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Middle Bronze Age(as early at 2,100 to about 1,650 B.C.E.)The transition to the Middle Bronze Age on the mainland of Greece begins in EH III. At Tsoungiza as at many sites, however, settlements were abandoned during this phase. There has been much discussion by archaeologists about the apparent abandonment of sites and depopulation that occurred during the Middle Bronze Age (or Middle Helladic as it is known on the mainland). The interest in this phenomenon arises from the observation that at the end of the Middle Helladic period the Mycenaean civilization was founded, and the Mycenaeans were speakers of an early form of Greek. Therefore many scholars have seen in the abandonment of sites at the end of the Early Helladic period the effects of the arrival of people (called the Indo-Europeans) who spoke a language ancestral to Greek. This view, however, much oversimplifies the events that took place between ca. 2,000 and 1,600 B.C.E. (see Conclusions). The abandonment of the Early Bronze Age settlement on Tsoungiza and thoughout the Nemea Valley is merely another in a series of episodes of abandonment throughout the long history of human occupation.
Resettlement began during Middle Helladic III. At Tsoungiza no certain traces of architecture of this period have been discovered but it is likely buildings were constructed in the area of EU 7, 8, 10 and Trench L (click to see plan). In EU 2, 6 and 8 Jeremy Rutter has isolated pottery groups which date to this time. One radiocarbon date from this period (EU 6) dates to between 1729 and 1692 BCE.
Late Bronze Age (about 1,650 to 1,200 B.C.E.)
Late Helladic I (about 1,675-1,600 B.C.E.)
carbon dates for this structure range from 1602-1533, 1688-1642, and 1601-1532 B.C.E., dates which are close to those from radiocarbon determinations of the volcanic destruction of the settlement of Akrotiri on the island of Thera during the Late Minoan IA period. (see Timeline).
Tsoungiza is an important site for its good preservation of settlement remains dating to the beginning of the Late Bronze Age or Late Helladic I. A complete house is preserved. It was burned and the collapsing debris covered a deposit of cooking, drinking and eating vessels, animal bones, and a string of garlic which had been carbonized by the fire. (Click here for a tour of this building and its remains.)
After the fire the building was reerected following the same plan immediately to the northeast. (Click here for a tour of this building). Three radio-
These remains are important for there is very little excavated evidence of residential structures for this time. Instead, the period is characterized by tombs, especially the rich shaft graves at Mycenae. One of the major questions which interested us was the relationship between settlement on Tsoungiza and that at Mycenae.
Late Helladic II (15th century B.C.E.)The building must have been destroyed towards the end of the LH I pottery phase, for a pit dug into its ruins contains pottery of Late Helladic IIA. This period is also well represented at the northern side of the site, in trench EU 10 and adjacent to the west in area L, which was excavated in 1926-27 by James Penrose Harland. (Click here for a plan and photos of those remains.) Here Harland found a complex of buildings that suggest that the settlement had grown, such that possibly buildings extended around the slope of the hill and even on top. Tsoungiza may have been a hamlet inhabited by an extended family or by several different families.
The period is important because it marks the time at which the settlement began to have recognizable economic contact with the emerging centers of power in the nearby Argolid, especially at Mycenae and probably also Argos. The pottery from this period is of high quality and must have been made at workshops at the Argolid sites, for example a piriform jar with double ax decoration and a "Vapheio" cup both of the style known as LH IIA. This was the time of the establishment at Mycenae and elsewhere of the great underground built tombs known as "tholoi" (single, "tholos"). Other evidence that Tsoungiza was being drawn into the orbit of these centers of power is found in the importation of both obsidian points, perhaps for hunting, and chert blades, both of which were probably made elsewhere and brought to Tsoungiza. From this point on Tsoungiza's fate was increasingly tied to that of the major centers. It can in fact be argued that as Mycenae grew in power she needed to control more territory. Expansion into such areas as the Nemea Valley would have been a part of the process by which Mycenae gained access to needed agricultural land, to communities necessary to supply labor for the palace, and to routes of transportation northwards to central Greece.
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