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Anastasia Vergaki

Anastasia M. Vergaki, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece), was born in Athens and she's an archaeologist specialised in Bronze Age Aegean. She graduated from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, where she also continued her postgraduate studies. She has participated in several interdisciplinary excavations and since 2016 she is a Ph.D. student of Prehistoric Archaeology in the University of Athens. She has been working on domestic ritual in small-scale societies, theory, political and social organization of the Late Bronze Age settlements of Minoan Crete. 

Searching for the Power of the Multitude: political and ritual dimensions of Minoan neopalatial domestic architecture

The Neopalatial period-(c. 1700-1500 BC or Middle Minoan IIIB - Late Minoan IB in pottery terms), marked the heyday of the Minoan palatial society, and ended with the disastrous volcanic eruption of Santorini and its social reverberations. This period has been regarded as a time of affluence, owing to the many and elaborate court-centered buildings, frequently called palaces, and the villas, namely their smaller scale counterparts. These buildings are supposed to be a two-tier elite and feature special types of rooms often related to ritual. The best known are the so-called "Pillar Crypts", "Lustral Basins" and "Bench Sanctuaries", as well as the "Pier and Door Partitions" system. The above architectural features are found in average houses, albeit less frequently and in a less elaborate form. This architectural difference is usually interpreted as a domestic emulation of elite architecture. This is because we are influenced by modern forms of political and social organization. The political nature of the "traditional" or generally accepted views of the palace and architecture trace their origins to Evans' Edwardian aristocratic conceptions or to Diffusionism (ex oriente lux) as well as to newer political conservative top-down models of society, such as systemic models with their need for managers or system regulators. Apart from their deeply political character, the aforementioned approaches to architecture have problems regarding the manipulation of the excavation data as well, by giving a ritual and/or elite character to every uninterpretable find. However, a closer look demonstrates that the assumed elite features were widely adopted by both palaces and houses at the same period of time. Furthermore, their architectural predecessors are detected both in palatial and in non-palatial buildings of the Early and, mostly, the Middle Minoan period. A re-examination of the neopalatial settlements of Pseira, Mochlos and Gournia may allow the suggestion that the aforementioned architectural features may have hosted ritual and other types of action that reinforced low-level social and even political organization. This argument reinforces what has already been widely accepted regarding the convivial character of feasting practices in Minoan Crete, which attained a key-role in social reproduction both before and after the establishment of the palaces. It also allows us to reconsider the social organization of Minoan Crete and the significance of the palaces. Instead of a hierarchical society topped by a leader or an elite group, Minoan society may be seen as a complex web entailing a dynamic interplay of different levels of social organization and hierarchy. Such a bottom up approach to Minoan Crete brings up the concept of the multitude, namely the ability of the basis of the social pyramid to be socially self-organised and to trigger responses by higher social echelons. As a result, a question emerges: Are we dealing with palatial or with the multitude's architecture? We should search for an answer free from established cultural and socio political stereotypes.

 

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