Blog

The site of Khavania, from the north (photograph by R.D. Fitzsimons).

After a year’s absence as a result of the pandemic, we returned to Khavania in 2021. The site, which is located on the northern side of Ayios Nikolaos in the Lasithi prefecture of East Crete, sits on a small peninsula with natural harbours on its northern and southern sides. Today, the shores on either side of the peninsula are popular destinations for beachgoers, while a number of luxury hotels line the coastal road. Indeed, Khavania’s environs are prime real estate today, just as they must have been in antiquity! More broadly, Khavania occupies a location on the western shores of the Bay of Mirabello, which has seen little in the way of archaeological research other than a series of rescue excavations over the past thirty or so years. Conversely, the eastern and southern shores of the Mirabello region have been the subject of intensive archaeological research since the turn of the 20th century, with several notable sites such as Mochlos, Pseira, Gournia, and Priniatikos Pyrgos having been excavated, not to mention the three contiguous intensive survey projects, the Kavousi, Gournia, and Vrokastro surveys. With its nice harbours and location on an overland route, which connected the site to other coastal settlements, not to mention the elevated inland area of the Lasithi plateau, we believe that Khavania was a vital node in both inter- and intra-island interaction networks at various times in antiquity. As a result, our overall goal of research at Khavania is to study the development of the site, especially in terms of its local, East Cretan, and broader island-wide socio-political, economic, and ideological relationships. In other words, we hope to provide context to an important settlement in a little investigated area of East Crete.

The Khavania Archaeological Project ran for fifteen sweltering days this summer, between July 19th and August 6th. Our original goals for the 2020 field season, which we had cancel because of the COVID-19 pandemic, were fivefold: 1) to develop an understanding of the history of settlement and land use in the hinterland of Khavania through intensive survey; 2) to augment our existing architectural plan of the site itself through further documentation of newly-exposed anthropogenic features; 3) to produce a geomorphological study of the peninsula; 4) to develop an understanding of social, political, and economic development in and around Khavania through study of the portable material collected during survey; and 5) to lay the groundwork for future archaeological work at the site.

Sophianna Drakaki (photograph by R.D. Fitzsimons).

Owing to continued limitations, namely restrictions placed on travel and student participation, we had to alter the scope of our intended research plan, concentrating on the peninsula itself. Thankfully, we were able to put together a crack team of highly-skilled and lighthearted individuals consisting of Rafał Bieńkowski (PhD student, Polish Academy of Sciences), Dr. Lily Bonga, Alice Crowe (PhD student, University of Cincinnati), Sara Hilker (PhD student, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), and Charles Sturge (PhD student, University of Cincinnati). Sophianna Drakaki served as our Epoptria. It was truly a pleasure working with each and every one of these individuals and we thank them for their expertise and good humour during some beastly days in the field. Seriously, what’s with consistent days of 38-40°C weather?

Rafał Bieńkowski manning the UAV (photograph by R.D. Fitzsimons).

There were three components of research for the summer 2021 season: 1) documentation and cleaning of visible architectural features on the peninsula; 2) intensive pedestrian survey of the  peninsula; and 3) study of material remains collected during the 2019 field season. As the site had been thoroughly cleaned of vegetation since we had last been there (summer 2019), we began our season by systematically walking it to document newly revealed architectural features. In addition, we employed a UAV (drone) to take aerial images to assist us in this endeavor. When we identified new features, we provided them with a proper designation in accordance with the system we had created in 2019. These were then incorporated into our site plan, using a total station, generously loaned to us by the INSTAP Study Center for East Crete. In addition to documenting and cleaning new features, we also cleaned several that we identified in 2019. Our decision to clean certain walls was based on one or a combination of the following objectives: to reveal stretches of walls that potentially communicated with others, to determine the type of features, to reveal inside/outside faces, to correct or adjust drawings, and/or to provide more general information. Once walls were cleaned, we began the documentation process, which consisted of drawing, photographing (including high resolution photography for photogrammetric modeling), measuring, and describing features on standardized field forms. During the last two days of the project, after all walls had been cleaned, we conducted a series of drone flights to acquire aerial photographs for the purpose of creating new, accurate orthophotos and photogrammetric three-dimensional models of the site.

Sarah Hilker cleaning Wall 8 (photograph by R.D. Fitzsimons).

