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The INSTAP Study Center for East Crete is located on the northeastern coast of Crete, approximately 65 km east of Heraklion and 13 km north of Ierapetra. It sits on the hillside overlooking the coastal village of Pacheia Ammos and the Mirabello Bay, and it is located near the home of Richard Seager who excavated in the region during the first decades of the 20th century.


The main building occupies an area of 1,200 m², and it is accessed by two driveways, one leading to the front entrance (on the north side) and basement (on the east side) and the other to the rear entrance (on the south side) and the large southern courtyard.

Aerial view of the Study Center in 2019, looking southeast.

The rooms of the ground floor are organized around a central court that resembles a Minoan prototype. They include: (a) a study hall, which is divided with partitions into smaller units used as offices by different projects; (b) a drafting lab which also hosts the petrography lab; (c) a conservation lab; (d) a computer lab; (e) a photography studio and darkroom; (f) a library; and a small kitchen. Additional outdoor installations provide spaces for washing and sorting pottery and processing soil samples with a water flotation system.

Slide show from left to right (click on each photo to enlarge): study hall, drafting lab, petrography lab, conservation lab, computer lab, and library.

To understand how the design of the Study Center facilitates research, one can follow the various processing routes of the material culture and objects from affiliated excavation and survey projects. Artifacts collected by hand—including pottery, stone, glass, plaster, wood charcoal, shell, and animal and human remains—are registered in the south court or the large study room. Well-preserved or fragile artifacts are sent directly to the conservation lab while the bulk pottery, bone, and stone tools are washed and dried in designated stations before being sorted for study in the stoa.

Slide show from left to right (click on each photo to enlarge): registration of finds, drying pottery, two views of sorting pottery, and mending pottery.

A water flotation system is used to separate material culture found in soil samples taken from excavated contexts. These samples are then sorted to identify bone, teeth, shell, carbonized plant remains, wood charcoal, and other inorganic artifacts (e.g., beads or other jewelry), which are useful for reconstructing the ancient environment, economy, and diet.

Slide show from left to right (click on each photo to enlarge): using the water flotation system, sorting heavy residues, sorting the light fraction (or flots), and crushed olives recovered from soil samples.

This rich body of material is then directed to the various laboratories and storage areas inside the building. The William D.E. Coulson Conservation Laboratory is equipped with a series of diagnostic tools that help to assess the state of preservation prior to treatment, as well as the technology of manufacture. Ceramics form the bulk of the lab’s work, and their conservation, restoration, and long-term storage are of primary concern for our staff and the other specialists who study, draw, and photograph them.

A fundamental step in the study of pottery is the petrographic analysis of ceramic fabrics (both the clay paste and any inclusions). The W.A. McDonald Laboratory of Petrography undertakes these projects, which typically provide information about local and foreign manufacture and other technical data.

Slide show from left to right (click on each photo to enlarge): images of a Byzantine coin before conservation, sorting and mending an Archaic storage jar in the conservation lab, and the preparation and study of ceramic thin sections in the petrography lab.

After conservation the objects are sent to the photography lab. Beginning in 1997, the lab used conventional film cameras to produce large numbers of analog slide and print images. Since 2004, our photographers utilized digital cameras to take up to 10,000 photos each year.

Slide show from left to right (click on each photo to enlarge): photographing a group of Archaic pottery vessels from Azoria, Archaic pots from Azoria, a group of Late Minoan IB vases from Papadiokampos, and the Late Minoan I jewelry box from Mochlos. Photos by Ch. Papanikolopoulos.

Another group of specialists use the drafting room to illustrate artifacts, buildings, and landscapes. Archaeological illustrators produce technical pencil drawings of cataloged artifacts to scale, which are then scanned and enhanced for publication. Architects produce site plans, sections, architectural reconstructions, and topographical maps, often with the aid of the electronic distance measuring device (EDM), differential global positioning system (DGPS), or drone-based cameras. The Study Center also supports the work of geophysical specialists conducting subsurface studies with the help of ground penetrating radar (GPR). A separate computer room provides additional equipment for scanning, printing, and various types of data entry.

Slide show from left to right (click on each photo to enlarge): two views of an artist drawing, drawings of an LM IB rhyton and a pair of LM IB buildings from Mochlos, and views of teams plotting small finds with an EDM in the Pelekita Cave and collecting information with a drone and DGPS to draw the site of Mesorachi Akri. Drawings by D. Faulmann.

The final step in this process takes place in the library, archives, or offices where archaeologists and other specialists study the artifacts and ecofacts together with a variety of supporting data (e.g., trench notebooks, drawings, illustrations, analytical results, and our modern comparative collections) and prepare the results of their research for publication and the archaeological sites for presentation to the public. The library focuses on Cretan history and material culture while its archival collection includes the excavation notebooks, plans, drawings, and photographs from more than 20 excavation, survey, and research projects. Our main objectives are the facilitation of excavation and research (in Crete and the wider Aegean region) for final publication and the long-term curation of both antiquities and archival materials to ensure access for future generations of researchers.

Slide show from left to right (click on each photo to enlarge): Prof. G. Gesell discussing the finds from the LM IIIC shrine at Vronda, an intern studying human remains from Hagios Charalambos, doctoral students cataloging MM II–LM I pottery from Bramiana, the geological reference collection, members of the Mochlos team with Dr. M. Wiener in the archives, and a library intern.

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