Edited by Philip Betancourt, Michael C. Nelson, and Hector Williams. Pp. xxxvi + 314, figs. 206, color pls. 43, tables 4. INSTAP Academic Press, Philadelphia 2007. $80. ISBN 1-931534-22-5 (cloth).
I first became acquainted with Joseph and Maria Shaw’s work in 1991 when writing my master’s thesis on Minoan architectural representations. J. Shaw’s impressive and unrivaled manual (“Minoan Architecture: Materials and Techniques,” ASAtene 49, n.s. 33  7–265) and M. Shaw’s work on iconography were my constant companions as I tried to determine just how realistic these representations were. This volume, comprising 36 papers by colleagues, friends, and students, honors their outstanding contribution to Aegean prehistory. It is organized around a number of themes to which the Shaws have made important contributions over the past three decades: architecture, harbors, frescoes, trade, administration and regionalism, and, finally, culture and religion.
The section on architecture contains contributions covering a wide variety of topics and periods. McEnroe reexamines the idea of the “Primitive Hut” in the early days of early 20th-century archaeology, when the discovery of a square-built plan at Magasa caused surprise because of the underlying assumption that early huts were always round. This paradigm also informs the identification of the round house of Chamaisi as a (primitive) stage in the general architectural evolution, and Evans’ association of Late Minoan (LM) III hut-urns with the distant, primitive past. Warren makes a case for Early Minoan round tombs having stone corbeled roofs based on evidence from Lebena Tomb II and the Cretan mitata, or cheese hut. This would seem to make an end to the ongoing debate about the roofing of these tombs, for which, alternatively, a flat roof (Branigan), a domed structure in mudbrick (Hood), and a stone dome with a framework of timber (Pelon) have been proposed.
Nelson examines evidence for exterior use of Minoan and Mycenaean stone revetment, which is mostly circumstantial, except that stone revetments and architectural representations share decorative motifs. La Rosa presents results from the excavation of the foundation trench of the Second Palace in the area of Room XIX. It seems that the alignment of the initial Middle Minoan (MM) IB western facade moved westward in MM II, when the orthostate facade was constructed. The latter is thus later in date than previously thought. Palyvou examines Aegean aspects of architecture in the cosmopolitan harbor town of Ugarit and concludes that the Ugaritic architectural milieu belongs to a broader Syro-Palestinian tradition with regard to the construction of space but departs from this tradition in ways that bring Ugarit closer to the Aegean world. One of the most salient features at Ugarit is the preference for stone and timber architecture in contrast to the mudbrick and timber tradition of Anatolia and the mudbrick tradition of the Levant and the eastern Mediterranean in general. Palyvou argues that the “Minoan aura” of Ugaritic architecture from the 13th century B.C.E. can only be explained as an echo of an earlier unidentified phase that displays thorough Minoan influence (45). This paper would have benefited from quantifying the incidence of these “Aegean” features at Ugarit to obtain an idea of how widely they were spread. The door-and-window system at Ugarit, which is so similar to Akrotiri, for example, seems to be restricted in distribution (43).
Tsipopoulou’s paper sheds light on the evolution of the court in the main building at Petras from MM II to LM IB, when the surface of the court was drastically reduced by the addition of an L-shaped stoa, which had an important role in this period, as suggested by the number of objects fallen from the upper floor (55–8). Rupp discusses how, at Chalasmenos, a few simple and easily reproducible architectural components were deployed to create rectangular spaces and megara of similar dimensions and proportions.
A second group of papers discusses harbor installations, not just on the basis of the actual remains but also from the perspective of iconography. Doumas presents some new evidence from investigations with ground-penetrating radar that suggests that the preeruption coastline of Santorini extended farther west into the valley of Hagios Nikolaos, thus forming a double harbor. This would confirm J. Shaw’s hypothesis that Aegean Bronze Age coastal settlements were habitually founded on a promontory flanked on either side by sandy shores, as seen in the topography of the Arrival Town in the West House fresco from Akrotiri. The enormous potential of Priniatikos Pyrgos for exploring the role and organization of harbors is discussed by Hayden and colleagues. On that promontory, evidence for long-term occupation and pyrotechnical industrial activities (taking advantage of updraft sea winds) such as pottery, metallurgy, and other workshop activities has been found.
