BMCR 2007.08.45

The Chrysokamino Metallurgy Workshop and its Territory

, The Chrysokamino Metallurgy Workshop and its Territory. Princeton, NJ: American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 2006. xxii, 462; ills., maps. $65.00 (pb).

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The volume under review, edited by Philip P. Betancourt, is a multidisciplinary study of the Bronze Age metallurgy workshop at Chrysokamino on Crete. The Minoan workshop is located on the eastern coast of the Gulf of Mirabello in a region of terraced hillsides and cliffs, west of modern Kavousi. Archaeological fieldwork was conducted between 1995 and 1997. Excavations took place in the location of the metallurgy workshop, which was abandoned in EM III, and in a nearby habitation site, used until LM III. An intensive surface survey in the territory revealed a burial cave and human activities in the area dating from the Early Neolithic period onwards.

The book is organized into three parts, reflecting the research project’s structure (p. 18): Part I (chapters 1-2) presents an overview of the topography and the natural environment (pp. 3-44); Part II (chapters 3-14) discusses the excavation results in the area of the copper smelting place, the Chrysokamino site, and its role in early metallurgical practice (pp. 47-189); Part III (chapters 5-22) describes the surface survey and its implications (pp. 193-278). In fourteen appendices (Appendix α complementary and basic details of the interdisciplinary investigations, primarily scientific in nature, are given (pp. 281-432). The book concludes with a series of tables, numerous photographs, plans, references and an index.

The focus of the project is very clear. The main goal was to develop a good diachronic understanding of the Minoan metallurgy workshop and the local territory with respect to its settlement, economy, and land use (p. xix).

The volume begins with a brief foreword by Philip P. Betancourt that aims to record the project’s origins and to point out the interdisciplinary teamwork. Betancourt notes that 32 scholars contributed to the publication.

In Part I, Betancourt describes the natural environment of the Chrysokamino territory, which is occupied by three main sites: a farmstead on Chomatas hill last inhabited in LM IIIB, the metallurgy site ca. 600 m northwest of it, and a burial cave named Theriospelio found northeast of the metallurgy location (pp. 9-10). The region of Chrysokamino has relatively few natural resources. The topography does not support a good road system and access to the sea is limited (p. 38). Among the three sites, only the farmstead has evidence for long-term occupation. The marginal environmental conditions from Neolithic times onwards could never have supported a large population. The geological survey recorded no trace of copper ore (p. 41), although copper deposits exist elsewhere on Crete.

Part II focuses on the excavations results and is presented by an interdisciplinary team of scholars. Excavations concentrated on the metallurgical site indicated by a slag heap on a cliff at the bottom of a hill. An apsidal structure to the southwest was probably partly roofed as a windbreak, and this was interpreted by the excavators as a small kitchen associated with the workshop (pp. 63-66). Dispersed pottery found within the slag dates from Final Neolithic to EM III (p. 67). According to Betancourt, the foundation of the site must predate the EM III apsidal structure, so the main phase of the workshop was in EM III (p. 61). In addition to pottery, finds included stone tools (chapter 6, pp. 99-108), furnace chimney fragments (chapter 7, pp. 109-123), pot-bellow fragments (chapter 8, pp. 125-136), slag, copper prills (chapter 10, pp. 137-147), faunal (chapter 11, pp. 149-152) and botanic remains (chapter 12, pp. 153-154). The stone tools were few in number and made of local material (p. 100). The industrial ceramics include fragments with a slight curvature, indicating that they are from cylinders with diameters of ca. 16-44 cm. While their heights are not known, they must have been used as chimneys over bowl furnaces built into the ground in locations that have not been discovered yet. (p. 112). Some of the pot-bellow fragments were associated with White-on-Dark Ware and date from EM III. They are all made from a type of Mirabello Fabric consisting of local clay. Faunal and botanical remains indicate that agriculture played an important role in local subsistence (pp. 150-151; p. 154).

In light of the preceding discussion, James D. Muhly interprets the remains of the Chrysokamino workshop as evidence for very early metallurgy in Crete (chapter 13, pp. 155-177). The EM III metallurgists used a wind-powered smelting technology (p. 177), supported by pot-bellows. Since the lead isotope pattern of the copper slag from Chrysokamino matches Kythnos and Laurion (N. Gale und Z. Stos: Appendix C, pp. 299-319), the ore must have been shipped in by sea (chapter 14, pp. 179-196; p. 181).. A political or economic authority directing the workshop and the local industry might be envisioned as early as the EM III period.

The special purpose of the survey was to obtain information about Bronze Age land management and to place the site in a historical context (Part III, pp. 193-278). The main habitation site is characterized by its proximity to natural building materials, good water supply, and a ravine leading to a harbour. It also is elevated and controls a position far away from the marshes, which would have had mosquitoes (p. 260). The Theriospelio cave seems to be used for the local community’s burials; further excavations at this place will give more details (p. 262). Settlement in the Kavousi region grew since the Final Neolithic. The archaeological records of Mochlos, Pseira and Gournia reflect developments at Chrysokamino and its territory. The prosperous phase ended with destructions throughout the region. The final stage overlapped with MM IA at Knossos. According to Betancourt, in the Middle Bronze Age, an expanding state centered at Gournia controlled the economy of this region. (p. 264). As elsewhere in this part of Crete, the habitation site at Chrysokamino was abandoned in LM IIIB (p. 273). The system of land use and the few territorial boundaries suggest a possible kin-based relationship with the inhabitants of the Kouvousi region.

