Rethymnon, Crete
Rethymnon, Crete

Michael Curtis

Living in Wellingborough, Northants, Michael is a practising professional landscape and coastal archaeologist.

Living in Wellingborough, Northants, Michael is a practising professional landscape and coastal archaeologist.
Mentored by Leslie V Grinsell (The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, 1936), Michael undertook his introduction to archaeology in Bristol in the late 1960s/early 70s. He read Archaeology at the University of Southampton (1974-77), practicisng field archaeology and pursuing a successful business career in the public and private sectors before returning to complete an MA in Archaeology at the University of Nottingham (2017). He is currently undertaking PhD research at the School of Archaeology & Ancient History, University of Leicester, into maritime Crete and the remodelling of the coastal landscape during the Roman period. Michael has a special interest in the development of Cretan harbours, and is a lead member in a new Greek--led project to survey and investigate the Roman harbour and its coastal hinterland at Ierapetra, in Eastern Crete.

Michael was joint editor of a British School at Athens Studies volume on Post-Minoan Crete (1998) and is a joint editor of a new book in preparation entitled 'Change and Transition on Crete: Interpreting the evidence from the Hellenistic through to the early Byzantine period'. He is a frequent traveller in Greece and speaker at international conferences.

What first sparked your passion for archaeology?

My passion for archaeology stems from watching the first daily black and white television broadcasts from Silbury Hill, Wilts, in the late 1960's as Richard J C Atkinson dug a tunnel into the centre of the hill. I demanded the television be put on for each broadcast and I sat on the floor transfixed with excitement. On seeing my interest my father went out and purchased a copy of Mortimer Wheeler's 'Archaeology from the Earth', since when I have not looked back!

What does archaeology mean to you?

Being an archaeologist is like being a Time Lord as we journey and uncover the past, interpreting how people lived through the study of the artifacts and the remains that they left behind. Through their rubbish, abandoned settlements and burials we are able to reconstruct how societies developed, sometimes to become powerful entities, and how some of them fell in to decline. It also enables us to glimpse how man has changed the natural landscape over time and how changes in the climate and natural events have led to the abandonment of areas and the movement of peoples as they sought new lands that could support their needs.

What is your favourite archaeological site?

My favourite archaeological site is Phalasarna in Western Crete. Situated now inland due to a tectonic uplift, this harbour was created out of a sea lagoon in the Archaic period. Divided from its urban hinterland by a defensive wall in a tradition observed elsewhere by Aristotle, and off the main tourist route, this two basined harbour is one of the best preserved examples of a 'closed harbour', protected by defensive walls and towers and with restricted access to the sea through a rock-cut channel. Its natural uplift, and isolated position, have been important factors in its preservation.