1992 Excavation in Main Settlement area
Composite plan of settlement area (2010)
(600 to 827 A.D.)
The main occupation of the Byzantine period appears to be a reoccupation of an earlier Hellenistic fort on the top of the island. The excavation has uncovered parts of a large house, however, located outside of this fort and to its south near the modern shore line.
Late Hellenistic (1st Century B.C.)
The remains of the Late Hellenistic fort were partly excavated by Seager who identified them as Roman houses. The current excavation found that these "houses" extended over an area nearly 60 m. long and continued in a line which connected with the eastern circuit wall of the fort that was already known from Seager's work on the island. Cleaning revealed two groups of connected rooms set behind, and to the north of, a continuous wall that extended the whole length of the area exposed. They might be described best as "garrisons" located just inside a continuous circuit of fortification wall which forms a large circle around the whole island.
The western group contains about nine rooms, many of them divided in two by a spur wall, and most of them previously excavated. Room 1 contained Eastern Sigillata A ware along with evidence for cooking and a large stone platform in the northwest corner of the room which probably served as a sleeping platform. The room could be entered through a doorway in its east wall and may have provided access to a rectangular bastion that projected from the south side of the room. All of the rooms in this section adjoined one another and, entered from the east, north or west, they formed a solid, unbroken line of wall on their south. The section of rooms to the east, which were also excavated by Seager, were arranged a little differently. They were set back behind a terrace wall or rampart that projected to the south leaving an open space between the buildings and the actual line of wall. A series of terraces lay in the space between these two building groups behind the same line of wall, and a wide staircase appears to have led up from one terrace to another, past an exedra on the third terrace, into the interior of the complex.
New excavations on either side of the area excavated by Seager uncovered two stratified layers in this fort, the uppermost Early Byzantine and the lower containing more examples of Eastern Sigillata A ware and Hellenistic relief ware, as well as coarse storage and cooking wares. The most striking discovery in this lower level, however, was a small terracotta head of Jupiter Serapis, one of the most popular gods in the Late Hellenistic period, especially important to mercenaries serving in Crete who are known to have made dedications to him (Sanders, pp. 36-37). Just to the south of this fortification the excavation has also uncovered a large building which may have served as a communal workshop. Two of its rooms were provided with bench presses, the earliest examples known of this type of press; one was used to crush olives to make olive oil and the other to press wool, perhaps for the manufacture of felt.
Further work is required before the Late Hellenistic period at Mochlos can be fully understood. At the moment there are several possible explanations for the remains which have been found here. The Ptolemies had been active keeping peace in the area since the 3rd century, and Patroklos, commander of the Ptolemaic forces in the Chremonidean War, established a garrison at nearby Itanos which the Ptolemies maintained well into the 2nd century. In the 2nd century they established another garrison at Leuke off the southeast coast of Crete and they may have felt a need to establish still a third as an additional base for their activities in eastern Crete and other operations in the Aegean. The city states of Hierapytna and Praisos who both claimed this area of Crete may also have attempted to secure the strategic harbor at Mochlos for themselves. In the middle of the 2nd century when war broke out between Praisos and Itanos, largely as a result of a dispute over the administration of the Shrine of Zeus Diktaios at Palaikastro, Praisos may have felt a need to secure its northern frontier; later after war broke out between Praisos and Hierapytna and Praisos was completely destroyed, Hierapytna took up the territorial claims of Praisos and pursued the war against Itanos. It might also have felt a need to secure the northern approach to the isthmus which led straight overland to the city. In 115 B.C. Hierapytna appealed directly to the Roman Senate to arbitrate its conflict with Itanos. It did so first through the mediation of itinerant justices from Magnesia on the Maeander, later through a Roman commission headed by Q. Fabius. In 112 the consul Calpurnius Piso was instructed to resolve the dispute and re-establish the border between Itanos and Hierapytna. Rome was now an active player in the area, but it may not have been until the next century that it actually required troops in the area.
