Article

Parting the waters. Middle Palaeolithic archaeology in the central Ionian Sea

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Abstract

This paper sets out a conceptual framework based on the idea of connectivity, and the research design that informs a series of surveys and excavations in the central Ionian Sea targeting the Palaeolithic record. It highlights the importance of mapping the now submerged topography to get a better understanding of the relevant palaeogeography, and its wider implications for hominin settlement, landscape preferences and pathways of dispersal and expansion from mainland Greece into the Inner Ionian Archipelago and Lefkas. It argues that the sea and the offshore islands are not marginal or irrelevant but central to an understanding of Palaeolithic settlement and land use, especially during periods of low sea level. At these times, many islands would have become hills in an extensive coastal plain, representing ideal habitats for hunters and gatherers.

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... Informed by a robust theoretical background from continental shelf prehistoric research (Bailey and Sakellariou 2012;Flemming et al. 2014;Bailey et al. 2017;2020) and by using state-of-the-art methodologies for the reconstruction of sea level changes, offshore work was initiated in 2014 in collaboration with the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research. The aim was to map the coastal and submerged landscapes of the archipelago's sea bed, between the west coasts of Akarnania and the islands of Lefkada and Ithaca (Zavitsanou et al. 2015;Zavitsanou 2016;Galanidou 2018). Seismic reflection profiles conveyed the palaeogeographic evolution of the area during Marine Isotope Stages 2, 6 and 8 (Galanidou et al. in prep.). ...
... In Greece, Middle Palaeolithic technology is regularly associated with the Neanderthals. The possibil-ity of Neanderthal presence on Atokos is closely related to the archipelago's particular geographic area, which is bordered by the larger lands that surround and protect it, possibly acting as a 'laboratory' for experimentation and familiarisation with the aquatic element and a field for exploring and developing the skills and techniques required for successfully crossings the sea (Papoulia 2017;Galanidou 2018). ...
... Judging from the absence of co-finds that may be safely attributed to a Lower Palaeolithic technocomplex, our hypothesis is that the particular assemblage of 'early-looking' tool types comprise an element of the predominant Middle Palaeolithic component that is abundant in the archipelago, perhaps an early Middle Palaeolithic one (Papoulia 2017;. If we take into account the preliminary results from the ongoing excavation of the collapsed Panthera Cave at Kythros that provided an age of about 200,000 years (Galanidou 2018), an early Middle Palaeolithic component of approximately the same age may be proposed for the limited presence of large cutting or chopping tools that were discovered on Kythros' surface during the Inner Ionian Archipelago survey (Fig. 2.3) (Papoulia 2018, 316-317). ...
... Informed by a robust theoretical background from continental shelf prehistoric research (Bailey and Sakellariou 2012;Flemming et al. 2014;Bailey et al. 2017;2020) and by using state-of-the-art methodologies for the reconstruction of sea level changes, offshore work was initiated in 2014 in collaboration with the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research. The aim was to map the coastal and submerged landscapes of the archipelago's sea bed, between the west coasts of Akarnania and the islands of Lefkada and Ithaca (Zavitsanou et al. 2015;Zavitsanou 2016;Galanidou 2018). Seismic reflection profiles conveyed the palaeogeographic evolution of the area during Marine Isotope Stages 2, 6 and 8 (Galanidou et al. in prep.). ...
... In Greece, Middle Palaeolithic technology is regularly associated with the Neanderthals. The possibil-ity of Neanderthal presence on Atokos is closely related to the archipelago's particular geographic area, which is bordered by the larger lands that surround and protect it, possibly acting as a 'laboratory' for experimentation and familiarisation with the aquatic element and a field for exploring and developing the skills and techniques required for successfully crossings the sea (Papoulia 2017;Galanidou 2018). ...
