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First Palaces at Crete

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    Volume 110 No. 1 January 2006

  • THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY, the journal of the Archaeological Institute ofAmerica, was founded in 1885; the second series was begun in 1897. Indices have been publishedfor volumes 111 (18851896), for the second series, volumes 110 (18971906) and volumes 1170 (19071966). The Journal is indexed in the Humanities Index, the ABS International Guide to ClassicalStudies, Current Contents, the Book Review Index, the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, AnthropologicalLiterature: An Index to Periodical Articles and Essays, the Art Index, and the Wilson Web.

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  • American Journal of Archaeology 110 (2006) 376437

    Looking Beyond the First Palaces: Elites andthe Agency of Power in EM IIIMM II Crete


    AbstractIt is widely accepted that the First Palaces emerged

    around 2000 B.C., MM IB in ceramic terms, and that apalatial elite was the principal political, economic, andreligious agent in Minoan society. The appearance of aseries of innovations, such as palatial architecture, wheel-made pottery, administration, script, and high-quality pres-tige craft goods, has traditionally been attributed to theemergence of the First Palaces in MM IB. Palaces suppos-edly exerted control over long-distance contacts, eventhough exotic materials, objects, and ideas from the Eastwere making their way to Crete in the preceding EM IIIand MM IA phases, apparently without the involvement ofthe palaces. There is, however, little archaeological evi-dence to support this interpretation of the First Palaces asthe principal agents in society. This article proposes thatwe view these important innovations and changes in soci-ety from a different perspectiveone that specifically em-phasizes the agency of elite groups resident outside thepalaces. A new framework for analyzing elite ideologieswithin the archaeological record is presented, and it isargued that the above-mentioned changes were politicallymotivated and should be understood within the contextof ideologies involving emulation of and competition withother elites, both on the island and in distant locations.This elite behavior was aimed at negotiating, displaying,and legitimating status and power. Such an alternativeapproach provides insights into the organization of powerin society and ultimately into the relationship between theFirst Palaces and their surrounding settlements.*


    It is generally acknowledged that the institution ofthe First Palaces and the elite groups presumed to beresident in them were the principal agents in Minoansociety. Responsibility for the appearance of impor-tant technological innovations, such as palatial archi-tecture, wheel-made pottery, administration, and script,

    has traditionally been attributed to the First Palaces,which are believed to have emerged in MM IB.1 Inaddition, it is also widely held that the MM IBII pal-aces exerted control over long-distance contacts,2 eventhough few would disagree that exotic materials, ob-jects, and ideas from the East were making their wayto Crete in EM III and MM IA, apparently withoutthe interference of the palaces.

    The historiography of the Minoan palace beginsat the turn of the 20th century with Sir Arthur Evansexcavations at Knossos and his subsequent publica-tions. Influenced by the political and economic situ-ation prevalent in Victorian and Edwardian Britainand by the desire to appropriate the Bronze Age cul-ture on Crete as European (as opposed to Eastern),3

    Evans identified the monumental building on theKephala hill as a palace or the residence of a ruler.4

    This can be seen in the terminology used to desig-nate individual rooms within this building, such asthe Throne Room, the Queens Megaron, and theKingss Megaron.5 Struck by the absence on Crete ofthe sort of temples that were known from Egypt andthe Near East, and clearly influenced also by per-ceived resemblances to Anatolian theocracies, Evanssuggested that the ruler was a priest-king and thepalace a palace-temple.6

    Other excavators who exposed buildings of a simi-lar plan at Malia and Phaistos followed suit, and theinterpretation of large buildings with courts as pal-aces has, until recently, remained largely unchal-lenged.7 Indeed, in the last three decades, a series ofinfluential publications has built further upon it. Animportant addition to Evans interpretation has beena particular emphasis on the economic function of

    * I would like to thank Naomi Norman and an anonymousreviewer for constructive comments that improved the final text.Furthermore, I thank Sandy MacGillivray for discussing theEgyptian and Levantine influences on Protopalatial Crete. Lastbut not least, special thanks go to Peter Tomkins for manydiscussions, for help with the illustrations, and for his continu-ous support and encouragement.

    1 Renfrew 1972; Cadogan 1981, 16465; Warren 1985, 94103; Cherry 1986, 1945; Watrous 1987, 6570; 2001, 157253;Weingarten 1990b, 10514.

    2 Cadogan 1987, 724; Wiener 1991, 12861; Knapp 1995,143349. Warren (1985, 101) also draws attention to a semi-

    independent merchant class that would have existed alongsidethe palaces.

    3 MacGillivray 2000; Hamilakis 2002a; McEnroe 2002.4 Evans 1921.5 Hitchcock and Koudounaris 2002.6 This interpretation is mainly based on the Prince of the Lilies

    and the Grand Stand frescoes, both of which are very fragmen-tary. On the doubtful restoration (and interpretation) of theformer, see Coulomb 1979; Niemeier 1988.

    7 See Bintliff 1984, 338; Farnoux 1995, 32334; Driessen 2002,113; Hamilakis 2002a, 228; 2002b, 17999; Schoep 2002, 1533.

  • ILSE SCHOEP38 [AJA 110

    these buildings as redistributive centers.8 This em-phasis was influenced not only by neoevolutionistthinking9 but also by perceived similarities to the NearEastern palace economies. As a result, large buildingswith courts have continued to be interpreted as theresidences of a ruler, both as the central seat of a po-litical and religious authority and as the driving eco-nomic force in society.10 The palaces and theirresident elite group have come to be regarded as thebarometers of social complexity in Minoan society.

    A major role in promoting the palace as the prin-cipal agent of innovation and change was played byCherrys seminal 1986 article.11 His aim was to ex-plain the similarities in material culture occurringat the different palatial sites through peer-polityinteraction. In so doing, he drew attention to elitebehavior that sought to consolidate power throughthe deployment of material culture (wheel-made,high-quality pottery, administration and writing,trade and exchange with the East, and ideology). Thisstill valuable discussion takes place within a frame-work where the Minoan palaces are interpreted asmultifunctional complexes serving as highest-ordercenters, integrating and controlling economic, po-litical, and ritual activity within the different regionsof Crete. Elite behavior is closely associated with thepalaces, which are themselves synonymous with cen-tralized hierarchy. As a consequence, however, eliteshave become so closely associated with the palacesas to have disappeared from archaeological dis-course, replaced by a form of shorthand where powerand its agency are described in terms of the FirstPalaces.

    Although this interpretation of the palaces impor-tance in society was, in the first place, based on theLM IIIII palace at Knossos, with its large collectionsof Linear B tablets documenting the existence of acentral authority controlling the mobilization ofgoods from an outlying area,12 it has been somewhatindiscriminately applied to the First Palaces, not onlyat Knossos but also elsewhere on the island (Malia,Phaistos).13 The presence of administrative docu-ments in the First Palaces, albeit few in number andundeciphered, has only served to reinforce the no-

    tion that a palatial bureaucracy could be traced tothe Protopalatial period.14 Such reasoning reflects anidea of diachronic homogeneity that goes back toEvans himself, who believed that continuities in thedesign and construction shared between the latestpalace at Knossos in LM III and its predecessors al-lowed the palace as an institution to be dated to thebeginning of the Middle Bronze Age: The founda-tion of the great buildings at Knossos and Phaestosgoes back to the close of MM I.a, or to shortly after2000 B.C. The hierarchical position of the priest-kingswas now consolidated.15

    Subsequent scholars have accepted, at least in prin-ciple, the problems associated with using the LM IIIII palace model. For example, Cherry has cautionedthat the detailed evidence upon which the interpre-tation of the palaces rests often represents a con-flation of data drawn from more than one stage inthe history of the palaces.16 However, in practice,the First Palaces have continued to be interpreted asthe religious, political, and economic centers of soci-ety, in just the same way as their successors.17 In thelast decade, the idea that the First and Second Pal-aces functioned as strong, centralized economic au-thorities has come under sustained criticism, and atpresent there is a tendency to emphasize the ideo-logical and ceremonial character of these buildings.18

    Issues of TerminologySuch shifts in emphasis generally have not led to

    any change in how we refer to these buildings. It isimportant to acknowledge that the term palacecarries a whole host of perhaps unhelpful baggagethat to this day encourages interpretation of thesebuildings as the residence of a royal elite, occupyingsupreme position within a hierarchical social and po-litical structure. The definition given by Warren issymptomatic of the problem in that it combines bothobjective (architectural) and subjective (interpretive)criteria: Each palace included a central court; gen-erally there were other courts as well. Around thecentral court were grouped storage facilities, produc-tion areas, archives of inscribed tablets, rooms forritual activity and rooms for state functions.19

    8 Renfrew 1972; Halstead and OShea 1982, 929; Branigan1987, 24549; 1988a, 1116. If the kouloures were not intendedfor the storage of grain, as has been argued by Strasser (1997,73100) and Carinci (2001, 5362), this would have repercus-sions for the economic function of the palaces.

    9 Hamilakis 2002a.10 See Warren 1985; Cherry 1986; Watrous 1987, 2001; Hal-

    stead 1988; Dickinson 1994.11 Cherry 1986.12 Finley 1957, 12841; Ventris and Chadwick 1973.13 Finley 1957; Renfrew 1972.

