Bronze age landscape degradation in the Northern Argolid: a micromorphological investigation of anthropogenic erosion in the environs of Mycenae, Greece
Fallu, Daniel Joseph
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In this dissertation, I examine the relationship between environmental conditions and human activity in the landscape of the Argive Plain of Greece after the collapse of the Bronze Age palatial system (1200–750 B.C.). I use evidence from four locales: the Petsas House and the Lower Town at Mycenae, to the immediate northwest and southwest of the citadel respectively; the settlement at Chania, three kilometers downstream; and the Northwest Town of Tiryns, in the lower reaches of the plain. I apply micromorphological analysis (the microscopic analysis of soils and sediments) integrated with analysis of grain-size and soil chemistry (assessed by X-Ray Fluorescence and Fourier Transform Infrared) in order to place depositional events within the context of settlement change at the end of the Bronze Age. The climate had been drying during the Late Bronze. An earthquake ca. 1200 B.C. is concurrent with the beginning of the final period of occupation on the edge of the plain around Mycenae. Some accumulation of sandy muds, destabilized sediments from the largely abandoned citadel, is observed at Petsas House as well as in the Lower Town where, additionally, remains were buried by two deposits of red muddy gravels from uncultivated mountain slopes. The gravels are separated by a brief period of stability (less than a century) marked by a weak soil formation, and reached final equilibrium in the Early to Middle Geometric period (900–760 B.C.). At the same time, three kilometers downstream, similar red muddy gravels resulted in the interruption of activity at the settlement of Chania. Meanwhile, at Tiryns, 30 cm of sandy muds, also destabilized by drier conditions, were deposited over decaying mudbrick, implying that the site was already abandoned before sedimentation occurred. The burial of both Mycenae and Tiryns demonstrates the instability in the Argive landscape and the complications of relating these changes to settlement. In the environs of Mycenae, the sudden deposition of muddy gravels certainly brought about the abandonment at Chania, and possibly also in the Lower Town; while at Tiryns abandonment preceded accumulation. This study demonstrates how intensive geoarchaeological study must be a component in properly situating sites in their particular landscapes.