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Minoan Pottery


The ever evolving pottery from the Minoan civilization of Bronze Age Crete (2000-1500 BCE) demonstrates, perhaps better than any other medium, not only the Minoan joy in animal, sea and plant life but also their delight in flowing, naturalistic shapes and design.

Kamares Style

Following on from the pre-palatial styles of Vasiliki (with surfaces decorated in mottled red and black) and Barbotine (wares with decorative excrescences added to the surface), the first distinctive Minoan style was polychrome Kamares ware (so named after the cave sanctuary in Crete in which many examples were found). Probably originating from Phaistos and dating from the Old Palace period (2000 BCE - 1700 BCE) its introduction was contemporary with the arrival of the pottery wheel in Crete. The distinctive elements of Kamares pottery are red and white designs, often in dense, vibrant arrangements, on a black background. Most frequent are curves and spirals but other designs include tassels, rosettes, palms, circles, dots, ribbons, stripes and lattices. On occasion, there are also impressionistic fish and polyps representations which foreshadow the coming Marine style. Schematic human figures are also found on Kamares ware but to such a point of abstraction that they become almost an element of design. The wares themselves were beaked jugs, cups, pyxides (or small boxes), chalices, pithoi (very large hand-made vases, sometimes over 1.7m high, used for storing oil, wine and grain, elaborately decorated and often inscribed with Linear A describing their contents) with occasional fruit stands, craters and rhytons (libation vessels). Sometimes, shells and flowers were also added in relief.

Another addition to the potter's repertoire in this period (ca. 1850 BCE) was the Eggshell style, a sub-group of Kamares. This is similarly decorated to Kamares but with vessel walls much thinner, as little as 1mm in thickness. Small cups are the most common example of this style.

Marine & Floral Style

With technological advances in material, firing at higher temperatures and faster pottery wheels, the New Palace period (ca. 1600 BC to 1450 BCE) saw an evolution both in form and design. More slender vases, tapering at the base became common and new designs appeared such as the stirrup jar with one real opening and a second false one with two handles. In terms of design, firstly, there was a move away from the use of white and secondly, a reversal to using dark colours (from brown to dark red) on a lighter background (usually yellow). Spirals and lines became less common as the central theme but remained in lesser areas such as around handles and necks. Plants and marine life now took centre stage. The Floral style most commonly depicts slender branches with leaves and papyrus flowers. Perhaps the most celebrated example of this style is the jug from Phaistos which is entirely covered with grass decoration.

The Marine style, perhaps, produced the most distinctive of all Minoan pottery with detailed, naturalistic depictions of octopuses, argonauts, starfish, triton shells, sponges, coral, rocks and seaweed. Further, the Minoans took full advantage of the fluidity of these sea creatures to fill and surround the curved surfaces of their pottery in a truly unique artistic style which effortlessly conveys the obvious love these island people had for the sea.

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Other subjects on pottery contemporary with the Marine and Floral styles may be grouped together as representing either geometric forms or religious imagery. These latter include bull's heads, double axes and sacral knots.

Sarcophagi in terracotta, perhaps imitating earlier wooden coffin chests, were also produced throughout the Minoan period. Relatively small (as the body was folded into them), they are most often chest or bathtub shapes and depict both designs seen in contemporary pottery (painted outside and on the interior) and sometimes funeral rituals in fresco.

New Palace Style

From 1450 BCE a new style develops, perhaps influenced by increasing contact with Mycenaean culture from the Greek mainland and predominantly found in Knossos. Typical examples are the three-handled amphora, squat alabastron vessels, goblets and several unusual pieces including ritual vessels with figure of eight handles and a libation jug covered in spiky projections. These are decorated with much more schematic representations than the previous styles. Papyrus, lilies and octopuses become less naturalistic and more stylised and abstract. Whilst religious motifs continue to be seen, birds appear for the first time on pottery, as do helmets and shields.

The Minoan styles in pottery would continue to be influential both through the export of both wares and potters and painters to the Greek mainland and through the Mycenaean adoption and adaptation of many of the distinctive Minoan features mentioned above.


