Online Review: Book

Mochlos IIC: Period IV, The Mycenaean Settlement and Cemetery. The Human Remains and Other Finds

Jeffrey S. Soles and Costis Davaras, eds.

117.2

Reviewed by Gerald Cadogan

Prehistory Monographs 32. Pp. xxvi + 243, figs. 98, pls. 39, tables 44. INSTAP Academic Press, Philadelphia 2011. $80. ISBN 978-1-931534-60-4 (cloth).


Mochlos IIC completes the publication of the excavations of the Late Minoan (LM) II–III settlement on the small island of Mochlos in eastern Crete and the contemporary Limenaria cemetery on the Cretan mainland opposite. Mochlos IIA (J.S. Soles. Prehistory Monographs 23 [Philadelphia 2008]) covered the two sites and their excavation, contexts, and finds, and Mochlos IIB (R.A.K. Smith. Prehistory Mongraphs 27 [Philadelphia 2010]) their pottery. This volume rounds the story off, presenting the human remains, burial containers, various types of artifacts, and the fauna and flora, and ends with a review of the Mochlos region in LM III. This archaeologically valuable combination of the living and the dead has been served well in this tripartite book, with plenty of important evidence for the history of Final Palatial and Postpalatial Crete. It has, however, been given the general title of The Mycenaean Settlement and Cemetery, even though it is hard to spot anything Mycenaean anywhere, and the text of Mochlos IIC, like the texts of Mochlos IIA and Mochlos IIB, continues to use Minoan terminology virtually throughout. I return to this problem below.

An excellent discussion of the human remains by Triantaphyllou (1–19) adds much to our knowledge of Postpalatial paleodemography and health: neonates and children are remarkably absent, and infants are scarce; men and women seem to have had equal access to the Limenaria cemetery; mortality was highest for both sexes between 30 and 40 years; but health was generally good. The men had the heavier jobs, as shown by skeletal-muscular markers and arthritis changes, but these appear, too, in adolescent women. The women had worse dental problems (caries and loss of teeth).

A chapter on the burial containers (21–34) by Soles, Rethemiotakis, and Nicgorski includes a comprehensive account of the bath and chest larnakes (here called sarcophagi) from the cemetery, ranging from their manufacture to their iconography; while a parade of burial pithoi is a timely reminder that this use of pithoi continued into LM III, even if some of the pithoi were reused LM I jars.

Jewelry and other small finds are presented by Soles, Nicgorski, and Kopaka (35–66), but 39 stone vessels of earlier date, mainly LM I, from the settlement (none was found in the Limenaria cemetery) are deemed residual—a welcome change from calling them heirlooms or even antiques—and not to have been made in LM III and so relegated to an appendix by Carter (173–78), who relates them usefully to stone vessels from Mochlos that were found in Neopalatial contexts.

Carter also provides a long chapter (67–123), packed with useful information, on the stone implements. He first points out, however, that the tools found in the LM III contexts are also likely to include residual Neopalatial products, while it is generally difficult, or impossible, to separate by periods "chronologically undiagnostic" (123) stone tools. An important finding is evidence for Melian obsidian's continuing to reach the north coast of Crete in LM III for working into pressure-flaked blades.

The following chapter by Reese, Mylona, Bending, and Ntinou (125–48) discusses the fauna and flora by their contexts: the LM III assemblage is broadly similar to those of LM IB date from other recent excavations at Mochlos.

An appendix by Westlake (179–85) on the painted plaster (red, white, or beige) from House A is a model presentation of the materials, techniques, and pigments—and of the minimalist conservation required.

The final chapter of the main text is a review of Mochlos and the Mochlos region in LM III by Brogan and Smith (149–61). Mochlos had a three-phase history: reoccupation after the LM IB abandonment, probably in late LM II or early LM IIIA1; occupation in LM IIIA2 into early LM IIIB, by which time the settlement was in decline; and abandonment by LM IIIC, its people moving inland, often up in the hills. Even in this chapter there is little mention of Mycenaean features, which makes the decision to call this tripartite work The Mycenaean Settlement especially surprising. As Mochlos IIA and Mochlos IIB have not yet been reviewed in the AJA, we should consider the matter, and turn to Mochlos IIA, where Soles expounds his views. A telestas as documented in the Knossos Linear B tablets could have lived in House A of the LM III settlement (which had a rhyton probably imported from Knossos) and perhaps even been buried in Tomb 15 of the Limenaria cemetery (which included ritually "killed" pottery). Although Mochlos cannot be identified in the tablets, this could all have been the case. But it is far from certain, and we have to remember that we do not know the nationality of the new settlers in phase 1 at Mochlos—and indeed little of the nationality of the rulers of Knossos (since nationality is not something that prehistory deals in), however much we know of their language. Since the material culture the work presents seems thoroughly native (that is what we, and the authors, see as Minoan), the reader may feel that the title The Mycenaean Settlement is rather misleading, not least to scholars of mainland Greece who may be bemused. Could a study of a settlement in native India in the time of the British Raj be called "The British Settlement"? Should this work be called The Mycenaean Settlement? My answer to both questions would be no.

But that in no way detracts from an excellent and comprehensive presentation of work at Mochlos examining Minoan life and death there at the time just before the fall of Knossos and for almost a century afterward.

Gerald Cadogan
The Old Rectory
Culworth
Banbury OX17 2AT
United Kingdom
geraldcadogan@onetel.com

DOI: 
10.3764/ajaonline1172.Cadogan

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