Aegean – a sea within the Mediterranean between Greece and Turkey. Major communication and trade routes crossed the Aegean Sea throughout antiquity (and later) and linked – to varying degrees – the cultures that developed on its islands and its shores as well as in its hinterlands. Powers that originated at a great distance, eg, Persia and Rome, would also make use of these routes.
Acropolis – literally ‘high place’ – from the Greek, ‘akros’, ‘akron’, meaning ‘edge’, ‘extremity’ or ‘high’; and ‘polis’ meaning ‘city’ or ‘place’; the fortified citadel of a Greek city-state. The most notable acropolis in Greece is in Athens, and includes the Parthenon among its buildings.
Agora – initially the market place of a Greek city, as the focal point of the town, it evolved into being the civic centre.
Anatolia – the Asiatic inland part of Turkey.
Archaic period (about 660-480 BCE) – the geometric style of Greek art is replaced by a more naturalistic style reflecting influences from the Near East and Egypt.
Archaeology – the study of human activity in the past through the acquisition and analysis of material remains and environmental data that has been left behind.
Artefact – a movable object that has been manufactured or altered by humans. Please see our Artefact page for examples of artefacts found at Zagora.
Artesan – a skilled worker, often in a manual trade such as carving, tool making, furniture making.
Asia Minor – the western coastal part of what we now call Turkey.
BCE (Before Common Era) – a conventional secular term for marking out time in years (equivalent in time to BC – Before Christ, which refers to the period before the birth of Jesus Christ). In this website we will use the term BCE.
Bronze Age (about 3000 BCE to 1150 BCE) – the period of pre-history between the Stone Age and the Iron Age when bronze (a metal alloy containing copper and a tin additive) was the primary material used for making tools and weapons.
Carbon dating – a method used to estimate the age of organic material objects up to 60,000 years old. As organic material stops acquiring new carbon atoms when it dies, scientists measure the amount of the naturally occurring radioactive isotope carbon-14 remaining in an object in order to determine the age of the object.
CE (Common Era) – a conventional secular term, which we use in this website, for marking out time in years (equivalent in time to AD – Anno Domini, which refers to the time since the birth of Christ).
City-state – a self-governing city controlling a surrounding area of land, large or small. In ancient Greece, a city-state was called a ‘polis’, from which the English word ‘politics’ derives.
Classical period (about 480/79 – 323 BCE) – The conventional term for the era between the Persian Wars and the death of Alexander the Great.
Conservation – in archaeological or museological terms, deals with the management and preservation of material culture. It involves preventing artefacts from injury, decay or loss through processes of documentation, analysis, cleaning and stabilisation. Throughout these processes it is important that the natural appearance or material attributes of the artefact are not altered.
Conservator – a person who is involved in the process of preserving material objects; this can include cleaning and stabilisation to prevent deterioration.
Context (archaeological) – the physical location where an archaeological find was made and the surrounding objects or natural features of the site. This helps archaeologists to assign meaning and determine the function of objects.
Cuneiform – the first system of writing produced by impressing sharpened reeds into clay tablets. This system was used for over 3,000 years in Western Asia.
Cult image – an image or material object, not necessarily figural, used as an object of worship.
Cultural heritage – includes tangible cultural property such as buildings, monuments, works of art, artefacts and intangible culture such as folklore, traditions, language and knowledge that has been preserved and inherited from past generations.
Cycladic Islands – a group of islands in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey. The site of Zagora is located on the island of Andros, the northernmost island of the Cycladic island archipelago.
Dark Ages – the period in Greek history between the fall of the Mycenaean civilisation and the re-emergence of writing in the 8th century BCE. This period is associated with reduced contact between Greece and its neighbouring regions, population decrease and the loss of the knowledge of writing. The people of Greece tended to live in isolated communities during this time, many, though not all, moving according to their pastoral lifestyle and livestock needs and leaving no written record behind.
Diagnostic sherd – a fragment from, for example, the rim, base or handle of a pottery object which can help to identify the probable size, shape and style of the object it came from.
