Vol. XX, No. 1
CSA Newsletter Logo
Spring, 2007

Website Review: The Prehistoric Archaeology of the Aegean

Susan C. Ferrence (See email contacts page for the author's email addresses.)

Design Consistency

Each page is designed with the same consistent template. The upper left side of each page has links to the other sections of the website. The title appears at the top of each section or lesson page with a list of links/shortcuts to the subsections that appear lower on that page. One can either scroll down to a subsection or use the links at the top, which will quickly take the user to a lower section.

Each lesson page contains informative text about the topic for that lesson. Links to the Glossary page are interspersed within the text, thereby allowing the user to grasp the definitions of terms and phrases quickly as he/she reads the text. The Glossary definitions appear in a new browser window and are also occasionally cited. Certain definitions are also explained with a link to a visual aid. The linked image appears in another new browser window.

Additionally, on each lesson page, links to images and bibliography for that lesson appear at the upper left of the page as well as Previous and Next buttons that are used to navigate through Lessons 1-29. Once the user clicks on the Images link, he/she is taken to a page showing a list of thumbnail images and captions. The user can click on the thumbnails in order to view a larger version of the image. From there, the user can again click to view the largest size of the image. These images include photographs and drawings of mostly landscapes and architecture with some pottery and few other objects. One can gain an appreciation for the author's love of Aegean Bronze Age archaeology by viewing the multitude of photographs taken on-site at many and varied ancient settlements and cemeteries.

Sections of the Website

Chronology and Terminology of Aegean Prehistory

This page is divided into the two large time spans of Stone Age and Bronze Age, which are then, in turn, divided geographically. The Stone Age section gives two lists of radiocarbon dates before present (present being 1950 AD) from Palaeolithic through Final Neolithic. The first list is for the Franchthi Cave, and the second list is for mainland Greece in general. Demoule and Perlis (1993) are cited.

The Bronze Age is subdivided into Crete, the Cyclades, the Greek Mainland, and Western Turkey. The Bronze Age discussion begins with instructions to see a chart in Hood 1994 on pp. 13-14 (the course textbook). Four additional references are suggested for further reading, all well known to scholars of the Aegean Bronze Age.

The relative time periods for Bronze Age Crete and their abbreviations are defined from the Early through Late Minoan and even Subminoan periods. Estimated absolute dates are also given.

The Bronze Age in the Cyclades is defined according to the various cultural groups of the EBA in the Cyclades (also known as Early Cycladic [EC]), Phylakopi and Hagia Eirine in the MC period, and Akrotiri in the LC period. Four references are given for further reading.

The chronology of the Greek mainland is divided into the Early, Middle, and Late Helladic time periods within the Bronze Age.

The chronology of Western Turkey is defined in terms of the successive Bronze Age phases at the site of Troy.

This section of the website is concluded with a note describing the ongoing debate about the absolute date for the massive eruption of the volcanic island of Thera/Santorini early in the LBA. With the dates in the second millennium BC in flux as a result of the debate, the author cautions users to use relative chronological terms. Warren and Hankey 1989 and Manning 1995 are cited. Even though the bibliography for this section was updated as recently as January 2006, new research since then has shed much more light on the subject (see Manning et al. 2006; Friedrich et al. 2006).


This page includes a comprehensive bibliography (recently updated in January 2006) divided into the following topics: "Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, and Diet: General," "Agriculture and Animal Husbandry: Specific," "Climate," "Terrestrial Fauna," "Flora, " Fish and Shells," "Insects," "Geomorphology and Sea Level Changes," "Mineral Resources," "Physical Anthropology of Human Remains and Palaeodemography."

History of the Discipline

This page includes another comprehensive bibliography (also recently updated in January 2006) divided into the following topics: "History of Aegean Archaeology," "Modern Fictional Treatments of the Aegean Bronze Age," "Archaeological Theory: General," "Iconographic Theory: General," "Gender Studies in Aegean Prehistory," "Explanatory Models of Cultural Change," "Ethnicity and Archaeology," "The Antiquities Trade and Its Impact," "Surface Surveys Spanning Multiple Periods of Aegean Prehistory," "Physical Reconstructions of Aegean Sites and Works of Art," "Landscape Archaeology and the Archaeology of Memory," "The Politics of Aegean Archaeological Fieldwork in Modern Aegean States and in Contemporary American Academe."


The 29 lesson pages are organized chronologically, geographically, and topically whenever possible. They cover Aegean Bronze Age material culture from architecture to burial customs, pottery, stone objects, and metal artifacts, among many other classes of objects. Mr. Rutter also explains the different forms of Aegean writing, and he attempts to elucidate the topic of religion whenever possible. A few highlights of the lesson pages are discussed below, after the following list of all the lesson page titles.

