Today we went to ancient Thera/Santorini, learned about the various time periods of Agean Archaeology, worked on some pottery identification exercises, and listend to reports on the Ayia Triada Sarcophogas, Legend of the Minatour, and Frescos
Ancient Thera was inhabited over many time periods starting firt in the Neolithic. Inhabitants of the town during different time periods is evident through the Temenos built by Arteinos of Apollonies and the Exedraw of Roman times. Temenos portrays the Eagle of Zeus, Lion of Apollo, Dolphin of Posidon, and a bust of Artemindoros of Apollonios. THe Exedrae were nooks that held the statues of prominant citizens. Even before the time of Artemindoros, in the 3rd century B.C.E. and the rest of the Roman Period Ancient Thera was inhabited in the Archaic Period which is evident from black and red figure potteries. Also dating back to the archaic period and found iat the site were kouroi or statues of young boys in the round and in an Egyptian style evident from the stiffness and symetry of their bodies. Dr. Morris used the spanning of the settlement of Thera through different periods to explain to us how archaeologists name the time periods of the Agean. The neolithic time period spanned from 6,000-3,000 B.C.E. and was characterized by settlement communities, that had shouse made of stone and centered on farming and animal husbandry. After the Neolithic came the Bronze Age which spaned from 3,000-1,000 B.C.E. The Bronze Age, like other time periods, can be broken into smaller time periods. When talking in terms of the Agean, the Bronze Age can be defined in terms of palaces such as the pre-Palatial (3,000-2,000 B.C.E.), proto-Palatial (2,000-1,700 B.C.E.), neo-Palatial (1,700-1,500 B.C.E.), and post-Palatial (1,500-1,000 B.C.E.). The pre-Palatial, proto-Palatial, neo-Palatial would have been dominated by Minoan influences while the post-Palatial would have been dominated by Mycenean culture. These palatial periods corrispond roughly to the Early (3,000-2,000 B.C.E.), Middle (2,000-1,700 B.C.E.), and Late (1,500-1,000 B.C.E.) Bronze Age. THese time periods are further broken down into Early, Middle, and Late to more precisely discuss time periods. Although, these time frames allow for dating they ignore the variations in different parts of the Agean that would be considred minute when talking in general terms. In orer to fix this issue, some archaeologists speak in terms of Cycladic, Minoan, and Helladic time periods. Just as Early, Middle, and Late was applied to the Bronze Age so too can these adjectives be applied to the Cycladic, Minoan, and Helladic periods. An example of how archaeologists use this time period would be to say that the Myceneans flourished during the Late Helladic time period. All of these differences in time periods can make comparisons confusing so some archaeologists use the Agean to show the continuity of culture throughout the entire Agean.
Today we completed our look at the Minoan Palaces on Crete and learned more about early Greek religion. Our first stop was to Mount Juktas where we learned about Mountain Sanctuaries and their importance to Greek religion. We then made our way to Vathypetro which is a country villa containing a tripartite shrine. The end of our day was spent at Knossos Palace which is noted to be the largest and most important of all the Minoan Palaces.
Mt. Juktas is a large mountain on the island of Crete that housed a mountain sanctuary. Mountain shrines are particularly note worthy since they are believed to be important to Minoan religion as a place where earth meets the sky. The earth meeting the sky would come to play an important part in Greek, and by extension Minoan, mythology relating to the story of the rise of Zeus and his seizing of power from his father, Knosos. The mountain sanctuary of Juktas has a hole in one area where it is believed that people would descend down into it and offer representations of injured parts of their bodies asking for healing from the gods. How this relates back to Zeus’ seizing of power is unclear; however, the evidence for this claim comes from the figure representations of body parts left within the hole. While the sanctuary itself could be representative of the earth meeting the sky, this hole, and by association lustral basins and pillar crypts, are as places where the surface meets the subsurface and could additionally be important to Minoan religion.
