EMILY S. K. ANDERSON
Connecting with Selves and Others:
Varieties of Community-Making across Late Prepalatial Crete
This paper investigates how pieces of material culture were crucially involved in the building of two varieties and scales of community on late Prepalatial Crete: one local and “real,” the other inter-regional and largely “imagined.” My particular focus is on the first inter-regional stylistic glyptic group, the Parading Lions Group. Like all seals and impressions, members of the Parading Lions Group simultaneously embodied the social proximities and distances that define community dynamics. In their fundamental relationships with persons’ bodies, both the seal’s physical closeness to a human seal possessor and the impression’s distance from him were necessary elements of seal use, mediating between the individual actor and other community members. A similar tension of proximity and distance arose from the Parading Lions Group’s unique stylistic dynamics. These seals and impressions unprecedentedly and self-consciously linked the identities of seal possessors from regions across Crete – many likely never meeting face-to-face – through their participation in a shared glyptic style. A new, imagined community of peers was thereby forged, based on a stylistic proximity that spanned geographical distances. At the same time, each Parading Lions motif was also deliberately unique in its details, distancing the individual signified identity from others within the corpus. At a local level, possession of a Parading Lions seal would have differentiated a seal owner from others in his immediate community, by visibly asserting his participation in the larger inter-regional socio-stylistic phenomenon within local contexts of competitive display and negotiation. Meanwhile, both the seal, worn on the possessor’s body and seen during interpersonal encounters, as well as clay impressions, rendered by a sealer’s hand and directly engaged with by others’, were means of active participation in contexts of local community interaction. These dynamic objects thus contributed to the changing experiential dimensions of socio-cultural interaction across late Prepalatial Crete, by simultaneously acting at local and interregional levels, connecting and distancing persons in new and powerful ways.
On the Basic Social Unit of the Neopalatial Society
To define social structure means to understand which socio-economic units assemble to make a society function. Owing to the past selective approach to the material culture of prehistoric Crete, research has been deprived of the possibility to reconstruct social structure in the Bronze Age on the empirical grounds that may provide the archaeology of the basic production unit of all societies diachronically and universally, i.e. the household. The great value of the household lies behind some aspects of socio-cultural making that have been extensively explored in the case of palatial Crete, yet without it. For example, it reflects materially the interactive dialogue between individuals and the society and it mirrors social, economic and political change at the larger scale.
To work with households, though, requires defining their nature first. Our thus fur limited knowledge of the issue concerning the Cretan Bronze Age society has been enriched in the last decade by the publication of some studies, which address explicitly societal organization from the bottom up. The nuclear family, co-residential groups and extended households have been viewed so as possible basic social units. Limiting its scope to the Neopalatial period this paper presents briefly the proposed models and analyses the main arguments developed in each case with reference to the respective archaeological evidence. In the synthesis produced it assesses the “nature” of the Neopalatial household and discusses how this could be approached, further to be used for the better understanding of the social structure, namely of the discrete agents that supported the overall production of the Neopalatial era.
The Places and the Role of Consumption in MM II Phaistos
The quantity and quality of the tableware of the Protopalatial period (MM IB-MM IIB) recovered in Phaistos are the most striking evidence of the consumption episodes taking place at the site. Despite the emphasis given to the study of the vessels, less attention has been paid to a contextual analysis of pottery assemblages as markers of this kind of activities, which took place both inside and outside the palace.
The aim of this paper is to survey the places devoted to consumption in Protopalatial Phaistos, with a special focus on MM II, during which period a larger amount of data is available, considering in an inclusive reading both the pottery assemblages and the features of their find spots. The last ones, on the basis (a) of the architectural patterns (for instance the presence of banquets), (b) of their topographical location (inside/outside the palace), (c) of their position into the buildings to which they belong, could be considered as different physical contexts, where consumption episodes took place. These can be domestic, official or be placed in a halfway position, as argued by the recent reconsideration of building CV-CVII, located outside the palace area, on the slopes of the Acropoli Mediana, where it is possible to identify a great hall (endowed with a long banquet and with an alabaster slabs floor) specifically used to host consumption activities.
This paper will focus on the complementary study of the spatial configuration and of the pottery of the different rooms where consumption took place, on various scales, in order to assess the different kinds of social interaction carried out by groups acting both inside and in the area outside the palace.
D. MATTHEW BUELL
Urban Planning in Neopalatial Society
Scholars have often suggested that Minoan settlements were informally organized. As such, urban planning has often been ignored in scholarly writing concerned with Minoan society. This may be because the concept of urbanization is often poorly understood and undertheorized (Cowgill 2004: 526). In addition, the traditional criteria for determining city planning in the ancient city is rather rudimentary and often relies too heavily on simple dichotomous schemes (Smith 2007: 3). Quite simply, a more sophisticated understanding of Minoan town and city planning is needed.
As Carter (1983: 8) suggests, planned cities exhibit a formal organization of space. This formality, as recently argued by Smith (2007), can be viewed as a more general phenomenon of coordination among buildings and spaces within the city. This approach considers the following categories: simple coordination, formality and monumentality, orthogonal layouts, other forms of geometric order, and access and visibility (Smith 2007: 7). The relative degree of standardization, as it applies to architectural inventories, spatial patterns, orientation, and metrology, should also be considered (Smith 2007: 7). Through consideration of both the coordinated arrangements of buildings within several Neopalatial settlements (i.e. Knossos, Galatas, Hagia Triada, and Gournia) and the relative degree of standardization observed amongst these same sites, this paper will demonstrate that Minoan society employed urban planning in their city- and townscapes. This paper will conclude with some thought directed toward the political and social significance of Neopalatial Minoan urban planning, and specifically how it may relate to the “Knossian state”.
