Friday 15 September 2006

Tomas Alusik

Minoan defensive architecture

Minoan civilization has traditionally been viewed as and labelled a very peaceful culture. The concept of a Minoan Thalassocracy was especially created for the Neopalatial period – on the basis of the Classic Greek tradition preserved in Herodotus and Thucydides. According to this tradition – which was accepted until the end of 1970’s - Cretan towns and palaces had no defence walls because potential attacks from outside were fought off at a safe distance from the Cretan coast by the strong Minoan fleet.
Sir A. Evans himself, on his travels through Crete even before his research at Knossos, encountered a range of defensible structures that he labelled as “forts” or “guard stations”. He also discovered the remains of a supposed fortification during the Knossos excavations. However, it was he who used the term “Pax Minoica”, thereby becoming the author of the concept of a “peaceful” Minoan Crete. However, since the 1980’s, field surveys have identified some fortified settlements and constructions re-found in some cases. Thus, the “Pax Minoica” concept has been revised and even rejected lately.
In the last five years, while working on his PhD-thesis entitled “Fortifications in Minoan Crete and their Aegean parallels”, the author dealt with Cretan prehistoric defensive architecture. The author uses the term “defensive architecture” for all kinds of fortifications and military architecture established for the defence of any settlement or area. This kind of architecture in prehistoric Crete could be divided into five types: enclosure walls; tower–like structures (towers or bastions); so-called guard houses (the most numerous type; structures and observation posts in the countryside or in the vicinity of the settlement discovered especially in connection with the road system); so-called guardrooms (rooms situated at the beginning of an entrance corridor often identified in many palaces and villas); and modifications of access systems, which restrict access to the building or area.
The author identified more or less probable examples of prehistoric defensive architecture at more than 200 sites. Their chronological range varies from Late / Final Neolithic to the end of the Late Minoan period. Most examples of defensive architecture date from the Middle and Late Minoan periods. In each period or horizon, different types of defensive architecture predominate. For example, so-called guard houses appear especially during the Proto- and Neopalatial periods; enclosure walls are specific to the Postpalatial period.
During the prehistoric era – from the Late / Final Neolithic phases continually through the whole Bronze Age in all its periods and chronological horizons – the defence in Crete was expressed also architectonically with the help of the defensive architecture. Although this fact contradicts original and traditional notion about the Cretan prehistory it is necessary to consider it for interpretation of the character of Minoan civilization as a whole. The testimony of fortifications enables to reconstruct and put the light not only on the Cretan history but also on the society and its changes.


Next Seminar

Friday 12 May 18.30

M. Marthari
Raos on Thera...