The American School of Classical Studies at Athens

The author at Kalamianos


An Interview with Daniel Pullen, Author of NVAP I

by Andrew Reinhard

There’s something about the prehistory of Greece that prompts Clio into action. Jeremy Rutter’s volume on the pottery of Lerna IV (Lerna III) and now Daniel Pullen’s new book, The Early Bronze Age Village on Tsoungiza Hill (Nemea Valley Archaeological Project I), are major undertakings published by the ASCSA that provide comprehensive, detailed accounts of their respective sites.

While “corridor houses” such as the House of the Tiles at Lerna have provoked widespread discussion about the origins of social stratification in Greece, few settlements of the Early Bronze Age (ca. 3100 to 2000 B.C.) have been thoroughly excavated. Pullen’s important study integrates the presentation and analysis of the archaeological evidence from a single settlement that flourished on Tsoungiza Hill in the Nemea Valley from the Final Neolithic until the end of the Early Helladic period. The first section details the stratigraphy, architecture, deposits, and ceramics of each of the five major periods represented. The second section contains specialist reports on all aspects of the material culture including figurines and ornaments, textiles and crafts, metal analyses, chipped and ground stone, and faunal and palaeobotanical remains.

In an email interview, Pullen summarized what he feels to be the major contribution of NVAP I. “We’ve learned about the earlier phases of the EBA. Places like Lerna and Tiryns have hints of them, but only at Tsoungiza were we able to excavate real deposits of those phases. We’re able to show how the later EBA corridor houses, like the famous House of the Tiles at Lerna, began from our House A dating to early in EH II. I would like for readers to be able to understand the deep history behind some of the achievements of the later EBA.”

The Early Bronze Age Village on Tsoungiza Hill is different from other monographs and series dedicated to an individual site. “Many large-scale excavations have their publications broken down into multiple volumes separated by several years, but we wanted to have everything EBA—all of the specialist reports as well as the standard pottery, architecture, and stratigraphy—together in one volume,” Pullen said. “This way a reader can more easily get a picture of the whole scope of the village and its inhabitants during the EBA.”

Pullen first became involved with the Nemea Valley Archaeological Project in the fall of 1982, when Steve Miller, then Director of the ASCSA, asked him to go to Nemea to conduct a salvage excavation on Tsoungiza with Bob Bridges. Pullen recalled that “deep plowing had exposed Early Bronze Age material, and we were asked to test the extent of the deposits. That led to the excavation of a small isolated structure that had so much pottery associated with it that it must have been for storage. Then when NVAP was started in 1984, Jim Wright asked me to participate, as I was working on the EBA in the area for my dissertation and already had worked on Tsoungiza.”

For those who have never visited Tsoungiza or the Nemea Valley, Pullen offers this description: “Things have changed so much since the School started working there in the 1920s! Carl Blegen, J. P. Harland, and crew often walked in from the train station, several miles away. We would take a local bus from Corinth to Iraklion, as the village of Ancient Nemea was then called, and be let off in front of the only kafeneion. There were two, sometimes only one, small ‘pantopoleion’ shops that sold a little of everything and not much of anything. Now one can easily exit from the Corinth–Tripolis expressway at the ‘Ancient Nemea’ signs, quickly arrive at the museum and Sanctuary of Zeus site, and then see the hill of Tsoungiza rising on the northwest side of the village, less than a mile from the museum. The village has long been a major grape-growing area, but now there’s more emphasis on high-quality wines (more than the old Blood of Herakles variety!). You can now follow the Wine Road through the valley and its vineyards.”

When Pullen started excavating Tsoungiza in the ‘80s, his original assignment was to uncover the Early Bronze Age architecture that J. P. Harland had excavated in the 1920s, but never published.

“We had his unfinished manuscript, notes, sketch maps, etc., but not the final architectural plan drawn up by Dorothy Cox,” Pullen said. “So my ‘simple’ task was to uncover the architecture and have the surveyors draw up a plan, all within a few weeks. We soon realized that much of Harland’s architecture was gone, leaving for us the unexcavated earlier phases of the EBA. Jim Wright asked me to continue with the excavations and publish them.”

Pullen’s many years spent in the Nemea Valley have yielded a number of memories and experiences, but two stand out.

“I really enjoyed working with people from the village. In Nemea it had been the tradition to hire women and men to excavate; this was very different from the usual all- male work teams, and it made the American women on the project more comfortable. We learned so much Greek of all kinds by talking with both the husbands and wives. We always knew exactly what everyone in the village had had for dinner the night before!”

Pullen’s best memory of his archaeological work at Tsoungiza was when he realized that the cow figurines he was working on were depicted with yokes, meaning they were pulling either a plow or cart.

“Seeing the expression on the face of Paul Halstead, the well-known faunal guy who was working on our animal bones, when I brought my toys to him was priceless. He immediately understood we had some of the earliest evidence in Greece for draft animals.”

Now that his work at Tsoungiza has been published, Pullen has turned his attention to other projects, most recently the Saronic Harbors Archaeological Research Project (SHARP) which he co-directs with Tom Tartaron. A preliminary report on the Mycenaean harbor town of Kalamianos, which is the focus of much of the work of SHARP, was published in the latest issue of Hesperia (80.4).

The Early Bronze Age Village on Tsoungiza Hill is now available for purchase through the David Brown Book Company and Oxbow Books. Libraries and individuals can opt to place a standing order for the NVAP series, which includes a 20% discount on this and future volumes.

Order the book and download sample content here.

1088 pp, 429 figs, 176 tables
9” x 12”
Cloth, ISBN: 978-0-87661-922-3