BRYAN E. BURNS
The Minoan Body:
Twentieth-Century Revivals Reconsidered
This paper explores the interplay between myth, archaeology, and desire in the ongoing attempts to recover the personalities and private lives of the Bronze Age Aegean. Minoan bodies have been claimed by numerous powerful, often contradictory, social forces of the twentieth century, including campaigns to promote local heritage, Greek nationalism, and greater European identity. Minoan objects and images have also fostered very personal identification with the past through feminist interpretations and the construction of alternative sexual identities. New artistic productions – including the numerous “goddess” and “boy-god” figures now known to be twentieth-century forgeries – have furthered the association of Minoan figures with heroic men, daring women, and aberrant characters from the realm of mythology.
Gender is perhaps the most significant structural element of the myths most applied to Aegean archaeology. Ancient sources characterize Crete as a distant island of diverse peoples and as a source of ritual and artistic origins. The classical tradition, however, also remembers Crete as a place of deviant desires, through myths of Queen Pasiphae's passion for the bull, the abduction of Ganymede from the Cretan Mount Ida, and even the invention of pederasty by King Minos. My analysis will focus on the interpretive links between the prehistoric Minoans and their classical successors, which encourage theories that the origin of “Greek love” can be found in Minoan times. For scholars and advocates, a tradition of initiatory pederasty could be traced back through the Dorian hunters and warriors of archaic Crete, to its earlier, more “natural” precedent in the Minoan Bronze Age. The evolution of these visual and mythic elements, however, has also opened the Cretan past to identification with changing notions of homosexual erotics and gay identity. I reconsider these revivals of Minoan bodies by scholars, artists, and devotees as an exploration of archaeological practice as well as the reception of Minoan imagery in broader dialogues.
Recreating the Past.
Using and Re-using Tholos Tombs in Protopalatial Mesara (Crete)
This paper aims at a thorough understanding of the funerary contexts of the Mesara plain (Crete) in the Protopalatial period (MM IB-MM IIB), focusing first on the chronology of the tholos tombs in use in the Protopalatial period, and then on their functions.
New results from the investigations I carried out during the last years on the ceramic material coming from one of the most important tholos tombs founded in Protopalatial times (MM IB-MM IIB), namely the main tomb of Kamilari cemetery, have provided crucial support to understand the chronology of those Mesara tholos tombs, which have revealed MM ceramic.
Despite the fact that it is widely agreed that the phenomenon of the Mesara tholos tombs continued from Prepalatial through Protopalatial times, several first-rate questions have so far remained unanswered: Which tombs were founded in the Protopalatial period? In which phase of the Protopalatial period were the Prepalatial tombs re-used? Which tombs were used (or re-used) in the Protopalatial period for burials and which ones only for non-funerary rituals? Why is there such a differentiation?
This paper aims to address these questions, focusing on both the chronology and the ritual aspects of the Protopalatial tholos tombs.
New Evidence on the Bronze Age Settlement Patterns of the Ierapetra Area
Despite the numerous archaeological projects along the North Coast of the Ierapetra Isthmus that provide significant evidence for the settlement history of the Mirabello Bay, little is known about the south part of the Ierapetra Isthmus. The lack of systematic archaeological fieldwork in the area is mainly a result of the dramatic landscape transformation that took place around modern Ierapetra during the past few decades. Chryssi Island is located just off shore of the town of Ierapetra and provides an excellent opportunity to study an isolated landscape and the way it was transformed and exploited during the Bronze Age. Recent archaeological discoveries by the 24th Ephoreia on Chryssi Island have increased our knowledge about the Bronze Age settlements patterns along the south Ierapetra Isthmus. A number of sites on the island date from the Final Neolithic to the Late Minoan I period. The existence of a large Neopalatial settlement on the west part of the island is intriguing because it suggests the possibility of a larger economic and administrative centre, yet to be discovered, on the opposite coast.
Performance Theory in Minoan Rituals and the Ambiguity of Minoan Symbols
From early in the 20th century to nowadays, interpreting Minoan religion has been distinguished by a general tendency to emphasize the importance of iconographic symbols so as to decipher religious symbolisms behind them. Even though studying symbols and symbolisms is indeed an essential process in order to understand Minoan religion, it is underlined here that such a tendency derives and at the same time enforces the epistemological distinction between thought (i.e. religious beliefs) and action (i.e. ritual) by stressing the first and ignoring the latter.
Modern anthropological research has highlighted the fact that religious symbols can be very ambiguous and unclear to the participants of a ritual practice, contrary to ritual ceremony which most of the times is widely understood and can be applied without necessarily a specific conceptual background. The results of these studies lead to a gradual shift from the ambiguity of symbols to the importance of ritual practice as a basic interpretative scheme and not a secondary analytical tool. Based on the importance of ritual and the variety of ways that ritual influences cultural and social reality, performance theory is a broad theoretical perspective which can considerably contribute to the approach and comprehension of Minoan religion.
The fundamental principles of performance and practice theory conceptualize ritual as: a) an event characterized by inter-subjectivity and efficacy, b) a liminal action performed through human bodily senses, and c) a practice consisting of durable dispositions (habitus), which are reproduced through repeated bodily antithetical schemes and movements, aiming at the creation of ritualized agents, i.e. persons who have the ability to deploy this ritual knowledge in non-ritual situations.
In this context, the present paper examines: a) the vulnerable elements of previous Minoan studies focused heavily on the analysis of symbols and symbolisms through iconography, b) the new ideas that performance theory introduces in the analysis of religious structures, and c) the potential of an application of these new perspectives in the archaeological record of Minoan ritual.
