assemblages, which have been quantitatively and qualitatively analysed in the recent years. The analysis of the pottery offers reliable quantitative data to pursue issues of relative chronology using pottery seriation based on Correspondence Analysis (CA). By applying CA to pottery assemblages, it is possible to achieve an ordered and quantified relative timing that testifies the method’s capability of returning an independent, relative, chronological seriation. This paper focuses on the reproduction and testing of the Sissiot relative chronology sequencing through computational statistics in order to confirm its validity, i.e. the correspondence between the archaeological (Neopalatial) relative dating and the computational dating (Correspondence Analysis). For this reason, a general 1|0 CA and a numerical counting CA are used, based on six Neopalatial deposits from Sissi belonging to the MM IIIA – LM IB phases. The results of this pilot CA analysis will contribute, on the one hand, to the examination of the potential of establishing a CA-based model for Wiggle-matching of radiocarbon dates by providing a relative sequence-scale with an absolute timescale, and, on the other, to the introduction of a reliable method for issues of relative chronology and pottery assessment in Minoan Archaeology.
How feasible is a new system of Minoan relative chronology?
It is quite paradoxical that the recent generations of Aegean archaeologists continuously criticize nearly every single aspect of Arthur Evans’ intellectual legacy, yet at the same time, they remain inexplicably respectful towards one of his weakest scientific accomplishments, i.e. the system of relative chronology, which he established in collaboration with Duncan Mackenzie. Instead of thoroughly revising it, they have strived to preserve and perpetuate it through an endless chain of interventions – including radical changes in the definition of individual phases or the introduction of several subdivisions – thus transforming the naïve symmetry of the original tripartite structure into a patchy whole which – due to its deformity – strives futilely to arrange Minoan history in archaeologically tangible segments of time. This collective attitude of scientific piety towards the otherwise fiercely criticized pioneer of Minoan Archaeology is even more surprising, if one takes into consideration that in the last decades pottery specialists have been focusing on ceramic synchronisms between different assemblages and/or sites rather than adhering to Evans’ chronological scheme. Against this background, the first part of the present paper provides an overview of recent attempts by several colleagues to provide a backbone of relative chronology which is not relying any more on a single site (Knossos) and its – fragile – ceramic sequence. In the second part, the theoretical and methodological requirements for a new system of relative chronology of Minoan Crete will be discussed. Comparative stratigraphy, ‘marker horizons’, and seriation, as these methods have been recently implemented outside the Aegean, provide a viable and promising way for replacing the outdated system with a new and more reliable one. The feasibility of the latter will be explored in the last part of the paper, which will focus on the potential of correspondence analysis and Machine Learning for modelling a modern approach to the ‘ceramic measurement’ of time in Minoan Archaeology.
What's next? Chronological improvements through proxy synchronization and annual 14C
This talk will use the Thera period to illustrate the possibilities and limitations of using annual 14C measurements from tree-rings to augment and improve the accuracy of the radiocarbon calibration curve, and look towards the next iteration of the curve, the extension of the annual datasets and new possibilities that these may create. It will illustrate the chronological improvements possible when multiple lines of high-resolution proxy evidence are synchronized by reviewing new ice-core data which narrows down the dating for the eruption of Thera to just a handful of calendar year options.
Mining the Labyrinth: Prospects and Pitfalls of Synthetic Research on the Knossian Ceramic Sequence
Charles Sturge and Tiziano Fantuzzi
This paper offers an overview of some of the problems in the published ceramic record from Knossos in relation to the construction of a ceramics-based dataset for a preliminary CA chronology model of the Knossian Neopalatial to Postpalatial sequence (MM III – LM IIIB. It is argued that despite flawed data, if certain accommodations are made with regard the resolution of the research questions, it is possible to use the available information for synthetic research.
Knossian pottery has been the object of study for over 100 years, and the sequence is well understood, especially since the publication of the Knossos Pottery Handbook. However, published information remains fragmented and scattered and of varying quality and type. This situation has arisen as a result of the long, but piecemeal history of research. Much of Evans’ pottery remains essentially unpublished given that Palace of Minos was not intended as a site publication. Although some of this material has received scholarly attention, there has been no systematic attempt to publish this material. The piecemeal character of subsequent excavations at Knossos, from rescue excavation to large scale clearances of entire structures has led to a plethora of publications which include ceramic data, ranging from preliminary reports, detailed final publications, and those that only incidentally publish ceramics in service of a wider argument.
