Floor Sequences in Neolithic Makri, Greece: Micromorphology Reveals Cycles of Renovation

By Karkanas, Panagiotis; Efstratiou, Nikos | Antiquity, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Floor Sequences in Neolithic Makri, Greece: Micromorphology Reveals Cycles of Renovation


Karkanas, Panagiotis, Efstratiou, Nikos, Antiquity


Introduction

Variations in floor residues are being profitably examined in order to understand uses of space and the nature of activities in a settlement (Ge et al. 1993; Matthews & Postgate 1994; Rowley-Conwy 1994; Macphail & Goldberg 1995; Matthews 1995; Matthews etal. 1996, 1997; Courty 2001; Hodder & Cessford 2004; Matthews 2005). For example, using sedimentary contextual analysis (cf. Ge et al. 1993), i.e. micromorphology, Wendy Matthews and her colleagues have been able to provide microstratigraphic histories within rooms (Matthews & Postgate 1994; Matthews et al. 1996, 1997; Matthews 2005) and data on the life of buildings (Matthews 2005). This type of study has not yet been widely used outside West Asia with a few exceptions on sites with sparse parches of floors (Macphail & Crowther 2007; Macphail et al. 2007; Milek 2005; Milek & French 2007). This is partly due to the lack of well-preserved sequences such as those found in tells. As a result there is little data on the variability of practice between sites, periods and regions.

In addition, studies of floor sequences have given emphasis to individual agency (Matthews 2005), the activities reflected in floors being linked to unsystematic actions, which can be described as 'culture-as-practice' (e.g. Ormer 1984; Sewell 2005: 76). Here we present floor sequences, occupational deposits and maintenance practices within houses at the Neolithic site of Makri, Greece. In our case, we attempt to take the micromorphological study of floor sequences beyond the everyday experiences and practices of individuals (Geertz 1973) and explore the nature of the beliefs and choices which are historically and institutionally determined. By helping to define aspects of the social life of Neolithic Makri in this way, it is possible to get closer to a description of 'culture-as-system' (e.g. Spiegel 2005: 23).

The site

Makri is a Late Neolithic tell of the sixth millennium BC located on the coastal area of Thrace near Alexandroupolis, Greece. The 4m high mound covers an area of [2000m.sup.2] (Figure 1) and has well-preserved architectural remains such as plastered floors, post-framed houses, clay structures and other impressive findings of considerable importance for the Early and Middle Neolithic periods of the region (Efstratiou et al. 1998; Ntinou 2002; Valamoti 2004; Ammerman et al. 2008).

Two types of floor were recognised. 'Well-prepared or formal floors' consist of indurated whitish horizontal layers of constant thickness and sharp upper surfaces (cf. Ge et al. 1993). A considerable part of these floors was preserved and their extension can be followed for several square meters (Figure 2). 'Informal or rough-and-ready floors' were not so obvious in the field and could be misinterpreted as everyday household dirt in between floors or as levelling and substrate (foundation surfaces) comprised of weakly coherent materials. A variant of rough floors is the occupational surface formed in situ that was not 'laid' as a floor, but was 'used' as a floor (Ge et al. 1993).

Floors were hard to define during horizontal excavation, but from field sections at Makri it was possible to observe formal floors and the sequences between them (Figure 3). Individual layers which had interfaces that were both sharp and diffuse, with quite a lateral variability, were seen. Nevertheless, interfaces, when defined in section, were generally horizontal and parallel to each other. These layered sequences were different from typical foundation fillings which contain large fragments of plaster, stones or wall fragments in an inclined or upside down position, giving a chaotic appearance (Figure 3b, top). Field observations alone could not rule out that the layers resulted from interruptions in dumping (Macphail et al. 2006) or gradual accumulation and trampling (Ge et al. 2003; Milek & French 2007). However, the observations at the microscopic scale which are presented below gave better insights into the nature of these layers. …

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Floor Sequences in Neolithic Makri, Greece: Micromorphology Reveals Cycles of Renovation
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