Institute for Mediterranean Studies

Settlement Patterns and Socio-Economic Differentiation in East Crete in the Final Neolithic

During the Late and Final Neolithic Cretan communities appear to have been affected by a series of social and material changes. At the large lowland site of Knossos these changes include the appearance of symbolic representations of houses, an increase in household storage capacity, the enclosing of formally open areas between houses and the development of new technologies (e.g. flax textiles). Such changes may be understood as reflecting a new ideology of hoarding and the emergence of a more socially and economically independent household (Tomkins forthcoming). In the wider Aegean greater household independence would explain the first appearance of different types of socio-economic specialisation or differentiation in craft (e.g. pottery, shell beads) and food production (e.g. agricultural intensification and diversification). These socioeconomic changes appear to have some sort of corollary in changes in the settled landscape of the Aegean as suggested by the first appearance of sites located in agriculturally less stable landscapes (e.g. upland landscapes, small islands). Some of these are very small, probably comprising just one house (e.g. Magasa), others represent larger communities (e.g. Chalavra, Lamnoni 65). Neolithic upland sites, both on Crete and in the wider Aegean, have been interpreted by some in terms of the arrival of a pastoral economy, however others have disputed this. In order to explore this phenomenon further, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) were employed to examine in detail the nature and function of FN settlements in a single region of Crete (site location, spatial distribution, site interaction, site clustering). The Siteia region of East Crete was selected as the pilot study area because of the large number of sites noted by past excavations and surveys.

  • Apostolos Sarris