Featured work (2017): Socio-political complexity in Sicilian Early Bronze Age

Socio-political complexity in Sicilian Early Bronze Age: the case study of Castelluccio (3rd millennium BC)

Castelluccio (Noto, Siracusa, Sicily) is the eponymous site of the Sicilian Early Bronze Age culture. The cultural assemblage found during the excavations, carried out by Paolo Orsi on the necropolis in 1890, has become fundamental for the interpretation of this period of prehistory in Sicily. The exploration guided by Giuseppe Voza in 1992 brought to the discovery of the settlement itself.

The project aims to the publication of the artifacts in order to ascertain the emergence of a socio-political complexity in the native communities. In Castelluccio there certainly was a sort of hierarchical structure comparable to the emerging chiefdoms.

Hut 8 shows such a complex plan a uncommon dimensions to be considered as gathering place with either religious function or purposes related to craftsmanship. Furthermore, the group of the vessels found in Hut 2 suggest a well-structured economic systems based on communal practices. The occurrence of exotic items could indicate the presence of “aggrandizer individuals” who used them to display a superior rank.

MAT funding has been very important, allowing us to carry out the archaeometric analyses, to improve the chronology of the site through a series of radiocarbon datings, to study the bioarchaeological remains and to restore some of the most important artifacts brought to light during the excavations.

Castelluccio (Noto, SR): the pithos after the restoration work (After Crispino 2016)
hut 8
Castelluccio (Noto Siracusa, Sicily) Hut. N. 8 (After Voza 1999)

For further information, please contact Dr Anita Crispino at anitacri1@virgilio.it.


Crispino A. (2016) – Castelluccio (Noto). Nuovi dati dall’abitato. Istituto Italiano di preistoria e protostoria notiziario di preistoria e protostoria -4.iii Neolitico ed età dei Metalli Sardegna e Sicilia, 84-86.

Voza G. (1999) – Nel segno dell’antico. Archeologia nel territorio di Siracusa. Palermo: Arnaldo Lombardi Editore.

Featured work (2017): The Analysis and Publication of the Middle Bronze Age Phase from Lerna

Lerna, on the shore of the Gulf of Argos, is one of the most important prehistoric sites in Greece, having been occupied with few interruptions over a period of some 5,000 years, from the 6th to the 1st millennium B.C. Major excavations, study and meticulous publication have rendered it the undisputed ‘type-site’ for the Early and Middle Bronze Age; however, the key Middle Bronze Age material from this site remains unpublished.

Middle Bronze Age Lerna lay at the forefront of interactions between the Peloponnese, the Cycladic islands, and a newly emergent Minoan civilisation on Crete and its material culture foreshadows many traits of later Mycenaean centres. The site may hold many of the keys to understanding how phenomena like the complex and stratified societies of the Late Bronze Age Mycenaean Greek mainland initially developed, as the site preserves a deeply stratified record of social, economic and technological change over several millennia, unencumbered by later structures.

The generous grant provided by the MAT has allowed for the first comprehensive site plans of Middle Bronze Age Lerna to be produced. While many architectural plans were produced over the course of the initial excavation, no phase-by-phase rendering of the eight key building phases of the Middle Bronze Age settlement at Lerna has ever been produced.

Plan of Middle Bronze Age Lerna showing the first phase of building during the Middle Helladic II period
Composite plan of Middle Bronze Age Lerna showing the three phases of building during the Middle Helladic I period

For further information, please contact Dr Lindsay Spencer at ls720@cam.ac.uk.

Featured work (2017): the materialization of burial ideology in a Minoan community

The materialization of burial ideology in the Minoan community of Porti in the Mesara (Stephanos Xanthoudides’ excavation)

The aim of the project is the preparation of a monograph presenting one of the richest burial assemblages in south-central Crete recovered from the Minoan Tholos Tomb P at Porti (ca. 2700-1700 BC). All finds from the tomb, including human remains, ceramic vessels, obsidian tools, clay figurines, bronze daggers and tools, sealstones and gold jewellery pieces will be published with a theoretically-informed approach.

The study will focus on site-level specifics rather than the macro-scale (Crete/the Mesara valley), in order to overcome past interpretive trends (evolutionism or empirical reductionism and island-wide models). The project’s greatest asset is the interdisciplinary collaborative work which will integrate intra-site analysis with the following scientific methods:

  • Raman spectroscopy on stone artefacts
  • pXRF analysis of metal artefacts
  • osteological study (age, gender, practices of burial deposition)
  • stable isotope analysis (population diet)
  • DNA analysis of human remains combined with radiocarbon dating
Flouda 1
Bronze dagger blade from Porti (Early Minoan period, 3rd millennium B.C.). Drawing by G. Merlatti. © Heraklion Archaeological Museum/ Porti Tholos Project

The generosity of MAT funding expedites this international collaboration of specialists pressing forward the precipice of archaeological methodology. The resulting publication will bring to light the total findings from a nearly century-old excavation.

For further information, please contact Dr Georgia Flouda (Archaeologist, Head of the Department of Prehistoric and Minoan Antiquities, Heraklion Archaeological Museum) on gflouda@gmail.com.


Featured work (2017): The Academy of Plato before Plato

The Academy of Plato before Plato: a contribution to Early Iron Age Attica

The site of the Academy lies in one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Athens, only 3 km west of the city centre and belongs to the wider area of Kolonos. Although mostly known for its association with Plato and the foundation of his philosophical school, as reflected on the modern name of the area too activity at the site goes much longer in time. In particular the excavated remains represent the best preserved settlement remains of the Geometric period known from central Athens.

Early Iron Age Academy forms part of the archaeology of early Greece within the broader frame of «Classical Archaeology». The conducted research is however multifold, since it applies both on the architectural remains, the burials of the site and the movable finds related to them, extending to issues on early feasting activities, housing, burial customs and social organisation. The ultimate aim is to offer the best insights possible to the archaeology of a settlement in Athens during the 8th century BC.

The setting up of the monograph on the early archaeology of the site would not be possible without the funding provided by MAT.

Pic 1

The architectural remains at the Academy, known as the “Sacred House”. Source: After Mazarakis Ainian 1997, fig. 132

Part of the architectural remains at the site after the recent excavation of 2015 (Photo: A. Alexandridou).

For further information, please contact Dr Alexandra Alexandridou at alexandraalexandridou@gmail.com.

Applications for 2018 grants open

The Mediterranean Archaeological Trust (MAT), set up in 1959 for the promotion of the study of archaeology, invites applications for grants, made on a competitive basis, for expenses in 2018-19, in the preparation for final publication of material from archaeological excavation or fieldwork in the Mediterranean world.

To see how to apply, visit Applications.


Mycenean Krater_cropped
Mycenean krater found in Cyprus. Source: Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mycenean_krater.jpg).