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Architecture of Minoan Crete

Architecture of Minoan Crete

John c. McEnroe
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  • Book Info
    Architecture of Minoan Crete
    Book Description:

    Ever since Sir Arthur Evans first excavated at the site of the Palace at Knossos in the early twentieth century, scholars and visitors have been drawn to the architecture of Bronze Age Crete. Much of the attraction comes from the geographical and historical uniqueness of the island. Equidistant from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Minoan Crete is on the shifting conceptual border between East and West, and chronologically suspended between history and prehistory. In this culturally dynamic context, architecture provided more than physical shelter; it embodied meaning. Architecture was a medium through which Minoans constructed their notions of social, ethnic, and historical identity: the buildings tell us about how the Minoans saw themselves, and how they wanted to be seen by others.

    Architecture of Minoan Creteis the first comprehensive study of the entire range of Minoan architecture-including houses, palaces, tombs, and cities-from 7000 BC to 1100 BC. John C. McEnroe synthesizes the vast literature on Minoan Crete, with particular emphasis on the important discoveries of the past twenty years, to provide an up-to-date account of Minoan architecture. His accessible writing style, skillful architectural drawings of houses and palaces, site maps, and color photographs make this book inviting for general readers and visitors to Crete, as well as scholars.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79290-6
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-1)
  5. 1 The Land, the People, Identity
    (pp. 3-8)

    Seventy million years ago, a slow-motion collision between the African and the European tectonic plates pushed a buckled ridge of land above the surface of the sea. Complex geological processes, including a nearly complete submergence, continued to shape the land for the next sixty-five million years. Three to four million years ago, in the middle Pliocene, the ridge reemerged as the largest island in the Aegean Sea (fig. 1.1).¹ Like a miniature continent, Crete has the entire range of Mediterranean topography condensed into a land mass ca. 250km long and less than 60 km wide: snow-capped mountains, long beaches, inhospitable...

  6. 2 Architecture and Social Identity in Neolithic Crete (ca. 7000–3000 bc)
    (pp. 9-18)

    The four millennia from 7000 to 3000 BC saw the establishment of the first settlement at Knossos and ended in the Final Neolithic period. During this period Knossos became the most important settlement on the island and the basic forms and techniques of Minoan vernacular architecture were established.

    The earliest excavated remains in Crete date to the four millennia-long Neolithic period.¹ Perhaps because of the immensity of the time involved, the Neolithic period in Crete is still generally understood in terms of broad, simplistic stereotypes.² It is traditionally assumeto have been a period that was both essentially timeless and classless,...

  7. 3 Local, Regional, and Ethnic Identities in Early Prepalatial Architecture (ca. 3000–2200 bc)
    (pp. 19-30)

    During the Early Prepalatial period (EMI–EM IIB) the architectural landscape of Crete is characterized by tiny hamlets and communal tombs that vary according to regional and local traditions (fig.3.1). Architecture was an essential means of constructing a sense of community among the living and maintaining a connection with earlier generations.

    Myrtos, a small hamlet on the southern coast of Crete not far from modern Hierapetra, is the most informative EM site so far known (fig.3.2). Since its exemplary excavation by P.Warren in 1968–1970 it has been the basis for all discussions of EM domestic architecture.¹

    Interpretations of the...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. 4 Architectural Experiments and Hierarchical Identity in Late Prepalatial Architecture (ca. 2200–1900 bc)
    (pp. 31-43)

    The three-century period from 2200 to 1900 BC (EM III–MM IA) is often overlooked in Minoan archaeology. The unusual architecture of these centuries includes monumental tombs, fortifications, new construction techniques, and the development of a city whose extraordinary size was without precedent on Crete (fig. 4.1).

    Despite (or perhaps because of) a great deal of research,the period EM III–MM IA looks more complex today than it did a generation ago. For many years clear deposits of EM III material had been so rarely excavated that some scholars questioned whether it actually existed as a period, or whether the...

  10. 5 The First Palaces and the Construction of Power (ca. 1900–1750 bc)
    (pp. 45-56)

    The Protopalatial period (MM IB–MM IIB) lasted from ca. 1900 to 1750 BC, about 150 years. Over the course of this period the construction of the first Minoan Palaces at Phaistos, Knossos, and Malia transformed the island’s history.

    To someone approaching from the Mesara plain, the immense Palace at Phaistos, perched on the end of a ridge, would have been visible from a considerable distance.¹ To one coming from the opposite direction, the Timbaki plain to the northwest, the first view of the Palace would have been different (fig.5.1)—it would have appeared more suddenly, stretching out below the...

  11. 6 The Protopalatial City and Urban Identity (ca. 1900–1750 bc)
    (pp. 57-67)

    As impressive as the first Palaces at Malia, Knossos,and Phaistos were, they were components in much grander architectural programs.Entire cities and towns with courts, streets, and areas for community interaction were planned and built at the same time. This explosion of civic architecture would never be equaled again in Bronze Age Crete. With this urban transformation came the establishment of a new Minoan identity.¹

    C. Palyvou has remarked that architecture is not just about buildings. It can also be about the “un-built” and about places that are neither quite one nor the other. As she puts it, “Each pair of...

