Final Neolithic–Early Minoan I/IIA Settlement in the Vrokastro Area, Eastern Crete
This article presents the evidence for the earliest settlement of the Vrokastro region of eastern Crete, derived from systematic survey of this west-central portion of the Gulf of Mirabello coast. The Final Neolithic through Early Minoan I/IIA settlement pattern of the Vrokastro area is analyzed within an environmental framework and an island-wide context. Site size, location, function, chronology, demographics, and possible subsistence strategies are discussed. These data also provide a context for a recent excavation within the Vrokastro survey boundaries (the KARP excavation in Istron) that revealed part of a habitation and produced a stratified sequence of EM IB pottery. Resource control is a significant factor in settlement near the coast, and settlement of the interior first occurs near perennial springs and along routes and riverine systems. A network of strategically placed sites in the coastal zone and near the Istron Valley suggests that one important aspect of settlement was defense, and this function endures through EM I. The zones most prized for settlement included the coastal strip and nearby inland valleys; these were magnets for settlement from the earliest occupation of the region. Some few coastal sites may have served as the earliest ports or landing places for this portion of the Gulf of Mirabello coast. Abundant resources, demographic growth, and trade or exchange with other areas of Crete and the Cyclades contribute to an emerging social and economic complexity that gained momentum during EM I. This complexity may also be reflected in the regional settlement system, which can be ranked by size.