Prehistoric settlement and cemetery of the Early Bronze Age (3000-1900 BC), located in a fertile and strategic place on the Euboian channel near Chalkis.
A ten-year period of work at Manika was completed some time ago. Yet only a small part of the settlement has been excavated. Most of the site (around 600 stremmata) has been covered over by buildings, which have prevented further excavation. The greater part of the cemetery, estimated to have had more than 5000 graves, is likely to have been destroyed in the course of uncontrolled building. Only a few hundred graves have been excavated and of these only a small number can be visited.
There can be no doubt that the settlement at Manika
comprised an entire town, even though excavations have shown that it was not closely built up, there being a considerable amount of open space. The great prosperity of the settlement will have been due to the fact that it could control the main sea-route of that time, the Euboian channel. In addition it transported and worked obsidian and especially metals to which it owed its remarkable development. J. Davis has characterized the site as one of the largest settlements of the Bronze Age in Greece. Indeed no settlement of greater extent of this time has yet been found. Nor can there be any doubt that the town itself was built in accordance with a fairly regular plan; even at points well removed from the centre the houses follow a N-S or E-W orientation. This orientation appears to have been determined by the two natural axes, the shore-line and the parallel ancient road which had a N-S direction.
The greatest excavated part of the settlement still preserved is Area I
where public buildings and houses, closely packed, have been revealed. Rectangular buildings with courtyards stand one next to the other. One road leads probably toward the sea. Other roads, running E-W, lead into this. The buildings here belong to the Early Helladic II period, although some few remains are earlier. Of particular importance are two unusual horse-shoe shaped buildings with thick walls which belong very likely to "granaries" of the time, and also date to the Early Helladic II period. It is quite possible that in this spot there were important storage buildings and areas where reserves of agricultural produce were stored. The source of these will no doubt have been the two big plains, the Lelantine and the Psachna river valley. These will certainly have been public buildings and they will have been controlled by some leader or other. We may surmise that this same power will have been responsible for the production, gathering and transportation of goods. Agricultural
reserves (grain in particular), when they existed, could be exported to poorer areas yielding smaller amounts of grain because of poor soil, as, for example, the Cyclades. The role of Manika, or rather of prehistoric Chalkis, as a production and trading centre is significant in any reconstruction of the economic basis of the Early Bronze Age and its geographical framework.
The buildings of Manika must have had flat roofs since the excavations have yielded no evidence of roof-tiles. Further evidence is supplied by the stone pavings found in both open and closed areas. Similar stone paving has been observed also in other Early Helladic settlements, such as Linovrochi, Magoula at Eretria and Kalogerovrisi. The buildings
are usually rectangular in plan. Apsidal buildings are rarer and usually atypical. There is some question as to the use of the apsidal buildings. To date no buildings of megaron type have been found that could be classified as public, of the sort known at Thebes, Akovitika in Messenia, Lerna in the Argolid and elsewhere. If a palace existed, it is likely to have been on high ground such as in Area I.
It is noteworthy that the houses at Manika very rarely have fixed hearths. In fact, they are practically non-existent. It appears that portable hearths were used by the inhabitants. Fragments and whole examples have been found in section I. Remains of burning were found in a narrow space in one house of the Early Helladic III period which has been interpreted as a food purveying enterprise. The water supply constitutes another important
matter for such a large settlement. Wells found in many of the Manika houses show that the town was well supplied from the underground water system of the area.
The cemetery of Manika is of special importance because it has yielded most of the finds (pottery, metal implements and vessels). Even though no more than around 300 graves have been excavated, they form a rare group of graves. Successive studies have been made of their construction, their finds and their skeletal remains. The burials are in monumental rock-cut tombs the construction of which bespeaks a well-organized and hierarchical society. The skeletal material is being studied by the Biology Department of the University of Athens. Definitive publication is being prepared which, together with the grave offerings, will contribute to a better understanding of the social and economic conditions of the time. Similar work, though on a smaller scale, has been carried out on a small group of graves, which were excavated in the campaign of 1982. The existence of cuts on human bones coming from the cemetery is another important chapter, which has already received considerable scholarly attention. Although similar treatment of human bones
has been observed at other Bronze Age sites outside of Greece, for example in Bulgaria and in Poland, this phenomenon was thought to be unique in Greece. Study by M. Fountoulakis, K. Zapheiratos and J. Musgrave, has shown that most of these cuts had been made on purpose. The interpretations suggested (cutting of the tendons to relieve rigor mortis, fear of the dead) cannot explain the different kinds of marks.
The grave offerings are basically Helladic. There are, however, many offerings of
Cycladic type. The Anatolian type of pottery found in the Manika cemetery can be dated to Early Helladic III times and it often outnumbers the Cycladic pieces. Similar Anatolian pottery has been found in the Cyclades
(Kastri in Syros, Paros,
Delos) and it has been used to support theories of invasion by Anatolian peoples. In Mainland Greece there is a strongly international climate in a framework of exchange and a train of connections, which favoured the dissemination of Cycladic and Anatolian cultural elements. Even so, it is always possible that in Euboia or Mainland Greece small groups from Asia Minor or the Aegean established themselves, becoming finally absorbed into the local population. The settlement, in any case, is purely Helladic in character.
Finds from the excavations are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Chalkis.
Text: Sampson, Adamantios
Art & culture
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Bronze Age, 3200-1050 BC
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