(1Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete, Rethymnon, Greece / 2Laboratory of Geophysical-Satellite Remote Sensing & Archaeo-environment, IMS-FORTH Rethymnon, Greece)

The region under study is located south of the town of Rethymnon, within the limits of the former Rethymnon province and the now homonymous municipality, which includes different geomorphological subdivisions (lowland, hilly and mountainous terrains). The area has been poorly surveyed compared to other regions of Crete. An exploratory survey of the region resulted the identification of a number of architectural remains (settlements, churches, secular buildings) which were considered as distinct sites covering the chronological frame from the Late Antiquity to the Late Ottoman Period on to the days of Cretan Policy (Autonomy). The goal of the survey was to recognize and record the archaeological sites of the region in an effort to study the architectural context of the monuments in relation to the natural and human landscape evolution and at the same time to provide a guide for the preservation of the cultural heritage in a rapidly developing environment.
Archaeological data were registered in a relational database (MS Access software) assembling conceptual fields for topographic, architectural and morphological information. The database was integrated in a Geographical Information System consisting of various environmental and topographic layers for the better spatial analysis of the sites and monuments. These layers included aerial photos and topographical maps from the Geographic Service of the Greek Army and the Greek Ministry of Agriculture, as well as old Venetian maps for Rethymnon region created by Fr. Barozzi and A. Oddi. ArcGIS 9.3 software was employed for the construction and analysis of slope and cost-surface. A number of thematic maps were created through GIS spatial analysis tools, which were ultimately used for visualizing the temporal evolution of settlement patterns, the reconstruction of the road/communication network and the definition of the productive areas (watermills, vineyards, arable land, terraces and pastures) around the sites. The results were cross-correlated to the written sources and archives.
The database combined with the GIS application offers a cultural heritage management tool for the local Archaeological Service (especially in terms of defining protection zones) and provides further input for the IMS/FORTH’s Web based Digital Atlas of Crete. The reconstruction of the past road network gives also the opportunity to unify the various late medieval and pre-modern monuments with their landscape and cultural context and can be used for the construction of new accessible paths of tourist attraction.

Keywords: Settlement patterns, road network, productive areas, cultural heritage, GIS, Crete.