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1926 and All That: Earthquakes, Archaeology and Minoan Society

Date and Time: 
Friday, December 1, 2017. 12:00 PM - 01:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Building 110, Room 112, Stanford, CA 94305
Workshop: 
Data Scarcity of the Earth and Human Past
Meeting Description: 

Ever since the discovery of the Minoan civilization (Crete, Greece, c. 3000-1200 BC) in the early 20th century by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, earthquakes have occupied a central role in Bronze Age Cretan archaeology: once held responsible for all major destruction horizons at Knossos, they are still regarded as a key factor in the formation of Minoan archaeological sites and as major forces behind the development of unique architectural innovations during the Neopalatial period (c. 1700-1450 BC). Surely, Crete’s position in one of Europe’s most seismically active regions (the Hellenic subduction zone) must have profoundly impacted Minoan society, or did it?

By unpacking the “Minoan myth”, this seminar will investigate the role of earthquakes in Minoan society and in Minoan archaeology in the light of recent archaeoseismological research. Although Minoan archaeoseismology is a science still in its infancy, it is clear that richer understandings of the relationship between earthquakes and Minoan society will require shifting our focus from archaeological or geological research questions to the archaeoseismological data themselves, with all their limitations and uncertainties. Effective and transparent communication of archaeoseismology’s caveats should lie at the core of the discipline; such a perspective may eventually allow the emergence of (Minoan) archaeoseismology as a useful contributor to the study of human-environment interactions and to the broader field of seismology.

About the Speaker: 

 Simon Jusseret graduated in geology from the University of Liège (Université de Liège, Belgium, 2006) and in archaeology from the University of Louvain (Université catholique de Louvainn, UCL, 2007), where he also earned his PhD in archaeology (2011). Using a geoarchaeological approach, his PhD dissertation investigated the alluvial and coastal landscapes of Crete during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. He is currently (since 2015) a postdoctoral researcher in the department of anthropology at the University of Texas Austin and a research collaborator in the Aegean Interdisciplinary Studies research group at UCL.

Since 2012, he also acts as a guest lecturer at UCL (geoarchaeology, archaeometry). His research interests focus on geoarchaeology, environmental archaeology (phytolith studies), Minoan archaeology, earthquake archaeology, agent-based modelling, salt archaeology and the archaeology of the recent past. He is involved in several interdisciplinary research projects as geoarchaeologist and/or archaeologist (Crete, Cyprus, France) and acts as a field director for the UCL team at Pyla-Kokkinokremos (Cyprus-Pyla Excavation Project Louvain/Ghent). His work has been published in several journals including Geoarchaeology, Antiquity, Seismological Research Letters, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports and Journal of Contemporary Archaeology. He is the lead editor of the recent volume Minoan Earthquakes: Breaking the Myth through Interdisciplinarity (Leuven University Press, 2017).

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