  12. 7 The Second Palace at Knossos and the Reconstruction of Minoan Identity (ca. 1750–1490 bc)
    (pp. 69-79)

    Between mm iii and LM IB (ca. 1750–1490 BC) the Second Palace at Knossos became the grandest monument in the history of Minoan Crete. Centuries later Evans used this monument to define the Minoans.

    Today a cursory tour of the Palace at Knossos requires about an hour (figs.7.1–7.9). What the visitor sees represents—not including the modern restorations— several centuries of sporadic construction. What the Minoan visitor to the site would have seen at any one moment in the Late Bronze Age would have been quite different. The building would have stood to its complete height with all...

  13. 8 Comparing the Neopalatial Palaces (ca. 1750–1490 bc)
    (pp. 81-92)

    Rather than considering the functions of the Palaces, I want to discuss in this chapter matters of form. From this point of view, the five known Minoan Palaces—Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, Galatos, and Zakros (fi g. 8.1)¹—reveal a fascinating balance between consistency and individuality.

    The Neopalatial period was nearly twice as long as the Protopalatial period. It lasted from about 1750 BC until the violent wave of destructions that swept the island at the end of LM IB ca. 1490 BC. Of all Minoan history, this was the period about which scholars thought they knew the most. That confidence...

  14. 9 Houses and Towns in the Neopalatial Period (ca. 1750–1490 bc)
    (pp. 93-116)

    Some societies invest heavily in tombs, others in temples or cathedrals, and still others in sports stadiums and museums. During the Neopalatial period, Minoans invested in domestic architecture (fig.9.1). Houses range from the magnifi cent mansions at Knossos to the modest houses of artisans and farmers. The investment came to a halt when the houses and towns and the intricate social network that linked them were violently destroyed at the end of LM IB, bringing an end to the period that Evans called the New Era.

    More than 60 Neopalatial sites have been excavated, and we have the extensive literature...

  15. 10 Buildings, Frescoes, and the Language of Power in the Final Palatial Period (ca. 1490–1360 bc)
    (pp. 117-132)

    A new regime at Knossos took advantage of the devastation caused by the LM IB destructions. This administration introduced the Linear B script to manage a newly centralized bureaucracy, completely rebuilt the Palace, and erected a series of exotic monumental tombs to advertise their power. The rest of the island, with the notable exception of several extraordinary buildings at Haghia Triada, remained eerily quiet.

    The study of Linear B has blossomed into a sizeable academic industry. Here I will limit the discussion to a handful of observations concerning the general nature and some of the historical and architectural implications of...

  16. 11 After the Palaces (ca. 1360–1200 bc)
    (pp. 133-145)

    After the early LM IIIA2 fires, Knossos was drastically reduced in size. Throughout the island, Minoans found themselves in a grim new world. Utilitarian regional centers were established at several sites to administer an agricultural economy that, to judge from the industrial-scale storage and harbor facilities in the Mesara, was geared largely toward export (fi g. 11.1).

    In the LM IIIB period, the Palace was very different from what it had been in the LM IIIA period. It was no longer the elegant, luxurious building of bright frescoes, dramatic lighting, clever construction, and imposing facades intended to pamper the royal...

  17. 12 Survival and Memory in LM IIIC (ca. 1200–1100 bc)
    (pp. 147-159)

    The catastrophes at the end of LM IIIB resulted in the abandonment of nearly all the Minoan sett lements along the coasts and in low-lying inland areas (fi g. 12.1). In LM IIIC, new hamlets were established in defensible upland areas. With this dramatic shift came changes in economy and religion, and the Bronze Age past began to take on the aura of myth.

    At traumatic moments in Cretan history—in Final Neolithic, under the Byzantines, the Venetians, and the Ott omans—islanders fled the threatened, accessible coastal areas and sought safety in the mountains. In LM IIIC, vast expanses...

  18. Conclusion Architecture and Identity
    (pp. 161-162)

    Iended Chapter 12 by mentioning two acts associated with the small temple at Vronda: the constructing of a Late Geometric tomb and the writing of a modern excavation report. The implication is that these two acts are in some way parallel—that both have to do with communicating meaning. Writing an excavation report is certainly a communicative act. But what of the tomb? How do buildings (mere things) convey meanings?

    In the words of C. Tilley, “Things are meaningful and significant not only because they are necessary to sustain life and society, to reproduce or transform social relations and mediate...

  19. APPENDIX Useful Websites
    (pp. 163-164)
  20. NOTES
    (pp. 165-176)
    (pp. 177-178)
    (pp. 179-194)
  23. INDEX
    (pp. 195-202)