... Judging from the absence of co-finds that may be safely attributed to a Lower Palaeolithic technocomplex, our hypothesis is that the particular assemblage of 'early-looking' tool types comprise an element of the predominant Middle Palaeolithic component that is abundant in the archipelago, perhaps an early Middle Palaeolithic one (Papoulia 2017;. If we take into account the preliminary results from the ongoing excavation of the collapsed Panthera Cave at Kythros that provided an age of about 200,000 years (Galanidou 2018), an early Middle Palaeolithic component of approximately the same age may be proposed for the limited presence of large cutting or chopping tools that were discovered on Kythros' surface during the Inner Ionian Archipelago survey (Fig. 2.3) (Papoulia 2018, 316-317). ...
Conference Paper
The Inner Ionian Archipelago, delimited by the coasts of Akarnania to the east and Lefkada, Kefalonia and Ithaca to the west, is characterised by coastal lowlands, extended and intricate shorelines, complex inland topography, little arable land, seasonal and perennial wetlands and a karstic landscape featuring caves, rockshelters, dolines, and basins some of which are partly or totally submerged. Since 2010, the Teleboides, the northern cluster of islands, were at the focus of an intensive surface survey organised by the University of Crete in collaboration with the Ephorates of Αitoloakarnania and Lefkada, and Kefalonia and Ithaca. The survey project coupled with targeted small-scale excavation was designed to investigate the history of occupation and the cultural intercon-nections with settlements on the opposite mainland and the larger islands of the Ionian Sea. Between 2010 and 2012, through archaeological surface reconnaissance, our team covered an area of a little less than 7 km 2 on Meganisi, Thileia, Kythros, Tsokari, Petalou, Nisopoula, Phormikoula, Madouri, Atokos and Arkoudi. During the survey 30 sites dating from the Palaeolithic to the 19th century, with a hiatus between Late Antiquity and the 18th century, were discovered and mapped, and 20,000 portable artefacts were recovered. The finds bridge the gap between the archaeological record of the Ionian Sea and that of mainland Greece. In this paper we present the research objectives, the methodology of what we have termed a hybrid island archaeology approach, and the main results of the project based on the portable finds that span the Middle Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age.
... In this paper we report research on the lithology and raw material provenance of knapped stone artifacts recovered from prehistoric sites on Meganisi ( architecture, ecology and oceanography specialists worked together in the field under the aegis of the 'Inner Ionian Sea Archaeological Survey' to reconstruct the long-term history of the northern part of the archipelago, namely the Teleboides islands, both cultural and natural. The time frame of the cultural history was wide, from the Palaeolithic period to the 20 th century (Galanidou, 2014;2015;2018;Galanidou et al., 2018). The backbone of the research was archaeological surface survey. ...
... In this paper we report research on the lithology and raw material provenance of knapped stone artifacts recovered from prehistoric sites on Meganisi ( architecture, ecology and oceanography specialists worked together in the field under the aegis of the 'Inner Ionian Sea Archaeological Survey' to reconstruct the long-term history of the northern part of the archipelago, namely the Teleboides islands, both cultural and natural. The time frame of the cultural history was wide, from the Palaeolithic period to the 20 th century (Galanidou, 2014;2015;2018;Galanidou et al., 2018). The backbone of the research was archaeological surface survey. ...
... The islands of the archipelago are the higher parts of a Pleistocene terrestrial landscape, much of which now lies submerged beneath the sea due to the postglacial sea-level rise (Zavitsanou et al., 2015;Sakellariou and Galanidou, 2017). Investigations were framed in such a way as to reconstruct the dynamic change which the Inner Ionian area has undergone through time and the responses and interaction of human populations to the changing landscape (Galanidou, 2018). In glacial periods the majority of the islands were connected to the neighbouring landmasses. ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper examines the lithology and raw material provenance of knapped stone artifacts recovered from prehistoric sites on Meganisi in the course of the Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago survey. Research was twofold: in the field to map the geology of the island and collect raw material samples, and in the laboratory to conduct a petrological study using LM, XRD, SEM and ICP-MS techniques. The greater part of the materials used to produce stone tools consists of almost pure SiO2, bedded or nodular cherts mainly of Malm–Turonian and Eocene ages. The cherts were collected by prehistoric knappers from local sources. Patinas present on the artifacts are relatively enriched in calcite material of incomplete silica diagenesis and subsequently a product of late weathering and alteration.
