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Reconstruction of palaeoenvironmental changes and their impact on Bronze-Age cultures: A geoarchaeological research project in the in the Ida-Mountains, Central Crete
The joint project between archaeologists (Pre-history) and geographers (Physical Geography) focuses on the reconstruction of palaeoenvironments in the northern Ida Mountains, Central Crete. The study follows the hypothesis, that the region was intensely used and cultivated by Bronze-Age people who created a complex administration due to environmental conditions which were favourable for agriculture and pasture. In contrast to the Mid-Holocene, there are no more permanent settlements or agriculture at this altitude (1200 m a.s.l.) because of climatic disfavor. Thus, it is our aim to investigate the palaeoenvironmental conditions before and after the Bronze-Age, and to reconstruct the palaeo-landscape. The study will contribute to the ancient man-environmental interactions on Crete and to the understanding of the Holocene environmental and historical processes in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Topographical map of Crete with the study area (red rectangle).
The upland plain of Zominthos and the Minoan settlement complex (red dot, viewing direction to the west). A sequence of several karst depressions extends within the depth contour of the small valley in the middle of the image.
The environmental change is documented by sediments and soils. These deposits form geoarchives which are located in several basins and sinkholes of the karst landscape. The palaeoenvironmental reconstruction concentrates on sedimentary archives of an extensive plateau at the altitude of 1180 m a.s.l.. The physical and geochemical sediment-analyses of the deposits and their dating is crucial for the documentation of the geomorphodynamics with periods of high and low sedimentation- / erosion-rates, as well as the magnitude and frequency of human impacts. A comprehensive set of modern geoscientific methods is being used in order to find best drilling positions and to sample the geo-archives. For instance, refraction seismics, earth resistivity tomography and various drilling technologies are applied. The sediments and soil samples are analysed geochemically and mineralogically, while radiocarbondating, x-ray diffractometry and OSL-dating support our studies. Finally, the results will be visualized with GIS-software as a virtual digital landscape, which enables to present the data in a vivid and multi-temporal way.
A karst depression filled with fine grained loose sediments close to Zominthos. In the background, Timios Stavros rises up to 2456 m a.s.l. and constitutes the highest peak on the island of Crete.
3D-block diagram of the northern Ida Mountains, seen from the north-east. A satellite image was draped over a digital elevation model (SRTM) within a GIS environment to visualize the current topographical situation.