    14 Renfrew 1972, 51, 307.15 Evans 1921, 26.16 Cherry 1986, 23.17 Not least by Cherry (1986) himself. See also Renfrew 1972;

    Dickinson 1994; Watrous 1994.18 Melas 1995; Soles 1995; Day and Wilson 1998; Driessen

    2002; Hamilakis 2002b; Schoep 2002.19 Warren 1985, 94103. Watrous (1987, 204) defines a pal-

    ace as the residence of a powerful authority, assisted by a liter-ate bureaucracy, which controls a system of redistribution.


    A closely related problem has been occasioned bythe discovery in recent years of several other high-profile buildings with courts of Protopalatial andNeopalatial date. From these it has become clear thatwithin the broad category of buildings containingmultiple courts there is a considerable amount ofvariation. This dissimilarity in plan and/or scale hasgenerated confusion as to whether or not they shouldbe identified as palaces,20 as is the case for theNeopalatial buildings at Petras, Galatas, Archanes,Kommos, Makrygialos, and for the Protopalatial struc-tures at Petras, Kommos, Monastiraki, and, perhaps,Archanes. Such uncertainty arises at least in part froma desire to establish island-wide homogeneities, pat-terns, and typologies and from a reluctance to ac-knowledge the apparent variation that existed withinthe island. The traditional palatial model offers nomeans of explaining the differences in plan and scaledisplayed by high-profile buildings in various partsof Crete other than in simple terms of dominationand subordination.

    Some scholars have proposed a less value-ladenarchitectural term, such as court-centered building,court building, or court complex.21 These termshave the advantage of acknowledging the physicalarchitectural similarities between the structures with-out imposing ideas regarding the ways in which theyfunctioned. This, however, leaves us without a wordto describe the individual or institutional powers thatmay or may not have operated within the structures.However, far from being a weakness, this is in fact amore accurate reflection of our current lack of knowl-edge regarding the identity, nature, and agency ofpower before and during the Neopalatial period.Since this paper reassesses previous work on the FirstPalaces, it is difficult to avoid using the term palaceand particularly the adjective palatial. However, afirm distinction will be maintained between the archi-tectural form of the First Palaces, which are referredto as early court buildings, and the authority that isthought to emanate from the palace, which will be

    termed palatial authority in order to distinguish itfrom other nonpalatial authorities that might be lo-cated outside the palace.

    revisiting the first palaces

    It is widely acknowledged that predecessors to theNeopalatial court buildings can be safely identified innorth-central (Knossos), south-central (Phaistos), andeastern Crete (Malia) (fig. 1). Owing to differences inform and scale, the high-profile MM III buildings atMonastiraki, Petras, and Kommos are not usually in-cluded,22 even though they are the main buildings atthese sites and are associated with courts (in the caseof Kommos, even a raised walkway).23 Although ourknowledge of the early court buildings at Knossos,Malia, and Phaistos is considerably more limited thanthat of their MM IIILM I successors, little has beenmade of the information that is available. At Malia,the extent and character of the EM IIIMM II courtbuilding is much better known than is generally as-sumed because of the extensive campaign of sound-ings beneath later floors, and because rebuilding didnot remove earlier walls and floors.24 The MM IBIIcourt building at Phaistos is also relatively well knownbecause its ruins were filled in before the construc-tion of the Neopalatial building at a higher level andseveral meters to the east. Soundings beneath thefloors of the later building have further clarified theextent and nature of the MM IBII court building.Most problematic are the EM IIIMM II court build-ings at Knossos, which have been almost entirely re-moved by later leveling and rebuilding, leaving onlya few floors and deposits in situ.25

    I have argued in detail elsewhere that the recon-struction and conceptualization of the EM IIIMMII court buildings have been heavily influenced bythe external characteristics of their MM IIILM I suc-cessors.26 Architectural plans often fill gaps in knowl-edge on the basis of what stood there in a laterperiod.27 Indeed, when browsing the current litera-ture, one gets the impression that the early court

    20 See, e.g., Tsipopoulou 2002.21 The term court-centered building was first proposed by

    Shaw (1994, 3056) to define the monumental building heexcavated at Kommos and allow it to be included in the cate-gory of palatial buildings despite its architectural differences.

    22 Apart from the building at Petras (Tsipopoulou 2002, 13344), our knowledge of these buildings is sketchy either becauseof their poor state of preservation or because they are in thecourse of being published (Monastiraki). For a discussion ofMonastiraki, see Kanta 1999, 38793; Kanta and Tzigounaki2000, 193210. The remains at Kommos are very fragmentary,but it is important to note that a court with raised walkways hasbeen found in association with Building AA (Shaw 2002, 99110). At Archanes, MM III remains have been found beneath

    the high-profile building at Tourkogeitonia, but it is impossibleto define the nature of this building. More importantly perhapsis the paved court with raised walkways that has been excavatedto the southeast (Sakellarakis and Sakellarakis 1997, 12029).

    23 Shaw 2002.24 These are published in Chronique des fouilles of BCH 89,

    108, 113, 115, etc. (see Pelon 1980 for bibliography). For adetailed description of the northwest sector of the First Palace,see Pelon 1980, 23542.

    25 For a comprehensive overview, see MacGillivray 1998.26 Schoep 2004.27 See, e.g., Evans 1921, fig. 152; MacGillivray 1994, 4555,

    fig. 2.

  • ILSE SCHOEP40 [AJA 110

    buildings were grand, two-storied structures featuringthe earliest occurrences of so-called palatial architec-tural features, such as ashlar west facades, Minoanhalls, and orthostats.28 This is not, however, bornout by a reassessment of the extant features of theearly court buildings at Knossos, Phaistos, and Malia,which differ in a number of important respects fromtheir better-known Neopalatial successors (figs. 24).

    One important difference is that there is no evi-dence to suggest that the early court buildings hadthe sort of ashlar west facades that are considered tobe the hallmark of the Neopalatial court buildings.At Knossos, the two-story wall in ashlar masonry ontop of orthostats is a modern reconstruction by Evans,and the superstructure is now thought to have con-sisted of mud and rubble.29 Evans hypothetical recon-struction of the facade of the MM IBII court building30

    as an ashlar facade on large base slabs (orthostats),whose southern section displays a rounded corner (fig.5), was clearly influenced by the (wrongly) recon-structed Neopalatial facade.31 Hoods excavations havebrought to light traces of the MM IB facade wall inlarge limestone and gypsum blocks with masons marks(see fig. 2).32 At Malia, the extant west facade also post-dates the MM IIB destruction, and where parts of thefacade wall of the earlier building are preserved, itseems to have consisted of unworked limestoneblocks.33 At Phaistos, the MM IBMM IIA west facade

    also was not in ashlar; rather, rubble walls were placedon top of sandstone orthostats.

    Another major difference is that the early courtbuildings were, by and large, single-storied. The ex-istence of an upper story is thought unlikely at Malia.34

    At Knossos there is no evidence of multiple stories,and it may be significant that the main extant stair-cases (Stepped Portico, Grand Staircase, and stair-case to the north of the South Propylon)35 wereconstructed only in LM IA. At Phaistos alone can onebe certain that the southern part of the building, whichwas constructed first (MM IB), contained an upperstory, although this, to a large extent, was necessitatedby the sharply sloping topography in this part of thesite. There is no indication of an upper story in thenorthern part, and it seems likely that the northern(single story) and southern (upper story) parts stoodto the same height.

    Regarding the internal organization of space, thereis no evidence in the early court buildings for theMinoan hall and lustral basin, the most widely at-tested feature of later MM IIILM I palatial archi-tecture. A Minoan hall is defined as a sequence ofrooms including a light well, a vestibule, and a hall.The vestibule and hall are separated from each otherby pier-and-door-partitions, and the vestibule opensonto the light well by means of columns.36 The in-stallation of the Minoan hall in Quartier III of the

    28 Cherry 1986, 27; Dickinson 1994, 147; Watrous 1998, 1927; Hitchcock 2000, 32; 2003, 2735.

    29 Not a single ashlar block was found during the excavation(Shaw 1971, 8990; Klynne 1998, 207).

    30 Evans 1935, fig. 34.31 Momigliano 1992, 16575.32 Catling 1974, 34; 1988, 69.

    33 Pelon 1980, 5162, 238.34 Pelon 1993, 693.35 The sherds found beneath the bottom step of the staircase

    at the end of the Long Corridor have been dated to MM III(Raison 1993). See also MacGillivray 1994, 53.