Our second site that we investigated was Vathypetro with its tripartite shrine. The shrine had three parts as the name implies. Dr. Morris mentioned that this is the only shrine that most, if not all, scholars agree is a tripartite shrine. This shrine was facing east and located in the south of the villa. It was attached to the rest of the villa complex and had three columns and a porch. Other features that we noted at the site included two storage areas. One of the storage areas was located in the east and looked like a pillar crypt at first glance. The reasoning for why it is a storage are and not a pillar crypt is due to the large broken pithoi that were found here and the lack of cult symbols in the room that would suggest a pillar crypt. Another storage area was located to the north of the villa and contained a wine press. The wine is identifiable as a piece of pottery that is about a foot and a half tall with a base that forms a ninety degree angle with the sides. One part of the container has a flute which would allow juices of the pressed grapes into a container or vat. Vathypetro was probably a working country villa that produced goods for itself and palaces. The villas was probably run by an important person, but was not as important as someone that was in the palace, at least not all of the people in the palace.
Our final site of the day was the last palatial site for the Minoans — Knossos. This palace is the largest of all the Minoan palaces and as such is considered to be the capital of the Minoan culture. The first settlement of Knossos was in the Neolithic around 2,000 B.C.E. Sir Arther Evans, a British archaeologist, discovered and excavated the palace from 1900-1931 C.E. At the site he found 3,000 clay tablets some of which were written in what became known as Linear A, believed to be a Minoan language, and Linear B, a Mycenean language. Both of these later influenced the Greek language. Art is displayed at the Knossos palace with vivid frescoes some of which have been rebuilt/repainted by Sir Evans. Other frescoes have gone on display at the Heraklion and British museums. Knossos reached its peak between 1,650 and 1,450 B.C.E., but it’s occupation lasted 1,000 years. The palace, and probably the whole of Minoan society, was ruled by a Priest-King the most famous was King Nossos. The job of the Priest-King was to create stability.
Knossos contains 1,300 rooms which is double the amount found at Kato Zakro. The palace has entrances from the west, north, and east, but not the south. The west wing was primarily for cult activities due to it containing pillar crypts and magazines. The central court was where bull leaping is believed to take place with the bull entering from the north and the royal road leading important people and maybe even commoners into the courtyard.
The west wall at Knossos was very similar to the other western walls we have seen at other sites. It was fronted by a courtyard that was paved and had a raised walkway. The unique feature of the western courtyard was the repositories which looked like silos, but held trash that was usually in relation to cult objects, practices, and rites. The western wall itself had recessed areas which lend strength to the wall since it is in an earthquake prone region. Dr. Morris pointed out to use the construction and architectural style in which the west wall was constructed in called orthostate. This style is noted by the second course being taller than the first course of stones. The orthostate stones are made of gypsum. The wall itself is made of two layers of dressed stones filled with rubble. As in other walls there are ledges, but Knossos has the second and sixth courses recessed. Also, within the west court is a raised square believed to be an alter due to archaeological finds being found around it. Further up the west court in the north-west area is a pair of horns and representation of bull’s horns which were an important animals to Minoan culture. The palace itself was entered into on the western side though a propylon which is notable by its appearance as a grand entrance and large column in its front. The west wing contains magazines on the lower floor like we have seen at other palatial sites and were located in the north-west area of the palace. One feature unique to the Palace of Knossos was a double axe holder that was placed in a a doorway near the magazines. This double axe holder was about two to two and a half feet tall and in the a trapezoidal shape.
We also looked at the pillar crypt. The pillar crypt, as with other sites, was not a big room and had two large columns that seemed to be over sized for the room and had cult marks. The room was associated with magazines. This pillar crypt contained a kuros and was close to a treasury that contained a goddess figure holding two snakes. This goddess figure leads people to believe that Minoans worshiped agricultural and/or a mother goddess. Knossos had a large lustral basin on an even grader scale than any other we have seen. The polythera are located in the west.
