CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

Phase 1 - Research activities 2016-2020

E1: Transformations in Early Greek Societies and Landscapes

Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Lorenz Schwark, Prof. Dr. Ingmar Unkel
Staff: Dr. Torben Keßler, Joana Seguin, Thomas Birndorfer, Jan Weber


The research activities in the study area around the Gulf of Corinth (see map) have produced a wealth of data which serve now as a foundation for the comparison and connection between archaeological data and palaeoclimate/palaeoenvironmental proxies. We have been working along a transect through the study area running between the western islands of Greece (e. g. Ithaca) and the plain of Argolis in the East. The Gulf of Corinth being the connecting element between the different regions.

Arbeitsgebiet CRC1266 E1
Fig. 1. Study area of the E1 project. (map: T. Keßler)

The temporal focus of the project is the transition between the Bronze and the Early Iron Age, the 12th to the 8th century BC. During that period, the Greek society experienced far-reaching transformations which become evident in the destruction of the Mycenaean palaces and the process of the Greek polis formation.
The paleoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic data comes from sediment cores, which were first retrieved from the valley of Stymphalia, and in a field campaign in 2017 in the neighbouring valleys of Pheneos and Kaisari. In a larger second field campaign in 2018, the Lakes Trichonida, the larges Greek lake, and Lake Vouliagmeni were successfully cored. The cores are currently analysed sedimentologically and geochemically (XRF and biomarkers). The first results from Stymphalia have been published in spring 2019 (Seguin et al., Quaternary Science Review).

Bohrplattform Vouliagmeni See
Fig. 2. The coring platform in Lake Vouliagmeni. (photo: I. Unkel)

Kernauswertung  CRC1266
Fig. 3. The freshly retrieved sediment cores are documented on-site before they are carefully wrapped for the transport to Kiel. (photo: I. Unkel)

Bohrung CRC1266
Fig. 4. Coring in the drained valley of Pheneos. (photo: I. Unkel)

Archaeologically, the focus lies on the diachronic analysis of connectivity between the different regions of the study area. Connectivity is here quantified on the basis of similarities of the pottery findings and, especially, the decorative elements of the vessels of different sites. In this way, it is possible to compare geoscientific and archaeological data in a diachronic and over-regional perspective. The A2 project (Daniel Knitter and Wolfgang Hamer) support the E1 project in connecting the data in an integrated, spatial model.

The decorative elements of every single ceramic piece from the study area that have been published with a photograph or a drawn figure have been collected in a project database, which was completed at the end of 2018. During a research trip to museums in Greece with the aim to add unpublished or undepicted pieces to the existing corpus, some further ceramic vessels could be identified and additional information regarding known pieces have been added.

CRC1266 Früheisenzeitliche Keramik
Fig. 5. Früheisenzeitliche Keramik aus verschiedenen Gegenden des Arbeitsgebiets. (scheme: T. Keßler)

In the course of statistical analyses of the data collected, numerous observations regarding changing similarities of pottery decoration were made in 2019. They were used, finally, to examine (and modify, respectively) the existing narratives concerning interaction on differing spatial scales – in a local as well as regional perspective.

Visualization of similarity analysis of Middle Geometric pottery on an interregional scale
Fig. 6. Visualization of similarity analysis of Middle Geometric pottery on an interregional scale; thickness and colour of lines reflect similarity. (map: T. Keßler)

According to our preliminary results, climatic changes during the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age transition seem to have been not that strong to cause the evident societal transformations, which hence may have been triggered rather by socio-cultural circumstances.

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