Aegean Surveys

By Branigan, Keith | Antiquity, March 2004 | Go to article overview
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Aegean Surveys

Branigan, Keith, Antiquity

NIKOS MEROUSIS. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] (Chios: natural environment and habitation from Neolithic to the end of antiquity [in Greek]). 243 pages, 128 b&w & colour figures, tables. n.d. Chios: Papyros; 960-87298-0-7 hardback.

JAMES WISEMAN & KONSTANTINOS ZACHOS (ed.). Landscape archaeology in southern Epirus, Greece (Vol. 1; Hesperia Supplt. 32). xvii+292 pages, 118 figures, 21 tables. 2003. n.p.: American School of Classical Studies at Athens; 0-87661-532-9 27.50 [pounds sterling].

WILLIAM CAVANAGH, JOOST CROUWEL, R.W.V. CATLING & GRAHAM SHIPLEY. Methodology and interpretation: continuity and change in a Greek rural landscape (The Laconia Survey Vol. 1; Annual of the British School at Athens Supplementary Vol. 26). xxx+466 pages, 82 figures, 49 tables. 2002. London: British School at Athens; 0-904887-22-7 hardback 80 [pounds sterling] (+p&p).

These three volumes (hereafter referred to as Chios, Epirus and Laconia) present studies of three widely spaced parts of modern Greece--in the east Aegean, in north-west Greece, and in the south-east Peloponnese, respectively.


Chios is a first attempt to bring together and synthesise all that is known, from excavations, surveys, historical sources, and ethnography, of the history of human settlement on the island (and its satellites) from the Neolithic to late antiquity. Introductory chapters describe the geography, ecology, farming regimes, and communications of the island, and provide a brief summary of the history of its archaeological exploration. The rest of the volume is devoted to two sections which describe and discuss the prehistoric and historic archaeology. The prehistoric record is dominated, on the one hand, by the plethora of Early Bronze Age sites, several of which were first occupied in the Late Neolithic, and, on the other, by the long-lived nucleated settlement at Emporio. Apart from Emporio, only two of the Early Bronze Age sites appear to continue in occupation through the Middle & Late Bronze Age. The explanation appears to lie in nucleation and the abandonment of farmsteads and hamlets early in the second millennium BC. In the historic period, nucleated sites multiply, but there is also a significant re-colonisation of the countryside. There is clearly a very significant increase in population, and Chios replaces Emporio as the principal settlement.

The information to support the settlement history of the island is presented concisely and clearly with excellent maps, plans and photographs (in colour and black & white) and a refreshing emphasis on landscape and settlement rather than just artefacts. Some of the photos (particularly aerial photos) are frustratingly small, but this is a minor complaint. This volume provides an excellent, up-to-date, balanced and attractively presented synthesis of what we know about ancient Chios.


Epirus is a quite different type of book, being the first of two planned volumes presenting the results of a surface survey of an area of about 100[km.sup.2] within an overall survey zone of over 1000[km.sup.2]. Of the 100[km.sup.2] surveyed, 5[km.sup.2] were surveyed systematically, the remaining 95[km.sup.2] non-systematically. The first chapter gives a very clear and detailed description of the project's eight aims and objectives, explains how the survey area was chosen, and describes the battery of specialist studies undertaken to explore and understand the natural landscape (coring, geological mapping, Geographical Information Systems, remote sensing etc.). The second chapter describes and debates in detail the methodology of the archaeological field survey, which was clearly carefully thought through and implemented.

Turning the page, however, one finds not the data, results or interpretation of this survey, but a description of the Palaeolithic survey, carried out by a different team with a different methodology.

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