Doric dialect – a dialect of Ancient Greek, spoken in the southern and eastern Peloponnese, Crete, Rhodes and some of the islands in the southern Aegean sea. The Doric dialect was generally, but not always, spoken in the Dorian regions of classical Greece. The Dorians were one of the four major Greek ethnic groups into which the Hellenes of the Classical period considered themselves divided. The others were the Aeolians, Achaeans and the Ionians.
Doric architecture – one of the major Greek architectural orders. Doric architecture often featured plain, fluted and sturdy columns with a simple squared capital and no base.
Etruscans – an advanced civilisation in Etruria (northern and Central Italy, modern Tuscany) that dominated early Rome. Etruscan kings ruled at Rome until 509 BC when the Roman Republic was established, and Etruria was eventually absorbed into the Roman Empire. The Etruscan civilisation was responsible for much of the Greek culture imported into early Republican Rome, including the twelve Olympian gods, the growing of olives and grapes, the Latin alphabet (adapted from the Greek alphabet), and architecture like the arch, sewerage and drainage systems.
Excavation – the systematic digging up and recovery of archaeological finds and recording the provenance, context and three-dimensional location of the objects.
Feature – a physical structure that is manufactured or altered by humans which unlike an artefact, cannot be removed from a site.
Field notebook – a record of the activities, observations and archaeological finds made during an excavation. A sturdy notebook made of materials with high tear and water resistance is necessary due to the nature of archaeological dig work – in rain, hail or shine!
Geometric Period (900 – 700 BCE) – This period took its name from the prominence of the aesthetic for geometric design in art work, particularly vase painting but also bronze statuettes. Can be divided into three separate phases – the Early Geometric (900 – 850 BC), the Middle Geometric (850 – 750 BCE) and the Late Geometric (750 – 700 BCE). These three phases are characterised by developments in decorative pottery styles. During this period living conditions in Greece began to improve, with art developing at a more rapid pace, increase in population numbers and in external trade and contacts, and the evolution of more complex social and political hierarchies.
Global Positioning System (GPS) – satellite navigation system that determines the location of features in the environment.
Grid – archaeologists often divide an excavation site into a network of squares before digging begins.
Hellenistic Period – the period from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE to the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, during which Greek culture was the dominant influence in the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia.
History – the study of people, places and events in the past and the examination and analysis of related material evidence.
Homer – Ancient Greek epic poet, to whom is attributed the ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’. Very little is known about the life of Homer though it is possible he was Ionian, and also that he was blind. It is thought he lived around the 8th century BCE – during the time of the settlement of Zagora. It is thought that some of the historical events described in the ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’ were in some sense historical and relate to the prior Bronze Age, especially the latter part of the 2nd millenium BCE. The Greek gods play a large part in his works (what we now call ‘mythology’), reflecting the Greek belief systems of the time.
Hydria – a vessel with three handles for carrying water – two horizontal handles for carrying the vessel when it is full and one vertical handle for carrying the vessel when it is empty or for tipping like a jug.
Inorganic – materials that are not composed of animal or plant matter and so less likely to decay with the passage of time.
In situ – objects that are in their original place and position are said to be in situ.
Ionia – ancient name for the central west coast of Asia Minor, including some islands of the eastern Aegean Sea. Ionia was named after the Ionians, Greek-speaking peoples who migrated to the region from mainland Greece from the 11th to 9th centuries BCE. The Ionians were one of the four major Greek ethnic groups into which the Hellenes of the Classical period considered themselves divided. The others were the Aeolians, Achaeans and the Dorians.
Ionic – dialect of Ancient Greek that spread from the Greek mainland across the Aegean after the fall of the Mycenaean palatial system. There are two different time periods – the Old Ionic and New Ionic. The Homeric poems were mostly written in Ionic dialect.
Iron Age – (about 1,050 BCE – 700 BCE) – the period of prehistory following the Bronze Age where the use of iron became the dominant material for tool and weapon making.
Landscape – the visible features of an expanse of scenery.
Lydia – a kingdom of Iron Age western Asia Minor, located in what is now known as Turkey. The city of Sardis was the capital and heart of the kingdom; and Croesus a historical king of it.