    36 Driessen 1982, 2792.

    Fig. 1. General map of Crete with sites mentioned in the text.


    court building at Malia can be dated with certaintyto LM I.37 Soundings beneath its floors suggest thatthe Minoan hall module was laid out on top of roomsthat had a very different plan in EM III/MM IAMMII.38 The MM IBII court building at Phaistos also lacksevidence for a Minoan hall and lustral basin. Thelustral basin in Room XLIV-38 (below Room 70) andthe polythyron in Room XLV date to MM IIIA.39 AtKnossos, it has been suggested that the origins of theThrone Room complex go back to the MM III pe-riod;40 however, the main period of construction rep-resented by the extant remains in this area belongsto MM IIIB.41 Similarly, although it has been arguedthat the Domestic Quarter was first constructed in MMII, this early date has recently been questioned.42

    A further important difference concerns accessi-bility. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that thewest facades of the early court buildings were morepermeable than was the case in MM III and LM I. AtKnossos and Malia (see figs. 2, 3), raised walkwaysabutting the later facade imply the existence of earlyentrances,43 while at Malia and Phaistos (see figs. 3,4), direct communication was possible between thewest courts (and any activities taking place there) andcertain rooms in the western part of the court build-ing.44 In addition, it is possible that the central courtsof the early court buildings were also more freelyaccessible, since there is as yet no evidence of a southwing at Knossos, Malia, or Phaistos, such as thosefound in the Neopalatial buildings.45

    This reassessment suggests that many of the ar-chitectural features previously thought of as pala-tial were not actually present in the EM IIIMM IIcourt buildings. Our current conceptualization of theearly court buildings is based mainly on extrapola-tions from the later buildings and on preconceivedideas about their function as the residence of a ruler.46

    This conceptualization stresses their role as palacesand emphasizes formal and functional similarity andcontinuity with the Neopalatial palaces. However,

    once stripped of their anachronistic associations, theearly court buildings emerge as structures that mayhave had a very different appearance and, perhaps,significance.

    decoupling agency from the palaces

    In view of these formal architectural differences, itis perhaps worth reconsidering the role played by theearly court buildings and, in particular, whether pala-tial authorities were, as is generally supposed, the pri-mary agents for change and technological innovationin EM IIIMM II society. This section summarizes theevidence for architecture, elite pottery styles, adminis-tration, writing, and long-distance exchange, servingas the basis for a broader-based exploration of thenature of power and agency during this period.

    Palatial ArchitectureThe absence of palatial architectural features such

    as ashlar masonry, Minoan halls, lustral basins, andelaborate upper stories47 from the early court build-ings should not be taken to imply that they are en-tirely absent during this period. Rather, as theevidence from the MM III settlement of Malia makesclear, these architectural features were first imple-mented in elite residences located in the surround-ing urban settlement.48 Building A of Quartier Mudisplays an originally impressive ashlar west facade(only the lower course is preserved) in combinationwith a small paved court with raised walkways (fig.6). Sandstone ashlar masonry was also used in theCrypte Hypostyle for the elevation of the northernand southern interior walls of the main basementroom, and limestone ashlar may have been used inthe building complex discovered during the Maliasurvey.49 In addition, orthostats are found in the northfacade of Building A and at Chrysolakkos.50 BuildingA of Quartier Mu also features the oldest known ex-ample of a Minoan hall and a sunken room that isconsidered to be a prototype for the Late Minoan

    37 Pelon 1983, 25157.38 Pelon 1993, 679703.39 La Rosa 2002, 778.40 Miri 1979; Niemeier 1987, 16368; Dickinson 1994, 149

    50.41 Macdonald 2002, 42.42 Macdonald and Driessen 1988, 23558; but see Macdonald

    (2002) for new date.43 Pelon 1992, 21.44 See Pelon (1980, 36) for Malia; see Tomasello (1999, 75

    89) for Phaistos.45 At Knossos, a ramp leading up to the central court was

    found (Momigliano and Wilson 1996, 157). For the lack ofevidence for a southern wing at Malia and Phaistos, see Schoep2004.

    46 Schoep 2004.47 Driessen 1982; Cherry 1986; Watrous 1987; 2001; Dickin-

    son 1994.48 For an in-depth discussion, see Schoep 2004.49 Mller 1991, 743.50 Poursat 1992, 42. At Chryssolakkos, carefully cut orthostats

    were reused as krepidoma blocks for (robbed) orthostats (Shaw1971, 164; 1973, 31931). There has been some speculationabout where these carefully dressed (ashlar) limestone blockscame from (see Driessen [forthcoming] and Rutter [http://projectsx.dartmouth.edu/history/bronze_age/lessons/les/6.html]). It has been suggested that orthostats were placed alongthe western side of the early corridor beneath the later porticoin the first phase of the monument.

  • ILSE SCHOEP42 [AJA 110

    lustral basin (fig. 7).51 Apart from Quartier Mu, apolythyron was also found in the Crypte Hypostyle,52

    and an alleged example is reported from the area tothe west of the Agora.53

    And so, although it has been the convention toview MM IBII palatial authorities as the agents ofchange and innovation in architecture, the distribu-tion of palatial architecture at Malia suggests on thecontrary that the agency for these changes shouldbe sought outside the court buildings, among elitegroups residing in the settlement. Such groupsemerge not as slavish imitators of an architecturalstyle pioneered by a palatial authority, as has previ-ously been thought, but as a dynamic force that wasitself responsible for the introduction and deploy-ment of a new elite architectural vocabulary.54

    Elite Pottery StylesThe traditional Minoan palace model holds that

    palatial authorities played a crucial economic role, con-trolling not only the redistribution but also the pro-duction of specialized craft items.55 As a result, theproduction of Kamares Ware has long been directlyassociated with the palatial authorities at Knossos andPhaistos.56 In the absence of direct evidence for pot-tery workshops in the early court buildings,57 the mainargument for the palatial production of Kamares Warewas its assumed restricted geographical distribution.58

    However, although Kamares Ware is found in thecourt buildings, it is by no means restricted to them,occurring in houses outside the court buildings, innonpalatial settlements, in tombs, and in caves.59 Fur-ther, contrary to earlier claims, it is not possible to dif-

    51 Poursat 1992, 402.52 Allegrette and Schmid 1998, 79092.53 Van Effenterre and Van Effenterre 1969.54 Schoep 2004.55 Renfrew 1972; Cherry 1986; Branigan 1987; 1989.

    56 Walberg 1976; Betancourt 1985; Cherry 1986.57 As pointed out by MacGillivray 1987, 276.58 Cherry 1986.59 Day and Wilson 1998, 35058; Van de Moortel 2002, 189


    Fig. 2. Plan of the early court building at Knossos (after Wilson 1994, 150, fig. 5.26).


    ferentiate between Kamares Ware in the court build-ings and that found in other settings.60 It would thusappear that pottery produced in the same workshopswas being consumed in different types of context. Thisimportant observation implies that the palatial au-thorities did not monopolize the consumption of thistype of elite pottery style. Recent work combining pet-rographic and stylistic analyses has argued that theproduction of Kamares Ware no longer needs to beso closely associated with palatial authority.61 In thecase of Knossos, petrographic analysis suggests that aconsiderable portion of the Kamares Ware consumed

    on the Kephala hill was not locally produced.62 Vande Moortel has even argued that Kamares Ware wasnot produced by attached specialists but by indepen-dent producers for the general market.63

    This has important implications for our interpreta-tion of the early court buildings, since it suggests thatthey represent contexts where elite pottery was con-sumed rather than produced. Moreover, the wide dis-tribution of this high-quality, prestigious potteryindicates that a relatively large number of householdshad access to it.64 In view of the shapes involved (drink-ing cups and pouring vessels), it may be argued that

    60 The quality of the Kamares Ware from Ayia Triada andKommos cannot be differentiated in style or technique fromthat in the Palace at Phaistos (Carinci 1997, 31722).

    61 Day and Wilson 1998, 35058.62 Analysis of vessels with sufficient nonplastic inclusions to

    provide clear petrographic information has shown them to beincompatible with the geology of the Knossos area and has

    suggested the Mesara as the most likely source for some of theKamares Ware from Knossos (Day and Wilson 1998, 355).

    63 Van de Moortel 2002, 205. In this context, attention shouldalso be drawn to the fact that pottery production was special-ized from at least as early as EM I (Day et al. 1997, 27590).

    64 Van de Moortel (2002) stresses that Kamares Ware is rel-atively widespread at Kommos.

    Fig. 3. Plan of the early court building at Malia (after Pelon 1992, plan 14).

  • ILSE SCHOEP44 [AJA 110

    Kamares Ware (and other contemporary polychromepottery styles)65 played an important role in conspicu-ous consumption, in particular, a type of drinking prac-tice that was by no means restricted to the courtbuildings.66

    Administration and WritingWriting and administration are also practices that

    have been directly linked to the MM IBII palatial

    authorities, principally because the development ofbureaucratic devices and methods is thought to havebeen necessitated by a centralized palatial economy.67

    However, there are two main problems with this view.First, the earliest evidence for administration, in theform of sealings, is EM II in date.68 Second, these earlysealings are primarily attested to in house contexts,the only possible exception being the sealing from thelarge EM IIB building with court below the EMIII/

    65 Elsewhere on the island, workshops producing regionalvariants of polychrome decorated ware seem to have beenoperating at Malia and Palaikastro. One of the characteristicproducts of a workshop, tentatively located in eastern Crete, isthe Alternating Floral Style (Floyd 1997, 31316), of whichexamples have been found at Knossos, Malia, and even in Egypt.Finds of Kamares and other Cretan polychrome styles in Egyptshow that these products played a role in long-distance exchange(without implying any palatial control over this activity).

    66 Day and Wilson 1998, 352.67 Cherry 1986, 33; Palaima 1990, 87; Weingarten 1990b.68 Palaima 1990, 85; Vlasaki-Andreaki and Hallager 1995, 251

    70; Perna 1999, 638; Schoep 1999, 26575; Hallager 2000, 97105. Examples of early sealings come from Myrtos (EM IIB),the West Court House at Knossos (EM IIA), the building be-neath the EM III/MM IA palace at Malia (EM IIB), the settle-ments of Trypeti, and Chania (EM III or MM I), Psathi (EM IIBor EM III/MM IA), Khamalevri (EM III/MM IA), Archanes

    Fig. 4. Plan of the early court building at Phaistos (after Fiandra 1994, fig. 1).


