Bronze age Carian Iasos

People involved in this project

Principal investigator:

School Humanities
Department Classics and Ancient History
Dates 01 October 2011 - 28 February 2012
Funder AHRC Research Fellowship
Contact person Dr Nicoletta Momigliano

More about this project

Iasos is an extensive multi-period site located on the coast of SW Turkey, in a region known as Caria since antiquity. It is one of the few settlements in Western Turkey that has yielded substantial evidence of prehistoric occupation, especially for the 2nd millennium BC (Middle-Late Bronze Age).  It was first excavated between 1960 and 1984 by Doro Levi and Clelia Laviosa, whose work indicated that Iasos was occupied from the late 4th millennium (Chalcolithic) till the medieval period.  Concerning the 2nd millennium BC, in particular, Levi and Laviosa suggested that the site's inhabitants enjoyed close contacts with the Aegean islands, and especially with Minoan Crete. 

The discovery of buildings reminiscent of Minoan architecture, the presence of abundant Minoan finds - including locally made and imported 'Kamares' ware, one of the hall-marks of the Old Palace period in Crete (ca. 1900-1700 BC) - combined with accounts in later Greek sources (e.g. Thucydides) of a Minoan sea-empire and colonization of the Aegean, prompted Levi and Laviosa to suggest that Iasos was a Minoan colony going back to that early period. In addition, the discovery of large quantities of locally produced Mycenaean wares showed that close interactions between Iasos and the Aegean world continued until the end of the Bronze Age (ca. 1100 BC).

Although excavations at Iasos started half a century ago, this site remains largely unpublished. With the exception of a monograph on an Early Bronze Age cemetery (which appeared  in 1984), publications on prehistoric Iasos by Levi and Laviosa consisted of short papers, which illustrated only a small fraction of the finds they discovered.

Between 1999 and 2004 the applicant, together with several colleagues from various universities and research institutes, gathered the surviving relevant archival material (e.g. excavation day-books and plans) and carried out a more systematic study of the finds and architecture (including sampling of ceramics, obsidian, and volcanic ash). With this work, more abundant and reliable information on Bronze Age Iasos has emerged: this challenges previous interpretations of the site, by offering new intriguing data relevant to its settlement history and trade networks.  For example, work on Middle-Late Bronze Age ceramics has shown that the 'Kamares' ware described by Levi and Laviosa belongs to a later, relatively little known class of pottery, much (if not all) of which was produced on the island of Kos - a discovery that undermines the original interpretation of Iasos as a Minoan colony going back to the Old Palace period. 

In addition, Melian obsidian and a considerable number of ceramic imports from Rhodes, the Cyclades as well as other Aegean and Anatolian regions have been identified for the first time. Finally, the discovery of a previously unrecognized layer of volcanic ash from the Bronze Age eruption of Santorini is significant for the chronology of the Bronze Age sequence at Iasos and for the study of the Santorini eruption and effects in the eastern Mediterranean. Recent new discoveries or reassessment of old excavations conducted at settlements located on various Aegean islands such as Kythera, Thera, and Samothraki as well as at several eastern Mediterranean sites such as Tell Kabri (Israel), Avaris (Egypt), Miletus, and Çesme (Western Turkey) have sparked new interest in 'Minoanisation' and 2nd millennium trade networks.  This publication will provide an important new body of evidence relevant to these subjects