Home Region:  Southeastern Europe (Europe)

The Old Palace Crete

EQ 2020  gr_crete_old_palace / GrCrOPa

Crete is a large island in the Eastern Mediterranean. Here we consider the phase of its history best known as the Old Palace or Protopalatial Era. This period began around 1900 [1] , and ended around 1700, with a series of conflagration across the entire island, possibly caused by earthquake, possibly by inter-island wars [2] [3] .
Population and Political Organization
The Old Palace period is marked by the appearance of regional states, and, in each of these, political, religious, ideological and/or economic authorities governed from “palaces”, that is, monumental court-centered building compounds such as the ones at Knossos, Malia, Phaistos and Petras [4] . However, evidence for administration is limited and consists mostly of clay archival documents. [5] .
According to Renfrew, each regional state had a population of 215,000 [6] .

[1]: (Shelmerdine 2008, 4) Cynthia W. Shelmerdine. 2008. ‘Background, sources, and methods,’ in The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age, edited by Cynthia W. Shelmerdine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[2]: (La Rosa 1999, 81-89) V. La Rosa. 1999. "Πολιτική εξουσία και σεισμικές καταστροφές στη Μινωική Κρήτη: η περίπτωση της Φαιστού" in Κρήτες Θαλασσοδρόμοι, edited by A. Karetou. Heraklion

[3]: (Cadogan 2014, 43-54) G. Cadogan. 2014. "War in the Cretan Bronze Age: the realism of Stylianos Alexiou". Kritika Chronika 34: 43-54.

[4]: (Manning 2008, 119) S.W. Manning. 2008. ‘: Protopalatial Crete. 5A: Formation of the palaces,’ in The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age, edited by Cynthia W. Shelmerdine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[5]: (Weingarten 2010, 317-318) J. Weingarten. 2010. ‘Minoan seals and sealings,’ in The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean (ca. 3000-1000 BC), edited by E.H. Cline. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[6]: (Renfrew 1972, 249) Colin Renfrew. 1972. The Emergence of Civilisation. Oxford: Oxbow.

General Variables
Identity and Location
Utm Zone:
35 S  
Original Name:
The Old Palace Crete  
Capital:
none  
Alternative Name:
Protopalatial Crete  
Crete of the First Palaces  
Temporal Bounds
Peak Years:
[1,800 BCE ➜ 1,700 BCE]  
Duration:
[1,900 BCE ➜ 1,700 BCE]  
Political and Cultural Relations
Supracultural Entity:
Cretan Broze Age Civilization  
Succeeding Entity:
Neopalatial Crete  
Relationship to Preceding Entity:
continuity  
Preceding Entity:
Prepalatial Crete  
Degree of Centralization:
quasi-polity  
Language
Religion
Social Complexity Variables
Social Scale
Population of the Largest Settlement:
17,100 people  
Polity Territory:
-  
Polity Population:
-  
Hierarchical Complexity
Settlement Hierarchy:
[1 to 6]  
Administrative Level:
[1 to 4]  
Professions
Professional Priesthood:
unknown  
Bureaucracy Characteristics
Specialized Government Building:
present  
Full Time Bureaucrat:
present  
Law
Professional Lawyer:
absent  
Judge:
absent  
Formal Legal Code:
absent  
Court:
absent  
Specialized Buildings: polity owned
Market:
inferred present  
Irrigation System:
unknown  
Food Storage Site:
unknown  
Drinking Water Supply System:
absent  
Transport Infrastructure
Road:
unknown  
Port:
present  
Canal:
absent  
Bridge:
unknown  
Special-purpose Sites
Mines or Quarry:
present  
Information / Writing System
Written Record:
present  
Script:
present  
Phonetic Alphabetic Writing:
present  
Information / Kinds of Written Documents
Scientific Literature:
absent  
Practical Literature:
absent  
Philosophy:
absent  
Lists Tables and Classification:
present  
History:
absent  
Fiction:
absent  
Information / Money
Token:
inferred present  
Precious Metal:
inferred present  
Paper Currency:
absent  
Indigenous Coin:
absent  
Foreign Coin:
absent  
Article:
inferred present  
Information / Postal System
Postal Station:
absent  
General Postal Service:
absent  
Courier:
absent  
Information / Measurement System
Warfare Variables (Military Technologies)
Fortifications
  Stone Walls Non Mortared:
present  
  Stone Walls Mortared:
present  
  Settlements in a Defensive Position:
present  
  Modern Fortification:
absent  
  Moat:
absent  
  Complex Fortification:
absent  
  Long Wall:
absent  
Military use of Metals
  Steel:
absent  
  Iron:
absent  
  Copper:
unknown  
  Bronze:
unknown  
Projectiles
  Tension Siege Engine:
absent  
  Sling Siege Engine:
absent  
  Self Bow:
unknown  
  Javelin:
unknown  
  Handheld Firearm:
absent  
  Gunpowder Siege Artillery:
absent  
  Crossbow:
absent  
  Composite Bow:
unknown  
Handheld weapons
  Sword:
present  
  Spear:
unknown  
  Polearm:
absent  
  Dagger:
present  
  Battle Axe:
present  
Animals used in warfare
  Horse:
unknown  
  Elephant:
absent  
  Donkey:
unknown  
  Dog:
unknown  
  Camel:
absent  
Armor
  Scaled Armor:
absent  
  Plate Armor:
absent  
  Limb Protection:
absent  
  Laminar Armor:
absent  
  Chainmail:
absent  
Naval technology
  Small Vessels Canoes Etc:
present  
Religion Tolerance Nothing coded yet.
Human Sacrifice Nothing coded yet.
Crisis Consequences Nothing coded yet.
Power Transitions Nothing coded yet.