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Minoan Pottery - History


View of Mount Ida north of the Palace of Phaistos
where the Kamares cave sanctuary was located

The best examples of KAMARES pottery were evidently made for palace use. It is a high-quality fabric (thanks to the introduction of the potter's wheel, probably from Asia Minor) with a colorful decoration on a dark background. Curvilinear abstract patterns such as scrolls, arabesques, abstracted marine forms and other natural organic shapes are drawn in pure white and in many brilliant colours of orange, red, and yellow. The decorative schemes tend to follow radiating and revolving patterns which give the forms a lively, writhing quality.

Abstract design motifs are repeated, with pairs of spiral-ended forms linked to oval shield-like shapes decorated with orange bars arranged in diagonally placed patterns. The spout points up like a bird's beak, an impression enhanced by the protruding "eye". The pot attains thereby a zoomorphic quality.


Minoan Pottery - History

Pictures and images of Minoan paintings, Minoan pottery, Minoan antiquities and artefacts from the very best Minoan museum exhibit collections.

The Minoans were a Bronze Age Aegean civilization inhabiting the island of Crete and surrounding Aegean Islands from around 3000 BC to 1100 BC. Sir Arthur Evans excavations at Knossos began in March 1900 and led him to believe that he had discovered the Palace of King Minos, and the labyrinth of the fabled Minotaur. He therefore named.
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Pictures and images of Minoan paintings, Minoan pottery, Minoan antiquities and artefacts from the very best Minoan museum exhibit collections.

The Minoans were a Bronze Age Aegean civilization inhabiting the island of Crete and surrounding Aegean Islands from around 3000 BC to 1100 BC. Sir Arthur Evans excavations at Knossos began in March 1900 and led him to believe that he had discovered the Palace of King Minos, and the labyrinth of the fabled Minotaur. He therefore named the civilisation the Minoans. It is not known what the people who inhabited Crete at the time called themselves so the word &ldquoMinoan&rdquo has become an accepted term.

The sophisticated art and antiquities excavated at Minoan sites show that the Minoans were great craftsmen and creative artists.

The Minoans decorated their walls with fresco paintings using the buon fresco technique which consists of painting with pigment ground in water on a thin layer of wet, fresh, lime mortar or plaster. When the plaster dries the painting also dries, becoming an integral part of the wall. The Minoans covered the stone walls with a mixture of mud and straw coated with lime plaster topped with fine plaster. The Minoans had a distinct painting style with shapes formed by curvilinear lines that add a feeling of liveliness to the paintings. The Minoan colour palette is based in earth tones of white, brown, red, and yellow. The black and vivid blues paints used combined to create vivid and rich decorations. The most famous Minoan paintings are the Bull leaper, Blue lady and blue monkey frescoes.

The Minoans were great potters producing decorated and plain pottery ranging from bull head shaped rhythons, to pottery baths and coffins.

Rhytons are containers from which fluids were intended to be drunk or to be poured in some ceremony such as libation, or merely at table. Many have an opening at the bottom through which the liquid fell others did not, and were merely used as drinking cups, with the characteristic that they could not usually be set down on a surface without spilling their contents. Minoans made bull shaped Rhytons, and well as conical rhythons decorated with octopus designs or simply left undecorated.

Pottery larnax coffin boxes were often used as a container for human remains in Minoan burials. The Minoan larnax chest was decorated on the outside and usually had a pitched roof. Photos of fine examples held at Heraklion Museum can be found in our Minoan picture collection.

One distinctive Minoan decorative design on pottery was that of s stylised octopus. This design can be seen in our pictures decorating rhythons, pots and vases.

Browse pictures and images of Minoan art, paintings & pottery as well as pictures of Minoan antiquities and artefacts from Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Athens Archaeological Museum & Thira Akrotiri Museum on line or download as stock photos or buy prints.
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Minoan Pottery - History

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is one of the largest and most important museums in Greece, and among the most important museums in Europe. It houses representative artefacts from all the periods of Cretan prehistory and history, covering a chronological span of over 5,500 years from the Neolithic period to Roman times. The singularly important Minoan collection contains unique examples of Minoan art, many of them true masterpieces. The Heraklion Museum is rightly considered as the museum of Minoan culture par excellence worldwide.

