Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 549–560 | Cite as

Flax in Neolithic and Bronze Age Greece: archaeobotanical evidence

  • Soultana Maria Valamoti
Original Article


This paper presents an overview of archaeobotanical finds of Linum usitatissimum from Neolithic and Bronze Age Greece, bringing together published records of this plant as well as some recently retrieved, unpublished finds. In addition, charred flax seed concentrations from five prehistoric sites from the region of Macedonia in northern Greece, are examined in detail. The Neolithic sites are Makriyalos, Mandalo, Arkadikos, Dikili Tash, dated to the Late and Final Neolithic and Archondiko, dated to the end of the Early Bronze Age. Archaeobotanical composition and contextual information are used in order to explore the cultivation and potential uses of flax at each site. By the 5th millennium b.c. a flax weed flora had probably developed in the region. The use of flax seed for oil extraction and flax stems for flax fibre preparation can only be speculated upon and these uses are discussed within the context of other archaeological finds related to plant oil production and weaving. It is also possible that flax may have been used for medicinal purposes. Despite a striking paucity in archaeobotanical remains from southern Greece, textual evidence available from the Mycenean palace archives in Linear B clearly documents the cultivation of flax and flax fibre production.


Neolithic Bronze Age Greece Linseed oil Flax fibre Medicinal uses 



I am grateful to the Flax Network Project and S. Karg in particular for providing financial support for the participation in a very stimulating 2nd Flax Workshop in Copenhagen in July 2010 which taught me a lot on flax and its uses. This provided an excellent opportunity for bringing together the archaeobotanical evidence from Greece as regards this plant. I wish to thank C. Herbig, U. Maier, S. Karg, M. Nesbitt and E. Andersson for their help with references and useful discussions during and after the 2nd Flax Workshop. I am indebted to my colleague in the Faculty of Philosophy, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, V. Fyntikoglou, for his help with the ancient Greek texts and M. Efthymiadou for help with literature on Linear B.; S. Andreou, M. Pappa, K. Papanthimou and L. Voulgari are gratefully acknowledged for allowing me to publish a number of photographs in this paper.


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© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyAristotle University of ThessalonikiThessalonikiGreece

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