The east wing is associated with royalty and power due to the king’s polytheron and queen’s polytheron being located there. Two polythera are associated with a king and queen due to their size. The queen’s polytheron was part of the queen’s quarters which also contained a toilet (the first toilet in Europe!). The east wing also contained workshops for bronze goods. The west also contained a shrine, but this was of Mycenean construction and contained a fresco of griffins in a heraldic manner. Knossos interestingly lacks a pillared hall in the north. Also, in the north, beyond the palace walls is the theatrical area that contained a raised walkway. There also appears to be a box area where people of prominence could stand.
After looking at the rest of the palace, we looked at the frescoes of the palace. These frescoes provide us with important details into Minoan culture and society. Women are again portrayed as white figures in skirts and bear breasted. One fresco depicts a tripartite shrine which had horns on top of it and columns in the doorways. Some frescoes depict large numbers of people, but still retains the color scheme of depicting men and women as tan and white figures, respectively. A fresco that we have talked about before, the bull leaping fresco, was depicted at the palace. A major motif of the Minoan frescoes seems to be nature and shows their love of nature and animals opposed to humans. Birds, monkeys, and flora appear to even have an Egyptian influence just as the human figures have. Some larger and seemingly important frescoes depict processions one of which we saw was men carrying a kumares ware libation cup. Another major fresco is the three dimensional bull believed to be taken into the courtyard to be scarified.
We visited Phaestos Palace and the outpost area of Ayia Triada today. The history of Phaestos Palace is long and varied even during the Bronze Age. The Palace commands the Zora plane and began its history in the Neolithic Age as a housing settlement. This area was further developed in the Bronze Age to become the important palatial site that is believed to be only second to Konosos. During the Bronze Age, Phaestos bloomed, but the proto-palatial structure collapsed after an earthquake and/or fire. After the destruction of the proto-palace, the structure was rebuilt during neo-palatial period (also during the Bronze Age). This neo-palatial structure was larger, grander, and wealthier looking than the proto-palace as one might expect. Eventually, this palace declined around 1,400 B.C.E. and was destroyed by 200 B.C.E. The Phaestos palace aided in the development of the proto-, neo-, and post-palatial dating periods which are still used by archaeologists to describe when a structure was built during the Aegean Bronze Age.
We focused on noting the differences and similarities between Phaestos and Malia, Gournia, and Kato Zakro. Central to all of this was a sense of ritual that Phaestos, unlike the other sites, attempted to garner. This sense of retual begins with entering the Palace from the west. The West Courtyard of Phaestos is unique in that it is broken into two levels or terraces which results in the names of “Upper West Court” and “Lower West Court.” The Upper West Court was plain and mainly contained the raised walkway that is possibly meant to be a processional pathway or to keep ones feet out of the water when it rains. Although the processional pathway seems more likely at first glance, there is also evidence of a drainage system in the Upper West Court lending support for keeping pedestrians out of the rain. The Lower West Court consisted of many features that we have talked about before such as a west wall with a grand entrance way, a theatrical area, and a shrine. Phaestos’ west wall used a system of recession that was used in other palace sites. This wall was built from large rectangular blocks with the second course recessed three or four inches back from where the first course was laid and the wall is recessed once again for the third course of about eight to nine inches. The grand entrance way makes a break in the west wall onto the Lower West Courtyard above the theatrical area. This grand entrance way is visually enhanced by large, wide staircases that lead to a single column in the entrance way. Behind the double staircase is a porch along with a row of three pillars which run parallel to the west wall. Beyond the porch and row of pillars is a light well. The theatrical area faces onto the courtyard and processional walk way. This theatrical area was used in both the proto- and neo-palatial periods, but about half of the steps were covered in the neo-palatial period by a substance called Ostraki. Ostraki is a cement-like substance that was used by the Minoans in a similar fashion to cement. An interesting feature noted about the theatrical area is the cult designs that were carved into at least two steps. One design was of a whirl and the other was of a star. Built into the theatrical space was a three room shrine.