With a full bibliography (pp. 433-455) and thorough discussion of the history of metallurgy in the Mediterranean and early settlements in Crete, this volume is a worthwhile contribution to the knowledge of land use management and early industrial activity (cf. Betancourt, chapters 14, 21, 22; Muhly, chapter 13 and Haggis, chapter 19) The reconstruction of the proto-shaft furnace types by Muhly seems plausible, suggesting seasonal work performed in late summer to early fall. ). The purpose of the apsidal structures is uncertain and evidence that the Chrysokamino workshop, the farmstead and the Theriospelio burial cave formed one social unit is lacking. The argument that the LM I farmhouse at Chrysokamino must have controlled the whole territory of Chrysokamino (p. 268) is unconvincing, because the farmhouse is very small and seems to have consisted of a single building. There are a number of scattered small domestic buildings that occupied the landscape in the Kavousi region as well. The critical remarks above should not diminish the multidisciplinary results given in this book. Its strength lies in the detailed report describing archaeological fieldwork methods as well as presenting and discussing the archaeological and scientific data of this important metallurgical site in Eastern Crete.


Part I: The Chrysokamino Territory

P. Betancourt: Introduction, 3

Ph. P. Betancourt, W. R. Farrand: The Natural Environment, 19

Part II: The Metallurgy Workshop

Ph. P. Betancourt, J. D. Muhly, E. A. Armpis, R. S. Powell, E. B. Shank, E. Sikla, T. Yangaki: The Excavation of the Metallurgy Workshop, 47

Ph. P. Betancourt: The Apsidial Structure, 55

Ph. P. Betancourt: The Pottery, 67

D. Evely: The Stone Tools, 99

Ph. P. Betancourt: The Furnace Chimney Fragments, 109

Ph. P. Betancourt, J. D. Muhly: The Pot Bellows, 125

S. C. Ferrence, B. Koukaras: Micellaneous Ceramic Artifacts, 133

Ph. P. Betancourt: Other Metallurgical Material, 137

D. S. Reese: Faunal Remains, 149

G. Jones, A. Schofield: Evidence for the Use of Threshing Remains at the Early Minoan Metallurgical Workshop, 153

J. D. Muhly: Chrysokamino in the History of Early Metallurgy, 155

Ph. P. Betancourt: Discussion of the Workshop and Reconstruction of the Smelting Practices, 179

Part III: The Surface Survey

Ph. P. Betancourt: Introduction to the Surface Survey, 193

L. Onyshkevych, W. B. Hafford: Topography of the Chrysokamino Region, 197

Ch. R. Floyd, A Summary of the Habitation Site at Chrysokamino-Chomatas, 205

Ph. P. Betancourt, Ch. R. Floyd: Edith Hall`s Excavations in the Theriospelio Cave, 215

D. C. Haggis, Chrysokamino in Context: A Regional Archaeological Survey, 221

Ph. P. Betancourt: The geographic Boundaries of the Chrysokamino Farmstead Territory, 233

Ph. P. Betancourt: Land Use on the Chrysokamino Farmstead, 241

Ph. P. Betancourt: Survey Conclusions, 257


G. H. Myer, Ph. P. Betancourt: Petrography and X-Ray Diffraction Analysis of Slags and Furnace Chimneys (ἀ, 281

Y. Bassiakos: SEM Analysis (β 293

Z. Stos, N. Gale: Lead Isotope and Chemical Analysis of Slags from Chrysokamino (ξ 299

S. C. Ferrence, Ch. P. Swann: Arsenic Content of Copper Prills: A Study Applying πιχε 321

Ch. M. Thompson: Slag Analysis by Wavelength Dispersive Spectrometry (ἐ, 325

Y. Bassiakos, M. Catapotis: Reconstruction of the Copper Smelting Process at the Chrysokamino Bases on the Analysis of Ore and Slag Samples (φ 329

Ph. P. Betancourt, L. Onyshkevych, W. B. Hafford: Register of Anthropogenic Features (γ 355

Ph. P. Betancourt: The Minoan Pottery from the Survey (ἠ, 377

S. C. Ferrence, E. B. Shank: Evidence for Beekeeping (ἰ, 391

N. Poulou-Papadimitriou: The Byzantine to Ottoman Pottery from the Survey (J), 393

B. Crowell, Ph. P. Betancourt: The Excavation of Cave AF 9 and Terrace AF 22b (κ 399

E. Nodarou: Soils and Sediments from Natural Deposits at Chrysokamino (λ 403

R. F. Beeston, J. Palatinus, C. Beck, E. C. Stout: Organic Residue Analysis of Pottery Sherds from Chrysokamino (λ 413

E. Nodarou: Petrographic Analysis of Two Final Neolithic Sherds from the Chrysokamino Metallurgy Location (ν 429.