(Louvain-la-Neuve & Rethymnon)
Capturing the Dynamics of the Minoan Mortuary Space in South Central Crete
Some of the Minoan funerary choices have been materialized on the land through the establishment of burial places and can thus be recovered by a careful examination of the spatial patterning of cemeteries. In this sense, the implementation of Geographical Information Systems gives a unique opportunity to examine the location of tombs within the wider environmental context of Bronze Age societies, forasmuch as it makes it possible to take into consideration a large amount of topographical, geological, hydrographical and archaeological data.
In this paper, a GIS approach is applied to the funerary landscape of South Central Crete from the beginning of the Early Minoan period to the end of the Neopalatial phase. This particular area makes a suitable case-study since it has been the subject of several archaeological surveys that provide a detailed record of the evolution of human occupation all through Minoan history. After introducing some methodological issues related to the incorporation of published maps into GIS and to the relocation of burials sites on the terrain, the paper presents the results of GIS-based spatial analyses carried out in order to 1. model the appearance, evolution and decline of tombs within the landscape, 2. highlight some preferences related to the settings of mortuary sites, and 3. define the spatial relations between the tombs, the settlements and the natural environment.
The choices made by a society regarding the location of its cemeteries are indicative of the living’s attitude towards death and the dead, and of the roles and functions the deceased were assigned. Hence, such a detailed analysis of the arrangement of burials in space is expected to provide a better understanding of Minoan funerary behaviors and meanings.
(Louvain-la-Neuve & Athens)
Manpower and Neopalatial Architecture.
The Architectural Project as a Meaningful Experience
The built environment of Neopalatial Crete is considered here through the manpower implicated in its production, by means of a quantitative method of estimation of the time needed to construct a structure. This method is based on standard costs empirically established through experiments, observations and accounts of large building sites or businesses and involves a series of constructions which offer a sufficient degree of architectural precision so that their volumes can be estimated and hence, standard costs be applied to them. The results of this application, with regard to the potential inhabitants and therefore the available workforce, illustrate the architectural project as a meaningful experience. The strong polarisation between the costs of Neopalatial vernacular and ‘polite’ architecture is obvious, but more pertinently the accordance between the potential workforce and the costs of vernacular architecture reaffirms the involvement of the inhabitants in the construction of their homes, while ‘polite’ architecture shows a drastically different scheme. In the latter case, the necessary manpower by far exceeds the capacity of the residents to provide the required workforce. Rather, it indicates the privileged access to resources, both human and agricultural, of the residents which were able to mobilise many workers and compensate for their long absence from agricultural production during the time of the building project. This study aims to stress that if ostentation and elegance are the result of extensive energy investment linked to specific material preference (e.g. ashlar), it first and foremost testifies to the specific nature and availability of the workforce.
A GIS Platform for the Protopalatial Site of Monastiraki (Amari Valley, Crete)
The aim of the work is to show the construction of a GIS platform devoted to the Valley of Amari stemmed from the need to create a single computerised system for studying the archaeological sites and the natural and environmental features of the valley area. All the evidence (naturalistic, geomorphological, hydrological, archaeological and monumental) was then correlated by specific attribute tables to thematic databases into which all the data was transferred.
The design of the system has made it possible to integrate a second GIS level directly into the regional platform of the valley, which is devoted specifically to the Minoan Protopalatial complex of Monastiraki.
The GIS model is the result of programming which has been developed to ensure the harmonious integration of the data related to the data gradually acquired by survey activity in the Valley and also the digital archives related to the different sectors of information of the Minoan site of Monastiraki.
Oxford to Knossos:
Sir Arthur Evans’s Legacy and the Exhibition of the Minoan Past
160 years after his birth and 70 years from his death, Arthur Evans’s legacy remains strong. Through his excavations, publications, lectures, and extensive restorations he solidified his vision of the Minoan past that dominated Aegean archaeology for generations. Yet Evans was not only a leading archaeologist; he was also a successful Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford between 1884 and 1908. The present paper aims to address his role as Keeper and assess how his position within the museum might have informed his work at Knossos. After a brief introduction to the Arthur Evans Archive at the Ashmolean, the paper looks at Evans’s role in displaying and interpreting the Minoan past through his work at the museum and the exhibitions he organized in Oxford and London. Evans’s instructive approach to material culture, set within the framework of Victorian scholarship, is presented here as one of the fundamental influences on his work both in England and in Crete.
Diversity vs Similarity.
Exploring the Mortuary Evidence in Middle Minoan III Crete
It is generally accepted that mortuary evidence is a primary source for exploring status relations and the political dynamics of past societies. In principle, burial evidence has been analysed to explore social structure, the way the members of community were supposed to see themselves. Aside from limited studies on individual cemeteries or tomb types, analysis of Middle Minoan III funerary evidence remained in the shadow. Reasons can be found in the dearth of archaeological remains, and it is useful to remember that most of the evidence for this period, both domestic and mortuary, derived mainly from sites occupied in the following period (LM IA) and destroyed in LM IB. By collecting information on tomb architecture, cemetery distribution and burial assemblages the paper aims to investigate the development and regionalism of burial practices during Middle Minoan III, and to explore aspects of the social and political landscape. In particular, two palatial regions will be considered to be paradigmatic in understanding how burial choices were strictly related to different polities and social realities: the north-central and south-central Crete. The mortuary customs of these two areas reflect different political and social dynamics at the beginning of the Neopalatial period. The variety of burial practices among different regions of the island is also highlighted and provides significant evidence for the transitional stage of MM III that saw regional shifts after the destruction of the first Palaces and before the reconstruction of new centres of power.