The layout and combination of the of polythyra, porches, light wells, and lustral basins throughout the palace seemed formulaic. The repetition of polythyra opening into a porch that was backed with columns and then opened into a light well that was generally paved and had a drain to allow rainfall to be evacuated from the area. Another room design using the room elements of porches and light wells was discussed at Phaesos. In one room to the north there was a paved porch that had a door that oppened into a polythyron. This porch had a wall on three sides and columns on another. The porch opened onto a drained light well which opened onto a paved porch which had columns and a bench. This bench is interesting because it could have held idols or could have been used for seating. The second porch connected through a doorway to a lustral basins. We also found a peristyle in the north area of the palace. This area start with a polythyron that opens onto a porch which encompass a light well that has either a reservoir fountain or a large drain in the middle. To the East is another polythyron area that has a notable set-up. This polythydron opened onto two paved porches one of which was backed by a wall and had a door that opened into a light well and then opened into a lustral basin. The other porch was backed by columns and opened into a light well.
We also discussed Minoan frescoes. The Minoans, unlike the Egyptians, painted their frescoes while they were still wet. The figures in the Minoan frescoes appear to have been influenced by Egyptian figure forms, but had a unique Minoan character. This character consisted of curves which suggested movement unlike the rigidity of Egyptian figures. There appears to be a general theme in the frescoes of depicting women as white/pale whereas men tend to be painted red/tan. Figures also had thin waists, curly hair, and seemingly stood proud.
The second site we visited today was Ayia Triada. This site is considered important since it was an outpost for Phaestos and rose to power after the decline of Phaestos to become a considerable center of Mycenean culture in the area. The site is also notable for its Ashlar masonry. Ashlar masonry is a form of stone construction that allowed for greater strength and stability while providing for tall walls. This method of construction is comparable to a modern method of brick laying. One course of stones would be laid and then the next course of stones would be laid on top such that where two stones joined on the first course , the stone for the second course would be laid.
Greek mythology on the island of Crete could be said to start at Mount Dykti Cave. Here, the myth of Zeus seizing the throne of the gods from his father, Kronos, is often recounted.
The myth begins with Chaos and from Chaos came Earth and Sky. Earth and Sky gave birth to Rhea and Kronos. Rhea and Kronos were brother and sister as well as husband and wife. One day Kronos was told by an oracle that one of his sons would overthrow him. Kronos decided he would devour all of his children in an effort to avoid being overthrown. Eventually, Rhea became tired of Kronos eating their children and decided she will save her next born son. She decended down into the cave on Mt. Dykti and gave birth to Zeus. In order to save baby Zeus, Rhea brought Kronos a rock which he promptly swallows believe it to be his newly born son. Meanwhile, in the cave, Zeus is raised by mythical goats called the Kri-kri. However, Kronos becomes wise to the plan and eventually finds Zeus whom he devours. After the devouring of Zeus, Rhea’s mother-in-law gives Kronos some magical herbs which causes him to vomit up all of the children he has devoured. Upon regurgitating Zeus and the other Olympians, a war broke out between them and the Titans. In the end, the Olympians won resulting in the overthrow of Kronos and the Titans along with Zeus being proclaimed leader of the Olympians.
This myth of the rise of the Olympians seems to be reflected in the Minoan palaces on Crete. Religion and myth seems to play a central role in Minoan palaces as evident through the shrines and other ritual areas found at the palaces. The myth of the rise of Zeus and the Olympians might be associated with the construction and use of lustral basins and pillar crypts. Lustral basins seem to mimic the decent down into the cave on Mt. Dykti. The pillar crypts seem to be respresentative of the speleothems within the cave. Finally, Dr. Morris, the leader for the trip, demonstrated a way of lighting the cave so that one of the speleothems appeared to show baby Zeus. This could have been done in the lustral basins or pillar crypts, but within the convenience of the Minoan palaces.