The museum, located in the town centre, was built between 1937 and 1940 by architect Patroklos Karantinos on a site previously occupied by the Roman Catholic monastery of Saint-Francis which was destroyed by earthquake in 1856. The museum's antiseismic building is an important example of modernist architecture and was awarded a Bauhaus commendation. Karantinos applied the principles of modern architecture to the specific needs of a museum by providing good lighting from the skylights above and along the top of the walls, and facilitating the easy flow of large groups of people. He also anticipated future extensions to the museum. The colours and construction materials, such as the veined polychrome marbles, recall certain Minoan wall-paintings which imitate marble revetment. The two-storeyed building has large exhibition spaces, laboratories, a drawing room, a library, offices and a special department, the so-called Scientific Collection, where numerous finds are stored and studied. The museum shop, run by the Archaeological Receipts Fund, sells museum copies, books, postcards and slides. There is also a cafe.

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is a Special Regional Service of the Ministry of Culture and its purpose is to acquire, safeguard, conserve, record, study, publish, display and promote Cretan artefacts from the Prehistoric to the Late Roman periods. The museum organizes temporary exhibitions in Greece and abroad, collaborates with scientific and scholarly institutions, and houses a variety of cultural events.

History of the Museum

The first archaeological collection of the town of Heraklion was constituted in 1883 with the initiative of the local Philekpaideutikos Syllogos (Association of Friends of Education), which was headed by the doctor and antiquarian Joseph Chatzidakis. Chatzidakis also obtained permission from the Ottoman authorities to establish the first 'archaeological service'.

The collection was housed inside two rooms in the courtyard of the cathedral of Agios Minas, and by 1900 was enriched with private donations, new acquisitions and finds from the first small excavations and surface surveys. After large-scale excavations began on the island in 1900, the archaeological collection came to include the first important finds from these. Around that time the museum was ceded to the newly established Cretan state and was subsequently moved to the barracks building of the modern nome of Herakleion under the first Keepers of Antiquities Joseph Chatzidakis and Stephanos Xanthoudidis.

The first display room was built in 1904-1907 over the remains of the famous Venetian monastery of Saint Francis, next to the Hounkiar Djami. The antiquities' collection was moved there after the addition of a second room in 1908. In 1912, this small building was given a Neoclassical appearance with the construction of a west wing designed by architect Panagis Kavvadias, Secretary of the Athens Archaeological Society. The collection continued to be enriched by the finds from the great excavations by Greek and foreign archaeologists.

The construction of the current museum began in 1937 on plans by architect Patroklos Karantinos. During the Second World War the museum's antiquities were at great risk, but they were saved thanks to the exertions of Professor Nikolaos Platon. Platon supervised the re-exhibition of the museum's treasures and the museum opened its doors to the public in 1952.

The display illustrated the chronological development of Minoan civilization, the history of archaeological research and of the great discoveries on Crete during the early twentieth century (Knossos, Phaistos and Malia palaces etc), and the prevalent theories on Aegean Prehistory.

In 1962 the museum bought the collection of the Cretan doctor Stylianos Giamalakis, which was displayed on the first floor. In 1964 the new wing was added to the building and the museum's director Stylianos Alexiou subsequently completed the exhibition. In 2000 the museum acquired the Nikos Metaxas collection, part of which will soon go on display.

In 1987 the building received new electricity, air conditioning and fire protection installations, and the skylights in the display rooms were replaced with false ceilings and artificial lighting. A new refurbishment based on plans by architect Alexandros Tombazis began in 2002 it will include the re-opening of the original skylights, new electro-mechanical installations (air conditioning, lighting, security, fire protection etc) and a new wing of storerooms to the north of the building. It will also highlight the remains of the Venetian church of Saint Francis on the east side of the atrium.

The permanent exhibition of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum includes unique works of Cretan art, found in excavations across the central and eastern part of the island and which cover a chronological span of roughly 5500 years, from the Neolithic (5000 BC) to the Late Roman period (late fourth century AD). Most objects date to prehistoric times and to the so-called Minoan period, named after the island's mythical king, Minos. They include pottery, carved stone objects, seals, small sculpture, metal objects and wall-paintings, which were discovered in palaces, mansions, settlements, funerary monuments, sanctuaries and caves.