NGA Settlements:

Year Range The Old Palace Crete (gr_crete_old_palace) was in:
 (1900 BCE 1701 BCE)   Crete
Home NGA: Crete

General Variables
Identity and Location

Original Name:
The Old Palace Crete

The major urban centers of the period, seats of political authorities controlling the surrounding region, are Phaistos in south-central Crete, Knossos in north-central Crete, Malia, in the north area of east-central Crete, and Petras in east Crete. They create a complex and still not fully understood sociopolitical setting. [1] [2] The largest of these centers is Malia, ca. 60 hectares, followed by Knossos, ca. 45 hectares, and Phaistos 15 hectares. None of these centers, however, could be considered as a sort of the island’s capital.
♠ Language ♣ suspected unknown♥Information of the spoken and written language of Bronze Age Cretans during the Protopalatial period is scant due to the limited number of written documents. [3] [4] The few preserved documents were written in Cretan Hieroglyphic and Linear A script (Linear A was introduced at the end of the Protopalatial period at Knossos and Phaistos) are still undeciphered. What language was recorded in these documents is unknown.

[1]: e.g. Cherry, J. F. 1986. “Polities and palaces: some problems in the Minoan state formation,” in Renfrew, C. and Cherry, J. F. (eds), Peer-Polity Interaction and Socio-Political Change, Cambridge, 19-45

[2]: Cadogan, G. 1994."An Old Palace period Knossos state," in Evely, D., Hughes-Brock, H., and Momigliano, N. (eds), Knossos. A Labyrinth of History. Papers in Honor of Sinclair Hood, London, 57-68.

[3]: Tomas, H. 2010. "Cretan hieroglyphic and Linear A," in Cline, E.H. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean (ca. 3000-1000 BC), Oxford, 340-55

[4]: Boulotis, C. 2008. "The art of Cretan writing," in Andreadaki-Vlazaki, M., Rethemiotakis, G., and Dimopoulou-Rethemiotaki, N. (eds), From the Land of the Labyrinth. Minoan Crete, 3000-1100 B.C., New York, 67-78.


Alternative Name:
Protopalatial Crete
Alternative Name:
Crete of the First Palaces

Temporal Bounds
Peak Years:
[1,800 BCE ➜ 1,700 BCE]



Duration:
[1,900 BCE ➜ 1,700 BCE]

The Old Palace era is divided in Middle Minoan IB (1900-1800 BCE) and Middle Minoan II A-B (1800-1700 BCE) periods. [1]

[1]: Shelmerdine, C. W. 2008. "Background, sources, and methods," in Shelmerdine, C. W. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age, Cambridge, 4.


Political and Cultural Relations
Supracultural Entity:
Cretan Broze Age Civilization




Degree of Centralization:
quasi-polity

It is generally argued that island was divided into small independent "states" centered upon large monumental complexes generally known as "palaces". [1] [2] These polities appear to be independent and autonomous in political and economic terms.

