Micromorphological analysis of sediments at the Bronze Age site of Mitrou, central Greece: patterns of floor construction and maintenance
Panagiotis Karkanas & Aleydis Van de Moortel Journal of Archaeological Science 43 (2014): 198-213.
The study of settlement sites is usually based on the analysis of architectural or cultural phases. The sediments that constitute the excavated deposits inside or outside houses are rarely studied. This work presents micromorphological analysis of sediments at the prehistoric site of Mitrou, a small tidal islet in central Greece. Unusually long archaeological sequences have been excavated ranging from the Early Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age (ca. 2400-900 BCE). The occupational deposits in the Early and Middle Bronze Age are characterized by meticulous maintenance practices with multiple replastered floor sequences. These include surfaces made of debris produced inside houses by day-to-day activities. In this way an impressive thick sequence of overlapping worn-out floors and occupational deposits is produced with a characteristic finely layered macroscopic appearance. There is no clear association of a building phase with a single floor level but rather with a thick sequence of floor build-up. This practice ends in the Late Bronze Age, and from then on, floors are not frequently repaired and their construction technique is more standardized. Usually, a relative thin sequence of one or two floors is associated with a new architectural phase. The observed change is broadly correlated with the rise of a prepalatial political elite at Mitrou. The contrasting maintenance techniques also are relevant to discussions about differences between tells and ’flat’ settlements. Until the beginning of the Late Bronze Age, Mitrou’s indoor surfaces are those of a tell site whereas after that its surfaces resemble those of a ‘flat’ settlement. In Mitrou it appears that this change is related to a different perception of construction and maintenance of floors that in turn should be traced to the pattern of reconstruction of entire houses. These changes have a social significance that may reflect differences in household processes and use of space.