    MMIA court building at Malia.69 This does not sup-port the idea that the act of sealing was introducedspecifically to meet the economic needs of a palatialauthority.70

    Script per se also seems to have been invented atan earlier date, as suggested by the MM IA inscribedsealstones from burial Buildings 3, 6, and 7 at

    Phourni (Archanes).71 These are usually referred toas the Archanes script (fig. 8), although the samerepetitive sequence of signs also occurs on sealstonesfrom elsewhere on the island (Gouves, MoniOdigitria, and Pangalochori) and even beyond(Samothrace).72 The relationship of the signs to thelater Linear A and Cretan Hieroglyphic scripts is not

    (burial Building 7 at Phourni and Ayios Nikolaos plot), and theSouth Front House at Knossos (EM III). No large collectionsof sealings, comparable to those known on the mainland (e.g.,Lerna), have as yet been found on Crete, but this is likely to bea reflection of the fragmentary nature of the archaeologicalevidence.

    69 Hue and Pelon 1992, 136.70 Weingarten (2000a, 10323) suggests that administration

    is not synonymous with central authority and political andeconomic centralization.

    71 The sealstones are of different shapes (discoids, cube, flat-tened cylinder, sealstone with 14 faces) and various materials

    (ivory, bone, steatite, agate) (Sakellarakis and Sakellarakis 1997,67489). They are usually considered as a stylistic group, i.e.,the Border/Leaf Complex (Yule 1981, 210), although it is notclear whether they belong to a single workshop. If not, thedesignation Archanes script is misleading. Yule (1981, 210)also notes that the Border/Leaf Complex has highly pronouncedEgyptian influence (shapes seals of this complex, motifs, andmaterials such as frit/faience and ivory).

    72 Archanes nos. 202, 251, 252, 315; Knossos nos. 134, 179,203; Samothrace nos. 13537; Crete(?) nos. 201 and 205; Gouvesno. 292, and Moni Odigitria no. 313 (see Olivier and Godart1996).

    Fig. 5. Evans reconstruction of the facade of the First Palace at Knossos (Evans 1935, fig. 34).

  • ILSE SCHOEP46 [AJA 110

    certain,73 although there can be no doubt that theyrepresent script.74 Recognition of the nature, signifi-cance, and context of the Archanes script providesan alternative framework within which to view thedevelopment of writing. At Archanes-Phourni thewide variety of burial buildings75 and the large quan-tities of imported prestige objects76 suggest a climateof intense competition between different (elite)

    groups. Thus the early presence of inscribed seal-stones in these funerary assemblages allows a link tobe drawn between writing and conspicuous consump-tion. That writing had important symbolic con-notations is suggested by the quality, material (hippo-potamus ivory), and large size of the inscribed seal-stones. Moreover, the value attached to sealstones,which are thought to confer and reflect status,77 could

    73 Godart (1999, 299302) has suggested that these earlyinscriptions on sealstones are in fact Linear A (apart from apossible co-occurrence of Linear A and Cretan Hieroglyphicon ARKH no. 251). The discovery of two Linear A signs on alarnax from the MM IAIIB upper level of Tholos E wouldsupport this (Panagiotopoulos 2001, 17374).

    74 This is suggested by the fact that the sequence A-SA-SA-RA-

    NE on the seals is almost identical to the (later) Linear A sign-group A-SA-SA-RA-ME and that this sign group occurs in com-bination with another sign group on ARKH no. 252.

    75 Maggidis 1998, 87102.76 Panagiotopoulos 2001.77 Karytinos 1998, 7886.

    Fig. 6. Plan of Quartier Mu (after Poursat 1992, fig. 40).


    account, at least in part, for the occurrence of writingon this type of object.78 It would seem, therefore, thatscript first appears on supports (i.e., sealstones) andin contexts (e.g., funerary) that indicate not only thatthe motivation for the introduction of script was pri-marily symbolic rather than economic but also thatthe agents behind the introduction were wealthygroups that lacked any demonstrable connection tothe early court buildings.

    The earliest evidence for the use of script in ad-ministration dates to MM II,79 when two script sys-

    tems, each associated with a distinct set of admin-istrative documents, coexisted on Crete: Linear A insouth-central Crete, and Cretan Hieroglyphic innorth-central and eastern Crete.80 Contrary to whatis often assumed, written administrative documentsare by no means confined to the early court build-ings. In fact, at Knossos 81 and Malia, the earliest evi-dence for written administration comes not from thecourt building but from high-profile buildings82 inthe surrounding settlement, although this could ofcourse be due to the hazard of discovery, since at

    78 This is perhaps also reflected in the high frequency ofsealstones inscribed in Cretan Hieroglyphic. Poursat (2000a,18791) has suggested that the number of inscribed sides onCretan Hieroglyphic sealstones might be directly related to thestatus of their owners.

    79 That writing was used on administrative documents beforethis date cannot be excluded. Considering that sealstones wereimpressed on clay lumps prior to as well as after MM IA, it ispossible that inscribed sealstones were used in a similar way.This would in fact constitute a logical step between early sealuse and the MM II full-fledged written administration. Theoccurrence of fractions on a sealstone from Gouves (no. 292)could also point in this direction (see Oliver and Godart 1996).However, as long as direct evidence for this practice is lacking,it must remain hypothetical.

    80 Schoep 1999, 26575.81 The earliest written documents that can be associated with

    the court building at Knossos come from the HieroglyphicDeposit, which probably dates to MM IIIA (Schoep 2001, 1

    16). Small numbers of uninscribed sealings and noduli havebeen found in MM IB (Early Magazine A, Vat Room Deposit)and MM IIA (Olive Press Room) contexts (Weingarten 1994a;Schoep 2005).

    82 At Malia, the only written documents from the palacepostdate MM IIB, and the best evidence comes from the settle-ment, where Quartier Mu and the building discovered duringthe Malia survey represent two high-profile building complexesusing Cretan Hieroglyphic in administration (Mller and Olivier1991, 6570). At Knossos, an inscribed label was found togetherwith a nodulus and a sealing in a workshop context in an MMIIA building beneath the Southwest House (Schoep forthcom-ing). Written administration also occurs in the MM IIB courtbuilding at Petras (Tsipopoulou 1998, 43640). At Monastiraki,evidence for administration in the form of direct object sealingswas found in three different locations (Kanta and Tzigounaki2000, 193205), but so far only one inscribed sign is attested(Godart and Tzedakis 1992, pl. 85.3).

    Fig. 7. The lustral basin and Minoan hall in Building A, Quartier Mu (Poursat 1992, 11, fig. 1).

  • ILSE SCHOEP48 [AJA 110

    graphical distribution of administration and writingin MM III support the view that these were monopo-lized by palatial authorities. Instead, both this pat-tern and the origins of administration and writingare better explained within a much broader contextof elite behavior.

    Long-Distance Exchange and ContactsIt is generally thought that there is a direct link be-

    tween an increase in the evidence for long-distancecontacts with the East and the so-called emergence ofthe palaces in MM IB.84 This presumed link is thenused to justify the widely held assumption that fromMM IB, palatial authorities exerted control over long-distance exchange and long-distance contacts. For ex-ample, Cherry argues that [w]ith the genesis of theMinoan palaces, however, there was a marked step-ping-up of the scope and regularity of such long-distance, directional trade.85 The principal problemwith this view of MM IBII trade is that direct evidencefor the involvement of a palatial authority is lacking,or at best ambiguous. For example, although it wasonce argued that the production of Kamares Ware inCretan palatial workshops and its distribution in Egyptand the Levant reflect the direct involvement of apalatial elite in exchanges between royal courts,86 re-assessment of the production and consumption ofKamares Ware means that such a line of argumentcan no longer be sustained.

    Similar problems surround the traditional view thatpalatial authorities directed the acquisition of met-als through their control over long-distance relationswith the East.87 Although copper, silver, and lead wereavailable in the Aegean (at Kythnos, Siphnos, andLaurion),88 tin and gold had to be acquired from far-ther afield (from Afganistan, Egypt, and the Taurusregion of Anatolia). Recent finds and new insightsinto Early Bronze Age metallurgy indicate a complexand sophisticated system of production, exchange,and consumption that thrived without the influenceof a palatial authority. The evidence from EM IIIAPoros-Katsambas suggests that arsenical copper was

    83 For a recent account, see Militello 2002, 5191. The LinearA tablet fragment from the Ayia Photini Quarter (PH 30) is nowdated to LM IB.

    84 Alexiou 1987; Wiener 1987, 1990, 1991; Manning 1994;Knapp 1995, 1433. For an exception, see Branigan 1982, 20810, esp. 209; 1989, 6571.

    85 Cherry 1986, 41. See also Branigan (1988b, 180): Theconstruction of the palaces required the transportation of largequantities of stone and timber, and the centralization of au-thority must have led to a similar centralization of control overraw materials and trade. At the same time it must have givenfurther impetus to overseas trade.

    86 [Middle Minoan polychrome pottery] was certainly not

    exported by merchants. When found abroad, it is a gift fromthe palaces of Crete (Alexiou 1987, 252). This belief in palatialauthorities as the main agents in exchange is reflected in Ko-pckes (1987, 25559) conclusion that because the quantities ofMinoan pottery in the East are very restricted, pottery is not areliable indicator for drawing conclusions about palatial trad-ing (rather than suggesting that palatial authorities need not beconsidered the main agents in trade).

