, 2022-12-13 02:05:39,
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On the eastern end of the Greek island of Crete, archaeologist Dimitra Mylona steps out onto the dun-colored remains of the 3,500-year-old Minoan settlement of Palaikastro and considers the past. Not just the big-P past that is the fundament of her career but also the small-p past of her own route to truth through a discipline burdened by myth and speculation. For the past 30 years, Mylona has been testing and refining her methodology, sifting through sites to ever-finer degrees. And if there’s anything the past few decades have taught her, it’s that the closer you look at ancient Mediterranean civilizations, the more the fish rise to the surface.
Mylona is a zooarchaeologist—a specialist in the study of animal remains of ancient societies. Through the close observation of bones, shells, and other finds, zooarchaeologists try to re-create a picture of the way humans hunted, husbanded, ate, and more generally interacted with the animals around them. Traditionally, zooarchaeologists in the Mediterranean have focused on goat and sheep and other forms of terrestrial protein as the go-to meat sources for Greece and other Mediterranean countries. Back in 1991, as a new graduate student, Mylona thought no differently, imagining herself picking through the remains of livestock. But during one of her first digs, in the same Palaikastro she now surveys, the presence of an entirely different find captivated her—fish bones.
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