Built Space and Communities at the Meso-Scal
Agglomerations of buildings, whether just a handful in a loose settlement, or a whole town with elaborate urban infrastructures (street system, drainage, open spaces, and other â€˜public worksâ€™) constitute the meso-scale, the level of the community. Remarks on the variable quality of our data sets (see chapter 2) clearly apply to what we know of the meso-scale. Unfortunately, additional parameters also limit our understanding of Minoan agglomerations, constrain interpretation and, at worst, undermine the applicability of some analytical methods. First, we are confronted with the urban palimpsest phenomenon: many settlements were occupied during very long periods of time and witnessed multiple construction phases, often very difficult to differentiate in the archaeological record. When they are not reused as foundations for later buildings, early structures are sometimes dismantled and their building materials recovered for new projects; paved streets can be maintained for centuries (Cunningham 2007; GomrÃ©e 2013), whereas in other instances they disappear under new building programmes (Devolder et al. forthcoming; Platon 1990; see also chapter 9); and the longer and denser the occupation, the more building phases are jumbled together in intricate layouts. Of course, this tendency is not limited to Minoan times: large parts of sites like Chania and Archanes are still buried under modern towns. Although making sense of this urban palimpsest is certainly not beyond the reach of archaeologists, other factors also hinder approaches to Minoan agglomerations. In recent years, for obvious reasons, excavations have been unable to match the scope of early twentieth-century projects. Nowadays, towns like Gournia and Palaikastro could not be as extensively and rapidly excavated. This, of course, has clear positive implications but also means that, in many cases, we only have a glimpse of the overall area of settlements. Nevertheless, the same limitations often prompt very productive approaches.
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