Watrous, drawing on parallels from the historical period, suggests that the changes taking place in the Mesara in LM IA, especially the rise of Hagia Triada and the demise of Phaistos and Kommos, can be explained as the result of friction between the traditional palace-centered religious authority and a landowning aristocracy. He suggests a similar scenario for Knossos, arguing that it was a rift between the group at Knossos and the group at Poros that led to the destruction of houses and workshops at Poros.
Papers in the frescoes section are beautifully illustrated by color plates at the end of the volume. Vlachopoulos proposes a new reconstruction for the fresco fragments depicting blue birds, monkeys, and a male figure from the paved vestibule of Building Eta at Akrotiri (the “Porter’s Lodge”). A stimulating paper by Chapin addresses gender roles in Cycladic society on the basis of the iconography of the Akrotiri frescoes. She notes an interesting discrepancy between the low number of women in the West House frescoes (of 370 figures, only 14 are identified as female) and their prominent presence in other frescoes. She argues that this is a result of different roles for each gender, men being depicted as providers, protectors, laborers, and religious leaders (140)—I would be tempted to add “aggressors” to her list—and women, as passive viewers of male spectacle, depicted in traditional household settings. She wonders if the relative obscurity of women is related to their position in Aegean society (142). However, generalization of this order seems rash when one considers contextual variation and the different audiences at which the frescoes were aimed. The audience of the West House fresco may have been mainly male, while that addressed in Room 3 of Xeste 3 seems to be predominantly female.
Among other offerings, Jones proposes a new reconstruction of the entire north wall of the fresco from Hagia Triada (pl. 18), and Shanks compares the Pylos griffin frescoes with the Knossos ones. Morgan considers whether a connection exists between the orientation of painted walls, their themes, and geographical reference points around Akrotiri. She connects, for example, the Meeting on the Hill on the northwest wall with the top of the hill of Mavro Rhachidhi, the Ship Procession on the southeast wall with the harbor to the southeast (one of two), and the Nilotic landscape on the east wall with the fact that the coast of Egypt was to be found in this general direction.
Some papers are more traditionally art historical. Davies argues that fresco fragments showing water splashes from Keos, Knossos, and Petras must have been executed by “the same team of master painters” (147). She concludes that the Keos frescoes testify to numerous visits from traveling Minoan artists. This is a popular explanation in the study of Minoanizing frescoes in the east Mediterranean, but such a discussion should consider the existence and circulation of pattern books. In fact, M. Shaw has found intriguing correspondences between the miniature frieze at Akrotiri and the ship scenes of Hatshepsut’s Punt relief at Deir el-Bahri.
Related to the discussion of harbors is a series of papers that deals with interaction and trade. In a comprehensive paper, Ferrence discusses the use of hippopotamus ivory in the eastern Mediterranean, with special attention to the finds from Hagios Charalambos. As many as 400 ivory objects have been discovered at Early to Middle Minoan Cretan sites, and their distribution shows some interesting patterns; most come from tholos tombs in the Mesara and are rivaled only by finds from Archanes and two burial caves on Lasithi (the Trapeza and Hagios Charalambos caves), which together yielded 50 ivory objects. Elsewhere on Crete the material is rare. Typologically, the material from Hagios Charalambos dates mainly to Early Minoan (EM) III/MMIA and finds close parallels in the Mesara tombs. This sheds an interesting light on the interactions of the inhabitants of Lasithi, who may have been seeking connections with south-central rather than north-central Crete. The material was probably imported from Egypt and the Near East but turned into finished goods on Crete (173). Because of the density of ivory in the Mesara, it is suggested that a gateway community may have existed in this part of Crete (but probably not at Kommos). Betancourt’s paper on the Malia-Lasithi state complements this paper and explains the provenance of the material culture consumed and deposited in the Lasithi plain. He notes an interesting contrast in the circulation of objects: whereas Lasithi turns toward south Crete for the acquisition of high-value luxury goods, it seems that the pottery bears more resemblances to that from the north coast. This underlines the importance of comparing different categories of material culture and suggests that the circulation of material culture was complex and not simply a marker of political subordination.
