Katerina Papayianni, Ph.D.
Katerina Papayianni studied History, Archaeology, and the History of Art at the University of Athens. She specialized in Archaeological Science/ Zooarchaeology (M.Phil.) at the University of Cambridge (UK) and later earned her Ph.D. in Prehistoric Archaeology–Zooarchaeology from the University of Athens. Her research at the Study Center focuses on the microfauna from Minoan sites: rodents, insectivores, reptiles, and amphibians from the Mochlos settlement and Pelekita Cave in the Lasithi prefecture. She incorporated the Mochlos microfauna into her
doctoral dissertation for the University of Athens, and she has also contributed to the publication of the Late Minoan I settlement.
She is particularly interested in the relationship between humans and small mammals, which in broad terms is called commensalism or synanthropy and reflects the coexistence of a biocommunity of small- sized vertebrates and humans in the same habitat. Small creatures like mice, rats, shrews, and lizards benefit from sheltering in human houses, escape avian predation, and infest stored agricultural products. Furthermore, they provide valuable information about the paleoecology of the area where they are found, and they can also be used as bio-indicators for human migration routes.
Microfaunal bones need to be washed in the ultra-sound bath in the conservation lab, as their tiny size precludes any other kind of washing. Then they are recorded with the use of a stereoscope, the various bone categories are separated, and the species are identified according to their dental morphology. Dental measurements, necessary to separate species, are obtained through digital images of the occlusal surface of the teeth of the small mammals, which can be taken with a digital camera fitted to the stereoscope. The use of reference collections of modern specimens is mandatory; for this purpose Papayianni has created for the Study Center a small reference collection of modern mouse, rat, and shrew skeletons from dissected owl pellets, which she collected at the Mochlos Byzantine tower.
The microfaunal research could not take place without the extensive soil flotation and heavy residue sorting conducted by trained personnel at the Study Center. Papayianni would like to thank the flotation personnel as well as the director of the Study Center for providing all necessary facilities and equipment for her work.