Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Haïdo Koukouli-Chyssanthaki, René Treuil, Laurent Lespez and Dimitra Malamidou. Dikili Tash, village préhistorique de Macédoine orientale. Recherches franco-helléniques dirigées par la Société archéologique d'Athènes et l'École française d'Athènes (1986-2001). Bibliothèque de la Société archéologique d'Athènes 254. Athènes: La Société archéologique d'Athènes, 2008. Pp. 416. ISBN 9789608145689. €80.00 (pb).
Reviewed by John K. Papadopoulos, University of California, Los Angeles (JKP@humnet.ucla.edu)

The prehistoric settlement mound or tell (toumba in Modern Greek) Dikili Tash, a Turkish toponym meaning "upright stone", referring to the large Roman funerary monument of Caius Vibius still standing in the immediate vicinity of the site (see p. 4, fig. 1), is located in the plain of Drama some two kilometers east of the ancient city of Philippi. The plain itself, which dominates much of eastern Macedonia, is bordered to the north by the Phalakron mountain range, to the east by Mt. Lekani, to the west by Mt. Menikion, to the southeast by Mt. Symbolon, and to the south by the ore-rich Pangaion massif. The mound, measuring 250 x 180 m at its base, with a height of some 16 m, was first identified as a prehistoric settlement by Carl Blegen and F.B. Welch,1 and the first excavations were carried out there by Louis Renaudin in 1920-1922, with brief published reports in the Bulletin de correspondance hellénique for 1921 and 1922. Full-scale excavations were initiated at the site in 1961 and continued until 1975 as a French-Greek collaboration, under the auspices of the École française d'Athènes and the Athens Archaeological Society, the French team directed by Jean Deshayes, the Greek by Demetrios Theocharis and later by Katerina Rhomiopoulou.2

The volume under review is the first in a series of books representing the final publication of the subsequent round of fieldwork and excavations conducted at the site between 1986 and 2001, directed by Haïdo Koukouli-Chryssanthaki and René Treuil, again under the auspices of the École française d'Athènes and the Athens Archaeological Society, funded by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the École française d'Athènes, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Athens Archaeological Society. A projected Volume 2 will include an account of the topography and excavations, stratigraphy and chronology, as well as specialized studies of the pottery of Phase I, the bone tools, and the faunal and floral remains. A final, third volume, will deal with the ceramics of Phases II and III, the architectural remains, the various tools of stone and other materials, as well as the figurines and models. The excavations have shown the site to have been inhabited primarily from the Neolithic period into the Bronze Age.

This first volume of the 1986-2001 excavations provides detailed prolegomena, laying much of the groundwork necessary for a full understanding of the site. The book is divided into three parts that are independent from one another. The first, entitled "Le programme de recherches", by Koukouli-Chryssanthaki and Treuil (pp. 1-19), begins with a brief overview of the site, its relation to Philippi, and its importance in the plain of Drama (A) (pp. 3-4). This is followed by a section (B) outlining the earlier research and publications of the site (pp. 4-6). The final section (C) (pp. 7-14), "Le programme de 1986", is divided into three parts, the first of which deals with the objectives of the fieldwork initiated in 1986 (pp. 7-9). The aims are discussed under the headings of paleo-environment; stratigraphy and chronology; habitation and the organization of space. From its inception, the project was conceived of as a multi-disciplinary one, with the retrieval and full analysis of not only the human-made remains, but the botanical, zoological, and malacological remnants, together with a full palynological study of the immediate surroundings of the site, archaeometric and chemical analyses of the material, and a concern for experimental studies as well as conservation and restoration. In keeping with these broad and admirable aims, the project relied heavily on a robust collaboration with various laboratories and research centers, including the Archaeometry Laboratory at the Demokritos Research Center in Athens, the Department of Restoration of Works of Arts and Antiquities of the Polytechneion of Athens, the Laboratoire de Recherches des Musées de France, the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris, the Centre de Recherche en Physique Appliquée à l'Archéologie de l'Université Bordeaux III, and the Centre des Sciences de la Terre de l'Université Lyon I. This is followed by the second part (pp. 9-13) summarizing the various sectors of the 1986-2001 excavations; the third part (pp. 13-14) provides a synopsis of the projected final publications. At the end of the first part there is appended a full bibliography of research published between 1986 and 2007 (pp. 15-19). The list is impressive: in addition to annual preliminary reports in the Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, To Ergon and Ta Praktika of the Athens Archaeological Society, as well as a summary of the work of the first decade in To Archaiologiko Ergo ste Makedonia kai Thrake, there is a whole slew of specialized studies published in various journals and books on the environment of the site, the nature of the settlement, its relative and absolute chronology, building materials and techniques, studies of the pottery (including residue analysis), chipped and ground stone tools, as well as those of bone and shell, and preliminary reports on the botanical and faunal remains, as well as at least two papers dealing with the symbolism of "un bucrane néolithique".

The second part of the volume, by Laurent Lespez, almost 400 pages (pp. 21-394) could be a monograph unto itself, with its own "Avant-propos", conclusions, bibliography, toponymic index, glossary of principal geomorphological terms, and multiple chapters arranged in three parts. Entitled "L'évolution des paysages du Néolithique à la période ottomane dans la plaine de Philippes-Drama", the study builds on Lespez's 1999 doctoral dissertation at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, with the title "L'évolution des modelés et des paysages de la plaine de Drama et de ses bordures montagneuses (Macédoine orientale, Grèce) au cours de l'Holocène". This is undoubtedly one of the finest and most detailed studies of the landscape and natural environment of a particular region of Greece. It will quickly take its place as a seminal study, a "must read" together with such classic landscape and environment studies such as those of Vita-Finzi, Davidson and Shackley, Bintliff, van Andel and Runnels, and Brown, to mention only a few.3 The introduction (pp. 33-69) lays down the objectives and methods of the study, touching upon the processes of erosion through the prehistoric period, the Roman and Byzantine, as well as in Ottoman times. Methodologically, Lespez has utilized an arsenal of techniques, from analyses of sediments, paleobiology, and C14 dating, to palynology, aerial photography, and remote sensing. More than this, he delves back into historical archives, old maps and photographs, as well as the accounts of early travelers in order to understand better the landscape through time. The photographs of then and now often present stark contrasts.

Following the introduction, the first part of Lespez's study (pp. 71-155), entitled "Un basin intramontagnard dans le sud du Rhodope", deals with, among other things, the basic geology, vegetation, water resources, erosion, and the tectonic activity of the plain of Drama and its mountainous surrounds. The second part (pp. 157-244), entitled "Rythmes de la morphogenèse Holocène", deals in greater detail with the geomorphology and alluvial formations of the different parts of the plain. The first chapter is devoted to the Xeropotamos River, which runs northeast to southwest through the center of valley, as well as the Drama River in the north-northeast of the plain. Chapter 2 deals with the Angitis valley to the northwest, together with associated gorges, like Petra. The Angitis River runs roughly north-northwest to south-southeast, before it turns southwest and eventually flows into the Strymon. Located in this valley are a number of important prehistoric settlements, not least of which is the toumba of Sitagroi, excavated by Colin Renfrew and Marija Gimbutas, and Lespez is able to provide important geological and geomorphological information on that site.4 Chapter 3 focuses on the southern portion of plain, and the course of the Kephalari River. This is followed by a summary of the environment through time.

The third part of Lespez's study, "L'évolution des paysages depuis le Néolithique, l'utilisation par les sociétés humaines de leur environment et ses consequences géomorphologiques" (pp. 245-377), will probably be the one most utilized by archaeologists and social historians. In the introduction to this part, Lespez looks at the paleoenvironment as a whole and its evolution, as well as possible climatic changes or fluctuations. The first chapter deals with the progressive transformations of the landscape from the Neolithic period into the Bronze Age and the geomorphological consequences. It is here where the settlement of Dikili Tas is truly placed in its environmental setting in terms of its soils, its water resources, the various raw materials found in nature utilized by the inhabitants, as well as the effects on the landscape of agriculture, pastoralism, hunting and fishing. Through careful analysis of the palynological record of the area, coupled with a broad understanding of the paleo-landscape of the plain as a whole, as well as the stratigraphy and chronology of the site, Lespez is able to contribute real answers to some of the most basic questions of archaeology, such as choice of site--why here and not there? He focuses on the people and environment of the Late Neolithic period (5350-3200 B.C.) separately from that of the Early Bronze Age (3200-2000 B.C.), and that of the Late Bronze (1600-1000 B.C.) and the Early Iron Age (1000-700 B.C.).

Chapter 2, evocatively entitled "La mise en valeur des milieux aux époques Romaine et Paléochrétienne et ses conséquences sur les paysages et la morphogénèse" is devoted essentially to the period between the 2nd century B.C. and the 6th century A.D. Earlier periods are not overlooked, but the most robust results are those of the Roman and early Christian eras. The two settlements that loom large and that dominated the plain from the Classical and Hellenistic periods to Late Roman times are Philippi, in the southeast of the plain, and Drama in the north-northeast. Smaller settlements, typically of shorter life spans, are related both to the landscape of the plain and to its two main centers. Lespez also looks at the appropriation and cadastration of the land. The effects of agriculture and a mixed economy of farming and pastoralism are assessed, so too the effects of mineral exploitation on the landscape and vegetation, particularly the celebrated gold and silver mines of Mt. Pangaion mentioned by Herodotos, Strabo, and Theophrastos, as well as the rich mines of Skapte Hyle cited by Herodotos (VI.46) and well-known to Thucydides (see IV.105.1). Much of the discussion here depends on the ancient sources, as the precise location of the ancient mines remains a problem, especially the location of Skapte Hyle, where Thucydides himself may have had a mine, and I suspect that more work needs to be done on this aspect in the future.5 H. J. Unger has even suggested that "Skapte Hyle" might be the Greek term based on a Thracian name for the whole Pangaion range, not a specific place name within it.6 It is important to add that prehistoric use of north Aegean mines is indicated at least as early as the early Mycenaean period, as several of the silver objects from the Shaft Graves at Mycenae were made of metal that can be traced to Chalkidike.7 The third chapter deals in a similar vein with the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. It begins with the "Dark Ages" of the 7th-9th centuries, and the demographic revival of the 10th-13th century, before Lespez deals with the crisis years of the 14th century. As for the Ottoman period, the 15th through 17th centuries witness a new system of agriculture, well known from historical records, whereas the 18th and 19th centuries see yet more changes. The primary agricultural products of the different parts of the plain are quantified and discussed: cereals, grape vines, cotton, and saffron. The level of detail here is incredible. For example, the village of Agriani (278 inhabitants) grew only cereals, with some grapes, whereas Kormista (334 inhabitants), produced more grapes than cereals, together with a good amount of saffron (crocuses) and a little cotton. For the Byzantine and Ottoman periods Lespez is able to look at not only the plain but also the mountain areas bordering it with more clarity than for earlier periods; this part of his study essentially ends with the early 20th century.