The exhibition occupies a total of twenty rooms, thirteen on the ground floor and seven on the first floor, and is organised in chronological sequence. Several important subject units, such as Minoan wall-paintings, Minoan sarcophagi and the Giamalakis collection, are presented separately from the overall chronological sequence.

The objects are grouped by find-place and thus give a complete image of Cretan civilization as it developed in different regions and important centres. Explanatory texts, photographs, drawings and models of monuments complete the exhibition

Summer:
From the 10th of April until the 31 of October 2009
Monday: 13.30-20.00
Tuesday-Friday: 08.30-20.00
Saturday-Sunday and Holiday: 08.30-20.00


Building A

In room A of House A, 16 circular depressions of various diameters were found along the length of the four walls apart from one depression which was located in the middle of the room. The earth which they contained was darkened and clearly contained carbon. This was possibly the result of the charring of animal or plant matter. Sherds removed from this level established that it was only in use during the protopalatial period.

It seems that during the second period, corresponding to the Neopalatial period, the superimposed planking, of which many charred remains were found throughout the room, covered these depressions which perhaps had originally been used to secure pithoi of various sizes. A wall separated room A from room B and until twelve years ago most of this wall was still standing. Since then it has almost completely disappeared.

In basement room B the soft rock which supported the wooden floor had been cut at two levels. The level inside the room was 15 cms higher than the lower level, which constituted a sort of passage. On the upper level there was an unusual construction which the excavator likens to a shrine, with an internal partition and a very narrow entrance from the west. In the north west corner of the room there was a narrow niche formed by the meeting of the two walls. Much of this shrine has fallen in the last ten years so that little of it now remains.

To the west of Room B, a very small, square room was found, with two large, heavy and irregular stones blocking the opening. It seems that this was a depository into which pottery, perhaps broken or no longer used pottery from the shrine, had been placed. Inside, undecorated conical cups, were found, similar to a large number of cups that were found in a thick layer all along the west wall of Room B.

Room B also produced decorated pottery dating to MM IIIB-LM IA. Among the finds were one-handled, black-glazed cups, some of which were decorated in white, (one piece with double axes) fragments from two large bridge-spouted jugs decorated in white with double axes combined with the sacral knot on a dark brown background small, delicate decorated jars and two cups of the transitional period, one with a thick lattice decoration and another with a simple spiral decoration. Also found was an amphora decorated with white spirals on a grey background and two other large vessels for domestic use. In the view of the excavator, these finds from the west part of room B together with the abdundance of conical cups, identical to those found in the depository strengthened the view that the room was used for religious purposes.

When the other two basement rooms which had previously been excavated were cleaned in 1951, the thresholds of the rooms were uncovered and Room Γ (Gamma) was found to contain a staircase leading to an upper floor, of which three gypsum steps remain in situ. Room Δ (Delta) contained a deposit of protopalatial vessels. Two gypsum jambs had been placed between rooms B and Γ. Two other gypsum jambs had been found in the earlier excavation near the partition wall between rooms A and B but in a higher layer which it seems had come from the polythyron hall above these rooms on the ground floor.

All the remaining rooms of House A belong to the ground (first) floor. On the east side there appears to have been a veranda which may have run the whole length to the east of rooms Eα and Eβ. Its pillars would have been based on the wide external east wall. Room Eα opens through two doors into rooms Z (Zeta) and H (Eta) but the west wall of room H was not found. Room Z was somewhat better preserved. Just inside the entrance from room Eα in the north east corner of the room there was a small square stone base, part of a support for whatever was above. The excavators believe there would have been a second support a little further to the south in Room Z. There was also an entrance from the corridor in the south east corner of Room Z. This corridor may have been the main entrance to the building from the east. There had also been a wide opening in the west wall of room Z which had later been filled in.

