Beyond the polis


Itanos (Eastern Crete)

Itanos is a city-harbour located in Eastern Crete. The site had an important maritime role as revealed by Herodotus (4.151). The author mentions the significance of the city in the Greek colonization of Cyrene in Lybia. The archaeological record shows that the site was occupied from the 10th c. B.C. to the 6th c. AD. No evidence of Bronze Age activity has been found so far, despite the island’s strong role in the Mycenaean and Minoan periods.

Earlier excavations focused on the urban centre of the city, and the University of Brussels has been conducting fieldwork in the North Necropolis since 1996. The recent campaigns in this zone brought to light a densely occupied cemetery dated to the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods (4th–1st c. BC), and early funerary activity, with pits, dated to the Geometric – Orientalizing periods (8th and 7th c. BC). The project funded by the Foundation will concentrate on a partly excavated building in this zone, dated to the late 7th-6th c. B.C., a period when, on current evidence,  the cemetery does not appear to have been in use. The material assemblage associated with this architectural complex suggests that it was used for communal feasting. The importance of this structure for the understanding of the social organization and funerary practices in Archaic Crete is vital since it is the only known example of communal activity in a cemetery during a period (the 6th c. B.C.) for which there is a lack of evidence on burial customs or funerary rituals in Crete. Further excavation of the building and surrounding area is needed to complete the plan of the architectural complex and to better understand its function and the nature of the surrounding structures, unearthed during the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. The study of the material yielded by the on-going excavations will shed further light on both the activities performed in this area and on the social identity of the group that met and commemorated in this place. 

D. Viviers, « Recherches archéologiques à Itanos (Crète orientale) », Revue archéologique (2009), 208-219 (in collaboration with Al. Duplouy, Al. Schnapp, A. Schnapp-Gourbeillon and Chr. Tsigonaki).