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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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Introduction—Minoan Built Environment

Introduction—Minoan Built Environment

Past Studies, Recent Perspectives, and Future Challenges

(p.1) 1 Introduction—Minoan Built Environment
Minoan Architecture and Urbanism

Quentin Letesson

Carl Knappett

Oxford University Press

Architecture and urbanism have been of constant interest to Minoan archaeologists since the beginning of the twentieth century. While there is some scholarly bias to this, with the field deeply affected by Sir Arthur Evans’s focus on the monumental architecture of Knossos, Minoan Crete continues to yield abundant evidence for a substantial built environment. Focusing on urban and architectural remains creates a strong bias in favour of one block of time, the Neopalatial period, which produced the largest amount of wellpreserved settlements and buildings. Yet, in general, the evidence we now have on the Minoan built environment is an undeniable resource, one that continues to grow thanks to ongoing studies of pre-existing remains as well as new excavation and survey projects. As is clear in Evans’s magnum opus, The Palace of Minos at Knossos, the large-scale excavations typical of the dawn of the last century were heavily directed towards the urban cores of the largest Minoan sites (e.g. Boyd Hawes et al. 1908; Hutchinson 1950). The bulk of what we know about the Minoan built environment comes from the first half of the twentieth century, initially through the intensive work of the foreign schools at Malia, Phaistos, Palaikastro, Gournia, Mochlos, and Pseira, later joined by countless excavations by Greek archaeologists. Yet, synthetic treatments really only began with the work of James Walter Graham, in the form of numerous papers published in the American Journal of Archaeology (see Letesson 2009 for a detailed review), and especially his Palaces of Crete (Graham 1962). Nonetheless, his comparative analyses, which also dealt with non-palatial buildings, were largely focused on polite architecture. With a particular interest in form and function, he built on Evans’s insights to be the first to identify, across a large sample of buildings, recurring architectural patterns in the Minoan built environment (e.g. Piano Nobile, residential quarters, banquet halls). His studies also included an innovative quantitative component, emphasizing the existence of a unit of length that builders would have used to lay out the palaces and some of the so-called ‘villas’.

Keywords:   households, macro—scale, network analysis, palace, settlements, towns, urbanism, villages

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