Excavations to the south of room Z uncovered a staircase which may have been constructed of wood apart from the stone base found in situ. There would have been a small area beneath the staircase, labelled a sotto scala by the excavator. To the south of the staircase, another entrance was discovered, complete with a door jamb and threshold, which led to the staircase and to the area to its east which has largely been destroyed. The most southerly part of the building consists of poorly built and poorly preserved walls, built onto the soft rock, which were a later addition contemporary with other remains of walls seen all over the site and especially the filled in wall of Room Z.

Finds from these rooms included pestles, pieces of stone lamps, several cups, small gournes made of soft stone, a beautiful stone handle, perhaps from a rhyton, with two small holes for securing it, and a steatite amygdaloid seal decorated with a linear design.


Minoan Architecture: Materials and Techniques. Studi di archeologia cretese

The volume under review is an updated and revised version of Joseph Shaw’s seminal work first published thirty-six years ago. 1 As the author demonstrates, numerous field projects and scholarly investigations have considerably broadened our knowledge of Aegean society in general and ancient architectural techniques in particular since that time. Although the overall structure of the initial book remains, this revised edition takes into account new investigations such as the quarrying of stone, the construction above ground level and LMIII architecture. It also successfully crosses the technical threshold, venturing into a more anthropological approach to development, change, and diffusion, and focuses on the agents involved in these processes (see below chap.5).

Shaw presents this work, largely concerned with architectonics, as a “logical supplement” to books dealing with Minoan architecture in terms of room and building shape and their particular relationships, function, or significance. 2 Broadly speaking, the main concerns of this revised volume are building materials and techniques, especially where so-called polite architecture is concerned.

The book opens with a brief introduction to the state of research in Minoan and Aegean Bronze Age architecture in recent decades. The first and longest chapter deals with stone and is subdivided in five parts. The first lists the main types of stone used in Minoan architecture (limestone, gypsum, sandstone, schist, conglomerate, as well as less common or widely used ones) and specifies their intrinsic qualities, their various provenances, and particular uses. The second part of the first chapter addresses quarrying and the transportation of stone. The location, exploitation and peculiarities of all the limestone, sandstone or gypsum quarries found to date are detailed in relation to Minoan settlements. Several methods for the transportation of stone are also proposed but remain hypothetical due to the lack of any remains or clear iconographic testimonies related to these practices. The third part is concerned with various aspects of the carpenter’s and mason’s toolbox. As asserted by the author, there are considerable lacunae in the archaeological record with regard to this topic, especially because of the extensive use of perishable materials. Nevertheless, some of the main tools (e.g. axes, adzes, saws, chisels, and hammers) are described and their use in construction techniques amply exemplified with case-studies and a rich repertoire of illustrations. The fourth part is a long subchapter dedicated to masonry, addressing in turn foundations, rubble walls and especially ashlar walls and their peculiarities. As usual, this part of the book abounds with clearly illustrated examples—often presented chronologically—that strengthen the technical considerations and give a clear image of the richness and accomplished nature of Minoan masonry. The last part of the first chapter, Special Uses of Cut Stone, gives a detailed account of the specificities of column bases and stone drainage channels (see also Appendices B and C for more detailed information about column bases).

Wood and timber comprise the topic of the second chapter. The author first mentions the main types of wood used in Minoan architecture, briefly discussing their variety and provenance. The presence of wood is often inferred indirectly from carbonized remains, negative traces of timbers in rubble structures, and carbon- or dirt-filled cuttings or gaps in ashlar masonry. The use of wood in architectural construction is then discussed within a chronological framework. The author deals in turn with reinforcement of rubble walls, wooden framing of mud brick walls, propping up using vertical timbers, carefully joined and flexible wooden framework partitioning off interior spaces, and finally columns, ceiling beams and planks. The second part of this chapter is dedicated to wooden clamps and dowels. Both are relatively infrequent (by comparison to Classical Greek buildings, for example) and their existence is inferred exclusively from mortise cuttings. Being rather uncommon and almost idiosyncratic to a specific site, wooden clamps and round dowels are only very briefly mentioned. On the other hand, square or oblong mortises occur throughout Crete on many sites, sometimes as early as MMIB. Therefore, the author discusses square dowels in greater length especially in relation to different types of piers, parapets, stone pillar built of cut blocks, and window sills, as well as the upper part of wall construction.