Exotica and the Longboat:
Mortuary Evidence for Heterarchical Structures in Prepalatial Mochlos
Studies of Early Bronze Age society on Crete have changed in the past 30 years, with the focus shifting from hierarchical to heterarchical structures. While these recent approaches have altered the understanding of Prepalatial Vasiliki and Myrtos, Soles’ socially stratified and hereditary model of the Mochlos community remains unchallenged. Soles arrived at his interpretations by applying methods of the New Archaeology to the mortuary record, but his use of archaeological theory and evidence demands closer scrutiny. I propose a reanalysis of the Mochlos cemetery. Instead of focusing on the differences between the tombs, I believe the grave goods, particularly objects made of imported materials or exotica, offer more promising insights into the funerary rituals and social organization of Prepalatial Mochlos.
The Mochlos cemetery preserves evidence of over twenty tombs, each representing an attempt by a different burying group to construct and maintain its identity as an independent entity within the larger community. To achieve this, the population used funerary rituals, impossible to reconstruct fully but dependent on exotica. The community needed to mount trading expeditions to acquire exotica, dispatching dozens of rowers for long periods. Networks of debt, involving agricultural surplus and exotica, must have developed in order to feed the voyagers and satisfy local demands for foreign materials. Each death shattered economic and communal bonds, which burial rituals restored. During this process, participants had opportunities to realign social and financial balances for personal gain by depositing exotica. The recovery of exotica from the better preserved tombs suggests no one communal unit monopolized access to imports. Such a heterarchical organization may reflect the technology employed to acquire these goods: the longboat. This vessel’s need for an able-bodied crew provided multiple groups, each represented by a different tomb, direct access to exotica.
The Unknown Past of Minoan Archaeology:
From the Renaissance until the Arrival of Sir Arthur Evans in Crete
The suggested paper presents the “Minoan” results of my Thesis “Prolegomena to Aegean Archaeology; from the Renaissance until 1875” that was submitted to the University of Bristol in 2009.
Almost all books on the history of Minoan archaeology begin with Sir Arthur Evans’s excavations at Knossos, thus implying that the period before the 1890s represents for the Minoan studies some kind of tabula rasa. The truth is however different. Evans may be the main discoverer of the material remains of what he called “Minoan civilization”, but he owes much of the interpretation of his discoveries to previous scholarship, although this has not been widely acknowledged (even by Evans himself). Decades or even centuries before Evans, other scholars were interested in the prehistoric times of Crete. Knossos was a favourite tourist attraction from the Renaissance onwards, and the idea of a Minoan Age was established in the beginnings of the nineteenth century.
This paper therefore aims to systematically present the period from the Renaissance until the beginning of 1890s, when Arthur Evans first arrived on Crete. It will discuss how scholars discovered and identified prehistoric sites on Crete, defined cultures and coined terms, which inspired Evans in the construction of his Minoan paradigm. In doing so, it resurrects the work of scholars, such as Buondelmonti, Müller, Hoeck, Pashley and Spratt, and it assesses their importance in the development of Minoan studies, showing the intellectual debt that Evans owed to them. This paper aims to show that the period before the 1890s was no tabula rasa for Minoan archaeology, but an important and interesting phase, in which important discoveries and theories took place, some of which continue to influence current scholarship.
BORJA LEGARRA HERRERO
Looking to the East, Thinking of the West.
Contextualizing Cretan Early Bronze Age within Mediterranean Prehistory
Most of the current models on Cretan state formation still rely on ideological and material influences from the Levant and Egypt to explain key inflections in the appearance of complex socio-political institutions on the island at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. Such models are based on the assumption that Early and Middle Bronze Age societies on Crete must be understood in relation to social, political and economic organization identified in the developed civilizations of the Levant and Egypt. While simplistic diffusionist models are not longer accepted, we are still compelled to contextualise Cretan prehistory within broader political and economic trends in the East Mediterranean. The presence of east Mediterranean items on the island and the situation of Crete not far from these centres have been the main arguments to sustain such a paradigm. I would argue that this may not be the case and that many of the traits of Cretan societies the Early Bronze Age as well as their dynamic trajectories during the 3rd and 2nd millennia may be better explained by contextualizing them within a series of similar processes in areas of the western and central Mediterranean. Despite the presence of eastern Mediterranean material culture on Crete, the prehistory of the island has many more relevant parallels with the social, political and economic structures of contemporaneous societies in SE Iberia or Sardinia than with those of contemporaneous eastern Mediterranean cultures. The paper will explore the deep consequences that such a paradigm shift has for our understanding of the prehistory of the island how it may oblige us to reformulate many of the questions about the changes on the island during the 3rd and 2nd Millennia BC.
SANDRA LOZANO RUBIO
Gender Asymmetries in Minoan Crete:
A New Agenda
The study of Minoan Crete has been linked to gender concerns from the beginning of the discipline. Evans himself commented on the roles of women and men and imagined peaceful relationships in the times of the “Palaces”, and many after him played with the idea of a matriarchal society in ancient Crete. Later on, the lack of evidences backing up such interpretations and their evolutionary overtones were highly criticised. Probably due to these former excesses, the subject of gender power relationships has not been recently confronted. Instead, studies regarding gender in Bronze Age Crete have followed a very different path. The main focus has shifted to the range and variability of masculine, feminine and ambiguous identities through the scrutiny of iconography.
In this presentation I would like to draw the attention again to the subject of gender asymmetries and the need to revisit it under a new light. I suggest a new theoretical framework to analyse the variables that may have affected gender power relationships in Prepalatial Crete. Particularly, I will focus on two main variables. First, the pace and degree of the secondary product revolution implementation. According to many authors, among the many implications brought up by this revolution there is the emergence of male dominance and women subordination. I would like to explore the specificities of such a process in Prepalatial Crete and evaluate its possible influence on men and women statuses. Second, recent theories have challenged the presence of a centralised authority that would have fostered the changes towards a complex socio-political system in palatial times. The material evidence seems to show a rather different scenario where heterarchical processes and communal strategies were taking place. I consider that these new theories have an extra reading: the development of decentralised and community‐based processes may constitute one of the variables that contribute to a mild degree of gender inequality in Early Bronze Age Crete.
