Searching for the Missing "Palace": Proto- and Neopalatial Settlement Dynamics in the Southern Ierapetra Isthmus. The Recent Evidence
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During a two year period (2006- 2008) the author, inspired by two contemporary archaeological projects along the northern part of the Isthmus (Kavousi and Gournia Surveys), attempted to explore the diachronic settlement patterns of the South Ierapetra Isthmus (Fig. 1). Even though the project was promising at the beginning, it failed to provide answers to basic research questions regarding the Bronze Age settlement history of the Ierapetra area. How was the coastal valley used during the Bronze Age? How did the area respond to the rise of the first hierarchical societies in East Crete? Was there a local administrative center that controlled the area during the Proto- and Neopalatial period or was the region dependent from other dominant settlements in the area? The most striking gap in the archaeological survey was a general lack of Bronze Age settlements in the area which could not be easily explained at first sight. With further study it became clear that dramatic landscape transformation in the area had greatly affected the way we record and interpret site patterns around Ierapetra. The main reason for this incomplete and puzzling picture was extensive agricultural exploitation of the landscape through greenhouse farming. Additionally, deep alluvial depositions that were formed in the coastal valley of Ierapetra over many centuries obscured a large number of sites, mainly the ones dating to the Bronze Age. As a result, an alternative way to explore the settlement patterns of the region was sought on a small uninhabited island off the coast of Ierapetra, called Chryssi Island (Fig. 2). Much like other off shore islands such as Pseira, Kouphonisi and Dionysades have proven to be reflections of the coastal activities on the mainland of Crete, Chryssi Island should also be recognized as a reflection of the events that took place and shaped the settlement topography of the Ierapetra basin during the Bronze Age.
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