Late Pleistocene to Early Holocene Sea-Crossings in the Aegean: Direct, Indirect and Controversial Evidence
Christina Papoulia Στο M. Ghilardi, F. Leandri, J. Bloemendal, L. Lespez & S. Fachard (eds) 2016. Géoarchélogie des îles de Mediterranée, Paris: 33-46.
The oldest direct evidence of a boat from the Aegean is dated to the Neolithic and comes from a lakeside settlement in NW Greece. However, indirect evidence in the form of structures, artefacts and aquatic resources are present on islands and date from at least the Mesolithic. Obsidian procurement networks testify to seagoing journeys since the Upper Palaeolithic, while a number of studies have recently suggested that the initial sea-crossings took place during earlier parts of the Pleistocene. At present there is no consensus regarding the exact date of the earliest successful attempts to cross the Mediterranean, thus rendering the extant pre-LGM (Last Glacial Maximum) evidence highly controversial. This paper reviews the geoarchaeological evidence for the early prehistoric sea-crossings in the Aegean (Eastern Mediterranean). It stresses the differences in character and scale between the initial serendipitous crossings and the fully-organised maritime networks of the later parts of prehistory. In view of the limited direct evidence, the examination of indirect forms, together with the information gained from ethnography and experimental archaeology, enables us to propose specific hypotheses regarding the nature of the crossings, the routes and the types of vessels used