In the 1st century Rome grew increasingly concerned as Crete, which had earlier supported Perseus in his wars against Rome, now supported Mithridates, supplying him with mercenaries, receiving his emissaries and opening its ports to Pontic ships. These actions, along with the reappearance of Cretan piracy, provoked the Senate to demand the conquest of the island. An initial foray sent out in 77 B.C. met with disaster, but in 68 the consul Q. Caecilius Metellus landed on the island with three legions. He undertook the complete subjugation of the island, conquering Cydonia in the west first, then moving east to destroy Knossos. The Cretan Aristion played a major role in the defense of the island and escaped to Hierapytna in 67 where he led the final resistance against the Romans. Hierapytna was the last city to fall, and while the details of Metellus's strategy in the conquest of the island are unknown, it is likely that he moved troops by land and by sea. To reach Hierapytna from Knossos, the easiest route would have taken him along the north coast of Crete to the isthmus of Hierapytna. Mochlos offered the best harbor at this point, and Metellus may well have established a camp here, or taken advantage of a pre-existing one, to support his troops in their march across the isthmus to Hierapytna.
Mycenaean (1400 to 1200 B.C.)
Neopalatial (1700 to 1425 B.C.)
Skull curated in basement room of B.2
Protopalatial (1900-1700 B.C.)
Prepalatial (3100-2000 B.C.)
The first settlers to arrive at Mochlos did so in two waves. The very first settlers were colonists from Melos who arrived right at the beginning of the Bronze Age when EM I pottery was in production. They were obsidian blade workers who imported their raw material with them, produced blades at Mochlos and distributed them to other parts of Crete. The Greek-American excavation uncovered the remains of their occupation in 1989 and again in 2010 in the northwest part of the island. A second wave of settlers appear to have arrived later, during the time that EM IB pottery was being produced at Knossos. Seager reported remains of their settlement along the south coast and western terrace of the island, and the current excavations have uncovered four or five additional houses and half a dozen additional tombs belonging to this settlement. At the start the settlement was apparently small, like others established in eastern Crete at this time, but by the the second phase of the Prepalatial period (EM II), the settlement had expanded considerably, perhaps partly because of a larger migration of settlers into eastern Crete that led to the establishment of many new settlements. The settlers are thought to have come from central Crete and may have been prompted to move eastwards as a result of overcrowding in that part of Crete or as a result of conflict between the different cultures in the northern and southern part of the island. Mochlos offered several attractions to these settlers, chief of which were the natural harbor formed by its isthmus and the rich agricultural plain that lay across from the island on Crete. Through the EM II and III phases of the Prepalatial period, a period of 600 to 800 years, Mochlos flourished as a major center of population in Crete. Many scholars have stressed its importance during these formative years of Minoan civilization, and Mochlos has become a model site for the study of the cultural processes involved in the emergence of civilization. The island was a center for new industries, such as the manufacture of gold jewelry, stone vases and faience; it was an important trading center, sending its ships to Melos to bring back huge quantities of obsidian, and perhaps serving as a gateway for goods coming to Crete from the Near East; it is also one of the few sites of the period to show convincing evidence for a hierarchical social structure.
The 1992 and 1993 excavations uncovered remains of two Prepalatial structures in two different areas, making a total of five or six Prepalatial buildings which the current excavations have exposed. The first of these, found in 1989, is located on the water's edge beneath the LM I houses C.1 and C.5. Prepalatial House 2, found in 1992, is located beneath Block B, midway between those found by Seager to the west beneath Block A and to the east beneath House C.2. The third house, discovered in 1993, lies to the north of House 1 beneath the street that runs alongside House C.3. These houses are scattered widely and, while some of them may be earlier than others, indicate the extent of Prepalatial occupation over the site; later occupation often cut down through Prepalatial levels to bedrock and it may not be possible as a result to learn the density of this occupation.