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Minoan Architecture and UrbanismNew Perspectives on an Ancient Built Environment$
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Quentin Letesson and Carl Knappett

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198793625

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198793625.001.0001

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Architectural Energetics and Late Bronze Age Cretan Architecture

Architectural Energetics and Late Bronze Age Cretan Architecture

Measuring the Scale of Minoan Building Projects

(p.57) 4 Architectural Energetics and Late Bronze Age Cretan Architecture
Minoan Architecture and Urbanism

Maud Devolder

Oxford University Press

It may appear to be asking too much of archaeological evidence to attempt an assessment of the scale of Minoan building projects, their impact on communities, or the role of the labour-time needed for the construction of various kinds of masonry. By taking a firmly materialist perspective, however, the present paper offers an exploration of some of the parameters at play in the production of Minoan architecture. Architectural energetics is a method that translates a building into the labourtime necessary for its construction, a value expressed in person-days or person-hours (abbreviated p-d and p-h). Estimations are based on standard units of time necessary to accomplish each task making up the architectural project: the procurement of raw materials, their transport, manufacture, and assembling. These are most generally expressed in volumes per hour per person, and referred to as ‘standard costs’, which are applied to the volumes of edifices and thus determine the labour-time necessary for their construction. The first assessments of the duration and manpower of ancient building projects mainly appeared in the form of subjective labour-time estimates triggered by romantic views of the grandeur of early civilizations (Andrews 1877; Humboldt 1816; Squier and Davis 1848; Stephens 1841; Webster 1997: 219). Around the middle of the twentieth century, a growing body of publications started to make use of such estimates in order to correlate the magnitude of building or agricultural projects with particular stages of sociopolitical organization (Adams 1975; Cook 1947; Cottrell 1955; Erasmus 1965; Heizer 1960, 1966; Kaplan 1963; White 1949, 1959). Among the most prominent figures of this early trend was C. J. Erasmus, who led a series of experiments that aimed to provide objective quantification of building costs (Erasmus 1965). From the 1970s onwards, largely connected with a renewed research agenda promoting scientific methods of data recovery and interpretation of the archaeological record, quantitative assessments of architectural projects flourished (Aaberg and Bonsignore 1975; Arnold and Ford 1980; Carmean 1991; Cheek 1986; Craig, Holmlund, and Clark 1998; Hard et al. 1999; Price 1982; Trigger 1990; Webster 1985; Webster and Kirker 1995).

Keywords:   Akrotiri, Cyclopean walls, Gournia, Knossos, Malia, Palaikastro, Sissi, Thera

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