Despite our limitations, we had an incredibly productive summer. We discovered 24 new architectural features at the site, all of which were fragments of ancient walls. Several additional possible features were left unrecorded because they consisted of single stones or were only minimally visible. Excavation is required in order to determine their true nature. We cleaned 24 architectural features: 19 previously-identified features and 5 newly-identified ones. These were all drawn, photographed, and integrated into our overall site plan. To date, 77 architectural features, including a quarry, have been identified and fully documented on the Khavania peninsula. Most extent features were identified on the western and northwestern slopes, while several others can be found on the southeastern slope. Few remains were found on the summit of the peninsula, since it is heavily eroded.

Alice Crowe cleaning Wall 12 (photograph by R.D. Fitzsimons).

Partial outlines of at least three independent buildings have been identified on the Khavania peninsula. The remains of one large structure (ca. 100m2 measurable extant area) can be seen on the northern slope of the peninsula. The northern façade of this structure (W17) is impressive with a maximum width of ca. 1.80m (average width is 1.40m). Walls 17–19 are well-bonded, clearly indicating that this part of the building was built in one phase. In addition, W17 sits on a projecting plinth course. This is a sophisticated architectural technique used to stabilize buildings. Finally, as W15 abuts W17 it is clear that later additions were made to this edifice. Another building comprised of walls W8–12, 38, and 42 (ca. 116m2 measurable extant area) appears just below the summit of the promontory on the north side. This building appears to have been constructed in two phases. Finally, a third building comprised of walls W3–6 and 35 can be seen to the west of the site’s summit (ca. 143m2 measurable extant area). Like our second building, this one is also multi-phased. The architectural remains at Khavania attest to the presence of several monumental buildings, perhaps official buildings. Unfortunately, at present without proper systematic excavations, we cannot determine whether the buildings at the site are all contemporary. The difference in orientation between some buildings and individual architectural features suggests that this is not the case.

The Khavania team surveying the north slope of the peninsula (photograph by R.D. Fitzsimons).

The second component of our research program involved intensive pedestrian survey of the peninsula. The survey was conducted with a view toward determining the general settlement history of the site, to determine spatial patterning, specifically as it pertains to defining the site boundaries for each period of use, and to establish a comprehensive ceramic profile and sequence. To complete this goal, team members walked transects within predetermined areas, side-by-side, and spaced at equal distances apart. As they were walking, they scanned the ground for artifacts and picked up all identifiable ones and bagged them. At the end of each day, the artifacts were brought to the Ayios Nikolaos Museum for storage and future study. This survey produced more than 1,500 ceramic sherds, as well as fragments of mudbricks, roof tiles, ground stone tools, and chipped stone artifacts, as well as one (exploded) fragment of a WWII era mortar shell. Although the pottery has yet to be cleaned and studied, our ceramicist is happy to report that Late Minoan II materials are present at the site. This is an interesting development, since Late Minoan II ceramics rarely appear in East Cretan contexts.

Matt Buell, Sophianna Drakaki, and Charles Sturge examining some of the survey pottery in the Ayios Nikolaos Museum (photograph by R.D. Fitzsimons).

Finally, all materials collected from our 2019 season were washed in the Ayios Nikolaos apothiki. The prehistoric pottery was studied by Charles Sturge this summer, while Jane Francis (Concordia University) will conduct the analysis of historical materials over the winter break. Lily Bonga will photograph and draw our material. The prehistoric ceramic assemblage consists of all fabrics (coarse, medium, cooking, fine). Identifiable shapes include amphorae, basins, bowls, cooking pots, cooking trays, cups, dishes, gutters, jars, jugs, loomweights, and pithoi. The prehistoric periods represented include Early Minoan II, Middle Minoan II, Middle Minoan III, Late Minoan IA and IB, Late Minoan II, and Late Minoan IIIA-C. The majority of the identifiable pottery can be attributed to the Late Minoan I period, though Prepalatial and Late Minoan III remains are common.

Plan of the site of Khavania (digital image by D.M. Buell and R. Bieńkowski).

In terms of future work at the site, the pottery that we collected this summer still needs to be washed and studied. We hope to complete this goal during the Winter of 2022. It is our hope to initiate a two-year, multinational, and interdisciplinary excavation project soon. Finally, we would like to express our thanks to all of those who helped and supported us this summer, including Jonathan Tomlinson, Jacques Perreault, and Brendan Burke at the Canadian Institute in Greece, Tom Brogan and Eleanor Huffman at the INSTAP East Crete Study Center, and Vance Watrous. We also thank the Bagnani Trust and the Institute for the Study of Aegean Prehistory for their generous financial support.

D. Matthew Buell & Rodney D. Fitzsimons
Concordia University & Trent University; co-directors of KAP