The Middle-Late Neolithic transition at Kouphovono
Chris Mee, Bill Cavanagh & Josette Renard Annual of the British School at Athens 109 (2014), 65-95
The site of Kouphovouno, just south of Sparta, is one of the main Neolithic sites in Laconia. It was first settled in the Middle Neolithic period and developed into a large village with remains occupying some 4–5 hectares. A joint team from the British School at Athens and the Ecole française d’Athènes carried out excavations at the site in 2001–6. There is evidence for occupation during the Bronze Age, and for an extensive Late Roman villa, but this article concentrates on the chronology of the site during the Middle and Late Neolithic phases. The evidence from stratigraphic sequences, pottery typology, seriation and Bayesian analysis of the radiocarbon dates is brought together to present a detailed chronological sequence covering the period c.5800–5000 bc. In particular the analysis relies on the results from two deep soundings, one excavated in Area C carried down to the natural sediments underlying the site and exposing the earliest period of occupation, and the second in Area G covering the later Middle Neolithic and much of the Late Neolithic phase. The findings from Kouphovouno are placed more generally in the context of finds from other sites in the Peloponnese and in particular in relation to the important sequence from Franchthi Cave. On the basis of the evidence it is argued that the transition from Middle Neolithic to Late Neolithic in southern Greece was not abrupt, as had previously been thought, but showed a gradual evolution. This finding has implications for our understanding of the process of transformation that southern Greece underwent in the course of the later sixth millennium BC.