Assiros Toumba

Assiros Toumba is a Bronze and Iron Age site in Northern Greece, excavated by Dr K. Wardle from 1975 - 1989. Hundreds of kilograms of charred wheat, barley and other crops were recovered from the grain storage complex dating to c.1300BCE. These storerooms superficially resemble the larger magazines of the southern Greek ‘palaces’, known from archival sources to have been supported by extensive cereal agriculture. Assiros is a very small site, but without clear evidence for marked social stratification, and the diversity of crops stored, which contrasts sharply with that recorded for the palaces, has been tentatively interpreted as evidence for intensive ‘horticulture’ on a household scale. Identification of the scale and intensity of crop husbandry at Assiros is central to understanding both land use and surplus production.

assiros thumbnailThe charred remains from Assiros Toumba were included in an isotopic study of crop seasonality and origin. Comparison of modern isotope ratios with charred archaeological grain has demonstrated that the carbon isotopic ratios of the vast quantities of grain in the storage complex at Assiros Toumba are consistent with a single year’s harvest from a limited geographic area, which suggests large-scale production. Material from Assiros was also used in a pilot study (funded by INSTAP) to detect biomolecular traces of oil in residues from Bronze Age ceramics in order to establish the extent of plant oil use and, depending on the species used, possible trading patterns. Identification of oil seeds, Lallemantia, in storage contexts suggests people at Assiros were growing and producing oil locally.

Relevant publications

Heaton, T., Jones, G., Halstead, P., Tsipropoulos, T. 2009. Variations in the 13C/12C ratios of modern wheat grain, and implications for interpreting data from Bronze Age Assiros Toumba, Greece, Journal of Archaeological Science 36: 2224-2233.

Jones, G. and Valamoti, S. 2005. Lallemantia, an imported oil plant in Bronze Age northern Greece? Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 14: 571-7.

Jones, G., Wardle, K., Halstead, P. and Wardle, D. 1986. Crop storage at Assiros. Scientific American 254 (3): 96-103.

Jones, G. 1984. Interpretation of archaeological plant remains: ethnographic models from Greece, in W. van Zeist and W. A. Casparie (eds.) Plants and Ancient Man: Studies in Palaeoethnobotany. Rotterdam: 43-61.

Jones, G. 1981. Crop processing at Assiros Toumba - a taphonomic study. Zeitschrift für Archäologie 15: 105-11.

Jones, G. and Halstead, P. 1980 Bioarchaeological remains from Assiros Toumba, in K. A. Wardle, Excavations at Assiros 1975-9. Annual of the British School at Athens 75: 265-7.