Abstract: Human Paleoecology and a Late Bronze Age Workshop of Aromata


Research over the past ten years has brought to the light what is arguably the most definitive evidence for a “perfumed oil workshop” in the Aegean Bronze Age. Through the seamless process of incorporating a comprehensive program for organic residue analysis with more traditional methods of archaeological research, the ARCHEM project has identified key ingredients used to manufacture aromata during the Late Minoan I period at a harbor town in East Crete. Among these ingredients is evidence for linden flowers. As a temperate tree, linden holds the key to understanding how at least one workshop exploited its rural landscape to supply itself with raw materials. Though one must go to central Greece to find linden in its natural environment today, pollen cores in Crete testify to the tree’s existence on the island as late as LM I, at which point evidence for linden gradually disappears suggesting an increasingly drier climate. Even in wetter periods, linden would have needed a particularly inviting ecosystem to thrive in the East Cretan landscape. Near the workshop, only one small area fits this description – well-watered Mouliana. Having pinpointed the likely source and final destination of a Minoan commodity, we now have a unique window through which to reconstruct the interactions between a Minoan town and its ecological landscape.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Graham, E. “On History’s Scent,” The American Scholar 76(4): 17.

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