... Thus, the area between the present-day island of Lefkada /western Greek mainland and the islands/islets of the Ionian archipelago formed an exposed terrestrial landscape during the glacial periods of the Late Pleistocene. The archaeological implications have been the focus of the archaeological research conducted on the islands in parallel with the underwater survey highlighting the importance of interdisciplinarity in the exploration of hominins over changing landscapes (Galanidou 2018). (2018), more recently, conducted oceanographic research in the Saronikos Gulf, using high-resolution seismic tomography (multibeam echosounders of two different frequencies) for the acquisition of 5000 km of seismic lines. ...
... Some of the key -find-spots attributed to the LP are located along the coasts of W. Greece (Preveza and Acheron valley locations), and on the Ionian islands (Corfu, Keffalonia, Lefkada). Recently, insular archaeological investigation coupled with seabed mapping in the Inner Ionian Sea archipelago produced exciting results (Galanidou 2018). The finds refer to the Middle Palaeolithic, but the whole expedition stresses how crucial the investigation of the sea and the offshore islands can be for enhancing our understanding of the Palaeolithic settlement, land use and pathways of dispersal -both terrestrial and marine. ...
Thesis
This thesis explores possibilities for hominin movement and occupation over the exposed dry land landscapes of the Aegean region during the Early and Middle Pleistocene (focusing more on the Middle Pleistocene ca. 0.8- 0.2 Mya). The point of departure and inspiration is the recent palaeogeographical reconstructions from the study area. Geological evidence reveals the existence of extended terrestrial landscapes, with attractive environments, connecting western Anatolia to Europe via the Greek mainland, during the glacial lowstands of the Middle Pleistocene, and possibly during certain interglacials. These lands are now lost, lying underwater, but, in spatial terms, a completely new spectrum of possibilities opens up for hominins moving across or settling over this part of Eurasia, affecting the wider narrative regarding the early settlements out of Africa. Yet, the research potential of the submerged landscapes of the Aegean has not been fully integrated in the way(s) we study and interpret the Lower Palaeolithic evidence from this region. The discussion about the early colonisation of Europe has been long focused on the western part of the continent due to the abundance of available evidence. The wider Aegean region was excluded, until recently, as a ‘cul de sac’ that blocked movement and dispersal towards the west, representing a gap in the European Lower Palaeolithic archive, with very little to contribute in terms of material culture or hominin fossil evidence. Advances in palaeogeography and geoarchaeology and exciting new finds urging now for a reconsideration. Could the Aegean exposed lands provide land bridges for movement and favourable niches for occupation, offering perhaps an eastern gateway to Europe during the Early and Middle Pleistocene? In order to answer these questions I drew information from archaeology and palaeoanthropology, palaeozoology and palaeoenvironments, and geology and palaeogeography. These multiple lines of evidence have been synthesised within an affordance-based GIS framework, which centres on the relationship between the hominins and their ‘affording’ world. The new methodological scheme developed here led to new hypotheses and scenarios of movement and occupation, predicting areas in the Aegean, onshore and offshore, with increased research potential for the Lower Palaeolithic, based on the level of suitability for the hominin survival, subsistence and dispersal. The findings of my study suggest that despite the serious methodological challenges imposed by landscape dynamics, temporal limitations and extensive discontinuities in the archaeological record, a cross - and inter - disciplinary approach can help us gain valuable insights into the nature of the past landscapes and land use by hominins. In this respect, the complex topography concept and the concept of affordances constitute the backbone of my approach. The first, by setting out the background against which suitability was built, and the second, by attributing a lived and experienced element into the past landscape. The contribution of this study is twofold: (a) offers a framing heuristic, to the newly founded discipline of the continental shelf prehistoric research, for testing further ideas on hominin movement and occupation in dynamic environments; and (b) proposes trans-Aegean corridors of opportunity for dispersal and occupation areas, complementing the current Lower Palaeolithic narrative with a potential eastern gateway to Europe.