The Pretence of Being through Perception, Retention and Recollection
Minoan Archaeology has been in the centre of Aegean Studies from its beginning as a discipline. Several studies have focused on its use as defining aspect of the Greek identity and its impact in the broader cultural spectrum of Mediterranean studies (see Hamilakis). In this paper I would like to view Minoan Archaeology through the eyes of the specialized archaeologist, who is dealing with it on a more practical level, as the vividness of physical experience. Through the study of Knossian pottery with experts I realized the need for looking at the site ‘from inside out’ and gradually developed an informative system based on process. In this multi-level approach the focus stays on pottery typology, which is accompanied by quantitative methods and statistics taking into consideration all the available data, primary as well as published material. When dealing with the latter, we should bear in mind that data come to us already filtered by someone else’s views and interpretations. Thus the study of primary data is important, when trying to evaluate the material manifestations of a culture and getting as close to the truth as possible. In order to present my views on pottery studies, in particular, I will use here as a case study the project known as ‘Palace, Middle Minoan III’ undertaken some years ago by Colin F. Macdonald, Carl Knappett and me. The enterprise will be accompanied by theoretical observations on a-priori disciplines, like phenomenology.
Cross-Cultural Aspects of Music Making in Minoan Crete
Music and song were important domains of the performative culture of prehistoric Crete. Firmly embedded in ritual, the production, circulation and consumption of culturally organized sound provided dynamic arenas in which cultural identities, social status, and power relations were being shaped. Musical performances also had an impact on, and were influenced by, Crete’s manifold interactions with other communities within the Aegean as well as with the cultures of Egypt and the Near East. Based on diverse material, visual, and textual evidence including recent finds from Akrotiri on Thera, the paper explores how technical and symbolic knowledge related to music and musical instruments was transferred through intercultural networks in the third and second millennia BC Eastern Mediterranean. Crete had a central position in these networks, not the least due to the enormous communicative power of the performative practices that Minoan elites had under their control.
Gender as a Gauge of Social Complexity?
The Case of Pre-Palace Society on Crete
The emergence of palaces on Crete has preoccupied archaeologists for many decades with recent studies proposing innovative ways in which we can interpret the socio-political changes that characterised the Middle Minoan period.
The proposed paper will examine the validity of explanatory models that have tied gender to the process of social evolution. Such models have presumed on the one hand a link between gender equality and simple forms of society, and on the other hand a causal connection between gender asymmetry and social complexity. By association, it is often asserted or implied that gender inequality, and in fact the superior status of men, precipitates and supports great socio-economic and political changes.
The case of Early Minoan Crete presents us with data which can help us explore whether signs at the level of social organisation can indeed be considered as precursors for the great ensuing changes of the palatial phase. The paper will initially clarify the use of the term social complexity in the context of Minoan prehistory. Furthermore, an examination of the available evidence through the prism of gender stems from the now widely accepted principle that gender traverses all facets of life at its micro-scale and extending to the overarching structures that bound together the fabric of prehistoric societies.
The paper will seek to disentangle the connection between gender asymmetry and social complexity and will assess the validity of evolutionary schemes as have been applied in Minoan archaeology in particular. The discussion will focus on the evidence for gender heterarchy and equality in the Early Minoan period, thus questioning views that interpret gender inequality as a lever for emerging social complexity. Ultimately, the proposed paper will contribute to the ongoing discussion that aims to explain the emergence of social complexity on Crete.
Defining Minoan ‘Cult Rooms’ –
Past and Present Approaches to the Archaeology of Cult
Recognizing and identifying ‘Cult Rooms’ in Minoan Crete has long been a topic of research in Bronze Age Archaeology. The exact definition of a room as ‘cultic’ has often only been based on a presumed cultic symbolism of the objects found within a room, whereas the further scientific foundation of this interpretation has been neglected.
Since the time of Sir Arthur Evans who labelled many of the rooms he found as ‘cultic’ or ‘religious’ various other investigators have tried to make a convenient contribution to the topic: On the one hand there were primarily archaeological and architectonic studies based on the investigations of A. Evans and later M. P. Nilsson, e.g. presented by P. Faure, B. Rutkowski and G. Gesell. More recently S. Privitera and M. Zatti tried to link the identification of a so-called cult room to a possible ‘cultic rite’, which touches the second existent area of research constituted by ritual.
My paper aims at questioning these usual approaches which are mainly based on Evans’ assumptions by outlining their principal ideas and adding some other aspects in order to improve the traditional ways of identifying ‘cult rooms’.
For this purpose, by means of a few characteristic examples from the Minoan Palatial Period, I will discuss five criteria which in my opinion are important for identifying a ‘cult room’, i.e. a room that is involved in the performance of cultic actions: The topographical setting of a room, its architectonic form and accessibility, the archaeological finds, furnishings and decoration, the impression of the whole establishment and also the rooms adjoining or annexing the particular ‘cult room’. These considerations form the methodological and theoretical frame of my work and are partially based on the investigations of C. Renfrew.
The aim of my lecture is to refocus on a critical interpretation of a room as ‘cultic’ based on the archaeological material and thus create a new basis for the identification of ‘cult rooms’ applicable for future research.
