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by Archaeology Newsroom

From the palatial society of the Minoan-Mycenaean world to the polis-state of the Classical period

The polis-state as state and as autonomous political entity, covered a large area with several minor settlements and a main large urban centre, whose architecture was dominated over by the agora and the temple. In this sense it is completely different from Mycenaean society, whose main architectural feature was the palace. The polis-state as such came into being towards the end of the eighth century BC. What followed the destruction of Mycenaean palaces in still largely unknown. The aim of this paper is to discuss settlements in the Aegean during the first phase of the transitional period that precedes the era of the polis-state of Classical times.This period, well known by now, is still known in current scholarchip as the “Dark Ages”, due to the many difficulties that lie in the way of understanding the historical process that led to the creation of the polis-state. Settlement seem to have been of a permanent nature, though a standard form of town-planning does not seem to exist. At the beginning, the settlements are small and close to each other, confirming the Aristotelian description. A special type of settlement, known as “place of refuge” is to be found in some remote and steep regions of Crete. In the Eastern Aegean the settlements destined to become big urban Ionian centers were probably built in a movement going by the name of  “Ionian colonization”.

Later in this period, that is in the eighth century BC, the first town fortifications are to be found. The dwellings of the small settlements are built in accordance to the geomorphology of the enviroment and there is a preference for the apsidal plans of ellipsoid buildings, although rectangular ones are not absent. Bigger buildings found in some settlements are considered as “dwellings of the nobility”. The agora appears in its final form only in the eighth century at Dreros. Religious buildings cannot be identified with certainty before the 8th century, and worship usually took place out in the open around an altar. A unique and without precedent big apsidal building of the tenth century at Lefkanti in Euboea was found in the area of the cemetery built above a grand double burial, which for this reason is thought to be a heroon (a hero’s tomb).