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  • Monastiraki Katalimata. Excavation of a Cretan Refuge Site, 1993-2000
  • David Rupp
Krzystof Nowicki . Monastiraki Katalimata. Excavation of a Cretan Refuge Site, 1993-2000 (with Forward by Metaxia Tsipopoulou). Prehistory Monographs 24. Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press, 2008. xxv, pp. 166, figs. 91, pls. 139. US $70.00 (Cloth). ISBN 13: 9781931534246

From the excavation at Monastiraki-Chalasmenos, the site of Monastiraki-Katalimata in the middle of the north cliff face of the Cha Gorge on the east side of the Isthmus of Ierapetra (Crete) seems very distant and remote. These essential truths are reinforced when ones sees from far below the lone excavator, Krysztof Nowicki, standing on the edge of Terrace C upper and dump a zembili full of dirt into the persistent the wind. At the beginning of the 20th century, Harriet Boyd's impression of the site via a "spyglass" as very inaccessible seems believable. Despite being a true "refuge settlement" of the 12th century BCE, it always has been accessible to intrepid, determined individuals through the present.

Nowicki's excavations in the 1990s, following up surface survey by Donald Haggis and him in 1990 (Haggis and Nowicki 1993), demonstrated that the series of ledges were inhabited both before and after the main period of use in the early Late Minoan IIIC. Unfortunately the visits of shepherds and hunters over the past century as well as natural rock falls and erosion have reduced significantly the architectural remains that were visible to Boyd from afar.

The excavation of Katalimata was conducted over five seasons, between them lasting 12 weeks in total. It was a project associated with the Greek American synergasia at the nearby and much lower mid-LM IIIC site of Chalasmenos directed by Dr. Metaxia Tsipopoulou (Hellenic Ministry of Culture) and the late Dr. William D.E. Coulson (American School of Classical Studies at Athens). For most of the time Nowicki was the sole excavator.

Access to the area of inhabitation is limited to a long narrow "Entry Path" that leads to the southwest from the scree of Papoura of the Thriphti Mountains to nine bedrock ledges. The ledges, three below the level of the path and five above it, vary in width and length. A secondary point of access from high above was guarded by walls at Epano Katalimata. Nowicki postulates a tripartite settlement pattern with at least ten units or houses/ "camps" (Buildings B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K and M?). Given the state of the preservation of the walls and the archaeological deposits as well as the time and resources available to him, Nowicki concentrated on the excavation of Building C on the relatively spacious (17 x 12 m) "Terrace C upper". The large (12 x 7 m) multi-room Building C has an internal area [End Page 296] of about 40 m2. In total "65 m2 were unearthed—approximately 50% of the entire area of Terrace C but about 70% of the part that could actually be excavated" (p. 3).

After an informative contextualization of the research and excavations (Forward) by Tsipopoulou and two chapters (Introduction and Topography of the Site) the majority of the publication under review deals with the excavation of Terrace C, its interpretation, the catalogues of finds, pottery groups and small finds and a reconstruction of the "History of Terrace C". The final Chapter 5 is "Monastiraki Katalimata and Cretan History."

Using the material from the original surface collections and the excavation as well as his previous extensive research in defensible sites (2000) Nowicki reconstructs six phases of occupation. The first apparently limited use of at least Terrace C was toward the end of Final Neolithic II (ca. 3500 BCE) when immigration to coastal regions by groups from the Dodecanese and southwestern Anatolia seemed to have forced native Cretans to seek refuge. What is difficult to explain is the complete absence of any evidence for use associated with the post-Early Minoan II destructions seen throughout the island. For a short period at the end of Middle Minoan IIB (ca. 1700 BCE) there must have been a widespread, serious threat of warfare as the destructions seen at many open, lowland sites attest...


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