The site of Azoria has a rich Bronze Age past. Founded in the Neolithic and continuing in use into Prepalatial and Protopalatial periods, the site remains of uncertain size in the early second millennium. It was substantial by Late Minoan IIIC. As the mixed foundation deposits indicate, the site was inhabited continuously from LM IIIC until the Late Orientalizing period (ca. 1200-700 BC). By the early sixth century BC the settlement was substantially rebuilt, not only utilizing the debris of earlier buildings as a foundation, but also significantly transforming the plan of the site and its spatial and architectural organization. The site had become a city and its new foundations suggest an equally new conceptualization of urban space.
The "spine wall," or ring wall, that encircles the South Acropolis suggests an element of urban planning and large-scale organization of space and labor usually lacking in the vernacular architecture of the neighboring Early Iron Age villages. This structuring of space is a marked departure from the agglomerative development of Late Minoan IIIC-Geometric settlements on Crete, whose architecture seems to grow organically with the expanding size of individual kinship groups and within the limitations of the topography and terrain. The reorganization and formal planning of the settlement evident at Azoria at the beginning of the sixth century BC should mark the foundation of the city and perhaps the establishment of an urban identity.
The elements of urbanization are (1) repetition of formal house types, such as the two-room plan of the houses on the south slope (B100 and 300); (2) the construction of a "spine wall," a single architecturally unifying element that both regularizes the uneven terrain, and also facilitates the organization and expansion of buildings across the settlement. It may well have had a segregating function as well, controlling communication routes and access to various parts of the settlement. (3) The foundation deposits across the site consist of a distinctive and remarkably consistent gravel layer, ca. 10-20 cm. thick. While the lowest bedrock deposits regularly contain earlier ceramic material (N, EM-MM II; LM IIIC-LO), there appears to have been a dramatic and apparently systematic leveling and rebuilding of areas on the hilltop at the beginning of the sixth century. (4) Differentiation of building types. Two basic house types have been identified--a square two room type (with a main central and hearth, and narrower second room for storage and processing), and a smaller axially planned three room type (main hall, kitchen, and storage area)--which with future study we hope will provide information on differentiation in crop and animal processing and consumption. Also a centralized storage and kitchen complex was recovered--three storerooms and two kitchens--contiguous to a large special-function building that appears to have been used for ceremonial dinning. While central administrative and cult buildings (andreia), accommodating the common meal (syssitia) of the military elite of the early Cretan city are known from literary sources, the identification of this complex is important evidence for the actual economics of this ruling group and its restructuring of the city's political organization in the sixth century. Preliminary results of the palaeobotanical and zooarchaeological study indicate that the central storage in the complex contained a large quantity of grapes and olives, while one of the kitchens produced a veritable midden of animal remains, including sheep, goat, agrimi, cow, pig, fish, sea urchin, crab and a variety of shell fish (limpet, trunculus), giving us a comparative assemblage for analyzing both differentiation in food consumption across the site, as well as the potential tribute and offerings paid to the center for participation in the common feasts. One purpose of work in 2003 is to explore the early history of this complex as well as diachronic changes in consumption patterns across the site.