    87 Alexiou 1987; Wiener 1987; 1990; 1991; Knapp 1995, 1433.88 Siphnos produced silver, lead, and possibly copper, and

    Kythnos was an important copper source. Copper was stillobtained from the Cyclades after EM IIB (Broodbank 2000, 79,317).

    Phaistos there is evidence for written administrationin the court building.83 Neither the context in whichscript is first attested (wealthy tombs) nor the geo-

    Fig. 8. Three-sided gable sealstone from Archanes (ARKHno. 252) with script (Olivier and Godart 1996, 252; cour-tesy French School of Archaeology at Athens/French Schoolof Archaeology at Rome).


    already produced at this early date,89 while at EM IIIChrysokamino there is evidence for the smelting ofcopper ore from Laurion or Kythnos together withgold, silver, and lead.90 The distance of Chrysokaminofrom contemporary palatial centers means that pala-tial control can be neither assumed nor demon-strated.91 Indications for the location of metalworkshops suggest there were agents outside the pal-aces. For example, during MM III there is evidencefor the production of metal tools (double axes andchisels) at Quartier Mu (Atelier du Fondeur and Work-shop C)92 and at Poros (Skatzourakis plot).93 Thesedata signify that we can no longer assume that duringMM IBII only palatial authorities would have had thenecessary resources to acquire metals.

    The model of palatial control over long-distancetrade also fails to explain the presence of importedraw materials and finished goods in a wide range offunerary contexts, especially in north and south-central Crete.94 As Branigan has argued: Such evi-dence as we have from imported and exported com-modities in the MM III period reveals no evidencethat the palaces managed or controlled overseas tradewith elites either in the Aegean or the Near East.95

    Links with Egypt96 are evidenced by finished goods(e.g., stone vases,97 scarabs)98 and raw materials (e.g.,ivory, carnelian, amethyst, gold, and blue frit)99 fromEM IIA onward. Other imports pointing in particularto the Levant, especially Syria, are the cylinder sealsfrom tombs at Mochlos, Lenda, Phourni-Archanes,and Platanos,100 and Byblite daggers at Platanos, AyiaTriada, Lasithi, and possibly Knossos.101 It is interest-ing to note that in the Mesara, the highest number of

    imports is found in connection with multiple tholoisites, such as Platanos and Koumasa.102

    These funerary contexts suggest a wider patternof access to imported goods than one would expectif long-distance trade were monopolized by palatialauthorities. Moreover, that relatively few importscome from the palatial settlements of Malia andPhaistos103 only emphasizes further the need todecouple control over long-distance trade during MMIII from palatial authorities. After all, it is generallyaccepted that exotic materials, objects, and ideas origi-nating in the East were making their way to Crete inEM III (and perhaps even in EM IIB) without theinterference of a palatial elite.104 In the context ofthe EB II Cyclades, Broodbank has made a convinc-ing case for the existence of elite groups whose powerwas based on knowledge of distant places and sea-faring.105 If the organization of maritime expeditionsby independent agents (rather than by a centralizedauthority) can be envisaged for the EB II Cyclades,and if extensive trading networks of pottery existedfrom EM I, if not earlier,106 then this removes thenecessity of viewing long-distance trade in MM IIICrete in purely palatial terms.

    toward an understanding of elite activityoutside the first palaces

    The discussion thus far suggests that during EMIIIMM II, palatial authorities were not the mainagents in the development of palatial architecture,the production of Kamares Ware, the invention ofscript and administration, and the exploitation oflong-distance contacts. Instead, the contexts in which

    89 Day 2004, 177.90 Betancourt et al. 1999, 34370; Haggis 1999, 5385.91 Nakou (1995, 17) argues that forces other than the purely

    economic may have played an important role in determiningthe locus of the critical extraction stages since the latter are usuallyseparated from contemporary settlements. This is not surpris-ing, since the acquisition of metal artifacts was something of astatus-creating exercise of which conspicuous consumptionformed the basis.

    92 It is possible that the Atelier Sud (South Workshop) wasalso engaged in metallurgical activities (Poursat 1996).

    93 These consist of a fragmentary but sizeable crucible andby-products of copper in a MM IIB room (Dimopoulou 1997,434).

    94 For exhaustive catalogues of these objects, see LambrouPhillipson 1990; Phillips 1991.

    95 Branigan 1989, 67; Dobres and Robb 2000.96 The purpose of this section is not to offer a comprehensive

    catalogue of Orientalia, for which I refer to Phillips (1991) andLambrou-Phillipson (1990).

    97 Bevan 2003, 5773.98 Besides finished scarabs, Egyptian scarabs were imported

    to Crete as half-finished products and finished locally (Pini 2000,

    10713).99 Blue frit occurs first in the Vat Room Deposit (MM IA or

    early MM IB) in the form of beads. Lumps of the material havealso been found in the Mesara tombs, and Panagiotaki (2000,15461) suggests that it was imported as a raw material fromEgypt.

    100 All seem to have been produced within the first 300350years of the second millennium (Mller 1980, 85104; Strm1980, 10524; Lambrou-Phillipson 1990; Aruz 1998, 30110).For the cylinder seal from Archanes, see Sakellarakis and Sakel-larakis 1997, 327, 350. An eight-sided cylinder seal with CretanHieroglyphic signs from Neapolis (Olivier and Godart 1996,290) also betrays Near Eastern influence.

    101 Branigan 1966, 12326; 1967, 11721; 1988b, 81, 182.102 It is assumed that the number of tholoi is directly related

    to the size of the settlement (Sbonias 1995; Branigan 1998;Murphy 1998).

    103 See Carinci 2000.104 Branigan 1988b, 90; Warren 1995, 118.105 Broodbank 2000.106 Day and Wilson 1994, 187; Wilson and Day 2000, 2163;

    Tomkins and Day 2001, 25960.

  • ILSE SCHOEP50 [AJA 110

    these various activities and innovations are first de-ployed emphasize the role of elite groups whose linkwith the court buildings is unclear. This reading ofthe archaeological data strongly suggests that the tra-ditional palatial model of centralized political andeconomic control needs to be rethought for the EMIIIMM II period.

    One way of amending this model is to reformu-late our explanations so they pay more attention tothe role of human agents.107 Theories of agency rec-ognize that humans make choices, hold intentions,and take actions. This sort of approach seeks to putpeople back into explanations of society and socialchange.108 Practice theory and structuration theoryhave been instrumental in linking structure andagency, and in positioning the individual as the pri-mary agent of social reproduction in society.109 Ref-erence to the agent, however, is not necessarilyreference to the individual, and agency must also in-clude the operation of collectivities extending beyondthe individuals body and their own life span.110 Inmaking everyday decisions, people base their choicesnot upon their own individual rationalities but uponcollectively held values and a shared social understand-ing of how things are done.111

    Keeping this is mind, we can turn back to the ques-tion of the nature of the EM IIIMM II elite groupsand specifically how their social and political powerwas effected, materialized, and maintained. At a gen-eral level, elites may be defined and identified onthe basis of their differential and unequal access tosocial, material, and symbolic resources. This un-equal access is most obviously manifested in the EMIIIMM II archaeological record by particularly large,complex, or elaborate houses or tomb complexes.In EM III cemeteries, such as Archanes-Phourni andMochlos, some burial structures distinguish themselvesas unusual by their location, finds, and architecture,and are thus most likely to be associated with elitegroups. During MM III, the burial structures ofChrysolakkos at Malia, Tholos B at Archanes, and thehouse tomb at Myrtos-Pyrgos are also best interpretedas elite funerary complexes. For EM III, the settlementevidence is sketchy, but at Mochlos, the EM II/III

    house underneath House 3 may tentatively be identi-fied as an elite residence on the basis of the quality ofits construction.112 For MM IBII, likely examples ofelite residences are Quartier Mu at Malia, the MM III building beneath the later country house at Myrtos-Pyrgos, the building beneath the later villa at AyiaTriada, the MM III building at Tourkogeitonia(Archanes), and the large MM IB building on thePsychogioudaki plot at Poros.113 It is not clear atpresent whether the large buildings on the Charakashill at Monastiraki and at Petras were elite residences,court buildings, or both.114 These buildings distinguishthemselves by their size, their architectural character-istics, their finds, and the activities to which these findsbear witness.

    Such differences in architectural scale and com-plexity may be viewed in simple terms as reflectingbasic inequalities in wealth, which is itself an expres-sion of unequal access to labor and other key re-sources.115 Wealth may be linked to legitimacy becausewhen controlled and channeled, it can be used to sus-tain a particular and preferential ordering of socialvalues and relationships.116 However, possession ofwealth on its own does not define elite status; wealthsimply represents preferential access to the resourcesfrom which social and political power are con-structed.117 A far more significant feature of elite le-gitimation is the presentation of elites as differentkinds of people. As Helms notes, when elites areaccepted as legitimate aristocrats, it is because com-moners regard and accept them as qualitatively dif-ferent types of beings from themselves and viceversa.118 One of the main ways in which elites markthis difference is through the creation and commu-nication of an ideology or an ascribed set of mean-ings about social, political, and economic relationsand events.119 Such ideologies may take a variety offorms, although the ideas and concepts that informnonwestern, nonindustrial societies about the natureof the cosmos are frequently inspired by the basicresources available for the definition, organization,and operation of earthly society (they are thus ani-mate, personalized, often anthropomorphized, gen-erative, and relational in form and content).120

    107 See, e.g., Barrett 1998, 1325.108 Dobres and Robb 2000.109 Bourdieu 1977.110 Barrett 2002, 149.111 For a discussion, see Knappett 2002, 16971.112 Soles 1992; Soles and Davaras 1996, 175230; Maggidis

    1998.113 See, respectively, Poursat 1992; Cadogan 1978; Carinci

    1999; Sakellarakis and Sakellarakis 1997; Dimopoulou 2000,289.