Van de Moortel addresses the question of whether Kommos was a gateway community in the Middle Bronze Age. She argues in favor of Kommos being a harbor town on the basis of the probable existence of a public building (AA), the rapid emergence of Kommos, and evidence for metalworking and the purple-dying of textiles. The majority of the ceramic imports at Kommos, however, are Cretan, which does not support the hypothesis of foreign trade. Whether Kommos was a harbor and was involved in foreign trade is best considered as two separate issues. Papers by Rutter, Dabney, and Koehl and Yellin discuss how LM III pottery does shed light on foreign interactions. Dabney suggests that during the Late Helladic IIIA2–IIIB period, people from Mycenae and its environs were actively engaged in trying to establish direct trade relations with Egypt and the Levant, but such efforts were met with only limited success because the goods Mycenaeans had to offer were relatively undesirable to the Egyptians, the exception being scented oils and wine in stirrup jars. Koehl and Yellin trace “Simple Style pottery,” identified by Furumark as a quasi- or derivative Mycenaean ware, back to Cyprus rather than to Crete or the mainland.
Regionalism has become an important research topic in Minoan archaeology. Raymond identifies Anatolian and foreign elements in the Middle Bronze Age pottery from Miletus and concludes that while the carinated cup has a good regional prototype (as well as one from Crete), the semiglobular cup and the bowl with flaring walls more strongly indicate a central Aegean connection. Arvanitakis’ research reveals that although LM II ceramics from some regions on Crete (e.g., Kommos, Mochlos, Palaikastro) display regional features, this is not the case for pottery from other areas on Crete such as Chania, which seems to follow closely the LM II pottery of north-central Crete. He argues that this situation corresponds well with our information about intra-island relations in the Linear B tablets, and that the Mycenaean period on Crete may not have involved a supraregional organizational structure as is usually assumed.
Wiener, challenged by Renfrew to state why he believes that Crete in the Neopalatial period was under unified rule from Knossos, firmly rejects regionalism and its model of a nonhierarchical overarching political rule. He bases his argument on the existence of MM IIB destruction horizons, the extension of Knossian control in the Pediada region, the evidence from Knossos itself that signals its increasing importance in the Neopalatial period, the spread of Knossian cultural influence, the existence of a pax minoica, the idea that Kato Zakro was a Knossian port, the island-wide spread of Knossian administration, and finally, the Minoan dominance in the Aegean. This paper contains a useful update of new information and discoveries since Cherry’s seminal 1986 article (“Polities and Palaces: Some Problems in Minoan State Formation,” in C. Renfrew and J. Cherry, eds., Peer Polity Interaction and Socio-Political Change [Cambridge 1986] 19–45), although it may have benefited from a more detailed discussion of the evidence. Soles discusses the LM IB trident from Mochlos and suggests that it served as an apotropaic symbol, which may also explain the trident-shaped mason’s mark.
The last theme, “culture and religion,” combines several disparate papers. Among these, Wright considers the organization of households and their spatial relationships to one another and to the community. Whereas MM IB–II houses grew piecemeal, LM I houses were carefully planned. There is also evidence in both periods for continuous occupation by succeeding generations, suggesting that the households’ structure and organization were maintained. Nixon discusses how the color and brilliance of stones may have played a role in the selection of raw materials for stone tools. Reese studies the faunal remains from the sacred spring at Corinth and concludes that there is no evidence to suggest burnt sacrifices were performed there. Instead, the samples provide evidence for boneworking practices. Stampolidis offers insights about the iconography of an amazing shield from the cemetery at Eleutherna that belongs to the group of Idean cave shields and was used as a cover for a burial pithos. He compares its naked goddess with Near Eastern depictions of Anat-Astarte-Qadesh. Hallager presents a unique cult scene on a ceramic stand; Tyree, Kanta, and Sphakianakis discuss the form and function of the Neopalatial assemblage of chalices from the cave at Skoteino. Finally, Marinatos argues that the lily crown on Crete symbolizes sacred kingship and that the priest-king was a theocratic ruler. All in all, the volume is highly specialized and will be of interest primarily to experts in the field.
Department of Archaeology