Material culture – in archaeology, material culture refers to the collection of observable data in the form of artefacts such as pottery, house-types, metalwork, burial remains that help us to understand former societies.
Metope – in Doric order architecture, a rectangular architectural element between two triglyphs in a frieze; may have sculptural elements such as those from the Parthenon which depict myths.
Minoan period – a bronze-aged civilisation (about 3200 – 1050 BCE) that arose on the island of Crete and spread to other Aegean islands; the Minoans were skilled mariners and active traders. The Minoan civilisation, named after its legendary King, Minos, was influenced by contact with other cultures through trade. At its height, there were grand palaces, such as that at Knossos, and the arts thrived. The Minoan civilisation of Crete was largely destroyed by the eruption of Mount Thera volcano on the Aegean island of Santorini.
Mycenaean period – Mycenaean is the term applied to the art and culture of Greece from about 1600 to 1100 BCE The name derives from the site of Mycenae in the Peloponnese, where once stood a great Mycenaean fortified palace. Mycenae is celebrated by Homer as the seat of King Agamemnon, who led the Greeks in the Trojan War. In modern archaeology, the site first gained renown through Heinrich Schliemann’s excavations in the mid-1870s, which brought to light objects whose opulence and antiquity seemed to correspond to Homer’s description of Agamemnon’s palace.
Organic – materials that are composed of animal or plant matter and so rarely survive in the archaeological record.
Palaeontology – the study of pre-historic life forms (fossils of plants, animals and other organisms).
Parthenon – a temple that has become an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, constructed between 447 and 438 BCE. The Parthenon was dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena and was built on the Acropolis, and even now dominates the skyline of the city.
Peloponnesian Wars (431 – 404 BCE) – series of conflicts between the city-states of Sparta and Athens and their allies, responsible for great loss of life and destruction, with ramifications felt throughout the Greek world.
Persian Empire – the first world empire, created by the conquests of Cyrus the Great (550-529 BCE) from its heart in south-west Iran. At its height it extended from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indus Valley, from Egypt to the Caspian Sea. It lasted until 331 BCE when it was conquered by Alexander the Great.
Phoenicians – seafaring traders, originally from the area of modern-day Lebanon, who established a vast commercial network through the Mediterranean. A major and lasting centre was Carthage. The Roman word for Phoenician was ‘Punicus’, as in Punic Wars.
Pottery – ceramic objects made from clay that are hardened by firing at high temperatures.
Prehistory – the period of human history before the availability of written records – 99% of the human past.
Profile – exposed sections of an excavation trench that show structures and features such as colour, soil type and content.
Provenance – either the place of manufacture of an object or its archaeological findspot/context.
Remote sensing – a process of gathering data about an object without making physical contact with the object. This can be achieved with instruments such as radar devices or cameras where it is possible to scan the landscape in order to collect information.
Schist – course grained metamorphic rock often derived from clays and muds. The dominant rock found at Zagora.
Shard (or sherd) – A pottery fragment.
Slag – ‘the more or less completely fused and vitrified matter separated during the reduction of a metal from its ore’ (source: Macquarie Dictionary). In terms of the Zagora Archaeological Project, finding slag would provide evidence of industrial work, and is therefore highly sought as an indication of life in the settlement.
Sondage – ‘a deep, narrow trench showing the stratigraphy of a site (French: literally, a sounding]’ (source: Macquarie Dictionary).
Stone Age (About 3.4 million BCE to between 4500 and 2000 BCE) – a broad prehistoric period when stone was widely used by humans and their predecessor species in the genus Homo to make implements with a sharp edge, point or percussion surface. The Stone Age was followed by the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.
Stratigraphy – the study of the layers of strata, in particular their age, distribution and materials. Strata are horizontal layers of material (sediments, soils) in the ground at an archaeological site. The earliest layers are at the bottom and the latest at the top, providing a chronological sequence.
Technology – the knowledge and skills available to a human society for the production of industry, art, science.
Trench – the name occasionally given to a pre-defined excavation area.