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Architecture of Minoan Crete

Constructing Identity in the Aegean Bronze Age

By John C. McEnroe

Publication Year: 2010

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 Crete is 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.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

The past twenty years have been extraordinary in Minoan archaeology: G. Rethemiotakis discovered a new Palace at Galatas; the Shaws excavated monumental harbor facilities at Kommos; M. Tsipopoulou excavated fascinating buildings at Aghia Photia, Petras, Halasmenos, and elsewhere. In addition to these new projects, many excavations initiated at the beginning of the twentieth century have either continued or been revived, and...

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pp. ix

For more than thirty years Joe and Maria Shaw have been my teachers, mentors, and friends. They not only opened the doors, but they pushed me through them. I owe them special thanks. Over the years I have been fortunate to do archaeological fieldwork with a number of patient..

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One. The Land, the People, Identity

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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...

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Two. Architecture and Social Identity in Neolithic Crete (ca. 7000-3000 BC)

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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....

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Three. Local, Regional, and Ethnic Identities in Early Prepalatial Architecture (ca. 3000-2200 BC) [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 19-30

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

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Four. Architectural Experiments and Hierarchical Identity in Late Prepalatial Architecture (ca. 2200-1900 BC)

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pp. 31-44

The three-century period from 2200 to 1900 BC (EM III–MM IA) is oft en overlooked in Minoan archaeology. Th e 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 (fi g. 4.1)....

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Five. The First Palaces and the Construction of Power (ca. 1900-1750 BC)

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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....

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Six. The Protopalatial City and Urban Identity (ca. 1900-1750 BC)

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pp. 57-68

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...

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Seven. The Second Palace at Knossos and the Reconstruction of Minoan Identity (ca. 1750-1490 BC)

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pp. 69-80

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....

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Eight. Comparing the Neopalatial Palaces (ca. 1750-1490 BC)

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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...

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Nine. Houses and Towns in the Neopalatial Period (ca. 1750-1490 BC)

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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 magnificent mansions at Knossos to the modest houses of artisans and farmers. Th e investment came to a halt when...

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Ten. Buildings, Frescoes, and the Language of Power in the Final Palatial Period (ca. 1490-1360 BC)

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pp. 117-132

A new regime at Knossos took advantage of the devastation caused by the LM IB destructions. Th is 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...

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Eleven. After the Palaces (ca. 1360-1200 BC)

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pp. 133-146

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...

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Twelve. Survival and Memory in LM IIIC (ca. 1200-1100 BC)

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pp. 147-159

The catastrophes at the end of LM IIIB resulted in the abandonment of nearly all the Minoan settlements along the coasts and in low-lying inland areas (fig. 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....

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Conclusion. Architecture and Identity

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pp. 161-162

I ended 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. Th e implication is that these two acts are in some....

Appendix. Useful Websites

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pp. 182-183


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pp. 165-176


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pp. 177

Works Cited

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pp. 179-193


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pp. 195-202

E-ISBN-13: 9780292792906
E-ISBN-10: 0292792905
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292721937
Print-ISBN-10: 0292721935

Page Count: 220
Illustrations: 204 b&w images, 8 color in one 8-page section, 1 map, 4 tables.
Publication Year: 2010