Greece Archaeology – Prehistoric Period Part I
Our knowledge of the Paleolithic of Greece have been enriched, in the last decade, by the important results achieved both by extensive reconnaissance campaigns, as in Euboea, where the Lower Paleolithic (Nea Artaki) is now also attested, and in Boeotia, both from stratigraphic excavations, as in Epirus (resumption of the English excavations at Asprochàliko with definition of the Levalloiso-Mousterian industries and in Klithi), in Boeotia (caves of Phangas) and in the Peloponnese (Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic of the caves of Mèzapos and Limeni in Mani, Laconia mer.). From the French excavations (1968-78) in the Kitsos cave, in Attica, in addition to an important Middle Neolithic stratigraphy, comes a hearth with remains of burnt bones including two human fragments which are the oldest anthropogenic evidence in this region (40. 000 years), while the Middle Paleolithic is now attested by industries also in the Cyclades, in Melo and Tino, and in Corfu, in the Bay of Fiscardo, where the researches of P. Kavvadias (1984) have made it possible to establish interesting typological parallels with the contemporaries Apulian sites. Paleolithic artistic testimonies have been reported (1983) in Thrace, in Kryoneri, where rock carvings are found associated with prehistoric tools.
For the Mesolithic the Franchti cave, in the Argolis, remains the key site for the understanding of an absolutely crucial moment in the history of the Aegean and Western civilization: the recent reconsideration (1981) of the stratigraphy (stages 1-5) author, Th. W. Jacobsen, to build a model of the cultural evolution of the site from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Early Neolithic.
Already in the Final Upper Paleolithic (stage 2), the form of the settlement, from sporadic, would have become almost permanent, while the economy would have evolved from primitive forms based on hunting large mammals of level 1 to a mixed economy, composed always hunting but also fishing and gathering of molluscs and wild plants; the tendency to microlithism and an early appearance of obsidian would be the most evident signs of a notable refinement of technological capabilities. But it is with the internship4 (Upper Mesolithic) that the trend towards the sophistication of economic activities is particularly evident: the large quantities of large fish bones (especially tuna) and the frequency of obsidian demonstrate the intensive exploitation of the sea resource also for commercial purposes, while the intensification of the vegetable harvesting system (the wild predecessors of barley and oats are present) – evidenced by a sickle element and a millstone – could have led to an early manipulation of pre-domestic species. Franchti 4 would therefore be configured as a Greek example of an interpretation of the Mesolithic as an autonomous and indigenous ” prelude ” to the Neolithic.
Franchti 5 (Early Preceramic Neolithic) would instead demonstrate a clear external contribution with the sudden appearance of wheat and goats, while oats disappear and tuna fishing stops. The expansion of commercial traffic is now proven by the widening of the repertoire of imports: in addition to obsidian from Melo, andesite from the Saronic Gulf and marble from the Cyclades. Franchti, however, is not the only witness to what can currently be considered the fundamental problem of the Neolithic in Greece: the possibility of an autonomous elaboration of the cultural models typical of this horizon, models that elsewhere are clearly imported abruptly from the outside (Childian concept of Neolithic revolution).
Neolithic-pre-ceramic horizons are also found in Greece also in five textile sites, in Crete (Knossos) and in the Cyclades (Kythnos): this phase is therefore now well established in Greece.
In Thessaly it is above all Sesklo who recently (Wijnen 1981) allowed a reworking of the Preceramic Neolithic problem on concrete data: even if different from that of the Near East and shorter, the dates roughly correspond at least with the Anatolian ones. The most accredited interpretative hypothesis at this moment is therefore placed in an intermediate position between colonialism and autochthonousism: it is probable that the phenomena of acculturation, already underway with the Preceramic, can be related to the exchange activities within a short distance between fishermen of neighboring islands and coasts (LR Bintliff theory of transmerance).
The cultural baggage typical of the Neolithic civilization would therefore progressively pass with constant gradualness from the original area of the Fertile Crescent (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine) to Greece, with a movement towards the west that invests almost simultaneously also Anatolia and, much later, Cyprus, further away from the then practicable cabotage routes. The Preceramic of Crete, of Citno, of Franchti signals the successive stages of this cultural current which finds in Thessaly the most suitable landscape for its development.