... The first project 'Exploring the Submerged Caves and Prehistoric Landscapes of the Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago' is focussed on the coastal and inundated landscape of the semienclosed marine area between the western coast of Central Greece (Akarnania), and the islands of Lefkas, Kephallinia and Ithaca. The point of departure is the record of Middle Palaeolithic sites on Lefkas and the islands and islets of the Inner Ionian Sea (Galanidou 2015(Galanidou , 2018Galanidou et al. 2016bGalanidou et al. , 2018Papoulia 2017Papoulia , 2018. The area was frequented by Neanderthal groups and the palaeogeography of settlement, and the nature of the interconnections between the present-day islands would have been especially sensitive to sea-level change. ...
... With a single exception, that of Atokos, the islands of the Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago were connected to the mainland during low sealevel stands and easily accessible on foot. The archaeology of Atokos has significant implications for the early history of sea crossings in a semi-enclosed and protected sea where the destination was visible and close at hand (Galanidou 2018;Papoulia 2018). Further out to sea, to the south-west, the islands of Kephallinia and Ithaca have remained separated from the mainland throughout the last 300 kyr. ...
Chapter
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The submerged archaeology of Greece extends from the Palaeolithic to the early Byzantine period. It offers valuable information on some of the critical themes of Eurasian prehistory: hominin dispersals, settlement patterns, strategies of survival, population movements and sea voyaging, communication and trade, high-energy destructive events and climate change. This overview focuses on the prehistoric record. It includes partly or fully submerged palaeontological sites as well as archaeological sites. All these are testimonies to the more extensive coastal mosaic of biotopes that were available to prehistoric people prior to c. 4000 cal BP in the Holocene and during the cold and arid periods of the Pleistocene. They show coastal and maritime lifeways in dynamically changing landscapes connecting Asia and Europe. They are now located on the Greek continental shelf due to eustatic and isostatic change as well as the heavy imprint of tectonic activity.
... Lithic finds from Loutro (Mortensen, 2008), Gavdos (Kopaka & Matzanas, 2009), and the Plakias region provided documentation for human presence on and off the south coast of Crete, subsequently leading to the suggestion for seafaring in the Mediterranean during the Palaeolithic (Strasser, et al., 2010;Strasser, et al., 2011;Kopaka & Matzanas, 2011). Human habitation on insular settings possibly dating to the MP was later documented in more sites on Crete and other parts of the Aegean, as well as in the Ionian (Ferentinos, et al., 2012;Papoulia, 2017, Galanidou, 2018. The discussion on possible Pleistocene marine dispersals has evolved, as well as the multitude of approaches (Runnels, 2014;Phoca-Cosmetatou, et al., 2014;Howitt-Marshall & Runnels, 2016;Papoulia, 2017). ...
