Who are we?

The Greek Government grants permission to foreign archaeologists to participate in the research, recovery, protection and dissemination of cultural heritage through the auspices of one of the official seventeen foreign schools of archaeology that they support. Priniatikos Pyrgos is managed by the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens.

About us

Veteran archaeologist Barbara Hayden has been exploring the landscape around Priniatikos Pyrgos for many years. In 2005 she initiated excavation at the site itself with her long-time colleague Metaxia Tsipopoulou. Due to the great potential of the site for a prolonged fieldwork campaign, Barry Molloy of the IIHSA was invited to join the program and lead its furhter development from 2007. 

We have been lucky to have had amazing institutional support, though the Institute for Aegean Prehistory has been fundamental to our cause in providing fieldwork grants and contributing expertise to our post-excavation program. The project is jointly led by two energetic and dynamic Co-Directors. Vera Klontza-Jaklova works at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, and is a long-standing member of the team. Her indomitable efforts have driven the project forward and she has played a crucial role in leading the historic archaeology reserach at the site. Jo Day of University College Dublin has led our highly successful fieldschools and is the cornerstone of our ceramic research team.

Our work

Priniatikos Pyrgos was a highly successful settlement, and that is what makes it both rare and interesting in the archaeology of Crete. The rapid rise and fall of a settlement leaves a veritable snapshot in time preserved for the archaeologist to expose. But what if we wish to unravel the complex story of the entire life and times of a settlement? This is the challenge we have set ourselves at Priniatikos Pyrgos.

Ever since the first widespread settlement of the island over 5000 years ago in the Final Neolithic people kept coming back to this specific place and sought to exploit its coastal location and topographical qualities. The biography of the island is laid out at Priniatikos Pyrgos with Bronze Age, Iron Age, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Venetian period occupation covering this limestone headland. 

The history of research in the area around Priniatikos Pyrgos stems back nearly a century to the work of Edith Hall at the site of Vrokastro, following her investigations of this defensible site some trial trenches were also placed on the promontory down below in 1912. Though Hall's interest in the site was limited due to the disturbance of historic period building works, her work revealed that the activity at the site was spatially intensive and chronologically extensive, and the quality of artefacts retrieved showed the potential for further work at the site. 

Barbara Hayden of the University of Pennsylvania Museum has been at the forefront of investigation of this area along with Greek and American colleagues since the 1980's. The first step was to intensively survey the wider area around the Late Bronze / Iron Age citadel of Vrokastro (the Vrokastro Survey Project, vols. 1-3, 2002-5), which revealed a landscape with considerable settlement variety and extent through time. The industrial or economic development of the region, however, underlies settlement growth and relates to many of these potential studies. The regional economy and its development were deemed, therefore, overarching themes most worthy of future consideration following completion of the survey. 

One primary goal of the Vrokastro survey was to identify a regional site that would explicate the development of the area and the extent and nature of trade contacts. Results of the survey indicated that several sites, with further exploration, could provide data on issues ranging from polis development (Oleros, Istron) to the function and chronology of Bronze Age farmsteads. Priniatikos Pyrgos stood out as a site which had the combination of variables present best suited to comprehensively addressing these themes. 

The characterisation of settlement and natural resource exploitation is contingent on characterisation of the landscape in which these activities take place, and to this end the Istron Geoarchaeological Project was initiated in 2002 with collaborators from the Demokritos Laboratory in Athens and the FORTH based in Rethymnon. The objectives of this project were to conduct a sutie of geophysical survey methods on Priniatikos Pyrgos and the surrounding area and to undertake deep coring to provide critical data regarding the geological history of the area. 

Observations made during the survey and subsequent geophysical prospection revealed two kilns eroding out of the western scarp of Priniatikos Pyrgos which appeared to be prehistoric in date. Metaxia Tsipopoulou, then of the 24th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities at Aghios Nikolaos undertook two seasons of rescue work at the site with Hayden as field director in 2005 and 2006. This work reaffirmed the importance of the site and it became clear that a comprehensive program of excavation had the potential to contribute a host of information which would elucidate critical questions raised during the Vrokastro Survey. In consultation with the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens, it was decided to apply for a permit to the Greek Ministry of Culture to continue work at the site for a further 5 seasons beginning in 2007. This marked the beginning of another chapter in a century old program of research, with a multinational team cooperating together under the auspices of the Irish Institute.

Field Season 2015

We will be working on our post-excavation analyses in Crete from June 15th to July  24th. You can get in touch with us via our contact page if you would like to discuss our work .