C. Beeby makes sense of destruction at Azoria
Classical Archaeology Graduate Student
The majority of my previous fieldwork experience in archaeology involved asking the usual questions, trying to determine how, why, and when an architectural space was built, and how it was used. Last summer at Azoria, I found myself standing in the middle of an elongated room built up against the bedrock as I tried to understand how the room was destroyed.
This was a process. In the Archaic period, the residents of Azoria had decided to partially dismantle this room, carefully fill it with layers of cobble and gravel, and turn it into a platform that supported a street they were building. In the process, they had stacked stones to form make-shift installations that supported the weight of the fill. A small chamber at the back of the room was packed with larger boulders that elevated this part slightly higher, creating a wide step in the street. To add another complication to my stratigraphy, everything on the western half of the trench was eroding down the slope. In order to understand what happened in this room, one had to differentiate rubble from fill, accidental from deliberate, archaeological feature from red herring. I remember thinking that fieldwork is difficult as it is, without ancient people throwing us curveballs like this.
Archaeologists often talk about how settlements “grow,” as if architecture springs from earth around people. In fact, settlements are where people create meaningful spaces around them while actively negotiating the past and the present, the old and the new. Trying to understand the social and cultural dynamics that inform these decisions is the fun part of archaeology. From this point of view, Azoria is a delightfully unpredictable site. Intricate building, dismantling, destruction, rebuilding, refurbishing, and abandonment phases, coupled with the challenges of digging on a hillside slope, create a complicated sequence of layers. This is not a disadvantage; rather, it is a unique opportunity to study how settlements change over time. I am looking forward to returning to Crete this summer to find out what other puzzles Azoria has in store for us.