... Although still received with caution by part of the archaeological community, it is interesting to examine the way in which the discussion on possible Pleistocene marine dispersals has evolved, as well as the multitude of approaches (Runnels, Early Palaeolithic on the Greek islands?, 2014; Phoca-Cosmetatou, Rabett, Galanidou, Broodbank, Runnels, & Leppard, 2014;Howitt-Marshall & Runnels, 2016;Papoulia, 2017) It was the lithic finds from Loutro (Mortensen, 2008), Gavdos (Kopaka & Matzanas, 2009), and the Plakias region (Strasser et al. 2010) that provided documentation for human presence on and off the south coast of Crete, subsequently leading to the suggestion for seafaring in the Mediterranean during the Palaeolithic (Strasser, et al., 2010;Strasser, et al., 2011;Kopaka & Matzanas, 2011). Human habitation on insular settings possibly dating to the Middle Palaeolithic was later documented in more sites on Crete (Runnels, McCoy, Bauslaugh, & Murray, 2014) and other parts of the Aegean-Alonissos, Ayios Petros, Ai Stratis, Milos, Naxos, as well as in the Ionian (Ferentinos, Gkioni, Geraga, & Papatheodorou, 2012;Galanidou, 2018). The main problem behind the controversial theories of Pleistocene sea-crossings in the Aegean lies on poor knowledge of prehistoric coastline geography-although important research on this topic has been published for some regions (Sakellariou & Galanidou, 2016), and the insecure chronological context of the scarce Palaeolithic finds from most, if not all, islands. ...
Poster
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ABSTRACT A growing corpus of finds dated to the Palaeolithic from islands in the Aegean has changed the archaeological community’s perspective on the earliest occupation of oceanic islands and the capacity of pre-sapiens hominins to make successful sea crossings. Some scholars have chosen to relate these marine dispersals with ancestral species such as Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis. This data has been compared with evidence of Pleistocene seafaring from the Pacific Ocean, as well as proposed sea-crossings of the Atlantic Ocean. Although the correlation of local finds with global perspectives of the past can and has been fruitful in many cases, the marine-route hominin dispersals theory in the Mediterranean has not thus far been well documented based more on inference rather than direct evidence. The majority of scholars deem the existing evidence, mainly from the Aegean, insufficient to support systematic sea faring activities on the Mediterranean or a sustained hominin presence on the Greek islands. The suggestion that a non-modern species, such Homo erectus, had inhabited islands in the Aegean or the Pacific during the Lower Palaeolithic is difficult to prove on the existing corpus of evidence, however it may equally be difficult to disprove. The debate has led both sides to extreme views, ultimately offering little to the better understanding of human mobility and modern behaviour during the Pleistocene. An alternative approach to the idea of early seaward dispersals will be discussed, interpreting local data based on the concept of glocalisation.
... Since 2015 I have headed excavations in the Panthera Cave on Kythros, a small, barren island in the central Ionian Sea. Our work on Kythros is yielding a rich and diverse Middle Palaeolithic record (Galanidou, 2018) and is tied to our long-term research in the Inner Ionian Archipelago and on Lefkas (Galanidou, 2015;. This research has a strong regional perspective and covers the coast, the islands and the seabed. ...
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Sea level indicators on Kyra Panagia and the small islands of Pelerissa and Aghios Petros show two events. A subsidence of the order of 30-50cm has occurred during the last thousand years, and this subsidence is limited to the western part of Kyra Panagia and its associated islands. Submerged terraces and small cliffs around Aghios Petros relate to sea level still stands deeper than 9m, and earlier than 7000 BP. There is some evidence for tectonic subsidence of 1.5m between 5000 BP and 1000 BP. -from Author
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A geophysical survey in the Inner Ionian Sea was conducted in June 2014 from the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (HCMR) aiming at the reconstruction of the palaeogeographical evolution of the study area during low sea level stands. Geophysical recordings of palaeo-sea level indicators, including prograding prodelta clinoforms and submerged marine terraces, provide enough data to reconstruct the location and traces of palaeo-shore lines during the Late Pleistocene low sea level stages.
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A major new survey of the prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies of Europe, this book reviews the newest information and interpretations for scientific research. Palaeolithic studies are at an exciting point of transition. The explosion in ethno-archaeological studies has fundamentally challenged our models and interpretations amongst all classes of data and at all spatial scales of analysis. Furthermore the traditional concerns of dating and quaternary studies have also passed through their own revolutions and palaeolithic archaeology is the direct beneficiary. Dr Gamble presents in an imaginative but comprehensive framework our changing perspectives of Europe's oldest societies.