The third chapter first deals with sun-dried mud brick, respectively detailing their composition and technique, the archaeological evidence for them and the sizes of bricks (see also Appendix D). Terracotta objects are the main concern of the second part of the chapter. Pipes, channels, and catch-basins, as well as flooring tiles are described and their peculiarities listed, especially in palatial contexts. Appendix E is worth mentioning here. It includes a detailed catalog of all the terracotta pipes, channels and catch-basins mentioned in the book with their precise location within their building, their chronology, and dimensions.

Lime and Clay Plasters, the fourth chapter, first deals with the composition and early use of such material, especially during the Early Minoan period. It then focuses on later uses of lime plaster during the First and Second Palace periods, and in particular its preparation and the technique for its application. The following sizeable part of this chapter is concerned with floors. The author briefly mentions local earth frequently used in specific regions to lay floors and the plaster whose chief function was to cover them. He then discusses the materials of three specific flooring techniques: the so-called tarazza, “a hard durable mixture of lime and small round beach pebbles of uniform size”, elaborate slab pavements, and the unusual plaster “strip designs” made of flat bands of plaster carefully laid out in patterns. The next two short subchapters concern ceilings, upper floors, roofs and parapets. Remains of such elements are scarce, therefore the author contents himself with some remarks on vegetal materials used in roofing and some instructive parallels with the architecture of Akrotiri on Thera. This chapter ends with two pages dedicated to calcestruzzo, an unusual kind of very hard mixed material especially found on the site of Phaistos, particularly in relation with the palace. Some potential parallels elsewhere on the island are also briefly mentioned. Appendix F presents the chemical constituents for a sample of plasters from various Cretan sites dating from Early Minoan times to the Hellenistic Period.

The fifth chapter is an extremely valuable addition to the initial edition. Its first part takes a diachronic perspective on building practices. From the Neolithic through the Minoan periods, the author outlines the major developments in architectural techniques and contextualizes them in their socio-economic and technical background. This chapter allows him to integrate all the data presented in the previous chapters in a coherent and convincing explanatory framework. Within this framework, special attention is given to the origins, development and features of the so-called “Neopalatial” style. As in previous chapters, the author develops his argument with a wide range of examples from major sites on Crete. The second part of the chapter is relatively short and concerns builders. Concentrating on their organization and sphere of action, the author professes to limit himself to “reasoned speculation” due to the lack of contemporary records. He nonetheless offers a stimulating discussion about types of artisans (attached, independent) and their level of expertise and potential itinerant character. Therefore, Shaw opens challenging issues about the mobility of technologies through time and space, both locally in relation to the proliferation of the “Neopalatial” style (already discussed by Jan Driessen 3 ) and overseas, in the third part of this chapter: Diffusion: Minoan Architectural Style Abroad. Here, the author searches for architectural evidence of Minoanization (esthetic or structural) within three broad categories defined by their increasing geographical and chronological distance from the “Cretan Palatial Style”. He successively deals with the contemporary Aegean island group (especially the sites of Akrotiri, Phylakopi, Ayia Irini and Trianda), the Mainland evidence shortly after LMI (the site of Kythera) and most extensively with the Mainland evidence from LHIIIB, focusing on various Mycenaean buildings and settlements. While Shaw admits that Minoan architectural style permeated Bronze Age Aegean built forms in various ways, he constantly and rightfully juxtaposes its influence with the existence of local traditions which often form the structural core of non-Minoan buildings.

Six appendixes follow. Apart from the first and very short one, Metal used in buildings, they have already been mentioned in this review. The book then ends with a list of abbreviations, a bibliography, a guide to site plans, the usual list of illustrations and their credits, the figures in themselves and a very useful index.

As opposed to the first edition, figures are relegated to the end of the volume. Most of them come directly from the original version of the book along with the noticeable addition of new drawings and pictures. Some might dislike having to go back and forth between the text and the end of the book to consult them, but for the sake of comparison between related figures (tool marks, for instance), it is nevertheless convenient that they are all grouped together. Most of the plans and drawings are of very good quality. The same is largely true for the photographs, however a few are a bit too small, slightly blurry because of their age, or even missing a scale of any sort. Notwithstanding these considerations, one should keep in mind that the quality of the pictures never compromises the reader’s ability to understand the work. On the contrary, they nicely complement the text and their profusion is noteworthy.

