Sissi (Grece): A Late Bronze Age court-centered building

At the site Buffo on the north coast of Crete

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During the summer of 2015, the Belgian School at Athens in collaboration with a team of the Université Catholique de Louvain conducted the first of a series of excavations under the direction of Prof. J. Driessen within the framework of a new five-year program on the Buffo at Sissi on the north coast of the island of Crete (Greece).

Sissi 2 600x338Oblique photo (from south) of the court-centered building at Sissi (N. Kress) .

Apart from tests clarifying the earlier history of the site, under investigation since 2007, excavations focused on the exploration of a Late Bronze Age (16th c. BC) complex tentatively identified as a court-centered building during the 2011 campaign. Rather than showing an expected rectangular court with right-angled wings surrounding it, a 250 sq. m. large trapezoidal court made of a fine white plaster was partly revealed, with three wings (east, north, west), each with a somewhat diverging orientation.

The monumental façade facing this court to the west consists of a bottom course of large limestone blocks on which a second course of sandstone ashlar blocks is partly preserved. A fine paved room with plastered floors, walls, bench and basin as well as a monumental stepped platform were constructed against an Early Bronze Age (c. 2500 BC) terrace and form an isolated structure (loggia) in the northwest corner of the court.

Sissi 1 515x338Paved room and collapsed monumental staircase at Sissi (J. Driessen).

Plastered rooms were cleared both in the west and north wing. The latter is badly preserved but comprises a double staircase, a long corridor and a room with column base and terracotta-tile floor. A small monumental structure, perhaps water-related, was also explored.

This evidence, together with that found in 2011 (an east building with long west-facing façade, a kernos located next to an entrance from the court and a bench along the north side of the court with artificial hollows) allows the identification of the entire complex as a court-centered building of c. 900 sq. m., abandoned early in Late Minoan IA (16th c. BC). The odd plan of the complex is explained as a result of the deliberate incorporation of Early Bronze Age structures and rising bedrock within the later building.