PRAISOS: POLITICAL EVOLUTION AND
ETHNIC IDENTITY IN EASTERN CRETE
'The results of survey are as superficial as its methods',1 - so wrote a well-known professor of Classical Archaeology from Oxford. Whatever one's view of this statement, it does raise an important question. How far can we go with survey? In particular, how far can evidence from survey (superficial, to be sure) be used to examine hypotheses about the processes that led from the collapse of the palatial order to the emergence of the political? Can survey throw any new light on that shadowy period we used to call the Dark Age but now more commonly refer to as the EIA?
In this chapter I shall attempt to outline what I think we can legitimately infer from a small survey conducted in the site and environs of Praisos in eastern Crete between 1992 and 1998.2 The survey combined topographical planning with fieldwalking, and is part of a project that seeks to integrate and re-interpret all available evidence, new and old, about this important Cretan site.3 The methods used in survey were a modified version of the tract system that John Cherry used on Keos, which seemed most appropriate for a landscape as rough, dissected and various as that found in our survey area. In 1994 we undertook an 'urban survey' of Praisos itself, using methods very similar to those employed by Sue Alcock at Phlius.4
I would like to thank Irene Lemos for inviting me to the conference, and Anastasia
Christophilopoulou who helped with the illustrations. This chapter is based on a survey, and
survey is a collaborative enterprise. Much of what is inferred here results from the work of
survey study teams who have worked on this material since 1992, in particular Stuart Thorne,
Mieke Prent, Christina Hatzimichael, Rebecca Sweetman, Amanda Kelly and Jonathan Berry.
Our PARADOX database was devised by Michael Boyd, and without the help of Brice Erickson
and Natalia Vogeikoff we would not have a viable ceramic sequence.
1 Boardman 1988: 796. The full quote is however not so dismissive. It reads: 'It would be as wrong
to think that the cultural history of Greece will be written from field survey as to hold that the
results of survey are as superficial as its methods.'
2 For earlier explorations, see Halbherr 1901; Bosanquet 1902a.
3 For earlier reports on this survey, see Whitley, O'Conor and Mason 1995 (topographical survey
of Praisos); Whitley, Prent and Thorne 1999 (for fieldwalking survey); and Whitley 1998.
4 For methods used in the Keos survey, see Cherry, Davis and Mantzourani 1991: 13–35; for those
in the 'urban survey' of Phlius, Alcock 1991: 440–4; see also discussion in Whitley, Prent and
Thorne 1999: 221–4.