It was our second day of looking at Minoan culture and our first introduction to the Mycenaean Culture. We started the day at the Archaeological Museum of Sitia looking mostly at pottery. The museum also houses the Palaikastro Kouros which is possibly the most eerie looking statue. It’s carved from a hippopotamus tooth with rock crystal eyes. The figure was subsequently burned after creation leaving a faceless, charred, and skinny figure holding a ridged stance with amazing anatomical detail showing lean muscles, veins, and nails. The level of detail is simply amazing given it was created during the late Bronze Age. It’s believed the figure was clothed in gold. Yet, it’s purpose is not entirely certain. It would seem that the figure is some sort of religious or cult figure due to the condition it was found in by archaeologists (i.e., smashed and burned). Then again, religious artifact seems to be a catch-all term used to explain things that we cannot clearly identify for other uses.
Pottery forms and styles at the Museum illustrated nearly all periods of time for the Minoan culture. Forms included initial Cycladic forms, abstract animal shaped Koumasa, large storage Pithoi, and ritualistic Rhyta. These pithoi (singular: pithos) would have stored wet and dry goods in the magazines that we saw the day before at Malia and Gournia. Rhyta could only be described as ritualistic in that the shapes appeared to come in the shape of animal heads (e.g., bull) or highly pointed bottoms making them impossible to stand-up on their own. Styles included black background floral patterned Kamares ware, the more fluid floral patterns of the Floral style, the sea life focused Marine style, and finally the abstract Palace style.
We then made our way to the Palace at Kato Zakro to compare and contrast it with Malia and Gournia. Like Malia and Gournia, Kato Zakro had courtyards and magazines albeit at a reduced size. Kato Zakro and Malia had lustral basins and polythyra (singular: polythyron) in common, too, but with the addition of a shelf within the lustral basin suggesting ornamentation. However, Kato Zakro also contained water features such as wells and other spaces believed to be treasuries, workshops, kiln, and archive. Additionally, the shrine at Kato Zakro, in contrast to Malia and Gournia, was connected to the Palace. Overall, Kato Zakro seems to have a wealthier status than Malia and Gournia due to the presence of more polythyra and lustral basins. Possibly there was a focus on a secondary (i.e. manufactured goods) economy opposed to primary (i.e. gather and harvest) economy.
Our trip to Palaikastro was predominately to look at the megaron — a facet of the Mycenean culture. A megaron is a structure whose roof is held up by four columns and has a space in the center for a fire with a hole above it for smoke to escape. Within the megaron, the Palaikastro Kouros was discovered by archaeologists suggesting that this was a ritual space.
There is a land called Crete in the midst of the wine-dark sea, a fair land and a rich, begirt with water, and therein are many men innumerable, and ninety cities.
— Homer, The Odyssey
We landed in Athens around mid-morning and quickly made our way to Piraeus to catch our ferry to Crete. Our journey took us through the night to Heraklion. Immediately after departing the boat, we found a bakery where I ordered two cheese pies which would become a staple for me throughout my trip.
Palaces at both sites were composed of courtyards, theatrical spaces, and magazines; however, some components such as lustrial basins, polyhedron, and sacrificial stones were unique to one site or the other. While courtyards and theatrical spaces might be relatively straightforward to visualize, magazines, sacrificial stones, lustrial basins and polyhedrons might not be. Below I describe the magazines and sacrificial stones in more detail. Lustrial basins are possibly best described as a room that someone can walk down into as if they were walking into a small basement and hooking around a corner to a wall made of dressed stones. These spaces illicit an vision of a place for ritualistic purification. The polyhedron (meaning “many doors”) is mostly comprised of pillars with a central plaza. The doors making up the walls could be opened or closed presumably altering airflow.