    114 Tsipopoulou 1999; 2002; Kanta and Tzigounaki 2000.115 Costin and Earle 1989, 691714; Paynter 1989, 36999;

    Paynter and McGuire 1991, 127.116 Baines and Yoffee 1998, 199260; 2000, 1317.117 Kus 1982, 4762; Smith 1987, 297335; Cowgill 1992, 87

    114.118 Helms 1998, 5.119 Baines and Yoffee 2000.120 Helms 1998.


    Because of these parallels in society and the cosmos,it becomes possible for particular social groups orcategories to assume concurrent identities, roles, andstatuses within the broader cosmological realm. Ac-cess to cosmological origins, therefore, is a crucialpart of elite behavior. It has been argued that thiscan be achieved by a variety of means, including notonly formal ceremony, artistic creativity, long-distanceacquisitional trade, hunting, and physical and spiri-tual travel121 but also the establishment of relation-ships with beings of the cosmological environment(e.g., elders, affines, and first-borns).122

    The communication of such ideologies relies onthe ability of elites to translate these ideas and val-ues into the material realm. This is frequentlyachieved through what Baines and Yoffee havetermed high culture, which may be defined as theproduction and consumption of aesthetic items un-der the control, and for the benefit of, the innerelite.123 High culture deals with questions of cosmicorder and the rightful place of elites within that or-der124 and is closely linked with concepts of legitimacyand wealth.125 Wealth enables ideas of cosmic order,worth, and rank to be materialized,126 and, vice versa,concepts of cosmic order, worth, and rank confervalue upon items of wealth.127 Order is generated notonly by laws, coercion, the creation of institutions,and so forth but also by incorporating society withina cosmological whole.128 High culture offers an indis-pensable tool for the creation and maintenance ofstrong coalitions or factions and has, therefore, im-portant political and economic implications.129 Differ-ential access to commodities, especially those valuedand restricted as symbols of power and authority,130

    affects the ability of different groups to embody ei-ther that power or a competing ideology, placing thesegroups at a disadvantage within the political arena andin terms of their visibility in the archaeologicalrecord.131

    The deployment of an elite ideology via high cul-ture can be studied archaeologically using the ana-lytical categories of production, exchange, andconsumption. These paths of political economy, orpolitical influence upon economic activities, are well

    trodden.132 An example of political production isattached craft specialization, aimed at the manufac-ture of luxury craft items by skilled artisans for pa-trons of elite status. The workshops of Quartier Muat Malia provide an excellent archaeological exampleof this strategy.133 Attached craft specialization im-plies control (i.e., artisans are making decisions un-der the influence of their patrons) and/or anelement of added value (e.g., innovative technique)that raises the crafted items above the level of otherhigh-quality goods. The Atelier de Potier at QuartierMu, for example, seems to have specialized in luxurypottery with appliqus (cats, seashells, etc.) (fig. 9).Constant innovation enables high-status persons toshare elite markers with lower-ranking groups with-out threatening their own superior status, thus act-ing simultaneously as a tool of exclusion andinclusion.134 As these elite markers become accessibleto lower-ranking groups, new forms of marker arecreated to maintain social differences.135

    Exchange also plays an important role in strate-gies for obtaining, consolidating, and/or legitimat-ing power.136 Helms has suggested that imports fromdistant places are imbued with symbolism and havethe potential to increase social power.137 From this itfollows that the symbolic power of exchanged goodsdepends on the nature of the object, the sort of rela-tionship it implies, and the distance involved. It maybe suggested that the symbolic value attributed toobjects obtained through long-distance exchangewould be greater than those acquired from moreproximate sources. Helms argument, however, is notrestricted to actual imports; it also places great valueon information and experiences of distance and thepeople or goods located in faraway places.138 Barretthas argued for the importance of viewing time andspace as resources that could be structured, con-trolled, and used to create differences in humanidentity.139 Distance as a resource allows individualsand groups to demonstrate knowledge of absent orremote spaces, especially through the wearing of ex-otic materials and finished goods that transform thebody into something qualitatively different. Distancealso allows elites to demonstrate membership of and

    121 Helms 1998, 8.122 Helms 1998, 74.123 Baines and Yoffee 2000.124 Baines and Yoffee 2000.125 Van Buren and Richards 2000, 4.126 De Marrais et al. 1996, 1531.127 Brumfiel 2000, 138.128 Van Buren and Richards 2000, 4.129 Brumfiel 2000, 138.130 Appadurai 1986, 363.

    131 Van Buren and Richards 2000, 4.132 See Knappett (2002, 178) for references.133 Poursat 1992, 1996.134 Miller 1985, 18596; Brumfiel 2000, 133.135 For a case study, see Kenoyer 2000, 901.136 Manning 1994, 244.137 Helms 1993, 3.138 Helms 1988.139 Barrett 1998, 224.

  • ILSE SCHOEP52 [AJA 110

    movement among a nonlocal but widely dispersedcommunity of elite practices and appearances. At thesame time, this quality of belonging excluded othersocial groups at a local level and set the elite apart.Finally, distance is something that can be defined,mapped, and ordered by a particular authority. Suchcontrol is likely to focus on collapsing and reorder-ing distance by importing it into its own locale. Thismay also include the acquisition of new technolo-gies from afar. Since development of technologicalknow-how implies a very different long-distance re-lationship than the acquisition of finished goods(which may not imply anything more than access toan exchange network), one wonders if it may havebeen the more important elite strategy.140 Althoughthe economic benefits of innovation have been rec-ognized,141 there may have been other ideologicalreasons for acquiring new technologies from the East.

    elite ideology on crete through the lensof distance

    Distance already played a crucial role in status-creating strategies in EM IIIA, when imported

    Cycladic goods and local imitations are found inmortuary assemblages. A recent study of the con-sumption contexts of figurines and other Cycladic-related objects suggests that these items reflect anability to participate in exchange networks to whichaccess was deliberately restricted and that they werethus used to express social differentiation and statuswithin society.142 A similar conclusion was reached bya separate study of obsidian blades in tombs, a socialpractice that seems to have originated in theCyclades.143 From EM IIA onward, imports (e.g.,Egyptian stone vases) and raw materials (gold, ivory,and semiprecious stones)144 may have found theirway to Crete from Egypt.145 The nature of these con-tacts, however, is unclear, since the objects may havebeen conveyed indirectly by down-the-line exchangeamong local communities and prestige chains be-tween elites rather than through direct contacts.146

    The appearance of sailing boats on EM III sealstonesand changes in the pattern of exchange in theAegean could be taken to imply that Cretan (elite)groups were assuming a more active seafaring role.147

    Certainly, evidence for contacts with the East (Egyptand/or the Levant) increases in EM III (fig. 10).148

    Despite the fact that there is still movement betweenCrete and the Cyclades, implied in the arrival on Creteof metals and Melian obsidian, objects obtained fromthe East seem to replace the earlier Cycladic items inimportance.149

    The local production of Egypt-related objects marksan important new phase in long-distance contacts.From EM III, imported Egyptian objects, especiallystone vases, appear to have been imitated locally,150

    which could suggest the adoption of practices associ-ated with their consumption. Likewise, the MM IAterracotta sistrum from funerary Building 9 at Phourni-Archanes, the MM II Egyptianizing appliqus of asphinx151 and a cat in a Nilotic landscape from QuartierMu at Malia (figs. 9, 11),152 the appliqus in the shapeof a crouching pregnant female from Phaistos, Malia,and Knossos,153 and the MM II imagery of the Minoan

    140 See Nakou 1995, 17; Knappett 1999a, 10129; Panagiotaki2000, 154.

    141 See also Knappett 1999a.142 Papadatos 20022003, 23233.143 Carter (1998, 65) notes that the inclusion of blades in

    Mesaran burial practices can only be viewed as sporadic. Mi-crowear analysis suggests that the obsidian blades depositedhad been freshly knapped, as was the practice in Cycladic funer-ary ritual; this would represent the appropriation of a socialpractice originating outside Crete.

    144 The EM IIA level of Tholos E at Phourni yielded gold,bronze, and hippopotamus ivory (Panagiotopoulos 2001).

    145 Warren 1995, 12. For an alternative view, see Bevan 2003.146 Broodbank 2000, 285.

    147 Broodbank (2000, 251) suggests that the lack of an over-lap between the distribution of the EB IIIMBA duck vasesand MM IA pottery indicates the existence of different contem-porary trading networks.

    148 Watrous 1998.149 For an exhaustive catalogue, see Lambrou-Phillipson

    1990.150 Bevan 2003.151 Morgan 1988, 503.152 Poursat 19731974, 11114; Warren 1995. It has been

    argued that the composition of the cat in a Nilotic landscapeon an appliqu from Quartier Mu implies knowledge ofEgyptian landscape painting (Immerwahr 1978, 4150).

