Creating a Database to Study Landscape Archaeology in Eastern Crete (Classical-Venetian Period)

Nadia Coutsinas, Institute for Mediterranean Studies

Keywords:  Crete; Settlement Patterns; Landscape Archaeology; Database; GIS

Archaeological practices -or at least the processing of archaeological information – has been changed by the development of new technologies. They have made it much easier to deal with a great amount of information. They have facilitated the collection and the following interpretation of archaeological data, allowing the conduct of ambitious research programs dealing with a great amount of data.
This paper aims to detail the methodology (and especially the creation of the database) of a new research program, entitled Spatial Dynamics and Settlement Patterns in Eastern Crete from the Classical to the Venetian Period. Begun in December 2018, it is hosted at the Laboratory of Geophysical – Satellite Remote Sensing & Archaeoenvironment of the Institute for Mediterranean Studies – Foundation for Research and Technology, Hellas, in Rethymno.
Through an interdisciplinary approach  combining a careful “reading” of historical and archaeological evidence with the spatial analysis offered by the application of new technologies in archaeological research  this project will attempt to highlight the developments of the settlement patterns in Eastern Crete from the Classical to the Venetian period. How can we differentiate towns, villages, hamlets and farmsteads? What are the key elements that can help understand the location of settlements? The agricultural lands and water sources? The economic factors (production centres and harbours)? Or the political factors? The main goal is to enlighten the transition from the ancient autonomous city-states to the medieval cities and villages. Concentrating on the eastern part of Crete, it will be the occasion to see how, on a same territory but on a long chronological period, population has organized itself, balancing between a centralized and a disseminated mode of settlement.

Methods used in the study
The project is based on already published material. What makes it special is its innovative research methodology, the diachronic approach, and the use of new technologies.
The project stands out by its very innovative research methodology, combining a careful reading of historical and archaeological evidence with the spatial analysis offered by the application of new technologies in archaeological research, to enlighten the settlement history of a region. The geographical data is usually neglected in human sciences, this is why the project is very distinct from what has been done up to know (for a spatial analysis of settlement patterns in Eastern Crete but at an earlier period, the Bronze Age, see Argyriou, Teeuw, Sarris 2017).
The diachronic approach is also very innovative. Projects are usually limited to a reduced chronological frame. We decided to have another point of view: to focus on a specific region, the eastern part of the island of Crete, but to study it through an extended time period, from the Classical times to the end of the Venetian occupation (for a view of the earlier period, see Coutsinas 2013). In that way, it will be possible to study the dynamics of the settlement patterns through changing political and administrative systems. Crete is a very rich island (considering the scale of Greece) and has always been very populated. The goal of the project is to put to light the different settlement patterns through, see their differences and their similarities, try to understand the multiple elements that influenced them.
The use of new technologies is necessary to deal with the large range of dovetailing issues that will be tackled by the project. They will facilitate spatial analysis and the management and analysis of the numerous historical and archaeological data recorded through the project. The creation of a Web site will help to the dissemination of the methodology used and of the results, having thus more weight on the scientific community.
If not strictly interdisciplinary the project has a multidisciplinary approach of the scientific original questioning. As the study deals with a range of dovetailing issues, including initially defining territories, in terms of defence (which would involve the study of fortifications and borders), then addressing economic concerns (with the study of resources and products) and moving to a discourse on inter-city relations pertaining to each settlement, in order to understand the relationships with their neighbours. To these ends, a multidisciplinary approach will be necessary involving the fields of archaeology, epigraphy, economy, history and topographical and landscape archaeology.

Findings and argument
The discussion in this paper will focus on the creation of a poly-parametric database, from the creation of the conceptual model to the implementation of the database itself. As it has just begun, it is still a work in progress and final results can’t be presented, but only the methodology.
First step: creation of the conceptual model, necessary to analyse the entities, the concepts and their relations under study. We have decided to focus on 4 entities: the Town-Settlement, the Archaeological Evidence, the Written Sources and the Inscriptions.
Second step: on the basis of the conceptual model, a poly-parametric database has been created, crucial for the spatial correlation and statistical analysis. The goal is to place and correlate all the available information into a spatial context so as to facilitate the final analysis. Considering the amount of information that will be dealt with, the creation of a database is the sine qua non of the analysis. This is all the more important that different types of settlements are particularly numerous in Crete and their global study needs the facilities offered by modern techniques. The database will be joined spatially with a GIS platform and the digitized plans of the archaeological sites, and it will be crucial for the extraction of statistics through the merging of spatial and landscape data.

The project stands out by its very innovative methodology, using both historical and archaeological data, combined with the usually neglected geographical data to enlighten the settlement history of a region. This multi-disciplinary approach is very new in human sciences and makes the best use of the new technologies. More than just historical, the expected results will have a theoretical and methodological aspect that will mark a new step in research in the settlement patterns of the Mediterranean landscape.

Argyriou AV, Teeuw RM, Sarris A. 2017. “GIS-based landform classification of Bronze Age archaeological sites on Crete Island”. PLoS ONE 12, DOI:
Coutsinas, Nadia. 2013. “The Establishment of the City-States of Eastern Crete from the Archaic to the Roman Period.” CHS Research Bulletin 2, no. 1.
Huvila, I and Huggett, J. 2018. “Archaeological Practices, Knowledge Work and Digitalisation”. Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology, 1(1), 88–100, DOI: