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Berbati between Argos and Corinth: the excavations at Pyrgouthi in 1995 and 1997 : from the early Iron Age to the early Roman period
Stockholm University.
2001 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation is based on the finds from the archaeological excavations at Pyrgouthi, Berbati, in the Argolid, Greece, in 1995 and 1997. The excavations focused on a rectangular tower built of heavy polygonal blocks, which was identified as belonging to a farmstead site during an earlier surface survey in the area. The results of the excavations, presented in Chapter 2 and summarized in Chapter 3, comprise evidence for occupation at the site during four distinct phases which chronologically cover the time between the Early Iron Age (8th century B.C.) and the Early Roman period (1st century B.C.). During these phases the resources of the location were utilized in various ways. Yet, as is argued in Chapter 4, the settlement at the site and in the surrounding region was always influenced by the proximity of the border between the city-states of Argos and Corinth which were among the major political powers of ancient Greece.

The specific border character of the region is reflected in its archaeological record. One activity which is often confined to the geographical margins of the city-states is pastoralism in its varying forms. It is argued that the archaeological remains of the Early Iron Age in the area are consistent with a largely transhumant population living in the region. In the later part of the 8th century B.C. the emergence of the polis-type of organization at Argos and Corinth enforced a change in the age-old patterns of living in the border region. The independent community of Mycenae was established, which without having a central settlement was able to control the mountains between Argos and Corinth until the early part of the 5th century B.C., when its population was expelled by expanding Argos. A democratic constitution was adopted by the city of Argos at this time. This necessitated a demarcated boundary across the border region, since the citizens' rights were based on place of birth or residence. The pastoralist mode of living which presupposes open borders and freedom of movement was no longer possible and was replaced by sedentary agriculture in small holdings created by land allotment by Argos. Pyrgouthi housed two potters' kilns at this time which provided the settlers with rooftiles and coarse pottery.

In the Early Hellenistic period (ca. 325-275 B.C.) the tower was constructed at the excavated site. Towers of this type are usually considered as parts of strategic lines of defence. It is argued here that the existence of this and many other stalwart structures is yet another reflection of the border character of the region. Instead of constituting evidence for a strong central authority demarcating the limits of its territory, their existence indicates the downfall of the Greek city-state. People living in the border region were forced to fortify their settlements as the state was no longer able to provide them with security. In the Early Roman period the location at Pyrgouthi and the ruins of the tower from the preceding period were utilized in a farmstead site again. It is argued that the rural settlement in Early Roman Greece, instead of being the result of a conscious agrarian policy on the part of the Romans, is more to be seen as a spin-off effect of the increased economic activity in the cities, which would appear to have been the main interest of the Romans present in Greece at this time.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2001. , 127 p.
Keyword [en]
Landscape archaeology, border zone, boundary, Corinthia, Argolid, Early Iron Age Greece, Classical Greece, Hellenistic Greece, Early Roman Greece, pastoralism, transhumance, animal husbandry, ancient agriculture, potters' kiln, tower, fortification
National Category
Research subject
Classical Archaeology and Ancient History
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-71839ISBN: 91-7265-225-XOAI: diva2:486168
Public defence
2001-02-17, 10:00
Available from: 2012-01-30 Created: 2012-01-30Bibliographically approved

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