[1]: e.g. Cherry, J. F. 1986. “Polities and palaces: some problems in the Minoan state formation,” in Renfrew, C. and Cherry, J. F. (eds), Peer-Polity Interaction and Socio-Political Change, Cambridge, 19-45

[2]: Cadogan, G. 1994."An Old Palace period Knossos state," in in Evely, D., Hughes-Brock, H., and Momigliano, N. (eds), Knossos. A Labyrinth of History. Papers in Honor of Sinclair Hood, London, 57-68.


Language
Religion

Social Complexity Variables
Social Scale
Population of the Largest Settlement:
17,100 people

inhabitants. Knossos is the largest settlement of the island (ca. 57 ha) followed by Phaistos (31 ha) and Malia (24 ha.). [1] The population of Knossos is estimated to 17,100 souls and that of Phaistos and Malia to 9,300 and 7,200 respectively.

[1]: Whitelaw, T. 2012. "The urbanization of prehistoric Crete: settlement perspectives on Minoan state formation," in Schoep, I., Tomkins, P., and Driessen, J. (eds), Back to the Beginning. Reassessing Social and Political Complexity on Crete during the Early and Middle Bronze Age, Oxford, 156.


Polity Territory:
-

The area of Crete is 8,336 square kilometres. However, according to the most widely accepted narrative Crete, was divided into regional polities controlled by political factions residing in monumental court-centered building compounds, generally known as "palaces", built in large urban centers. How many regional polities were there? Expert input may be needed to code this variable.


Polity Population:
-

people. Rackham and Moody argued that the population of palatial Crete (Middle Minoan II-Late Minoan I or 1800-1450 BCE) was about 216,000-271,000. [1] For population estimates see also Branigan. [2] Expert input may be needed to produce a figure for the population of a typical regional polity in this period.

[1]: Rackham, O. and Moody, J. 1999. The Making of the Cretan Landscape, Manchester and New York, 97.

[2]: Branigan, K. 2000. "Aspects of Minoan urbanism," in Branigan, K. (ed.), Urbanism in the Aegean Bronze Age (SSAA 4), Sheffield, 38-50.


Hierarchical Complexity
Settlement Hierarchy:
[1 to 6]

levels. Excavated testimonies supplemented with information from systematic survey projects provide a sound starting point for the reconstruction of settlement hierarchies during the Protopalatial period. [1] [2] According to the most widely accepted narrative Crete was divided into regional polities controlled by political fractions residing in monumental court-centered building compounds, generally known as "palaces", built in large urban centers. These cities, their extend varies from 60 ha (Malia and probably Phaistos) to 56 ha (Knossos), were the "capitals" of the regional quasi-polities dominating the political scape of Crete. [3] Small towns, their size varies from 3 to 5 ha., were scattered in the hinterland. Villages, hamlets and farmhouses were in the periphery of these towns and even in remote and marginal areas.
Intensively surveyed Old Palace regions provide important evidence on regional site hierarchies. In the Malia region, the survey has detected three concentric circles of villages and hamlets around the palatial centre. [4] In the Western Mesara plain, Phaistos (60 ha.) was surrounded by eight village-sized sites, including the towns of Kommos, Kalamaki, and Hagia Triada. [5] Outside these centers there were 27 hamlets, 15 farmsteads, and 11 very small sites. Settlements patterns points to the rise in occupational specialization and social diversity. Several of the larger Middle Minoan IB-II sites (1900-1800 BCE) have specialized functions; Kommos was a port, Kamares a regional place of cult, and Paterikes a pottery centre. A site close to Hagia Triada was a stone quarry. Other sites possessed elite cyclopean residencies. The large number of villages and hamlet-sized sites suggest an increased population and intensive land use. In most settlements the main productive activities were farming and stock-breeding, others led the industries and quite a few were of commercial character owing to their harbors. The road network appears extensive and presumably therefore it facilitated contacts and the transport of goods from the inland. Many harbours in small windward bays linked peripheral centres with the Aegean islands and the Levant.
In contrast to these regions controlled by palace-centered institutions, there are areas which failed to provide evidence for a developed hierarchy. [6] In the Pediada plain, the wealthiest region of the island after the Mesara, varied and intensive archaeological research has failed to detect the socio-political developments that could have led to the rise of palace-centred polities such as those which emerged in the neighboring areas of Knossos, Malia and Phaistos. [7] On the contrary, independent groups, sharing common cultural idiosyncrasies, were active in the Pediada during the early Protopalatial period. The common cultural horizon does not, of course, necessarily indicate that these centres also shared an identical socio-political organization. Each urban centre in the Pediada should be assessed within its own specific setting. Local ruling groups, indeed, might have followed their own political, social, economic and ceremonial strategies. Competition among the major centres of power over material and social resources - especially considering the fact that they operated within the same regional setting - would inevitably promote an unstable political landscape. Competition was probably intense in areas close to the territorial borders of various sub-zones. The case of the Pediada demonstrates the complexity of the Protopalatial political landscape, which cannot be reduced to simplistic models of socio-political development. Local groups can and do differ quite widely in their socio-economic choices and attitudes, breaking away from what we see as the cultural ‘mainstream’.