In Lesson 4, Mr. Rutter's expertise is clear when he discusses the nuances of interpreting the Early Cycladic cultures and overlapping time periods, especially when attempting to explain the EC III "gap" in relation to the beginning of the MH period. He notes that future excavations might throw light on the as yet unsolved problem and notes the possibility of promising results from an excavation in the Sporades. Even better, the early levels at Akrotiri on Thera may reveal the answer that is needed (see Nikolakopoulou 2007).

Even though Lesson 6 on Early Minoan Tombs was updated in January of 2006, it is still lacking a few bibliographic entries such as Davaras and Betancourt 2004 and Papadatos 2005.

I appreciate Mr. Rutter's inclusion of lessons regarding western Anatolia in relation to the Aegean (see Lessons 7, 23, and especially 27, in which the archaeological site of Troy is related to the mythological/legendary city of Homer's Iliad). Textbooks on the Aegean Bronze Age do not always sufficiently cover this region that is geographically peripheral to the Aegean, but which certainly interacted with and influenced the ancient Aegean peoples.

In Lesson 8, the author's command of the topic is again clearly obvious as he uses much of the information and many of the images published in his monograph on Lerna IV (Rutter 1995). Among other aspects of Middle Minoan Crete that are discussed in Lesson 10, Mr. Rutter ends that page by suggesting that the Phaistos Disc (which, he does not note, many claim to be a fake for various reasons) may be an import from southwestern Anatolia, but he admits that no parallels exist. Lesson 11 cogently leads the user through the problems and various competing theories regarding the period leading up to the foundation of the first Minoan palaces on Crete. Lesson 12 highlights and defines the individual parts of a Minoan palace, and then Mr. Rutter speculates on the possible origins of the palatial architectural form.

The text for Lesson 14 seems to be cursory and simplified -- especially considering the wealth of information on the topic, "Late Minoan Painting and Other Representational Art" -- in comparison to the depth of other lessons such as the text and images in Lesson 24, "Mycenaean Pictorial Art and Pottery." The bibliography for Lesson 14, however, must be one of the longest on the website (although it has not been updated with Koehl 2006). Perhaps the lack of images and less detailed text in Lesson 14 is due to Rutter's desire not to reiterate what has already been written and illustrated in the other assigned course readings. His website, therefore, compensates for what is lacking in the course readings and textbook.

Lesson 16 discusses various scholars and their theories about possible Minoan influence in the objects found in the Shaft Graves. Lesson 18 expands much further on the hotly debated topic of Neopalatial Minoan influence around the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean regions, especially in relation to proving the existence of a Minoan thalassocracy.

Lesson 19 covers the question of a possible relationship between the Mesara tholoi of Minoan Crete and the tholoi of the Mycenaean mainland. In Lesson 22, Mycenaean trade is elucidated in terms of the Cape Gelidonya shipwreck and its rich cargo of oxhide ingots among many other objects. The rest of the lesson focuses on the amber trade to Mycenaean Greece. Here again I appreciated Mr. Rutter's inclusion of these subjects, which are rarely addressed in other Aegean Bronze Age textbooks. Lesson 25 goes into considerable depth (much more than most textbooks) regarding the social, political, and economic organization of the Mycenaean culture as discerned from the Linear B texts that have been excavated on both the mainland and Crete. There seems to be a glitch on the bibliography pages for Lessons 25-28; the title and all the text of the bibliographic entries are condensed into a 2-inch-wide column thereby making the pages exceedingly long. In Lesson 28, Mr. Rutter explores the hypotheses of 17 scholars (including himself) for the collapse of the Mycenaean palatial system and assigns them to five different general conclusions, none of which, he admits, has proved to be the sole cause of the palatial destructions.

Some photos are not of the highest quality (for example, Lesson 2 pottery photos or the color in a few of the Lesson 12 Phaistos palace photos). Many sites are depicted beautifully (especially see most of the Lesson 19 site photographs). Lessons 14 and 18 do not have any photos at all. These Minoan and Theran topics should be among the most richly illustrated. Some lesson pages refer to images in various additional readings, which must be required texts for Mr. Rutter's course. The images of mainland and Mycenaean architecture and pottery vastly outnumber those of Proto- and Neopalatial Crete. Again, I assume this apparent lack of images in certain lessons reflects their inclusion in the course textbook and assigned readings.


The Search page allows the user to search terms throughout Mr. Rutter's website. The search results page gives links to each website page on which the term appears. The links only take the user to the top of those pages. The user must then use the Find function in his/her browser to take him/her directly to the specific occurrence of the searched term on that page. (A sophisticated user could easily construct a Google Advanced Search request to search the site.)