A Sequence of Steps towards the Understanding of Movement, Gesture and Dance in Minoan Iconography
Dance in Aegean Bronze Age iconography suffers from a lack of specificity. We often hear about ‘ritual’, ‘religious’ and ‘ecstatic’ dances, yet these terminologies are rarely clarified or questioned in terms of accuracy. More to the point, it seems that the term ‘dance’ is too readily attributed to scenes containing gestures and bodily comportments which appear alien to the modern eye. This paper addresses concerns regarding the manner in which certain glyptic scenes have been examined previously, and demonstrates how unsystematic study can lead to the formation of false assumptions. Firstly, I examine Evans’, Persson’s and Nilsson’s identification of dance and question their recognition of movement as their basis for interpretation. Following a wider study of Aegean Bronze Age iconography, I establish that movement sometimes appears as a stylistic feature which can convey an impression of its existence without actually being present. The three authors’ original argument is therefore proved refutable. Secondly, the assumptions the aforementioned scholars form on the nature of dance based on their identification of movement are discussed. Movement does not necessarily imply dance, and the depicted activities could therefore represent sports, work or games for example. Finally, the three authors’ study of context is evaluated. I suggest a closer examination of the manner in which the human body is rendered in glyptic is necessary if one is to attempt to understand and define the depicted activities. Moreover, the concept of dance itself needs a more thorough consideration if its presence is to be suggested. Ultimately, this paper suggests that Aegean Bronze Age iconography contains attitudes and activities which cannot always be compared to those we know today, yet which may present values of physical expression the Minoans and Mycenaean considered socially acceptable.
Social Stratification in Middle Bronze Age Knossos:
A Bioarchaeological Perspective
Although the study of mortuary practices, as reflected in the funerary architecture, intra- and inter-cemetery spatial patterning, grave goods or the rituals of past communities, clearly benefits research into social stratification of the respective communities, the relationship between status in life and treatment at death is not straightforward. This may be conditioned by factors such as ideologies of the community pertinent to death and identity, circumstances of death, or competitive display and ‘agency’ of the funerary group. In this context, analysis of past population skeletal biology can give a direct insight into the actual living conditions of these people, and thereby offer a nuanced understanding of social ranking and stratification.
This paper will use the study of the human skeletal collection from the Middle Minoan cemetery at Ailias in the Knossos district on Crete in order to shed more light on the ‘nature’ of the Middle Bronze Age society on the island. In particular, it will use a bioarchaeological research framework to investigate: first, the relationship between mortuary variability in the Ailias cemetery and kinship, and second, the relationship between archaeologically inferred social ranking at the time of death and quality of life, as reflected in the skeletal biology – i.e. social versus biological status.
Analysis of metric and non-metric skeletal morphology will be employed to explore issues of kinship and intra-population variation in the Ailias collection. Moreover, the biological status and the quality of life of the individuals examined will be assessed through analysis of dental and skeletal health, the level and the distribution of activity-related stress on the musculo-skeletal system. Finally, particular emphasis will be given on the reconstruction of the diet of the Ailias population. To this end, in addition to indirect dietary evidence, such as dental attrition and dental pathology, stable isotope ratio analysis of bone samples from Ailias and another contemporary collection from Knossos will be used to explore evidence for intra- and inter-population dietary variation.
PANAGIOTA A. PANTOU
(De)constructing Identities through Architecture in LM III Crete
After the LM IB destruction of the palaces of Crete, a number of structures began to appear on the island whose architectural organization contrasted sharply with those of the earlier periods. One such structure is House He, a Mycenaean “Corridor Building” excavated early in the 20th century at the site of Gournia in East Crete.
This paper discusses the architectural, cultural, and ideological significance of House He. A secure date of construction for House He has not been established on the basis of stratigraphic evidence. Drawing on architectural developments of the Mycenaean period in Crete and the Mainland and based on my examination of unpublished pottery from House He, a LM IIIA1 date of construction is proposed. During this period, East Crete and Gournia were under Knossian control and Mycenaean influence on material culture was predominant. In this phase, House He would have assumed an important role in the organization of the LM III settlement, functioning as a gathering place for the community and/or as the residence of Knossian officials based at Gournia.
The collapse of the Mycenaean palace at Knossos in LM IIIA2 allowed the expression of a renewed “Minoan” identity which was manifested in the remodelling of House He and the addition of a Minoan style ashlar wall at the entrance of the megaron unit. It is suggested that this remodelling was an intentional attempt to reconnect to earlier Minoan architectural and cultural traditions. Comparable architectural behaviour from the Mycenaean Greek Mainland and pre-industrial Crete substantiates this hypothesis.
The fall of the centre at Knossos in LM IIIA2, led to the earlier Minoan pattern of regionalism and the emergence of a number of newly independent economic centres. Based on architectural and archaeological evidence, House He was transformed in LM IIIA2-B from a structure with a public function into an elite private residence.
Looking Back to the Earlier Interactions between Crete and Cyprus
from an Eastern Mediterranean Perspective
Recent research of previously unpublished Aegean material, in addition to older data, from various settlements and burial contexts has shown that ‘Mycenaean’ pottery was frequently found in greater quantities within graves than in domestic areas; but this material still accounts for far less than the local pottery. Ceramics and other objects originating from Minoan Crete were discovered in Cypriot soil as well. As part of a greater research project that aims to provide a clearer picture regarding the nature and character of the Aegean and Aegeanising material found on Cyprus during the entire Late Bronze Age, it is essential to record and discuss the presence of the earlier ‘Minoan’ material found on that island. A crucial element of this research is to attempt to understand the role Minoan Crete played in Cyprus before the Palatial Period during which the Aegean material is most strongly represented on Cyprus. The aim of this paper is to present the theoretical and methodological framework regarding the study of the earlier contacts between Aegean and the island of Cyprus. At this early stage of research, the available material will be briefly presented and discussed in comparison with artefacts of Cypriot origin found in the Aegean. ‘Minoan’ objects have been discovered and studied in Egypt, Anatolia and also Syria-Palestine, and it is suggested that in order to assess the Cretan-Cypriot connections a diachronic and interregional approach is required, i.e. placing the Cretan-Cypriot connection within the greater Late Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean context. An effort will also be made to identify a pattern in this exchange and to determine the function these objects served for local communities outside Crete. Finally, it will be proposed that these earlier exchanges lay the foundations on which Aegean mainlanders based their trade some centuries later.
