Excavations carried out by The Helike Project in the Helike plain on the south-western coast of the Gulf of Corinth, north-west Peloponnese, since 2000, have brought to light the well-preserved remains of a coastal Early Helladic (EH) II–III settlement. The site developed as a densely organised settlement during the EH II period and underwent a major architectural transformation at the beginning of the following EH III. In addition to a reorganisation of the settlement on a rectangular town grid, the outstanding feature among the buildings discovered is that of a monumental Corridor House. The newly organised building plan of the settlement was most probably associated with the rise of a new socio-economic structure at the time, including advanced technological specialisation, and possibly the establishment of administrative control within the town supporting communal interests, together with a new emphasis on the status of the private individual.
Considering EH Helike in its broader geographical context, the site's prosperity marks an exception to the widespread decline attested in the mainland settlements of the time, and links it rather with centres across the Aegean Sea and further east. In addition to similarities at the level of settlement organisation, such overseas links and contacts are conspicuously evidenced at Helike through the presence of an array of exotic, prestigious items and commodities including an outstanding depas cup of Trojan/Anatolian type, ornaments of precious metal from the east or the north and Melian obsidian tools, and by the adoption of ‘international’ fashions of life such as the ‘serve and drink’ culture and ‘potter's marks’. In this paper, we present the range of material evidence from the EH III town of Helike illustrating its various spheres of foreign contact, and discuss possible insights into the social and economic conditions that generated the town's floruit and cosmopolitanism in EH III.