The Ayios Vasileios Survey Project (Laconia, Greece): questions, aims and methods
Sofia Voutsaki, Corien Wiersma, Wieke de Neef & Adamantia Vasilogamvrou Journal of Greek Archaeology 4 (2019): 67-95
This article presents the research design, i.e. the main aims, questions and methods of the Ayios Vasileios Survey Project. This ongoing project combines field walking, geophysical prospection and ethnographic interviews in order to place more firmly the Mycenaean Palatial Complex of Ayios Vasileios (Laconia, Greece) in its physical, regional and historical context. The relatively recent discovery of the site and its intensive exploration in the last decade offer unique opportunities to reconstruct the history of occupation and the extent and spatial organisation of the settlement. Our first aim is to address a historical problem: We want to use the survey data in order to reconstruct the growth and decline of Ayios Vasileios and its relations with other important sites in Laconia. By doing so, our research contributes to a better understanding of the political geography of Mycenaean Laconia, but also to the wider discussion of urbanisation and state formation in the Mycenaean world. Our second aim is to raise methodological questions which are relevant beyond the Mycenaean world: we would like to assess non-destructive prospection methodologies on prehistoric settlements, to reflect on the integration of surface and subsurface datasets and to review the effects of recent land management strategies on the preservation and detection of archaeological materials. With only a few (published) examples of such projects in prehistoric urban environments in Greece, the Ayios Vasileios Survey Project proposes a new integrated approach which will be relevant to all those exploring the rise of urban or complex societies. We will first present some background information on the site by summarising earlier investigations and by presenting some preliminary conclusions on the history of the settlement based on the preliminary publications of the excavations.