From the beginning of the article:
In the course of discussion during the Second Annual Conference of the Copenhagen polis Centre, August 1994, John Camp challenged the view that the polis did not coalesce before the second half of the eighth century BC with the observation that several of the characteristic features of the polis (e.g. communal cult centers, fortification walls) and of the necessary preconditions to polis formation (e.g. settlement size and density, Near Eastern contacts) may be detected on Crete well before then. Camp wondered whether the polis might not have emerged somewhat earlier on Crete than elsewhere in the Greek world. This suggestion together with the work of Mogens Hansen and the members of the Copenhagen polis Centre inspired the following study which traces the development of one of the Cretan city-states, Gortyn, from the earliest evidence for settlement in the vicinity of the later Greek polis through the end of the Archaic period (ca. 1200-500 BC). Scholarly interest in Dark Age and Archaic Crete has increased dramatically in the past few decades, but it remains the case that apart from the work of survey archaeologists little attempt has been made to address processual questions across the Dark Ages (ca. 1100-700 BC) and on into the age of the city-state. In part this is perhaps due to the fact that the material remains of sixth- and fifth-century Crete have been particularly elusive and so discussion of the Archaic Cretan poleis focuses upon the island’s rich epigraphic record. But whatever the reason, the archaeological record from pre-literate and post-literate Crete has not been brought to bear upon the picture of the early Cretan poleis which emerges from the epigraphic record. This, in a most preliminary way, is what I hope to do for Gortyn in this two-part essay. The discussion in Part I focuses upon the material evidence for these seven hundred years of Gortynian history. Part II, forthcoming in a future volume of Papers from the Copenhagen Polis Centre, is devoted to the Archaic inscriptions from the temple of Apollo Pythios and the light they shed on Archaic Gortynian society.