MARK S. PETERS
Between the Physical and Metaphysical:
Exploring Aspects of Communication in the Temple Tomb at Knossos
The Temple Tomb at Knossos is one of the most intriguing and enigmatic buildings of the Minoan world. Possessing characteristics suggestive of both funerary and religious functions, its precise social role remains obscure. With much attention focussed upon the form and content of the so-called ‘sepulchral chamber’ and pillared rooms of the complex, interpretations have tended to focus upon these functional attributions at the expense of considerations of social knowledge, inhabitation, performance, and communication. In this paper I propose to explore how these concepts not only provide for a potential resolution to the specific interpretive problems posed by the Temple Tomb, but also how the issues raised by this study may contribute to the wider theoretical problems of examining human communication in the past.
Recognizing the multi-modal nature of human communication, these four inter-related themes will be addressed initially through an examination of the semiotic potential of the various architectural, material, representational, and decorative elements from which conceptual knowledge was generated and transmitted. This will be followed by an analysis of how various signs and architectural features structured communication through the definition, control, and manipulation of inhabited space. In doing so, I will show how these mechanisms were deliberate considerations in the design and construction processes and, consequently, how it was envisaged that social situations and performances could be manipulated to control access to restricted knowledge, maintain levels of social differentiation, and regulate communication within and beyond the confines of the complex. Associated with this I will explore issues surrounding communication and social transformation across metaphysical as well as physical boundaries. Finally, drawing these elements together, I will provide an alternative interpretation of its role and discuss the diachronic nature of conceptual communication and the potential for the transference, development, or transformation of such concepts within Minoan society.
CONSTANCE VON RÜDEN
Minoan Style Reliefs from Tell el Dabca –
A Case of Transmediterranean Knowledge Transfer
Since 1992 a large quantity of Minoan style paintings has been discovered in Avaris/Tell el Dabca located in the eastern Nile delta. Their distribution outside the entrances of the palaces G and F on the eastern bank of the Pelusiac Nile Branch leads to the assumption that they have been part of an earlier decoration of these two buildings from the Tuthmoside Period. Beneath these findings around 300 fragments of relief plaster have been identified so far. Differences in composition and surface treatment distinguish them significantly from the rest of the traced material. Beside human figures, several animals like bulls, lions and goats are depicted almost in life-size.
The technique and the way of production are similar to the well-known Minoan reliefs from Crete and the same holds true for their motifs and iconographic composition. The abundance of such a complex handicraft in these two distant regions hints to a transfer of highly specialized knowledge across the Eastern Mediterranean, implying an intensive communication process between them. However, this is not the case concerning their architectural embedding; the axial aligned Egyptian palace architecture with its extensive visual axes is quite different from the layout of the Minoan palaces. These differences speak for a specific local incorporation and perception of the paintings in Egypt.
The paper will focus on the presentation of the largely unpublished corpus of relief plaster from Tell el Dabca and its technical and iconographical features in comparison to the Minoan material. Finally it will raise the question how their local perception as an element of Egyptian palace architecture might have differed from their Cretan counterpart to approach an understanding of the underlying process of adaption of this handicraft in the Eastern Nile delta.
The Body Brand and Minoan Zonation
The human body abounds in the Minoan excavation record, from seals to frescoes to figurines to human remains. Nevertheless, it is usually approached mainly as an art object or as a collection of bones, and occupies the interpretational margins of Minoan archaeology, with the exception of its role in religion or society. Few luminous exceptions have attempted to go beyond such constraints, into thematic territories such as gender and embodiment.
This paper, based on the author’s current research, advocates an integrated approach to the human body in the Cretan Bronze Age. According to this, the combination of diverse somatic datasets can reveal very interesting and hitherto neglected social and other patterns. One such pattern, presented here, regards the role of the human body in the construction of geographical and perhaps social zones. In effect, and using specific examples, a new way of looking at the human body in Minoan Crete is proposed, and a case study of the potential of such an approach is presented.
Performance, Social Differentiation and Architectural Space in Prepalatial Cemeteries
This paper posits a performative approach to space and the built environment, arguing that performance is an underused yet informative tool which can aid us in understanding more subtle and nuanced areas of archaeology, such as ideology, ritual and social constructs. A discussion of the usefulness of this approach is followed by a case-study from the Prepalatial period (c. 3000-1900 BC) on Crete.
Cemeteries are ideal areas to examine as sites of performance. Performances within the mortuary sphere are common occurrences, and cemeteries are often regarded as arenas for social and cultural interaction for the community of the living. Funerary performances would have been powerful public events, which would have impacted on both participants and spectators. This is especially prevalent in an analysis of Early Bronze Age Crete, where cemeteries are the primary architectural evidence, suggesting an investiture in the spaces of the dead not accorded to those of the living.
House Tombs were the prevalent burial custom of north-eastern Crete, while circular tholos tombs were common in the south-central region. The social realities – and differences – of these two societies are usually interpreted on the basis of material evidence deposited within the tombs and the energy invested in their construction. The purpose of this paper is to re-evaluate these interpretations by focusing on the use of space within the built mortuary landscape to decipher the performance of individuals within this constructed landscape. I argue that the arrangement of space, and of objects and structures within space, provides a separate category of data from which to draw conclusions about social structures within Prepalatial society. This approach can be used to illuminate the different ways these societies perceived themselves and reacted to the island-wide emergence of social hierarchies and differentiation.