At the site of Malia, my group investigated the pillar crypt and magazine areas. The pillar crypt is a room which contains two large squared pillars roughly four and a half to five feet tall which have symbols carved into them. These symbols are in the form of axes with a trident. Due to the room containing an alter, this room is believed to be where cult, or religious, activities were practiced. Magazines were used for the storage of goods and there appears to be some level of specialization in their use in that some areas appeared to be for dry goods (e.g. wheat, olives) while others were for wet goods (e.g. olive oil, wine). Wet good magazines had a sloped floor with a hole at the end of the slope. If a container cracked, all of the contents would presumably flow towards the hole allowing the contents to be recovered. Additionally, two major orientations seemed to be prevalent for the magazine rooms. The north-south oriented rooms seemingly stored dry goods whereas wet goods appeared to be oriented east-west.
In my opinion, the most interesting area at Malia was the theatrical space. Here people might have stood and watched something or talked. Although it seems impossible to know what the people were watching they could have been viewing theatrical productions, speeches, and/or religious rites. Secondarily, the shrine space at both Malia and Gournia appeared to be very interesting since it was segregated from the rest of the Palace. The shrine at Malia was particularly interesting since it contained benches which had clay feet on them. These clay feet are thought to be the remnants of idols left by worshipers.
Highlighting the differences between Malia and Gournia could easily be done by mentioning the lack of polythyros and lustrial basin at Gournia while a sacrifical stone was included. The sacrificial stone at Gournia is believed to allowed for the sacrificing of bulls. The bull would be tied down to the stone and its throat cut . The blood flowing from the dying bull would drain off the stone through a hole.
Building materials at both sites were different. At Malia, there were a wide variety of variously cobbled rocks held together with clay and dressed stones along with dried brick. Conversly, Gournia contained only piled stones with clay or motar to hold the rocks together. Furthermore, their cunstruction locations were different in that Malia was built close to the sea on a nearly level area whereas Gournia was built on a hill relatively far from sea. Conversley, Gournia had more defined pathways for entering the palatial area than Malia.
nostalgia | noun | no-stal-juh From nóst a return home + –algia pain(Greek) 1. A wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a setimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time
— Dictionary.com, nostalgia
Every time I pass by 306 King Street, Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A. I still recall the conversation I had with a friend that would change my undergraduate experience. We met at what was then Ye Ole Fashioned Ice Cream & Sandwich Cafe to discuss our summer plans. My plans to visit Ireland for modern anthropological field work had just fallen through due to a lack of funding and he was interested in selling me on going to Greece with him as part of the College of Charleston Summer in Greece Program. By the time we were half-way through our sandwiches, I was already convinced that I should join the program. Now, 306 King Street is occupied by Taziki’s, an inauthentic Greek themed chain-restaurant, the irony is essentially palpable.
Following our conversation, I rushed back to my dorm to email the professor in charge of the program, Dr. Morris. Within moments, I received an email saying I was signed up for a trip to Greece during May. Later, I came to find out that the email just before mine was a student dropping out of the program; it seems Tyche (the Greek goddess of luck) was on my side. Not only did Tyche provide me with an alternative program to participate in over the first part of my summer, but a field school in Irish archaeology which I could use to obtain course credit for through the College of Charleston. I was ecstatic to find out I could get credit for this field school since I was more interested in archaeology than the modern anthropology research. It seemed my situation for the summer had reversed.
The conversations with my friend and Dr. Morris was followed by several meetings with other students participating in the program. These meetings acted as ice-breakers and general guideline meetings about what to expect in Greece. Between these meetings, I talked with the travel agent that was making our arrangements as part of the program to arrange my own travel from Athens to Dublin instead of back to the United States. Before long, I was on a flight from Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. to Athens, Greece. It so happens that this was a 12 hour flight during which time I was stuck in the middle seat with two people asleep on both sides of me after drinking two large glasses of water. This might have been a great time to learn to be assertive and wake-up someone, anyone on either side, to let me out so I could use the bathroom. Instead, I just sat there with a glazed-over look, my friend mentioned I looked spaced out, unable to sleep listening to “Umbrella” by Rihanna on repeat through the headphones provided by the stewardess. How fortuitous the chorus of the song shortens “umbrella” to “ella” a cognate for Hellas/Greece or, spelled “ela” , meaning “to come.”