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by Archaeology Newsroom

New evidence of the Mesolithic period in Greece

Until recently the Mesolithic period in Greece was considered as a doubtful period and in certain cases even its existence was questioned. The achaeologist D. Theocharis defined the Mesolithic period as a transitional phase, with its use of stone continuing the Late Palaeolithic tradition.

However, relevant finds in Greece have multiplied day by day and the Mesolithic period has obtained its real dimensions and special features. Remnants of habitation from the Frangthi cave, the Theopetra cave in Kalambaka, the Cyclopas cave on the island of Joura, Alonnessos, and the outdoor site on Kythnos exhibit are remarkably similar where stone masonry and food remnants are concerned. The excavational data from the cave on Joura -the huge accumulation of fish bones and the technical perfection of the relevant equipment- prove an astonishing fishing boom. Dozens of bone hooks dating from between 8500-7000 BC bear witness to the highest quality of minor arts. The stone work recovered from the above mentioned sites follows the Palaeolithic tradition and shows typical Mesolithic characteristics; however, shortly after 8.000 BC, pigs, the first domesticated animals appear in the cave of Joura, while the primitive cultivation of plants probably begins in the Frangthi cave. This latter phase could thus be seen as “Early Neolithic” or “Preceramic” and corresponding to a similar phase which, in the Middle East and Asia Minor (Yarmo, Cayonu, Beida, Jericho), is dated back to the 9th millennium. In this case, however, the problem of the chronological definition of the Mesolithic period emerges. What is primarily established is that the Mesolithic period in Eastern Greece and the Aegean begins earlier, while in Western Greece (Corfu) and the Balkans (Lepenski Vir) there is a time lag. It seems that new achievements such as cultivation of land, domestication of animals probably came to the Balkans from the East via the Aegean sea routes. Thus, it is natural that the Aegean sites appear more developed that those of Western Greece. The recent excavation of a Mesolithic settlement on Kythnos testifies to intense marine activity in the Aegean already from the 9th-8th millennium BC. The study of the lithic material from Joura (J. Kozlowski, personal communication) has also established the relationship with the stone masonry of SWestern Asia Minor (Attaleia region). Progress in research must also clarify the chronological limits of the Preceramic phase which was first established by Theocharis and Milojcic in Thessaly. This phase, the duration of which was probably short, does not appear everywhere in Greece, while its lithotechny is almost identical with that of the Early Neolithic period.