The lack of consideration of the so-called vernacular architecture, 4 especially for the palatial periods, is unfortunate but surely has to be imputed to the relative scarcity of such archeological remains rather than to an attempt to ignore it. Nevertheless, recent excavations with high standards of archaeological work have revealed quite interesting non-palatial Minoan buildings such as the farmhouse at Chalinomouri 5 or the modest LMIII houses at Mochlos. 6 It seems reasonable to admit, with Jeffrey Soles, that buildings that we would tend to labeled as ‘vernacular’ probably formed the major part of the Minoan built environment. 7 In my opinion, there is not much to gain from trying to define a boundary of some sort between ‘polite’ and ‘vernacular’ architecture. 8 It is understandable that the proliferation of high quality buildings in the Neopalatial period tempts one to insist on the emergence and profusion of this peculiar and impressive architectural style. Nonetheless, I think we should consider the Minoan built environment as a whole, with the ‘polite’ and the ‘vernacular’ as parts of a continuum, 9 both entitled to a thorough examination of their architectural features and architectonic properties (as simple and elementary as they might be). As Carl Knappett pointed out, if we take such an approach we will be more attuned to the “considerable interpenetration of the aesthetic and the everyday” and in a better position “to develop a unified interpretive framework that allows for the assessment of the pragmatic and the significative qualities of both ‘artworks’ and ‘artefacts’”. 10

To conclude, Minoan Architecture: Materials and Techniques was and, with this updated and revised edition, is bound to remain the most useful and incontrovertible handbook for those interested in techniques and materials in Minoan architecture, whether on the field or in the library. It is not the kind of book one would read from one end to the other and then condemn to a dusty fate on a shelf, retaining only some of its main points. It is a book that will be consulted regularly and continue to be an indispensable reference for detailed, precise, comprehensive and up-to-date information on technical issues related to Minoan architecture.

1. Shaw, Joseph W., Minoan Architecture: Materials and Techniques, Annurario della scuola archeologica di Atene et delle missioni italiani in Oriente vol. 49, Rome: Instituto Poligrafico dello Stato, 1973. 257p. Here abbreviated MA:MAT.

2. For example J. Walter Graham’s The Palaces of Crete originally published in 1962 and in a revised edition in 1987 as well as a recent book by J. McEnroe, Architecture of Minoan Crete: Constructing Identity in the Aegean Bronze Age, both being principally referenced by the author.

3. Driessen, Jan, “The Proliferation of Minoan Palatial Architectural Style”, ActaArchLov 28-29, 1989-1990, 3-23.

4. McEnroe, John, “The significance of local styles in Minoan vernacular architecture”, in Darcque, P. and R. Treuil (eds), L’habitat égéen préhistorique ( BCH suppl. XIX), Athens-Paris 1990, 195-202.

5. Soles, Jeffrey S., Mochlos IA. Period III. Neopalatial Settlement on the Coast : The Artisans’ Quarter and the Farmhouse at Chalinomouri. The Sites ( Prehistory monographs 7), Philadelphia 2003, 103-132.

6. Soles, Jeffrey S., Mochlos IIA. Period IV. The Mycenean Settlement and Cemetery. The Sites ( Prehistory monographs 23), Philadelphia 2008, 5-128.

7. Soles, Jeffrey S., op. cit., 2003, 127.

8. For an extremely valuable approach of the concept of vernacular architecture and its implications in architectural studies, see Preston Blier, Suzanne, “Vernacular Architecture”, in Tilley, C., Keane, W., Küchler, S., Rowlands, M. and P. Spyer (eds), Handbook of Material Culture, London, 2008, 230-253 see also the essential book by Henry Glassie, Vernacular Architecture, Philadelphia and Bloomington, 2000.

