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by Archaeology Newsroom

The contribution of American archaeologists to the study of Palaeolithic archaeology in Greece

The interest both of American archaeologists as well as of the American School of Classical Studies, was first expressed in 1958, when Michael Jameson made the chance discovery of a stone implement of the Middle Palaeolithic period on the slopes of Profitis Elias, not far from Didyma, southern Argolid. A few years later (1967) they started systematic excavations in the Franchthi cave, Ermionis. Since then the interest of the American archaeologists, regarding the study of the Palaeolithic and the Stone Age in Greece in general, has remained undiminished. The last thirty years,apart from the excavations in Franchthi, the American School of Classical Studies has supported a series of projects in which the search and study of Palaeolithic sites are included.

The Peloponnese: Franchthi Cave and the Argolid.

The American excavations in the Franchthi cave, Ermionis, proved to be of exceptional importance for Prehistoric research in the Greek region.For the first time they brought to life a sequence of stratigraphic sets from the Late Palaeolithic to the end of the Neolithic period. The Franchthi finds redefined the position of Greece in the broader area of European Prehistory and especially of Palaeolithic archaeology. The excavations were carried out berween the years 1967-1974 under Thomas W. Jacobsen, with the support of Pennsylvania and Indiana Universities and of the American School of Classical Studies. The important results of the exploration of Franchthi led to a systematic survey of the southern Argolid a few years later. The project was headed by M. H. Jameson, T. H. van Andel and C. N. Runnels and supported by the American School of Classical Studies. It also included submarine geophysical research with modern methods (high-resolution seismic reflection profiling/bathymetry), in order that the geomorphology of the district be investigated and sunken areas be located. On the basis of the submarine and survey results in southern Argolid and of the Franchthi stratigraphical study we can reconstruct today quite accurately the geomorphology, flora and fauna as well as the human activities in the Ermionis vicinity during the Palaeolithic period.

Thessaly: A Survey in the Larissa district

C. Runnels, of Boston University, supported by the American School of Classical Studies, has recently (1987, 1989, 1991) carried out a series of surveys in the Larissa district, aiming at the re-examination of the research conclusions Milojcic and his collaborators reached in the 1960s. Runnels identified seven locations of the late Early Palaeolithic period, six in the vicinity of Megalo Monastiri and one not far from Rodia, north of Larissa. On the basis of the strata dating at the site Rodia, the Early Palaeolithic period in Thessaly must be assigned to the period 400,000-200,000 years BC.

Epirus: A survey in the Preveza district

In the framework of the Nikopolis project and with the support of the American School of Classical Studies, in 1991 C. Runnels carried out a survey in the district of Preveza . A hand-axe in an argilic layer was found at the site Kokkinopilos, which was dated (U/Th disequilibrium method) to approximately 250,000 years ago. The hand-axe is made of flint stone and its typology belongs to the lithotechny of the Acheulean cultural phase. The hand-axe, although common to the Acheulean lithotechny of Europe, is an extremely rare find in Greece and in Europe in general. It should be mentioned here that the Acheulean lithotechny discovered at Kokkinopilos is contemporary with the Clactonian lithotechny of the chopping tool type, found in Thessaly. The discovery of the hand-axe is a special contribution to the study of Palaeolithic archaeology, since it thus confirms -in combination with the finds from Thessaly- the human presence (“Archaic Homo sapiens”) in Greece in the end of the Early Palaeolithic period (400,000-200,000 BC).