About chronology

In the Aegean and Ionian basins the chronological system used to place archaeological sites and artifacts into their position in time is very similar to those employed in adjacent geographical regions.  The cultural developments that are unique to these two related basins, of course, modify in various ways the overall picture.

European and Middle Eastern cultural developments are subdivided into major chronological periods that are based primarily on the predominant tool industry and the associated food gathering/producing mode.  Human evolutionary developments and climatic conditions are the major drivers of these changes in tool production, foodways and cultural elaboration into the Late Paleolithic period.  Subsequently, climatic change and increasing cultural complexity are the salient factors.

The major divisions and their approximate duration for the prehistoric period are:

Paleolthic Era (“Old Stone Age”)

Mesolithic Era (“Middle Stone Age”)

Neolithic period (“New Stone Age”)

Bronze Age

Dates below for the Paleolithic and Mesolithic Eras are uncalibrated. That is, they indicate radiocarbon 14, not calendar years. These are expressed as “before present” [= BP]. The present is considered by convention to be 1950 CE (“Common Era”). For this Portal all other dates are expressed as either BCE, “Before Common Era”, or CE, “Common Era”.

The Paleolithic Era is divided into:

Lower = ca 2.5 m – 200,000 BP

Middle = ca 200,000 – 45,000 BP

Upper = ca 45,000 – 9500 BP

The Mesolithic Era is divided into:

Lower = ca 9500 – 9000 BP

Upper = ca 9000 – 8000 BP

The Neolithic period is divided into:

Early = ca 6000 – 5000 BCE

Middle = ca 5000 – 4500 BCE

Late = ca 4500 – 4000 BCE

Final = ca 4000 – 3000 BCE

These chronological refinements enable prehistorians and archaeologists to denote major cultural developments and to date more closely the archaeological materials under investigation. Various radiometric dating techniques are used to provide an “absolute date” (within a standard deviation) in calendar years to an archaeological context and sometimes to an artifact.

For the Aegean Bronze Age there are three major subdivisions:

Early Bronze Age (EBA)

Middle Bronze Age (MBA)

Late Bronze Age (LBA).

Besides the Early/Middle/Late within the Bronze Age system there are phases for each: I/II/III and frequently sub-phases A/B/C. These in turn can be further divided into 1/2 or early/middle/late.

For a fuller discussion of the basic chronological issues and regional terminologies of the prehistoric period see: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~prehistory/aegean/?page_id=67

Further, it is divided into three major regional chronologies: “Minoan” for Crete; “Cycladic” for the Cycladic islands; and “Helladic” for the southern Greek mainland and adjacent islands. Thus,


The Late Bronze Age period in the southern Greek mainland is frequently labeled as Mycenaean as well as Late Helladic. It is subdivided as follows:





LH IIIC early/middle/late

Along with or in place of Early Minoan/Middle Minoan/Late Minoan terminology, given that a major feature of the Bronze Age on Crete was the palaces, many scholars also use for chronological descriptions these terms:

Pre-palatial = EM IA-MM IA (ca 3100/3000-1925/1900 BCE) 

Protopalatial(or “Old Palace”)= MM IB–MM IIB (ca 1925/1900–1750/1720 BCE)

Neopalatial (or “New Palace”)= MM IIIA–LM IB (ca 1750/1720–1490/1470 BCE)

Post-Palatial = LM IIIA-C (ca 1490/1470 – 1075/1050 BCE)[A1] 

After the Bronze Age at the end of the 1st millennium BCE the two basins enter a “proto-historical” period which is the equivalent, roughly speaking, of the “Early Iron Age” periods elsewhere[A2] .  Subsequently, there is the historical period which begins approximately in the 8th century BCE. The dating of archaeological contexts and artifacts from this point onward is achieved by a combination of high precision relative dating techniques (such as pottery style/form evolution and architectural style/form evolution) with historic events, various written texts, inscriptions and coins.

These two proto-historical and historical periods are conventionally divided as:

Protogeometric period = ca 1050 – 900 BCE

Geometric period = ca 900 -725/700 BCE

Archaic period = ca 725/700 – 490 BCE

Classical period = 490 – 323 BCE

Hellenistic period = 323 – 146 BCE

Imperial Roman period = 146 BCE – 337 CE

Byzantine period = 337 – 1453 CE

Ottoman period = 1453 – 1821 CE

The pre-Ottoman periods are frequently subdivided into Early/Middle/Late. In the Late Byzantine and the early part of the era of Ottoman domination there are regional chronologies associated with the occupation of the Venetians, the Franks and the Genoese.

Re the Bronze Age,  [A1]you provide dates only for Crete. I suppose the ideal would be to have a chart with the divisions/subdivisions for Helladic, Minoan and Cycladic. If inclusion of such a table is difficult, programming-wise, then we should probably avoid favouring Crete over the other areas and simply include dates, very generally, for EBA, MBA, LBA. This latter option would fit better also (in terms of detail) with the dates you have provided for the earlier prehistoric, and the later, historic periods.

 [A2]‘elsewhere’ seems rather vague. Especially given what you say in the first sentence, it could be taken to mean all other regions bordering the Aegean and Ionian. Is it true of the Balkans, Italy, North Africa? Or Anatolia, and the Near East?