Archaeological digs yield fascinating new details about Europe’s oldest city

Recent fieldwork on the Greek isle of Crete in the ancient town of Knossos revealed that during the Iron Age, from 1100 to 600 BC, the city was rich in imports and was almost three times bigger than what was believed from earlier excavations.
The discovery, presented at the 117th annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America and Society for Classical Studies, indicated that not only did this spectacular location in the get better from a Bronze Age collapse around 1200 BC—it also quickly grew and flourished as a cosmopolitan hub of the Mediterranean Sea.
Study team leader Antonis Kotsonas, from the University of Cincinnati said in a statement that Knossos was “renowned as a glorious site of the Greek Bronze Age, the leader of Crete and the seat of the palace of the mythical King Minos and the home of the enigmatic labyrinth.”
Scholars have researched the city’s Bronze Age ruins for over a hundred years, but a more recent study has centered on the urban development of the city after it came into the Iron Age and after the Bronze Age fall of the Aegean palaces.
Over the last decade, the Knossos Urban Landscape Project has recovered a large collection of artifacts going back to the Iron Age. The relics were distributed over an extensive region that was prior unexplored. Kotsonas said their work exposed substantial growth in the size of the settlement during the early Iron Age and an increase in the quantity and quality of its imports originating from around the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
“No other site in the Aegean period has such a range of imports,” Kotsonas said.
The project has found imports made from bronze and other metals, such as jewelry and other adornments. Kotsonas said the artifacts offer a glimpse of the wealth in the community because status symbols were buried in tombs during this period.
“Distinguishing between domestic and burial contexts is essential for determining the size of the settlement and understanding the demographic, socio-political and economic development of the local community,” Kotsonas said. “Even at this early stage in detailed analysis, it appears that this was a nucleated, rather densely occupied settlement.”
Feature Image: The palace at Knossos. Credit: Thinkstock