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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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A Comparative Perspective on Minoan Urbanism

A Comparative Perspective on Minoan Urbanism

(p.361) 15 A Comparative Perspective on Minoan Urbanism
Minoan Architecture and Urbanism

Quentin Letesson

Carl Knappett

Oxford University Press

Urban settlements are often presented as a prominent feature of Bronze Age Crete (McEnroe 2010). And yet, summarizing what is actually known about Minoan towns is much more challenging than one would expect, especially for non-palatial settlements. Many studies are narrowly focused and often take one urban element out of context in all communities (e.g. villas, classification of houses, street system, etc.), hence undermining an understanding of the urban environment as a whole. Furthermore, research on Minoan urban contexts has long been characterized by a strong focus on polite or palatial architecture and very specific urban features related to it (such as the so-called west courts, raised walks, theatral areas, etc.), while most case-studies have often had a rather limited dataset. There are clearly exceptions but, to date, our knowledge of Minoan urban settlements is partly built on a large collection of heterogeneous and disparate information. As already noted some fifteen years ago, the ‘nature and character’ of urban settlements ‘has seen much less discussion, particularly at a generalized level’ (Branigan 2001a: vii; but see chapters 7 and 9). Of course, this situation is also inextricably linked to the nature of our datasets. Research is clearly constrained by the low quality of work in the initial decades of Minoan archaeology when somany of the larger exposures of townscapes on the island were made. And yet, for more than a century now, the archaeology of Bronze Age Crete has thrived:many excavations initiated at the beginning of the twentieth century have either continued or been revived, providing descriptions of numerous settlements of various sizes; new projects have unearthed fascinating buildings and sites; and many regions of the island have now been systematically surveyed. As a consequence, Minoan archaeologists have at their disposal a solid and varied dataset. Of course, sampling issues do exist. Firstly, remains of Neopalatial urban settlements clearly outnumber those of other periods.

Keywords:   GIS, Knossos, Malia, Palaikastro, Sissi, Thera, Zakros, ashlar, cities

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