ANTONIA STAMOS (PRESENTING), CHRYSSA SOFIANOU AND THOMAS M. BROGAN
(Philadelphia & INSTAP Study Center for East Crete; 24th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities; INSTAP Study Center for East Crete)
Making the Invisible Visible:
Ground Penetrating Radar at Papadiokampos, Crete
The Bronze Age settlement of Papadiokampos is located on the coastal plain west of the Trachilos peninsula just west of Siteia in eastern Crete. It was discovered by Chryssa Sofianou of the 24th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and is the focus of her ongoing research program at the site. Assistance in mapping the Late Minoan harbour town has been provided by the Publication Team of the Institute for Aegean Prehistory Study Center for East Crete. Topographical mapping of the site has revealed building remains that stretch for approximately 250 meters along the coast, the majority of which are situated along the cliff.
Ground penetrating radar, or GPR, has also been systematically used at the site before excavation. It has proven instrumental in the location and identification of subsurface features, such as the detection of House A1 along the western edge of the site and House B1 located 100m to the east of House A1 on the other side of a now-dry streambed. The main objective of the GPR survey is to facilitate excavation in the four areas that are rich in archaeological finds. Moreover, the discovery of two large buildings has coincided precisely with the excavated finds, adding further credence to the efficacy of the equipment at the site.
Pots and Potters –
Thoughts on Ceramic Technology and the Craftsmen behind the Product
Ethno-archaeological comparisons and experimental archaeology have long formed part of various fields of archaeological research throughout the Aegean and beyond. The present paper seeks to employ these methods to combine several aspects of the conference by focusing on ceramic technology and the social status of the craftsmen in Neopalatial Crete. Fifty years after the pioneering studies of Hampe and Winter on potters and tile-makers in Greece and Italy, a comparison between pottery production in the Minoan workshop at Zominthos, experimental pottery production at Mochlos, and a traditional potter at the village of Margarithes may offer interesting clues on the stages and methods of production and the way things may or may not have changed over time. The opportunity to observe traditional craftsmen and their modes of manufacture is going to decrease throughout the 21st century which makes the documentation and preservation of this source of information even more significant. This also bridges the gap to the second topic of the paper: the craftsmen behind the product.
The identification and analysis of raw-materials, workshops and tools have shed considerable light on various aspects of technology and industry in Minoan Crete. However, little is known about the craftspeople themselves. Thanks to some of the written Linear B sources we are rather well informed about certain crafts and craftsmen in Mycenaean Greece but what about their Minoan predecessors? Judging from the finished products, especially Neopalatial pottery of various styles, and the supposed organization of a palatial society, I will try in this paper to examine the social status of Minoan potters and argue in favour of a distinction between rural and palatial potters and production on a household level.
Closed-context Deposits and Middle Minoan Social Hierarchy
The study of Middle Minoan closed-context deposits, mostly containing ceramic assemblages, is revealing some aspects of the Minoan social hierarchy. Such deposits have been labelled generically as “foundation”; “floor”; or “ritual” deposits, but religious rituals are typically rigidly established and repetitive, whereas the deposits can be noted for their variability. Within the palaces the deposits start as highly symbolic, but soon split between depositions of valuable broken objects linked to the elite and depositions of materials used in ceremonies or feasts where participation was socially stratified. Moving out from the inner areas of palaces, similar deposits can be still found, but these always suggest some evidence of communal ceremony (albeit limited in numbers) and broken objects are occasionally placed within these assemblages. A typical “public” versus “private” analysis fails to categorise the deposits since it is obvious that the religious idea or cult is one in all cases, and there was also an audience probably in all cases. It appears therefore that the differences in the composition of the deposits depend upon the social dynamics in which the agents depositing the materials were involved. The palatial elite seems to have embraced an established ritual attempting to reserve to itself some aspects of it (depositions of broken objects), while it attempted to stress social ranking at communal feasting ceremonies. Different deposits from the palatial area also suggest that the palatial elite attempted to associate some materials and behaviours to specific social groups. Closed-context deposits reveal how the Minoan elite attempted to create a pyramidal society and place itself at the top, and how this process was far from being concluded at the end of the Middle Minoan period: as far as these deposits are considered, social hierarchy broke down just a few metres away from the residence of the elite.
A Portable Goddess.
On Performative and Experiental Aspects of Figures and Figurines
Coroplastic studies – concerning figures and figurines, are a distinct, very vibrant and dynamic field of archaeological research. Art historical approaches have recently been replaced by methodologies based on contextuality, and the field of study has also benefitted from ethnographic research and gender studies. A traditional perception of figures and figurines was usually as objects of art, whose main purpose was to be looked at. However, as ethnographic examples illustrate, anthropomorphic statuettes are made to be used in a variety of ways and interacted with, thus touched, handled, and carried about. In this paper I discuss performative and experiental aspects of so-called Goddesses with Upraised Arms, terracotta figures and figurines, representing a standing female, with a long skirt, and arms stretched upwards, dated to Late Minoan IIIC. As comparative material I use examples of the same type known from Cyprus, from the Late Cypriot III until the Classical period. Considering their find spots, dimensions and wear patterns I discuss how they might have been handled and displayed and how that would affect the way people who interacted with them perceived them. Although morphologically similar, Cretan and Cypriot examples vary clearly in size and, as I argue also in function. All studied examples are three-dimensional objects, with a certain degree of portability. Bigger or smaller size imposes specific limitations and possibilities, i.e. a figure is more visible for a larger group of people, and a figurine is more palpable and easier to handle. Moreover, the dimensions of the object play an important role in the process of perception and can have psychological effects on viewers and/or handlers. An example of a performative aspect of Cretan figures, which I discuss thoroughly in this paper, is their possible usage in processions, or as a representation of a ritual, assuring its continuous repetition.