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Tracing the Remains of a Late Bronze Age Field System in Central Mainland Greece

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Part of the Themes in Contemporary Archaeology book series (TCA)

Abstract

The assumption that the Late Bronze Age (‘Late Helladic’ or LH) texts in the Linear B script, used on Crete and mainland Greece and dating to about 1390 to 1190 BC, can be used in conjunction with ethno-archaeological data to model the topography of economic transactions was recently investigated with fieldwork in central Greece. Previously calculated parameters of the dimensions and organisation of land plots recorded in the Linear B archives informed a methodology for discovering a comparable system of fields under suitable conditions in the Aegean. The AROURA project, that formed the basis for this article, identified the Kopaic Basin in northern Boiotia as a suitable study region. Since the end of the last ice age, it has contained a shallow lake with seasonally fluctuating wetland margins, except in the modern era, when it was thoroughly drained, and LH, when it was partially drained, and dykes protected polders of dry land from floods. One of these polders encloses the colossal fortress of Glas, whose storehouses contained thousands of metric tonnes of wheat, indicating extensive cultivation nearby. The polder also displays expansive traces of a premodern landscape beneath the present plough soil. AROURA executed a program of magnetometry, ground-truthed with soil profiling, over 60 ha of land selected from inside the polder around Glas. This fieldwork revealed evidence of canals connected to rivers that were diverted during the LH. The canals appear to feed a network of irrigated fields, particularly to the west of Glas near the polder’s dyke. These plots are evidently demarcated by low levees made of lake sediment and parallel ditches. Their size and configuration conform to the topographical model, and radiocarbon and luminescence dates corroborate their already circumstantially probable attribution to the LH. These discoveries raise new questions concerning the process of agricultural intensification and state formation in LH Greece, particularly concerning the origin and history of relevant hydraulic technologies.

Keywords

  • Bronze Age
  • Mycenaean
  • Hydraulic engineering
  • Agriculture
  • Agricultural strategy
  • Socio-economic complexity

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Dr Alexandra Charami, Superintendent of Antiquities of Boiotia during the AROURA study period 2012–2014, Prof Emeritus J. Knauss of the Technical University of Munich, who contributed original notes and plans from his research 1984–2001, Dr T. Horsley of Northern Illinois University, AROURA’s Principal Geophysical Investigator, assisted by Ms A. Cuneo, American Schools of Oriental Research, Mr W.S. Bittner, AROURA Information Technologies Specialist, and, not least, the Institute for Aegean Prehistory for its generous grants from 2010 through 2014.

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Lane, M.F., Aravantinos, V.L. (2021). Tracing the Remains of a Late Bronze Age Field System in Central Mainland Greece. In: Arnoldussen, S., Johnston, R., Løvschal, M. (eds) Europe's Early Fieldscapes . Themes in Contemporary Archaeology. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71652-3_11

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