Department of Antiquities




(Director: Prof. Joachim Bretschneider, Dr. Jan Driessen and Dr. Athanasia Kanta)

The Department of Antiquities, of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, announces that the 2021 joint Belgian-Greek excavation campaign between the Universities of Ghent, Louvain and the Mediterranean Archaeological Society Iraklion took place at Pyla-Kokkinokremos from the 26th October to 14th November 2021. The team was directed by Prof. Joachim Bretschneider (UGhent), Prof. Jan Driessen (UCLouvain) and Dr. Athanasia Kanta (Mediterranean Society Iraklion) The project took place in collaboration with the Cyprus Institute (Prof. Sorin Hermon) and the ceramics team was headed by Dr. Reinhard Jung. As in previous years, the three teams continued work in respectively the west lobe (MS Iraklion, Sector 4), the east lobe (UGhent, Sectors 5 and 7) and the central plateau (UCLouvain, Sector 3) of the hill.

Sector 3

Test 3.3

Earlier work in Test 3.3 had yielded evidence for textile and metallurgical artisanal activities taking place within the immediate proximity of the casemate wall near the northeast plateau. The outline of 26 different spaces has been defined of which 23 have been excavated. In one of these, two complete Sardinian vessels were found. To the south, a very smashed pictorial krater, an Argive import, and some bronze scrap were found. The communicating room, Space 3.3.26, yielded a few small crushed vases as well as a small, fragmentary stone mould, probably for making jewellery. The south part of the room has a bedrock-cut shaft, with a ledge probably to support a cover in perishable material. The shaft contained a small bronze vase fragment, a spindle bottle, a Canaanite Jar and some other larger vase fragments.

Test 3.11 (Fig. 1)

The regularity and size of the spaces in Test 3.11, located at the south side of the central plateau, suggest that the remains form part of a normal domestic building. The central Space 3.11.1 forms a passage area connecting different spaces. Its floor deposit yielded a pithos, a Canaanite jar, a Plain White ware jug, a pithoid crater, two trays, a complete wall-bracket as well as a few stone tools, some scrap bronze fragments and a small, possible steatite button.

Fig. 1.

Test 3.10 (Fig. 2)

A larger part of a building was exposed in Test 3.10. From a potential courtyard (3.10.3), one can access Room 3.10.1, which yielded several bronze fragments, potentially belonging to the same object. One of these fragments consists of a plaque depicting the head of a male figure with a beard and wearing headgear that recalls the representation of a sphinx but also of the Peleset on the relief from the Medinet Habu Temple. A bronze chisel and a stone tool perhaps represent evidence for an industrial context involving metallurgical work. In the room adjacent to the east, Room 3.10.2, an important assemblage was revealed, including six loomweights, stone tools, a stone basin, two Canaanite jars and a Palestinian pithos. Space 3.10.3 was equipped with a channel made of two rows of orthostats and paved with small cobbles.

Fig. 2.

Sector 4

Sector 4.2 (Fig. 3-4)

In 2021 the building complex which came to light in 2019, continued to be excavated. So far ten rooms belonging to this casemate complex have been investigated. Some of the rooms had broken vases in situ on the bedrock floors. The complex continues towards the north with more spaces and the pottery found suggests that it continues towards the interior of the plateau.

Fig. 3.

Fig. 4.

The function of this complex is intriguing. One of its rooms, Room 22, seems to have been a shrine. It had a low fragmentary bench comparable to those found on Mycenaean and Minoan shrines. Among the vases which came to light in this space were kylikes, an imported Mycenaean amphoroid chariot krater, other drinking vases and ostrich eggs. At the entrance of Room 22 there was a large pit of ca. 1 m X 1 m. Its total depth was 1.86 m. This pit would have been covered when the room was in use, otherwise entering it would have been dangerous and practically impossible. The cover was probably of perishable material such as wood. The contents of this pit were very interesting. It contained parts of a bench structure, similar to the one found in the southeast corner of the room. Below these were fragments of the Mycenaean pictorial krater found in the southwest part of the room in 2019 and ostrich egg fragments, some of which have also been found on the floor of Room 22. The pit also contained loom-weights and a fragment of slag. The pit may have functioned as a repository.

It seems as though there was deliberate destruction of the contents of this space. The elite drinking and serving set of vases, together with the presence of ostrich egg fragments both on the floor of the room and in the pit might suggest a cult function. The ostrich egg bears a strong symbolism of nascent life and rebirth. The presence of slag suggests a link between metallurgy and cult as for example, at Enkomi or at the Unexplored Mansion in Crete. When the excavation of the complex is completed, its function will be re-evaluated.

Sector 5 & 7 The team of Ghent University continued its work in Sector 5, the trench along the east side of the south-eastern edge of the summit plateau, and simultaneously commenced the exposure of one of the buildings detected during the survey in 2019 in Sector 7, on the opposite western slope of the same area. Surface reconnaissance had yielded traces of five seemingly isolated buildings.

Sector 5 (Fig. 5) In Sector 5, the UGhent team primarily continued with the exposure of several, partially excavated spaces as well as new extensions southwest of the formerly excavated field. Three new spaces were identified, bringing the total number of spaces in this sector to 50.

Fig. 5.

The outline of some rooms – Spaces 5.41, 5.45 and 5.44 – had already been identified during previous seasons, but they had not yet been excavated down to floor or bedrock level. In contrast to the rich finds in Space 5.41 – with a hearth, fragments of a coarse monochrome cooking dish/tray, a trefoil-mouthed oil lamp, a Canaanite jar, a pithos, a large number of stone basin pieces as well as three possible stone tools and two pieces of metal slag – the two small rooms to the south of it, Space 5.44 and 5.46, produced no objects and hardly any sherds.

In the course of excavation of the area to the south of Spaces 5.46 and 5.44, it became apparent that this entire extension showed few clearly distinguishable architectural remains. The lack of additional walls is probably due to the fact that the bedrock level is too close to the surface resulting in significant erosion/displacement of remains, or because this area, Space 5.50, could have been used as a courtyard. It communicated with several surrounding rooms, also with Spaces 5.27 – the room with the monumental twin shafts – via a set of wide bedrock-cut steps. In contrast to the scanty architectural remains, a large number of scattered sherds was collected; the majority derive from pithoi, supplemented by a variety of finer quality sherds from smaller vessels.

To the west of hallway 5.43, two new spaces, Space 5.49 and 5.48, were partly exposed. In the south-eastern corner of the first, part of the edges of a potential shaft became visible. To the south of Space 5.48 several fragments of a calcite alabaster vessel were recognized.

Sector 7

The first excavated structure of Sector 7 turned out to have a rectangular shape, subdivided into a large space (Space 7.1) and a smaller one (Space 7.2); the latter occupies the northeast quadrant of the building. The inventory of the L-shaped Space 7.1 included at least seven semi-complete vessels. This ceramic, along with a weight, three grinding stones and a pestle and mortar seem to indicate storage and food processing operations.

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