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The site of Azoria is located on a double-peaked hill (ca. 365 m above sea level) overlooking the Mirabello Bay approximately 1 km to the southeast of the village of Kavousi in eastern Crete.

View of Azoria from Kavousi Kastro.

It was first investigated by Harriet Boyd in 1900, and it has been excavated from 2002 until the present as part of the Azoria Project, under the direction of Donald Haggis and Margaret Mook. Extensive remains of an Archaic Greek city or urban center (c. 600–500 B.C.) have been uncovered at the site, though there is also evidence of occupation in the Final Neolithic (FN), Bronze Age (Early Minoan [EM] III–Middle Minoan [MM] IA), Early Iron Age (1200–700 B.C.), Early Archaic/Orientalizing (700–600 B.C.), and Hellenistic periods.

Plan of Azoria after the 2016 excavations showing primarily the Archaic settlement.

Two phases of Final Neolithic activity have been identified at Azoria. Early FN stratified habitation remains, apparently forming part of a settlement with an open plan, were found concentrated at the southern end of the Service Building (especially in Trenches B700, B800, B1200, and B1700) below Archaic levels, while remains from a Late FN/EM IA settlement were exposed at the southern end of the Communal Dining Building (A2800, A2900). In addition, EM III–MM IA pottery may point to the presence of a small hamlet at the site, though no architecture of that period has yet been uncovered.

Evidence for a substantial Late Minoan (LM) IIIC settlement has been uncovered in numerous areas of the site, primarily from stratigraphic soundings below later levels; for example, a LM IIIC room was recovered in Trench D2000 covered by terrace fill of the Monumental Civic Building. A poorly preserved bench sanctuary (D600) and a small tholos tomb (which continued to be used in the Protogeometric [PG] period) also date to this period. The site then appears to have been temporarily abandoned after LM IIIC/PG.

Recent excavations suggest that although there was sporadic construction in Late Geometric (LG; the late 8th c. B.C.) the next solid evidence for new buildings is in the early Protoarchaic period (late 8th and early 7th c.). The best-preserved structure of this period, the Protoarchaic Building, consisted of a dining hall, storeroom, two food processing rooms, and a pottery kiln; there is also evidence for communal feasting, hearth-pyre sacrifices, and rituals potentially associated with the LM IIIC tholos tomb, which was architecturally integrated into the design of the building.

The majority of visible architectural remains on site date to the Archaic period (late 7th c.–early 5th c. B.C.). The late 7th century saw a clear horizon of rebuilding that covered or destroyed earlier buildings. The resulting settlement was carefully planned, monumental in form, and complex in landscape modification and construction. In addition to houses, the new urban center included substantial public buildings, which were clustered on the upper western slope of the South Acropolis. Among these buildings are the Communal Dining Building (a possible andreion with multiple dining halls, which may have served as the common mess for elite male citizens) and the Monumental Civic Building (also used for public banquets and probable ceremonial activities) with its adjoining shrine. Both of these buildings were supplied by nearby service complexes, which contained multiple kitchens and storerooms. An olive press installation was also found in the Service Building of the Monumental Civic Building.

Archaic kitchen equipment from Azoria. Photo by Ch. Papanikolopoulos.

The site was destroyed by fire in the early 5th c. B.C. and later reoccupied on a limited scale in the Hellenistic period. Two probable garrison towers and a cistern (of 3rd to 2nd century B.C. date) were excavated by Boyd on the summit of the South Acropolis.

Azoria can be reached by car from a field road (mostly paved with cement), which begins at the eastern edge of the village of Kavousi (signed). A marked footpath at the bottom of the hill leads up to the site (5 minutes), which is fenced but unguarded.

Slide show from left to right from top row to bottom row (click on each photo to enlarge): two photos of the excavation in progress, three photos of the conservation and photography of storage jars, two photos of the faunal and wood charcoal experts, and a view of site conservation.

Selected References

Boyd, H.A. 1901. “Excavations at Kavousi, Crete, in 1900,” AJA 5, pp. 125–157. DOI: 10.2307/496766.

Haggis, D.C. 2013. “The Conservation of an Archaic Greek City on Crete,” Heritage, Conservation, and Archaeology (Archaeological Institute of America, Site Preservation Program, November 2013) pp. 1–7.

Haggis, D.C. 2014. “Excavations at Azoria and Stratigraphic Evidence for the Restructuring of Cretan Landscapes ca. 600 BC,” in Cultural Practices and Material Culture in Archaic and Classical Crete. Proceedings of the International Conference, Mainz, May 20–21, 2011, O. Pilz and G. Seelentag, eds., Berlin, pp. 11–39.

Haggis, D.C. 2015. “The Archaeology of Urbanization: Research Design and the Excavation of an Archaic Greek City on Crete,” in Classical Archaeology in Context Theory and Practice in Excavation in the Greek World, D.C. Haggis and C.M. Antonaccio, eds., Berlin, pp. 219–258.

Haggis, D.C., M.S. Mook, T. Carter, and L.M. Snyder. 2007. “Excavations at Azoria, 2003–2004, Part 2. The Final Neolithic, Late Prepalatial, and Early Iron Age Occupation,” Hesperia 76, pp. 665–716.

Haggis, D.C., M.S. Mook, C.M. Scarry, L.M. Snyder, and W.C. West III. 2004. “Excavations at Azoria, 2002,” Hesperia 73, pp. 339–400.

Haggis, D.C., M.S. Mook, R.D. Fitzsimons, C.M. Scarry, and L.M. Snyder. 2011. “The Excavation of Archaic Houses at Azoria in 2005–2006,” Hesperia 80, pp. 431–489. DOI: 10.2972/hesperia.80.3.0431.

Haggis, D.C., M.S. Mook, R.D. Fitzsimons, C.M. Scarry, L.M. Snyder, and W.C. West III. 2011. “Excavations in the Archaic Civic Buildings at Azoria in 2005–2006,” Hesperia 80, pp. 1–70.  DOI: 10.2972/hesp.80.1.0001.

Haggis, D.C., M.S. Mook, R.D. Fitzsimons, C.M. Scarry, L.M. Snyder,  M.I. Stefanakis, and W.C. West III. 2007. “Excavations at Azoria, 2003–2004, Part 1. The Archaic Civic Complex,” Hesperia 76, pp. 243–321.

Mook, M.S., and D.C. Haggis 2013. “Excavation of an Archaic City at Azoria in Eastern Crete,” in Kreta in der geometrischen und archaischen Zeit. Akten des Internationalen Kolloquiums am Deutschen Archaeologischen Institut, Abteilung Athen 27. –29. January 2006 (Athenaia Band 2), W.-D. Niemeier, O. Pilz and I. Kaiser, eds., Munich, pp. 59–76.

For further information, see articles in Kentro 5, Kentro 6, Kentro 7, Kentro 9, Kentro 16, Kentro 17, Kentro 18, and Kentro 19.

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