Given this diversity and fragmentation, preparing a synthetic dataset for our proposed CA model faced many challenges – different contextual types, different selection agendas for publication, and discard of pottery combine with a general lack of detailed statistic information and other biases. The solution proposed in this paper, although imperfect, was to lower the analytical resolution from a context-to-context analysis, to an amalgamated site-wide dataset, based on the presence/absence of ceramic types. This is because, despite the problems associated with contextual comparability, and chronology, the available published information is sufficiently rich that we do understand the typological range of ceramics from each phase – and thus a qualitative typology was constructed. Correspondence Analysis was then applied to the dataset with positive results, with the model correctly replicating the chronological sequence, and acting as a proof of concept for more advanced studies with more robust datasets. Notwithstanding the problem mentioned above, this study emphasises the potential, even with older legacy datasets, to produce broader synthetic research agendas from published material with application not limited to the themes of this workshop, but wider socio-behavioural analysis of ceramics.
It’s Absolutely Relative: The LH I Stratigraphic and Ceramic Sequences from Mitrou and their 14C Anchor Points Christopher M. Hale, Salvatore Vitale, Aleydis Van de Moortel, Michael W. Dee, Nicholas P. Herrmann
The 2004 - 2008 excavations at Mitrou by the University of Tennessee and the Ephorate of Phthiotida and Evrytania has revealed an impressive sequence of finely stratified LH I settlement levels and some 20 graves dating to this period. The pottery assemblage was recovered from superimposed occupational debris and grave contents sealed by successive floors and exterior surfaces. These constitute at least 16 stratigraphic levels, representing a period of significant activity at the site. Quantitative and typological analyses of the pottery have identified two main LH I ceramic phases, each characterized by clear diagnostics and shifting patterns in the relative proportion of pottery classes. Each ceramic phase is tentatively subdivided into two subphases. Associated with these ceramic phases is a series of 8 stratigraphically secure 14C botanical and human bone samples which were sourced from the final Middle Helladic phase directly preceding the LH I sequence, from within the LH I sequence itself, and from the detailed LH IIA sequence directly above. By grounding this fine-grained relative ceramic sequence with several absolute anchor points, the approximate length of the LH I period as it is represented at Mitrou can be gauged. The synchronization of Mitrou’s phases with other relative sequences known from southern Greece (including those with similar absolute chronological anchor points such as Lerna in the Argolid or Kolonna on Aegina) contributes to our understanding of the absolute length of the LH I phase. We will discuss how the data from Mitrou add to the debate about the absolute date of the Santorini eruption and the broader Mediterranean chronological framework and consider how ceramic regionalism may affect our perception of a crucial period of change.
Pottery Time Series in the Aegean Bronze Age based on Correspondence Analysis (CA)
There are a number of limiting factors that may affect the precision and accuracy of pottery dating, including stratigraphic mixing, varying longevity of ceramic styles, and interregional variability in stylistic preferences. Quantitative knowledge of these differences is particularly important when pottery styles are to be used as synchronistic transfer functions on wider geographic scales, and especially when high dating precision (decadel-scale) is required. A viable solution would be to supplement the initial single-entity pottery dating methodology (that itself provides remarkably high dating precision) by statistical seriation procedures. In archaeology perhaps the most widely used method for this purpose is Correspondence Analysis (CA), but its application as a dating method requires prior demonstration that the accomplished factorial scale can be usefully interpreted as “time” in physical sense. In statistical terms what this question implies is that an error-function should be assigned to the CA-scale. This is readily possible by qualitative comparison of the CA-scale e.g. with a known architectural stratigraphy, to some extent better by assigning calibrated 14C-ages to certain points of the CA-scale, and – as an academic vision – best when the linearity of the CA-scale is demonstrated and the entire CA-scale is accurately age-calibrated, at all archaeological CA-sampling points.
In practise, such a combined (CA and 14C) approach would utilize the respective advantages of both methods, at the same time hopefully minimising their specific disadvantages. The respective pros and contras are indeed, to some extent, both complementary as well as asymmetric, namely, (1) due to the lack of an inbuilt absolute time-scale, CA-based pottery dates have effectively zero accuracy; instead, what the dates do exhibit (when tested) is some (typically) high chronological precision, and (2), due to the many flat/wiggly segments of the 14C-age calibration curve, the majority of calibrated 14C-dates have only low (multidecadel-centennial-scale) dating accuracy. Put together, however, by 14C-wiggle-discrimination based on CA-based pottery seriation, it does seem at least plausible that we might be able to accurately age-calibrate the itself for many purposes sufficiently precise CA-based pottery time-scale.
The Dating Game: The History and Present State of the Controversy Concerning the Date of the Theran Eruption
A history of radiocarbon science is presented, with special emphasis on how radiocarbon measurements related to the Theran eruption have been affected by revisions to the IntCal curve over time and by various reservoir effects. The paper goes on to explore archaeological, dendrochronological, ice core, and other evidence for the date of the Theran eruption, concluding that the date must occur in the later part of the recently established 1570–1510 BCE radiocarbon date range, and most likely at 1525 BCE.