9. On unhelpful typological approaches in Minoan architecture, see Preziosi, Donald and Louise Hitchcock, “Defining Function and Meaning in Minoan Architecture: New Evidence from the Villa at Makryghialos”, AJA 98, 1994, 336 Hamilakis, Yannis, “Factional Competition in Neopalatial Crete”, in Driessen, J., Schoep, I. and R. Laffineur (eds) Monuments of Minos. Rethinking the Minoan Palaces ( Aegaeum 23), Liège-Austin, 2002, 189 Letesson, Quentin, Du phénotype au génotype: analyse de la syntaxe spatiale en architecture minoenne (MMIIIB-MRIB) ( Aegis 2), Louvain-la-Neuve, 2009, 30-33 and 363-365.

10. Knappett, Carl, “Artworks and Artefacts: the Pottery from Quartier Mu, Malia”, in Bradfer-Burdet, I., Detournay, B and R. Laffineur (eds), L’artisan crétois ( Aegaeum 26), Liège-Austin, 2005, 117.


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Minoan Era

Crete is the birthplace of the first European civilization, the Minoan, which flourished between 3000 BC and 1200 BC mainly in Central and Eastern Crete. Even today, the majestic palaces of Knossos, Phaestus, Malia, Zakros, Tylissos, Arhanes, Monastiraki, Galatas, Kydonia and the luxurious mansions at Agia Triada, Zominthos, Amnisos, Makrigialos, Vathipetro and Nerokouros reflect the splendor of the Minoan civilization through architectural, pottery, jewelry and painting masterpieces.

The Minoan fleet, the strongest of its era, as evidenced by several findings in the Mediterranean, brought wealth to Crete from the trade of the famous Cretan cypress and agricultural products. Built in large yards, such as the shipyard of Agii Theodori at Vathianos Kambos, ships were loaded with timber, honey, wine, pottery and olive oil from the ports of Dia, Katsambas, Komos, Zakros, Psira, Mochlos, Niros, Petras, sailing towards all directions of the Mediterranean as far as Scandinavia.

Women were equal to men and took part in all religious ceremonies, in sports, hunting, theater, dance, etc. Masterpieces of building architecture, painting, sculpture and goldsmithing continue to inspire even modern civilization. Linear A and Linear B Scripts remind of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, but they were original Greek scripts. Even today, the disc of Phaestus is one of the most famous mysteries of archeology and deciphering of its symbols remains a riddle.

The worship of deities such as the Mother Goddess of fertility, the Mistress of the Animals, protector of cities, the household, the harvest, and the underworld dominated the religious tradition of the Minoans, who used many caves and mountain peaks as places of worship. Pilgrims from all over the island ascended to the peak sanctuaries of Youchtas and the cave of Hosto Nero to offer their votives, such as Minoan inscriptions or clay idols. Peak sanctuaries were also hosted atop summits Kofinas, Vrysinas, Petsofas, Traostalos, Karfi, etc. The Diktaean, Idaean and Kamares Caves also played a prominent role in the worship of gods.


The Future of Disposables

In 2018, the global production of plastics reached 359 million metric tons with 62 million metric tons produced in Europe alone. The significance of this is clearer when we summarize global plastic production over the period of 1950 to 2015, which is an enormous 8,300 million tons.

Our World In Data reports that 2,500 million tons (30 percent) of primary plastics was still in use in 2015, and that 4,600 million tons (55 percent) went straight to landfill or was discarded. 700 million tons (8 percent) was incinerated, and 500 million tons (6 percent) was recycled. Of this recycled plastic, 100 million tons was still in use, 100 million tons was later incinerated, and 300 million tons was later discarded or sent to landfill.

Thus, of the 5,800 million tons of primary plastic no longer in use, only 9 percent has been recycled since 1950. This is why we now see so many turtles, seabirds and fish being driven to extinction through plastic polluted oceans. And knowing all this, while the Minoans were throwing away clay and might be forgiven, they were among the first cultures to have ‘disposable attitudes’, which have continued up till today.

Top image: The Minoan cup, shown here next to a modern throwaway container that washed up in the Pacific. Source: Trustees of the British Museum


Watch the video: Minoan Pottery (January 2022).