Thursday 14 May 2009

Jean-Claude Poursat
University of Clermont-Ferrand

A Tale of Two Buildings. The structure and functions of a Protopalatial élite complex: the ‘Quartier Mu’ at Malia
Quartier Mu at Malia, built toward the beginning of MM II and destroyed at the end of the same period, is the largest Protopalatial complex known in Crete today. Its interest results of its state of preservation but also the nature of its buildings. The two main buildings, A and B, unusual in their dimensions (840 and 540 m2), have yielded documents inscribed in Hieroglyphic script, as well as a considerable number of artefacts (clay vessels, stone vases, metal weapons and tools, etc.). Their architecture is innovative in many ways, and provides the earliest examples of forms that would become characteristic features of the Minoan architecture of the following period (such as polythyron, lustral basin, light well). Several categories of objects have already been published in a series of four volumes (Mu I-IV, Études Crétoises), the last one on MM II pottery (Poursat and Knappett 2005, La  poterie du Minoen Moyen II: production et utilisation). A fifth volume dealing with so far unpublished artefacts (stone tools, clay lamps, loomweights, etc.) is in preparation, as well as a detailed architectural study ; thus, it is now possible to present a general overview of the structure and functions of this complex.
The previous studies have brought out the main lines of its organisation. Several smaller buildings, surrounding A and B, have been identified as craftsmen’s houses or storage magazines. But the exact nature and respective functions of the two main buildings have not yet been ascertained. The view that the inhabitants of A and B were simply richer, powerful families, is improbable. The administrative documents in A and B, the evidence of production for cult and of cult areas, the controlled workshops, all suggest a broader social or political function than that of large private houses. On the other hand, their earlier interpretation as the residences of two distinct high officials with religious functions, in the framework of the palatial administration, can no longer be sustained. Most probably, the Mu buildings form a single élite complex, as indicated by their architectural setting and some obvious relations and similarities.
The study of the distribution of the pottery between these two buildings (Poursat and Knappett 2005) has already revealed some functional differences. In this seminar, we examine the distribution of several other categories of objects, specifically related to feasting and ceremonies, ritual and religion, textile production and conspicuous consumption. Their study helps us to understand why (and when) Building B was added to Building A, and sheds light on the respective roles of the two buildings, as well as on their status in the palatial town of Malia.



Next Seminar

Friday 12 May 18.30

M. Marthari
Raos on Thera...