Greek and Phoenician >colonisations< were two of the most influential migratory phenomena in the antiquity that shaped the history and culture of Mediterranean. The Greek >colonial< venture and the interaction with the Phoenicians or the >colonised< populations is the subject of several individual projects. There are two different approaches in the study of ancient mobility in this respect. On the one hand, the focus is on the study of the earliest phases of the Greek >colonisation< in the northern Aegean and Italy. On the other hand, we focus on the social and cultural interactions between the Aegean and the Phoenician world in eastern and western Mediterranean.


Origin, motivation, form, and perception of a large migration in antiquity

The darkest and yet most fascinating phase of the Greek colonization is its beginning. Motivation, form, and date of the first “colonial” expeditions are still highly debated. Current field work in the northern Aegean, particularly in the ancient cities of Mende on Chalkidike and Argilos in the Strymonic Gulf, has revealed new information and permits comparative analyses with the earliest Greek settlements in Italy. The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to conduct a comparative study of early Greek colonization in Macedonia and Italy during the Late Geometric and early Archaic periods.

Apoikismos | colonization | colonialism

In ancient Greek “apoikismos” refers to the abandonment of home and the subsequent settlement abroad. “Apoikismos” was translated in the modern period as “colonization” which is etymologically based on the Roman “colonia”, a military camp used to control the subjugated population. Nowadays, it is evident that this translation has connotations related to the ideology of the mighty western European colonial powers of the last centuries.

Mende: The earliest Greek colony in the northern Aegean

The study of early Greek “colonisation” is primarily based on the analysis of the archaeological material from the Early Iron Age and Archaic settlement phases of Mende which was one of the best-known Euboean colonies in the northern Aegean. Archaeological material from the earliest stratified contexts of this site has already been statistically and typologically analyzed with the aim of elucidating the cultural impact of Greek colonization in the region of Chalkidike.

Argilos: Pre- and early colonial pottery

Aspects of social and cultural identity of the indigenous precolonial and early colonial communities in the northern Aegean are further studied at Argilos that was “colonised” by the Cycladic island Andros in the 7th century BCE. The aim of pottery studies at this recently excavated – by Jacques Perreault and Zisis Bonias – “colonial” site is to elucidate the cultural diversity of a socially mixed community. By this means, we wish to scrutinize the transformation of cultural identities that took place through a historically recorded migratory process in another microregion of the northern Aegean, along the Strymonic Gulf.

Comparative study of archaeological data from Macedonia and Italy

The analysis of the archaeological material of Mende and the comparative study with other sites with “colonial” connotations in Macedonia and Italy provide new insights into the historical phenomenon of early “apoikismos”. By bridging the gap between research focused on either end of the Greek colonial expansion, it is possible to overcome old prejudices and examine the validity of new models. According to these models, the Greek colonization was not a collection of individual events but a process towards the formation of new socio-political entities and identities.

Archaeometric data

The reconstruction of the early colonial relations will be supported by a number of archaeometric analyses. This includes, for example, radiocarbon dating of contextualized, short-lived samples, archaeometallurgical analyses of bronze objects in terms of ancient networks for the trade of ore, neutron activation and petrographic pottery analyses for the clarification of the provenance as well as technological studies that will provide information about sudden changes in the ceramic production. Finally, a summarizing archaeobotanical study will provide a better understanding of the natural environment with which the colonists were confronted in their ventures in Macedonia and Italy.


The social context of Greek pottery consumption overseas

Studies of cultural exchange during the Εarly Iron Age in the Mediterranean traditionally focus on pottery which in the past has often been viewed as evidence of human mobility. However, other social aspects of economic and social behaviour (production, gift or commodity exchange, consumption) have often been neglected.

The starting point of the new study of the Protogeometric and Geometric pottery in non-mainland Greek contexts, i.e. in Greek colonies and non-Greek sites in the Mediterranean, is the determination of origin based on Neutron activation analysis (NAA). A total of around 350 pottery sherds, clays and other reference material from 22 sites in the western and eastern Mediterranean have already been analysed by Hans Mommsen: Thasos, Argilos, Mende, Sindos, Kastanas, Polichni, Polykastro (northern Greece); Elateia, Kynos (central Greece); Koprivlen (Bulgaria); Klazomenai, Teos (Turkey); Pithekoussai, Cumae, Sarno (Campania); Naxos (Sicily); Sidon, Tyre (Lebanon); Ras-el-Bassit (Syria); Utica (Tunisia); Huelva, Malaga (southern Spain). Aspects of wine consumption as a social instrument in a period shortly before or during the institutionalization of the symposium in the Mediterranean will be central to the discussion.

Greek Protogeometric and Geometric pottery consumption at Kinet Höyük and Sidon

In the past, the Early Iron Age Greek pottery in the eastern Mediterranean has been seen as evidence for Greek mobility or colonisation. Today, this pottery is mainly understood to represent special drinking vessels that were used by the local Levantine population and in some cases was full of ritual symbolism. Following the recent excavations by Marie Henriette Gates and Claude Doumet Serhal over the course of the last decades, Kinet Höyük (southern Turkey) and Sidon (Lebanon) rank respectively among the find sites alongside Tyros, al Mina, Tell Ta’yinat and Misis with the largest quantity of Iron Age Greek pottery in the Levant.

An interesting aspect in the use of Greek pottery at Kinet Höyük and Sidon is that it was continuously imported into these Cilician and Phoenician sites from the Protogeometric to the late Geometric period. Another important aspect is the repertoire of vessel shapes which suggests an export-oriented strategy on the part of the Greek workshops.

The new finds from Kinet Höyük and Sidon are particularly important because for the first time in the Levant it is possible to study fairly large assemblages of Greek pottery in their context as a result of modern excavations. Furthermore, for the first time a statistical evaluation as well as a comparative study of the Greek, Phoenician and other pottery wares from the same contexts was carried out. A series of radiocarbon analyses has already been conducted at Sidon providing new evidence about the correlation of the Levantine and Aegean chronology.