Neolithization of the Aegean

The Cave of Cyclops on the small island of Youra, North Aegean, has yielded (1992-1995) a full sequence of Mesolithic deposits, and has thus unexpectedly moved the Aegean Holocene chronology back for three millennia. Youra finds have given evidence on the society, technology, economy, but also ideology of the Aegean islanders who lived in the transitional period between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic: these populations seem to be still highly dependent on game and foodgathering (especially on sea resources), but -and this was the unexpected- they concurrently keep domesticates, exhibiting a cultural hybridity between the old and the new modes of life.

In the years that followed Youra excavations, and as new projects on the islands of Kythnos and the Greek mainland (Cave of Theopetra) have demonstrated more Mesolithic hybridism, more questions were raised about the idiosyncrasy of the Aegean Mesolithic as a sphere of Neolithization, and about the relations of this sphere with the Preceramic Neolithic of the Near East and Cyprus.

The issue is theoretically stimulating; the old models of demic diffusion and colonization supported by surviving cultural-historical approaches of early archaeology had to face new models on multi-central Neolithization, now claimed by ‘peripheral’ areas such as Aegean. But further than a matter of historical movement, economic adaptation or exchangeability, there is an aspect of personal or communal decision lying behind the early domesticates we dig today, that should be examined as crucial. Instead of externally established, domestication might be seen as decided or not decided by the very particular men and women of every particular Mesolithic site of the Aegean, depending on the local traditions and ideologies of those people.

An initial stage of this research was supported by the A. G. Leventis Foundation.

Read more


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