The Changing Role of Herding in the Early Iron Age of Crete: Some Implications of Settlement Shift for Economy


Various factors, including disruption in sociopolitical systems at the end of the Aegean Bronze Age and a long gap in the textual record during the Early Iron Age, have led some scholars to hypothesize a degree of change in subsistence strategies—in particular, an increased role for pastoralism—for the latter period. In Crete, a shift of settlement occurs from ca. 1200 B.C. to inaccessible sites, often in mountain or foothill locations, which contrast greatly with the former settlement pattern focused on coastal or large arable zones. The notion of subsistence simplification as an after-effect of systems collapse, together with the perception of Crete's landscape as traditionally determining specific types of herding, have tempted some to suggest an important role for herding in modeling the EIA economy and/or in explaining the settlement relocation. This article examines in more detail the role herding might have played in Crete's EIA economy and considers its probable character at this time. The settlement record for EIA Crete as a whole, recently enhanced by new data, forms the basis for this investigation. A case study of EIA settlements located in a mountainous landscape in eastern Crete, along with a review of the most recently published EIA faunal evidence, are used to illustrate the discussion. Particular attention is given to the analysis of large-scale socioeconomic context, because the collapse of previous state systems and the emergence of a new state form within this period have very different implications for herding's role and character.

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