In his conclusions (pp. 379-385), Lespez well summarizes the results of his study with a series of eight cross-sections through part of the plain of Drama and its mountainous border, from the beginnings of the Holocene to today. Through his study of geology, geomorphology, palynology, paleobiology, and historical sources, Lespez achieves what many archaeologists dream about: he not only evocatively reconstructs a landscape through time, but he is able to people that landscape and understand and assess the effects of humanity on that landscape through the longue durée. This is a model study from which all students of archaeology will benefit.

The final part of the volume, "Cartes archéologiques de la plaine de Philippes-Drama et de ses bordures", is penned by Haïdo Koukouli-Chryssanthaki, Dimitra Malamidou, and Laurent Lespez (pp. 395-416). Two maps are presented that detail the locations and available bibliography on all known sites in the Drama plain and its mountainous borders. The first map lists sites of the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age (divided into Early Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age, and "Bronze indifférencié"), and Early Iron Age; the second map lists sites of the Classical/Hellenistic, Roman, and early Christian periods, as well as the course of the Via Egnatia and the Aqueduct of Philippi; the map also lists Roman bridges.

As we have come to expect from the publications of the Athens Archaeological Society (this is No. 254 in the monograph series of the Society), the quality of production is excellent. All of the photographs, both color and black-and-white, as well as the figures, are first-class. The quality of the illustrations is matched by the quality of scholarship, and the authors of this volume should be proud of their achievement.


1. F.B. Welch, "Macedonia III: Prehistoric Pottery", Annual of the British School at Athens 23, 1918-1919, 44-50; as Welch notes (p. 44), the pottery was picked up on the surface of the mound.

2. R. Treuil (ed.), Dikili Tash, village préhistorique de Macédoine orientale I: Fouilles de Jean Deshayes (1961-1975) (BCH Supplément 24), Paris 1992; id. Dikili Tash, village préhistorique de Macédoine orientale II: Fouilles de Jean Deshayes (1961-1975) (BCH Supplément 37), Paris 2004.

3. C. Vita-Finzi, The Mediterranean Valleys: Geological Change in Historical Times, Cambridge 1969; D.A. Davidson and M.L. Shackley (eds.), Geoarchaeology: Earth Science and the Past, London 1976; J.L. Bintliff, Natural Environment and Human Settlement in Prehistoric Greece (BAR Supplementary Series 28), Oxford 1977; T.H. van Andel and C. Runnels, Beyond the Acropolis: A Rural Greek Past, Stanford 1987; A.G. Brown, Alluvial Geoarchaeology: Floodplain Archaeology and Environmental Change, Cambridge 1997.

4. For the excavations at Sitagroi, see C. Renfrew, M. Gimbutas, and E.S. Elster, eds., Excavations at Sitagroi: A Prehistoric Village in Northeast Greece, Vol. 1. Los Angeles 1986; E.S. Elster and C. Renfrew, eds., Prehistoric Sitagroi: Excavations in Northeast Greece, 1968-1970. Vol. 2: The Final Report, Los Angeles 2003.

5. As Simon Hornblower notes (A Commentary on Thucydides, Vol. II, Books IV-V.24, Oxford 1996, 335), "Marcellinus 47 locates Thucydides' property at Skapte Hyle, but it is generally discounted as a guess based on Herodotus VI.46. We simply do not know more than Thucydides chooses to tell us here, namely that the mines were in the 'neighbouring district' of Thrace...i.e. near Amphipolis/Eion."

6. H.G. Unger, "Das Pangaion: Ein altes Bergbauzentrum in Ostmakedonien", Prähistorische Zeitschrift 62, 1987, 87-112.

7. It has been suggested by Z.A. Stos-Gale and C.F. Macdonald ("Sources of Metals and Trade in the Bronze Age Aegean", in N.H. Gale [ed.], Bronze Age Trade in the Mediterranean: Papers Presented at the Conference Held at Rewly House, Oxford, in December 1989, Jonsered 1991, 273-79) that six of the 14 silver objects from the Shaft Graves at Mycenae analyzed at Oxford reveal lead isotope data consistent with Chalkidike; for further discussion and references, see J.K. Papadopoulos, "Euboians in Macedonia? A Closer Look", Oxford Journal of Archaeology 15(2), 1996, 173.

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