After a generation of intensive regional surface survey in the Mediterranean lands, it is both necessary and enlightening to evaluate the ways in which this new approach has produced results which either support, or demand modifications to, or directly challenge, previous ideas on the evolution of human settlement systems in this macro-region. Given that many regional survey projects have only recently achieved final publication, or are in the final stages of so doing, the implications of these recent discoveries are only now becoming apparent or discussed. The present paper is one attempt to draw wider conclusions from a region of Central Greece – the province of Boeotia, where the author has been conducting intensive survey since 1979. Specifically it compares the state of knowledge regarding the settlement evolution of the region based upon an earlier topographic and extensive survey tradition (Tossey 1988), with the results now available from the author and colleagues' intensive survey in two districts of the province.
A radical reinterpretation of the later prehistoric settlement systems is proposed with significant modifications also to the reconstruction of Classical and Hellenistic settlement networks. Closer agreement with prior knowledge is found with the new information for Roman and Late Roman settlement, whilst the further evolution of regional communities in medieval and post-medieval times – left out of Tossey's Gazetteer – can now be set out in some detail. The latter periods, as a result of highly informative historical sources, especially village tax registers, provide a cautionary tale in the complexities of matching archaeological settlement ‘continuities’ or ‘shifts’ with population and ethnic continuity. The overall analysis for the long-term settlement history of the province leads to the suggestion that similarities in settlement patterns have more to do with geography ‘constraining and enabling’ than with continuities of particular population or ethnic groups. This could seriously undermine the currently fashionable emphasis in Landscape Archaeology on the role of ‘memory’ and a ‘sense of place’ in the interpretation of past settlement networks.