The Links page is extremely useful for student and scholar alike. It is divided into several topics, including related web links to the lessons. They take the user to various websites including a virtual tour of Knossos on the website of the British School at Athens and an explanation of the Cave of the Cyclops on the island of Youra (in the Sporades) by the excavator, Adamantios Sampson, on the website of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture.

Many of the links take the user to a website by Ian Swindale (last updated in 2002). His site lists many Minoan palace, settlement, cemetery, town, and other archaeological sites on Crete. Each site page contains text and beautiful landscape/site photos of excellent quality.

The links to a website such as http://www.stoa.org/metis/cgi-bin/qtvr?site=mycenae;node=38 give fascinating, self-navigating, virtual tours (Quicktime VR) around many archaeological sites such as Mycenae, Phaistos, and Troy.

The link to the Kommos website (http://www.fineart.utoronto.ca/kommos) takes the user to a visually pleasing, well organized website, which is primarily based on the excavators' numerous publications. Looking at the other excavation websites will show the user how varied such websites can be in both quality and quantity of material presented.

Unfortunately, a couple of the links are dead, such as the link related to Lesson 5 and the one for Neolithic Halai.


I would highly recommend this extremely user-friendly website to students and scholars of the Aegean Bronze Age. Mr. Rutter methodically presents lengthy discourses on all aspects of Aegean Bronze Age culture, preceded by two lessons on the Palaeolithic through Neolithic time spans in the Aegean and complemented by three lessons on western Anatolia and Troy in the Bronze Age. He clearly and succinctly discusses many of the classic debates that have been ongoing in the scholarship. The extremely thorough bibliographies are admirably up-to-date to the beginning of 2006. For the vast quantity of information, images, and bibliographical references in this website, Mr. Rutter must employ a small army of research assistants who are constantly gathering, typing, and updating data.

Even though most lessons are heavily illustrated with photographs and plans of landscapes and archaeological sites, more pottery, sculpture, fresco, and small find photos would be a great asset. It would also be helpful to the viewer if the images could be linked within the text of the lesson page so he/she could immediately see what the text is discussing. As it stands now, the user must read the text then click to the image page for that lesson and scroll through the images, reading the captions, in order to find those that best illustrate various parts of the text. Any user, however, could simply open a second window for the images at the start of each lesson, and track the images in one window as he/she reads through the text in another.

The user who is not a student in Mr. Rutter's class must remember that this website was designed for those students who have access to the professor's additional required readings and illustrations (sometimes mentioned in the website lesson text and also listed in the course syllabus that is linked on Mr. Rutter's faculty webpage, see above). This website complements the course readings and probably does not repeat them.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that, my criticisms aside, Mr. Rutter's website is extremely valuable, and he has performed a great service to the field. Keeping such a website current is all but impossible and should not discourage others from creating informative, educational, and even entertaining archaeology-related websites such as this one.

Bibliography (works mentioned here but not in Mr. Rutter's material)

Davaras, C., and P.P. Betancourt. 2004. The Hagia Photia Cemetery I: The Tomb Groups and Architecture, Philadelphia.

Friedrich, W.L., B. Kromer, M. Friedrich, J. Heinemeier, T. Pfeiffer, S. Talamo. 2006. "Santorini Eruption Radiocarbon Dated to 1627–1600 B.C.," Science 312 (28 April 2006), p. 548.

Koehl, R.B. 2006. Aegean Bronze Age Rhyta, Philadelphia.

Manning, S.W., C.B. Ramsey, W. Kutschera, T. Higham, B. Kromer, P. Steier, E.M. Wild. 2006. "Chronology for the Aegean Late Bronze Age 1700-1400 B.C.," Science 312 (28 April 2006), pp. 565–569.

Nikolakopoulou, I. 2007. "A Reappraisal of the Middle Bronze Age in the Cyclades in the Light of the New Evidence from Akrotiri, Thera," in AIA 108th Annual Meeting Abstracts, volume 30, Boston. Abstract can also be found online at http://archaeological.org/webinfo.php?page=10248&searchtype=abstract&ytable=2007&sessionid=6B&paperid=1176.

Papadatos, Y. 2005. Tholos Tomb Gamma: A Prepalatial Tholos Tomb at Phourni, Archanes, Philadelphia.

-- Susan C. Ferrence

For an index of other CD and Web site reviews available on the Web pages of the CSA Newsletter, see the review index.

For other Newsletter articles concerning the use of electronic media in the humanities, consult the Subject index.

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