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Mesolithic Assemblage

The Mesolithic assemblage is flake-based (knapped from multidirectional cores), with only a small proportion of bladelets and blade-like flakes (Figure 1).

Linear retouch is dominant, followed by numerous notches, denticulates and piercer/borers (‘spines’), then end-scrapers, while backed pieces are relatively rare. The material is microlithic in character, but generally lacks true geometric pieces.

The Early Holocene Aegean island lithic tradition

On the basis of the assemblage’s techno-typological characteristics the Stélida lithics can be located within the ‘Early Holocene Aegean island lithic tradition’ (Sampson et al., 2010: 68-69), comparable to excavated material from Ikaria, Kythnos and Youra (Figure 2). Much of the Stélida material might thus be dated to the Lower Mesolithic (9th millennium BC), with some evidence of Late Mesolithic activity (8th millennium BC).

Mesolithic activity

Our initial study suggests widespread Mesolithic activity around the hill of Stélida (Figure 3). This comprises not only quarrying and knapping next to the best chert outcrops, but also on the flanks of the hill and along its main ridge, particularly towards the northern promontory. This suggests that various practices were taking place at the site, i.e. not just chert extraction, but also short-term habitation, food processing etc. 

Surprisingly wide tool-type variety

These claims are also based on the fact that the artefacts we collected included significant quantities of modified tools, the notches, piercers, retouched blades inter alia. The recovery of such a wide variety of tool-types at what we had previously conceived as a quarry site was something of a surprise. We had assumed that the finds would have been dominated by waste debris, the idea being that preformed cores would then have been transported to off-island settlement / activity sites where the tools would have been made and used – an interpretation we based on what we see at the obsidian quarries on Melos. 

The final locus of Mesolithic date worthy of note was recorded on the peninsula to the south of the hill (Figure 3). Here we found a small relatively well-defined distribution of Mesolithic implements, including a few made of Melian obsidian, a material that we only very occasionally see on Stélida itself. This material might represent the remains of camp-sites established by those who visited the chert quarries from elsewhere on the island and/or came by boat to Naxos. Our hope had always been to locate such off-source activity areas, while at the same time appreciating that many Mesolithic coastal sites are likely to have been submerged during the early Holocene rise in sea-level (see Lambeck 1996).


The question of Holocene marine transgression and reconstructing the coastline of Naxos during the periods of activity represented at Stélida is of great importance to our project, and an area of research we intend to develop.