The late forager camp of Ouriakos on the island of Lemnos: Human groups on the move at the turn of the Holocene in the Northern Aegean
Nikos Efstratiou Eurasian Prehistory 11 (1-2) (2014): 75-96
Fieldwork conducted at the Epipalaeolithic site of Ouriakos on the coast of Lemnos has recently produced the first evidence for hunters and gatherers on one of the islands of the Aegean Sea during the time of the Younger Dryas (ca. 10,800-9,600 cal BC). The work in the field and the analysis of the large number of chipped stone tools found at the site are still in progress. While major advances have been made over the last 15 years when it comes to the study of Mesolithic sites on islands such as Youra (the Cyclops Cave) and Kythnos (Maroulas), there was, as late as 2008, still no site going back to the 11th millennium cal BC, which had been excavated on any of the islands that had formed in the Aegean Sea by end of the Pleistocene. Indeed, prior to the discovery of Ouriakos, little was known about the Final Palaeolithic (Epigravettian) – even on the mainland – at the head of the Northern Aegean. Thus, Ouriakos is filling in a major gap in knowledge when it comes to the prehistory of the northern Aegean.
This article gives, by the way, the first full-length report on the results of the investigations at Ouriakos. Accordingly, emphasis is placed here on providing an overview on what has come to light at the campsite so far. In the context of the Wenner Gren Workshop on “Island Archaeology and the Origins of Seafaring in the Eastern Mediterranean,” there are two important questions that we need to consider. First, when did the rise in sea level at the end of the Pleistocene reach the point where Lemnos began to separate from the mainland and form as an island? And secondly, at what distance did the site of Ouriakos, as it is seen on land today, stand from the shoreline at the time of 12,000 years ago? In trying to come up with answers to these two basic questions, the investigations on Lemnos are still at the first level of approximation today. In short, much work remains to be done on the earth-science side of the story.
After describing the fieldwork conducted at Ouriakos, the work on reconstructing the site’s environmental setting, the study of the chipped stone assemblages and the carbon dating of the site, the chapter closes with a discussion of some of the wider implications of the research, including the connections and interactions that Ouriakos appears to have had with coeval sites in the Eastern Mediterranean, which date to the time of the Younger Dryas.