[1]: See the various contributions in Branigan, K. (ed.), Urbanism in the Aegean Bronze Age (SSAA 4), Sheffield. See also Cherry, J. F. 1986. “Polities and palaces: some problems in the Minoan state formation,” in Renfrew, C. and Cherry, J. F. (eds), Peer-Polity Interaction and Socio-Political Change, Cambridge, 19-45

[2]: Driessen, J. and Frankel, D. 2012."Minds and mines: settlement networks and the diachronic use of space on Cyprus and Crete," in Cadogan, G., Iacovou, M., Kopaka, K. and Whitley, J. (eds), Parallel Lives: Ancient Island Societies in Crete and Cyprus (BSA Studies 20), London, 61-83.

[3]: There is no information for the extent of Petras during the Old Palace period. The size of the Neopalatial town was about 2.5 ha.

[4]: Muller, S. 1997. "L’ organization d’un territory minoen," Dossiers d’Archéologie 222, 52.

[5]: Watrous, L., Hadzi-Vallianou, D., and Blitzer, H. 2004. The Plain of Phaistos. Cycles of Social Complexity in the Mesara Region of Crete (Monumenta Archaeologica 23), Los Angeles, 278-81.

[6]: Driessen, J. 2001. "History and hierarchy. Preliminary observations on the settlement pattern of Minoan Crete," in Branigan, K. (ed.), Urbanism in the Aegean Bronze Age (SSAA 4), Sheffield, 61.

[7]: Rethemiotakis, G and Christakis, K. S. 2011. "landscapes of power in Protopalatial Crete: new evidence from Galatas, Pediada," SMEA 53, 195-218.


Administrative Level:
[1 to 4]

levels. 1: village heads; 2: town heads; 3: district heads; 4: central government. As for many other facets of Protopalatial societies, evidence for administration is limited and consists mostly of clay archival documents. [1] [2] . We may assume that villages and town were controlled by local leaders whose in their turn were under the administration of high ranking government officials. It seems likely that the control was local and related to small territorial units.

[1]: e.g. Weingarten, J. 2010. " Minoan seals and sealings," in Cline, E.H. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean (ca. 3000-1000 BC), Oxford, 317-28

[2]: Tomas, H. 2010. " Cretan Hieroglyphic and Linear A," in n Cline, E.H. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean (ca. 3000-1000 BC), Oxford, 341-55


Professions

Bureaucracy Characteristics
Specialized Government Building:
present

’Palaces" seems to be main governmental buildings of the Old Palace "states". There is no evidence for other buildings which might have been used by the governing institution, although Protopalatial cities are poorly investigated.


Full Time Bureaucrat:
present

"Gradually, during the Early Modern period (3000-2200 BC), the Cretans evolved all the characteristics that we think of as being distinctively Minoan. Only the ’palaces’ remained unbuilt. The ’palace’ society (c.2000-1380 BC) was clearly very advanced in its orderly and bureaucratic organization, showing a strongly rational and practical side with highly developed craft technologies, and yet it also possessed all the imaginative power and childlike freshness of a very young culture." [1]

[1]: (Castleden 2002: 4-5) Castleden, R. 2002. Minoans: Life in Bronze Age Crete. Routledge Press.


Specialized Buildings: polity owned
Market:
present

It has been generally argued that all economic transactions were based on fruitful barter. [1] Recent research, however, suggest that market exchanges also existed in prehistory Aegean. [2] [3]

[1]: e.g. Chadwick, J. 1976. The Mycenaean World, Cambridge, 78.

