EXCAVATIONS & RESEARCH
26 February 2015
The Prehistoric Stones of Greece: a resource of archaeological surveys and sites
The rise of field survey in archaeology has been one of the most notable features of the discipline over the last forty years. The trend began during the New Archaeology of the 1970s as emphasis shifted from a mainly site-specific focus to the consideration of regions as a whole. Surface survey formed an important component of this new approach which set out to recover information at a scale appropriate to the study of past human behaviour. In Greece there was a fivefold growth in projects reported annually in Archaeological Reports of the British School at Athens from the early 1980s until 1998 (Alcock and Cherry 2004, fig 1.2). This growth is further highlighted in figure 1 with start-ups in Greece for five year intervals from the beginning of the 1950s. These projects have located sites and recovered material from the Lower Palaeolithic to modern, expanding our knowledge of Greek archaeology at both the local and regional scales.
It was against this background that ‘The Prehistoric Stones of Greece’ (SOG) was initiated in 2005, funded through the Resource Enhancement Programme of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in the UK. The project was based at the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway. It set out to collate for the first time in a standardized way, information about archaeological field-surveys and sites in Greece and to record the material recovered. Sources both published and unpublished were used and information recorded in a relational database which has now been re-hosted by the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) at the University of York. SOG was originally hosted at Royal Holloway but with a shift in the computing platform we faced the dilemma of how to keep it running. We approached the ADS and they undertook to archive and re-host the database. Development work has recently been completed and in parallel the records have been updated and added to. We are extremely grateful to the ADS, highlighting once again the importance of having such a central repository for archaeological datasets. They have also agreed to carry out annual updates and we continue to add information as it becomes available. The SOG dataset can be visited and queried by linking to the ADS portal at http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/stones_ahrb_2013/.
In addition to charting the development of field survey in Greece, one of our main focuses was sites and artefacts attributed to the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic, along with Neolithic sites located during field survey. The database currently includes 163 surveys and 852 sites with an artefact count of 135,731 pieces along with 1,140 where only presence is noted.
Chipped stones make up the majority of the artefacts (121,904), followed by pottery (12,551) and smaller quantities of ground stone, building materials, structures, burials and other objects. A total of 101 sites have produced 151,000 pieces of bone, teeth or shell, with information again ranging from detailed counts to just presence. The archive provides a unique country-wide view of the coverage of field-survey and the distribution of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites in particular. By incorporating published and grey literature sources, SOG aims to facilitate regional synthesis and provide a model for the development of similar resources in other areas.
Alcock S. and J. Cherry. 2004. Introduction. In S. Alcock and J. Cherry (eds.) Side-by-Side Survey: Comparative Regional Studies in the Mediterranean World: 1-9. Oxbow Books, Oxford.