    153 Carinci 2000, 334. The fact that these are kneeling rath-

    Fig. 9. Cat in a Nilotic landscape from Quartier Mu (Poursat1992, 26, fig. 14).


    genius154 not only point toward local imitation of Egyp-tian objects but also imply adoption or adaptation ofEgyptian practices and beliefs. This local productionof Egypt-related objects using local and presumablylower-value materials suggests that such objects derivedtheir value from specific allusions to Egyptian socialpractice. The consumption of such items, in bothfunerary contexts and elite residences, would haveallowed individuals and groups to display knowledge,membership, and perhaps control of distant placesand people, enabling them to legitimate and increasetheir social status.155

    A similar mechanism could explain the adoptionon Crete of new technologies that originated in Egyptand/or the Levant. In general, perhaps as a resultof a reaction against diffusionism as a means of ex-

    plaining change, the Eastern origins of several tech-nologies on EM IIIMM II Crete have not receiveddue attention.156 The purpose of the discussion hereis not to provide an exhaustive catalogue of all pos-sible techniques that were borrowed from the Eastbut to illustrate, using a selection of examples, howthese relate to the creation and maintenance of so-cial power.157 It should be stressed that the selectiveadoption of technologies borrowed from the Eastduring EM IIIMM II is not the same thing as thewholesale importation of a cultural package in MMIB that included a new social order, the institution ofkingship and kingly regalia, administrative practicesusing scripts, monumental architecture, and othercrafts.158 Rather, the adoption of these technologiesat various points between EM III and MM II should

    er than standing has been taken to suggest an Egyptian insteadof a Levantine derivation.

    154 Weingarten 1991. In the case of Minoan genius, it is clearhow the imagery of Taweret was adopted and transformedbetween MM II and LM I.

    155 Helms 1993.156 A notable exception is Watrous 1987.157 Other possible techniques are the introduction of the

    horizontal bow lathe, which may have been connected to theintroduction of semiprecious stones in seal working (agates,carnelians, lapis lazuli) with a hardness of seven or more on theMoh scale (Younger 1989, 5362). Other features that pointtoward Egypt and/or the Near East are the three-dimensionalterracotta models, which seem to appear in MM II (Schoep1994, 189210).

    158 Watrous 1987.

    Fig. 10. Map of the eastern Mediterranean (after Dalley 1984, fig. 3).

  • ILSE SCHOEP54 [AJA 110

    be understood as relating to the changing social andpolitical context on Crete.

    A good example of a borrowed technology is thatfor making faience, which appears on Crete in MM Iand originated in Egypt or the Levant.159 The tech-nique of producing a white paste for the manufac-ture of sealstones, characteristic of a workshop prob-ably located in the Mesara, could also have beenborrowed from the East.160 Another technology thatappears to be new to Crete in MM I is writing. TheCretans did not invent script (the rendering ofsounds by means of signs) but rather adopted anexisting technology.161 However, they did not simplyborrow any of the preexisting systems in use in Egyptor the Near East; they adapted the technology to cre-ate their own script(s).162 Both Cretan scripts are syl-labic and therefore represent a writing system differ-ent from Egyptian Hieroglyphic. The technology ofscript was not necessarily borrowed from Egypt andmight equally have been inspired by models fromthe Levant.163 The attestation of script on sealstones

    in MM IA mortuary contexts suggests that writing wasimbued with symbolic powers, and its initial restric-tion implies it was a closely guarded technologyshared only among elites. It is also likely that the prac-tice of sealing doors and containers was importedfrom the East.164

    Metal daggers probably played an important rolein displaying status,165 and their production in EM IIIand MM I was influenced considerably by types andtechniques used in Syria and Cilicia.166 This is evi-denced by the application of the three-rivet systemand the production of a new class of dagger with anarrow blade and an incipient tang. Further, the ori-gins of the crescent haft, which became exceedinglypopular in EM III and MM IA, can be traced to Syria.167

    Daggers showing Byblite influence tend to have simpleridges, as opposed to the elaborate forms of mid-ribon daggers of typical Minoan type.168

    Important insight into the social and political con-text of a borrowed technology is provided by Knap-petts study of the adoption of the fast potters wheelon Crete.169 Contextual study suggests that its earlyuse in MM IB was limited and not motivated by eco-nomic considerations.170 Rather, the wheel techniqueand the first vessels it produced in this way should beseen within the context of elite political manipula-tion of their special contacts with the symbolicallycharged world of the Near East. The production andconsumption of wheel-made vessels, often imitatingmetal ones, may be interpreted as a strategy deployedby elites to validate their local authority by tying them-selves into wider prestige systems beyond Crete.171

    In this way, the resource of distance is drawn uponto demonstrate knowledge, belonging, and controlthrough restriction of access to the new technology.

    Architectural innovations in MM IBMM IIA alsomust be considered in the context of the elite manipu-lation of distance.172 That the use of ashlar masonryand orthostats was inspired by the East is not a newsuggestion.173 On Crete, the application of orthostats

    159 Because of the recipe used for Minoan faience, the NearEast rather than Egypt is thought to be the likely source(Panagiotaki 2000, 154).

    160 Pini 2000, 112. For attributions to this workshop, see Pini1990, 11527.

    161 Olivier 1986, 38387.162 Although there are some similarities between Egyptian

    hieroglyphs and Cretan Hieroglyphic (e.g., logogram for wine),Cretan Hieroglyphic does not seem to have been based uponEgyptian Hieroglyphic (Olivier 1996, 10113).

    163 At MBA Byblos, a syllabic script existed (Dunand 1945).164 Weingarten (1990a, 1990b, 1992, 1994a, 1994b) has ar-

    gued that the MM II sealing system was imported from the NearEast and/or Anatolia.

    165 Whitelaw 1983, 32345; Nakou 1995, 132.166 Branigan 1966, 12326; 1967, 11721; 1988b, 182.167 Branigan 1966, 120.168 Branigan 1966, 126.169 Knappett 1999a, 10129.170 Knappett 1999a, 104.171 Knappett 1999a, 12529.172 Architectural styles were readily copied in antiquity, as

    shown by a letter from Yarim-Lim at Alalach to the king of Ugarit,in which Yarim-Lim asks for an introduction to the monarch ofMari so that he can see his splendid new palace and therebygain inspiration for his own palace then being planned (Woolley1961, 130).

    173 Cadogan 1976, 34; Hiller 1987, 5764; Watrous 1987.

    Fig. 11. Sphinx from Quartier Mu (Poursat 1992, 26, fig.14).


    seems to predate the use of ashlar. The orthostats inthe MM IB west facade of the early court building atPhaistos174 are of the same type as those in the citygate at Ebla (see figs. 1, 10).175 Orthostats are rare atByblos, and architecturally the site was more closelylinked to Egypt than to other cities in Syria.176 Theuse of orthostats for the socle of a wall in anothermaterial, a technique unknown in the rainless climateof Egypt, is likely to have been imported from theLevant.177 The technique was known at the beginningof the Middle Bronze Age in Syria, at Ebla, and atMardikh III.178 Ashlar masonry is present at Byblos,where its use is likely to be due to the close contactsenjoyed with Egypt.179 Ashlar was in use in Egypt bythe beginning of the third millennium B.C., and in Syriafrom the middle of the same millennium.180 At Ugarit,however, ashlar masonry was not applied until after thebeginning of the second millennium,181 about the sametime that it appears on Crete.182

    A case can be made for seeing other architecturalinnovations in MM IIA, such as the introduction ofthe Minoan hall and the sunken room, or lustral ba-sin, as drawing in some way upon the resource of dis-tance. Although the Minoan hall is considered to bea Cretan invention, the concept of a reception hallmay well have been borrowed from the East where itexisted in Egypt as well as in the Levant. Driessen, inhis discussion of the origins of the Minoan hall, pointsout a certain resemblance to Egyptian houses at El-Haraga.183 Certainly, in Middle Kingdom houses, thecentral hall and living room were status symbols.184 AtByblos, it seems that a form of large reception hall

    was introduced after EB III,185 and at Alalakh a resem-blance has been noted between the audience cham-ber in the Yarim-Lim palace and the Minoan hall withits traverse pier-and-door partitions.186 Graham dis-missed the resemblance between this architectural ar-rangement and the Minoan hall.187 It is worth noting,however, that his comparison was based on the evolvedMinoan hall of the Late Bronze Age and not the ear-lier Middle Bronze predecessor, such as that in Build-ing A of Quartier Mu at Malia, which differs from thelater Minoan hall in several respects.188 In addition,Graham denies any relationship between the audiencechambers at Alalakh and the Minoan hall on the ba-sis that the latter, in contrast to Alalakh, often occursin private houses. There is, however, no reason thattheir use on Crete in a different context (i.e., in anelite residence rather than a palace) should precludeany potential resemblance between the two architec-tural units, especially since there can be no doubt thatthe Minoan hall fulfilled a similar function as a mainreception hall.

    The introduction of the Minoan column base instone should also be seen within this context. Al-though pillars were well known in Early Minoan ar-chitecture, column bases seem to appear only in MMIB or early in MM II. Column bases are now also at-tested to in the Levant in the Early Middle BronzeAge, having long been assumed to have been intro-duced from the Aegean or Egypt.189 In Egyptianhouses, column bases were an important status sym-bol.190 Another likely new introduction is the archi-tectural space with pillars, parallels for which can be

    174 In addition, the plan of the First Palace at Phaistos bearsresemblance to the organization of the Mesopotamian palaces,especially in its cell-like rooms, the lack of a long corridor fromwhich access to the rooms can be gained, and the existence ofseveral internal courtyards (XI and perhaps the room to thesouth of XXXIV). See Hitchcock (1999, 37179) for resemblanc-es between the Late Bronze Age palace at Phaistos and NearEastern palaces.