[2]: Christakis, K. S. 2008. The Politics of the Storage. Storage and Sociopolitical Complexity in Neopalatial Crete (Prehistory Monographs 25), Philadelphia, 138-39

[3]: Parkinson, W., Nakassis, D., and Galaty, M. L. 2013. "Crafts, Specialists, and Markets in Mycenaean Greece: Introduction," American Journal of Archaeology 117, 413-22.





Special-purpose Sites
Mines or Quarry:
present

Stones extracted systematically from quarries were gypsum, porous limestone, and sandstone. [1]

[1]: Shaw, J. W. 2009. Minoan Architecture: Materials and Techniques (Studi di Archaeologia Cretese VII), 28-38.


Information / Writing System

Script:
present

The script used during the Old Palace period is the Cretan Hieroglyphic and the Linear A, the latter introduced at Knossos and Phaistos at the end of the period. [1] [2] Ninety sylabograms, many of which equivalent to those of Linear A and B, and thirty logograms, denoting agricultural commodities, have been distinguished in Cretan Hieroglyphic. The archival documents, mostly administrative records containing lists of agricultural commodities, people and livestock, appear in a variety of forms, such as tablets, two, three and four-sided bars, medallions, nodule, flat-based nodules, roundels, one-hanging nodules, cones and crescents. They were also incised or stamped directly on objects. Assemblages of Hieroglyphic documents were found at Knossos, Malia, Phaistos, Kato Syme, Petras while isolated finds comes from may other sites. The largest assemblage was found at Malia. The script, which is not deciphered, continued to flourish and be used at least until the ends of the Middle Minoan III period (1600 BCE).

[1]: Olivier, J.-P. and Godart, L. 1996. Corpus Hieroglyphicarum Instriptionum Cretae (Études Crétoise 31), Paris

[2]: Tomas, H. 2010. "Cretan Hieroglyphic and Linear A," in Cline, E. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean, Oxford, 345-46.


Phonetic Alphabetic Writing:
present

Cretan Hieroglyphic is a syllabic script with a number of syllabograms equivalent to those of Linear A and B. The syllabograms had a phonetic value. [1]

[1]: Olivier, J.-P. 1986. "Cretan writing in the Second Millennium BC," World Archaeology 17, 377-89.


Information / Kinds of Written Documents



Lists Tables and Classification:
present

Most documents written in Cretan Hieroglyphic have an administrative purpose containing lists of agricultural commodities, people and livestock. [1] [2]

[1]: Karnava, A. 2000. The Cretan Hieroglyphic Script of the Second Millennium BC: Description, analysis, Function and Decipherment Perspectives (Ph.D: University of Bruxelles), 240-41

[2]: Tomas, H. 2010. "Cretan Hieroglyphic and Linear A," in Cline, E. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean, Oxford, 345-46.




Information / Money
Token:
present

It has been generally argued that in ancient societies economic transactions were also based on fruitful barter. [1] [2]

[1]: Garrraty, C. P. 2010. "Investigating market exchange in ancient societies: a theoretical review," in Garraty, C. P. and Stark, B. L. (eds), Archaeological Approaches to Market Exchange in Ancient Societies, Colorado, 3-32

[2]: Chadwick, J. 1976. The Mycenaean World, Cambridge, 78.


Precious Metal:
present

It has been generally argued that in ancient societies economic transactions were also based on fruitful barter. [1] [2]

[1]: Garrraty, C. P. 2010. "Investigating market exchange in ancient societies: a theoretical review," in Garraty, C. P. and Stark, B. L. (eds), Archaeological Approaches to Market Exchange in Ancient Societies, Colorado, 3-32

[2]: Chadwick, J. 1976. The Mycenaean World, Cambridge, 78.





Article:
present

It has been generally argued that in ancient societies economic transactions were also based on fruitful barter. [1] [2]

[1]: Garrraty, C. P. 2010. "Investigating market exchange in ancient societies: a theoretical review," in Garraty, C. P. and Stark, B. L. (eds), Archaeological Approaches to Market Exchange in Ancient Societies, Colorado, 3-32

[2]: Chadwick, J. 1976. The Mycenaean World, Cambridge, 78.


Information / Postal System



Information / Measurement System

Warfare Variables (Military Technologies)
Naval technology


Human Sacrifice Data
Human Sacrifice is the deliberate and ritualized killing of a person to please or placate supernatural entities (including gods, spirits, and ancestors) or gain other supernatural benefits.
- Nothing coded yet.
- Nothing coded yet.
- Nothing coded yet.