The importance of Palaikastro results first from its size and complexity – by which standards it is the major site of eastern Crete for the Bronze Age – and from its unique subsequent history. Without sizable permanent habitation until the mid 20th century AD Palaikastro was yet one of the most important sanctuaries (of Dictaean Zeus) on Crete from at least the 6th Century BC; a sanctuary whose importance was at least in part connected with the presence of the still visible but ruined Bronze Age city. For the (very) roughly 6000 years that the general area has been inhabited, the coastal plain itself was only used for permanent settlement twice: for approximately 1500 years during the Bronze Age and since WW II in modern times. For the rest of the time, people lived in the uplands. That they did so is not surprising; in virtually every way, climate, resource availability, security – the uplands are a better place to live. What is interesting is when and why people would choose to move down to the coastal plain and what such a dramatic shift necessitates in terms of social development. In short, the shift to coastal dwelling reflects membership in much larger and more complex off iland networks and requires the society to manufacture and distribute its identity through the typical cultural channels – objects (material culture), actions (ritual) and settings (architecture).
My own research, comprising survey, excavation, study of archaeological material and modern ethnographic fieldwork has ranged from locating some of the earliest signs of human activity in the hinterlands, excavating and publishing remains from the Bronze Age City and conducting video interviews with elderly informants concerning the habitation shift in latter part of the 20th Century AD. From this I hope to be able to provide a ‘close reading’ of the archaeological evidence for the changing fortunes of this important site.