    175 The Chryssolakkos orthostats are different in that they arein limestone, are less well dressed, and are reused (Shaw 1971,1973).

    176 Hult 1983, 61.177 Shaw (1983, 21316) believes that the development of ashlar

    originates in the EM period when rubble socles were surmount-ed by rubble and/or mudbrick construction, as at Vassiliki.

    178 Hult (1983, 66) mentions the southwest city gate, MB IBuilding Q, Palace E, as well as MB III Temples B1 and D atEbla.

    179 Hult 1983, 61.180 The Egyptians used stone in the first place for temples and

    tombs, whereas at Ugarit it was used in palaces and officialresidences during the late MiddleLate Bronze Age. Previous-ly, it was used in the temples of MB II (Hult 1983, 61).

    181 Hult 1983, 61.

    182 With the exception of Byblos, there are a number of dif-ferences from the Egyptian ashlar tradition in both the types ofbuildings for which ashlar masonry was used and the applica-tion of the technique. For this reason, Hult (1983, 61) does notexclude an independent innovation or at least local adapta-tion.

    183 Driessen (1982, 2792) indicates that the houses in El-Haraga in Egypt contain a reception room to which access wasgained through a forehall that opens onto a peristyle court. Inthis context, it is noteworthy that considerable quantities of MMII pottery have been found at El-Haraga (Kemp and Merillees1980).

    184 Arnold 1989, 7593; 2001, 110.185 Saghiah 1983, 131.186 Woolley 1959, iiif, 73. This audience chamber consists

    of two rooms, which are separated by tongue walls projectingfrom the side walls, and across the space created by the sidewalls was set a stone threshold that bears burnt circles of fourposts of ca. 25 cm diameter separated from one another byintervals of 5075 cm.

    187 Graham 1964, 2001.188 Poursat 1992, 41, fig. 30.189 E.g., at Middle Bronze Age Byblos (see Saghiah 1983, 126).190 Crocker 1985, 5262.

  • ILSE SCHOEP56 [AJA 110

    found in Egypt. Good examples are the Salle Hypo-style191so named because of its resemblance toEgyptian hypostyle hallsin the early court build-ing at Malia and the Monolithic Pillar Basement tothe southeast of the court building at Knossos.

    The origins of the sunken room, as attested inQuartier Mu at Malia, remain unclear. However, a NearEastern or Egyptian source cannot, at present, be ex-cluded. Although no direct parallels can be pin-pointed, it may be significant that the first appearanceof sunken rooms on Crete in MM II coincides with anexpansion of liquid-pouring rites.192 Weingarten hasnoted that the adoption of the Egyptian Taweret andher transformation into the Minoan genius coincidewith the appearance of the first rhyta, and that thesepoint toward new pouring and purifying rituals.193

    The appearance in MM I of Chamaizi juglets, someof which are inscribed in Cretan Hieroglyphic, in theregion between Gournes and Chamaizi further em-phasizes the importance of pouring rituals. Thejuglets occur around pillars (fig. 12), in funerary con-texts, and in magazines with pithoi.194 It is temptingto connect the introduction of subterranean roomsin MM IBII architecture to these new pouring andpurifying rituals.195 Besides the lustral basin in Build-ing A of Quartier Mu, there is also the Crypte Hypo-style at Malia, and a building similar in plan has beenfound in the settlement at Phaistos (CVCVII). AtKnossos, the Monolithic Pillar Basement also formsa subterranean space, the function of which was con-nected by Evans to cult.196

    These changes in architectural technology and de-ployment during MM III all appear to representsome form of architectural elaboration and may besituated firmly within the context of nonpalatial eliteactivity. It may be argued that the adoption of ashlarand column bases on the one hand and architec-tural modules on the other, such as the Minoan halland lustral basin,197 reflect an attempt by elite groupsto demonstrate their knowledge and membership ofa much wider elite community. This process of adop-tion was not slavish in its adherence to Eastern mod-els but, rather, in the creation of distinctive forms,

    such as the Minoan hall, reflects an attempt to con-trol the resource of distance by creating somethingdifferent that still draws obviously from a recogniz-ably elite and international vocabulary of styles andpractices. Such new architectural forms could haveserved as the backdrop for imported but similarlymodified, distant social practices, such as pouring ritu-als and the Minoan genius. In this way, Cretan elitegroups could simultaneously claim affinity with moredistant elites and represent themselves at a local levelas qualitatively different beings.

    To judge by the limited number of contexts of pro-duction and consumption, access to the resource ofdistance was strictly controlled. Thus the introduc-tion of new technologies, beliefs, and practices (andin particular the prestige goods [high culture] andprestigious spaces in which these are manifest) seemsto form a crucial part of elite behavior. It has been

    191 Joly 1928, 32446.192 Weingarten 2000, 11419.193 Weingarten 2000, 135.194 Poursat (1987, 756) suggests that they may have contained

    aromatic substances.195 In the New Kingdom, Taweret was associated with purifi-

    cation basins, and Weingarten (1991, 11) argues that her asso-ciation with lustral rites goes back to the Middle Bronze Age.In connection with this, attention may be drawn to the introduc-tion at Malia of magazines with plaster drains (to collect spiltliquids) in several elite complexes.

    196 See Evans 1921, 58788, fig. 431. The Early Keep, whichconsists of a number of deep cell-like rooms, seems to have hada different purpose; on its dating, see Branigan 1992, 15363.

    197 Other possible Egyptian influences on architecture havebeen noted for the early building at Chrysolakkos, which dis-plays similarities with Egyptian funerary architecture (corridorwith niches, capping stones, and a strange shape of cup)(Watrous 1987). Near Eastern parallels have also been notedin the plan of the Late Bronze Age (LM I) court building atPhaistos (Hitchcock 1999, 37179).

    Fig. 12. Chamaizi vases on one of the platforms in Proto-palatial Room B in the First Palace at Malia (F. Chapouthierand H. Gallet de Santerre; courtesy the French School ofArchaeology at Athens).


    suggested that elites on Crete turned toward the Eastto widen their repertoire of means to advertise sta-tus, technological skill and economic power.198 Themanipulation of long-distance contacts with the Eastwas probably a deliberate strategy to acquire and in-crease social power by Cretan elites in EM IIIMM IIand was chosen as a vehicle for the expression oftheir ideology. Rather than arising from economicnecessity,199 the importation of raw materials, finishedgoods, and new technologies, beliefs, and practicesfrom Egypt and/or the Levant was fueled by a con-stantly evolving elite ideology. Based on the limitednumber of actual imports in MM II, one wonders ifthe focus shifted from finished objects to the importof new techniques.200 This shift may be explained per-haps by the fact that the acquisition of technologicalknow-how requires and demonstrates a very differentlong-distance relationship201 from the attainment ofan import.202


    It has been argued that we should no longer viewpalatial authorities, resident in the early court build-ings, as the principal agents of change and innova-tion in EM IIIMM II society. Stripped of theiranachronistic associations, the early court buildingsemerge as structures that may have had a very differ-ent look than is usually assumed. Rather than beingembellished with facades in ashlar masonry andelaborate upper stories, their architecture was con-siderably more simple. Significantly, there is no evi-dence to support the assumption that MM IIIpalatial authorities were responsible for the develop-ment of so-called palatial architectural innovationssuch as the Minoan hall and lustral basin. Rather,where MM III settlements have been well explored,such as Malia, the architectural evidence suggests thatthese innovations first appear in elite residences out-side the palace. A similar picture is suggested by theevidence for administration and writing, the produc-tion of elite pottery styles, and long-distance contacts.There is now no compelling evidence to link the in-troduction and control of these directly to palatialauthorities. Rather, the first appearance of such eliteforms, activities, and practices may be connected di-

    rectly to elite groups that lack any clear palatial con-nection and were probably resident outside the courtbuildings. The nature of these elite groups is bestillustrated by Quartier Mu, which was probably oneof several elite residences in the town of Malia. Thiscomplex bears witness to the presence of administra-tion and writing, attached craft specialists, the produc-tion of elite pottery styles, the introduction of newarchitectural forms (Minoan hall and lustral basin),architectural elaboration (use of ashlar), new con-sumption practices, and a conscious exploitation ofthe resource of distance. This discussion strongly sug-gests that the traditional Minoan palatial model needsto be rethought for the EM IIIMM II period.

    Recognition of the independent nature of theseelite agents has been obscured in the literature bythe use of terms such as decentralized and pala-tial to describe high-profile buildings and activitiestaking place outside the confines of the palaces. Inaddition, the terms palatial authority and palatialelite now appear to be vague and unhelpful, notonly because they obstruct an important distinctionbetween elite groups and the institution of the pal-ace but also because they perpetuate the now ques-tionable idea that EM IIIMM II elites depended uponand were resident in the palaces. In general, applica-tion of the rather subjective adjective palatial riskspromoting a one-sided view of society and of the com-plex and changing dialectical relationship betweencourt buildings and their surrounding settlements.

    The motivation for the introduction of these in-novations may be connected with