The Geoarchaeology of Minoan Agricultural Engineering at Choiromandres, Crete (20 min)


Daniel J. Fallu, UiT: The Arctic University Museum of Norway; Georgia Tsartsidou, Ephorate of Palaeoanthropology-Speleology, Athens, Greece; Leonidas Vokotopoulos, Minoan Roads Project; Andreas Lang, Paris Lodron University Salzburg; and Chiara Bahl, Paris Lodron


The rise of palatial systems in the Aegean region was accompanied by an intensification of agriculture and a necessary elaboration of agricultural technologies. Agricultural terraces seem to be a significant part of this agricultural toolkit. At Choiromandres near Zakros, Crete, archaeologists of the Minoan Roads Project have uncovered and examined a so-far unique system of geometrically arranged terraces surrounded by an enclosure wall with an associated series of water reservoirs appearing to date to Late Minoan IB, shortly after the eruption of Thera. In collaboration with the Minoan Roads Project, the ERC-funded project Terrace Archaeology and Culture in Europe (TerrACE) has developed a holistic toolkit for examining ancient agricultural terraces, including high-resolution photogrammetry, radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence dating, geochemistry, soil micromorphology, phytolith and pollen analysis, and environmental DNA.

In this presentation, we report the results of the analysis of the soils and sediments from Choiromandres. The combined methods have provided several lines of evidence to aid in reconstructing terrace construction and use. Analytical dating (OSL and 14C), along with portable OSL profiling shows the likely condition of slope movement within the valley before the foundation of the terraces, and the stability that followed their construction. Soil micromorphology shows some evidence for agricultural reworking, while geochemistry shows the development of the soils after stabilization by the terraces with enhanced phosphorus levels indicate possible manuring. Although DNA results seem only to reflect recent usage of the site, pollen and phytoliths allow us to better reconstruct the environment and agricultural use of the site in the second millennium B.C.E. We place the unique geoengineering of the Choiromandres Valley by the Minoans in its appropriate environmental context, examining the climate in the aftermath of the Theran eruption as well as the elaboration of agricultural engineering in the Late Bronze Age of Crete.