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Humans evolved in Africa and colonized Eurasia in successive adaptive radiations, establishing themselves in Europe ca. one million years ago. It is assumed that these dispersals were by land through southwest Asia, or secondarily across the Strait of Gibraltar, because early hominins lacked the cognitive faculties and technical skills needed to cross the open Mediterranean. Such crossings are thought to have occurred only at the end of the Pleistocene, after ca. 11,000 years ago. This reasoning is challenged by the presence of early Palaeolithic artifacts on the Greek islands, suggesting that hominins made sea-crossings more than 130,000 years ago, and indicating that the Mediterranean—and by implication other seas—were at times open roads rather than barriers to hominin dispersals. © The Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2014
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Recent underwater archaeological investigations and marine geological surveys in Attica and the Cycladic islands provide solid archaeological markers for the estimation of the RSL fluctuation since prehistory. The area under study, the Attico-Cycladic massif with small tidal range, relative geo-tectonic stability and with ample archaeological remains that bear witness to past sea levels, provides an excellent laboratory for examining various contributions to local relative sea level changes. As a result, the study of the field data demonstrate a severe RSL change of ca. 4.00-6.00m or more around 4000 BC, ca. -3.00 -3.5m since Late Bronze Age/Mycenaean period (1550-1100 BC) and ca -2.50-2.80m (±0.30) since Classical/Hellenistic period (500-30 BC). The combined data can be used to correlate predictive sea-level curves, refine glacio-hydro-isostatic modelling approaches, and give insights for the prediction of future sea-level trends. Moreover, the results can advance the landscape reconstruction of Attica and the Cyclades in Classical antiquity and help inform current and develop-ing environmental policy and cultural management decisions on coastal and submerged archaeologi-cal sites in the Central Aegean.
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Recent genetic research suggests an expansion along the tropical coastline of the Indian Ocean, between 75,000 and 60,000 years ago, of the population which included the ancestors of all of the non-African human mitochondrial DNA lineages known today. In view of the arid sections along this coastal stretch, irregularly punctuated by resource-rich estuaries, and the crossings over open sea during the last leg to Australia/ New Guinea, this expansion would necessarily have involved the features of watercraft, portage of potable water, and adaptation to estuaries. These features could well have been the cultural basis for the rapid tropical dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa to Australia/ New Guinea.
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The subsidence rates of the Aegean margins during the Middle-Upper Pleistocene were evaluated based on new and historical seismic profiling data. High-resolution seismic profiling (AirGun, Sparker and 3.5 kHz) have shown that (at least) four major oblique prograding sequences can be traced below the Aegean marginal slopes at increasing subbottom depths. These palaeo-shelf break glacial delta sediments have been developed during successive low sea-level stands (LST prograding sequences), suggesting continuous and gradual subsidence of the Aegean margins during the last 400 ka. Subsidence rates of the Aegean margins were calculated from the vertical displacement of successive topset-to-foreset transitions (palaeo-shelf break) of the LST prograding sediment sequences.
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The coastal zone of western Greece from the Ambracian Gulf to the Albanian border is the, foreland of the great Pindos range. It is a complicated, actively rising landscape of limestone mountains and closed intra-montane basins. Archaeologically, this karst landscape is distinguished by numerous Middle Palaeolithic open-air sites embedded in the red sediments of the basins. In contrast,further inland, the river valleys of the western flank of the Pindos harbor only sparse cave and rockshelter sites of Upper Palaeolithic age. A land-use strategy in the Middle Palaeolithic focused on predictable and seasonally-dependable features of karstic origin. This long-term pattern of scheduled Neanderthal residential mobility took advantage of wetlands at fixed locations which provided essential resources such as flint, animals, and plants. As the climate deteriorated in the Upper Palaeolithic the exploitation of wetlands declined and humans turned to caves and rockshelters and the pursuit of game on the upland interfluves and in river gorges.