Christine Spencer (UCL) - 2016-17 Students

Picking up the pieces: Assessing the role of archaeological survey data in long-term social change

This project will reconstruct Cretan settlement history, integrating, for the first time, the island’s rich but scattered archaeological survey data, and provide a new quantitative and comparative perspective to Mediterranean settlement studies. Crete has long been a fulcrum for cultural interaction between Europe, the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. While offering a precocious example of early maritime Neolithic expansion and the heartland for the innovative ‘Minoan’ Bronze Age society, its settlement distributions also bear testimony to shifting power dynamics in later Hellenistic, Arab/Byzantine and Venetian/Ottoman confrontations. Archaeological surveys record settlement patterns – which result from complex socio-cultural and economic processes – and illustrate evolving dynamics of human habitation and environmental exploitation. Despite the digital underpinnings of modern fieldwork, the quantitative potential of Mediterranean datasets has been under-exploited, with localised interpretations of settlement patterns impeding explanations of culture change. Harnessing recent advances in spatial statistics, this project will model settlement patterns of the first urbanised societies on Crete (ca.4000-1000 BC), and examine their legacy on later settlement trajectories. This methodology will be potentially transferable to datasets on a global context, and its diachronic perspective and emphasis on diverse responses to demographic and environmental pressures can offer insight into modern habitation and resource management.

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