An ‘offset’ is a vertical joint that marks a change in the course of a wall, such that one section of the wall is notaligned with its neighbour. Offsets in Mycenaean masonry constructions are common but not uniformly similar. They are notexplained by reference to other ancient masonry traditions. This paper explores their technical purpose and argues that they area uniquely Mycenaean solution to large–scale masonry construction.K
Mycenaean, architecture, Cyclopean, fortifications.
The appearance of offsets in Aegean Bronze Agearchitecture has primarily received attention as afeature of Minoan palatial architecture, where they area fundamental element of the palace façades that facethe western court.
There offsets have been interpreted by J.W. Graham as being setbacks for the placementof windows (Graham 1960; 1962: 162–4).
InMycenaean architecture offsets are not as frequentlyfound as a part of palatial design and they do not easilyconform to the plans of megara and courts.Sometimes, when they do occur, as in the palace atPylos, they are also comprehensible as serving for windows in the upper storey, as for example in theeastern façade (Wright 1984: 26–7; Küpper 1996: 80– 2; Nelson 2001: 41,
. Here it may bemost likely that this feature is derived from Minoanarchitecture, since, as M. Nelson has recently
* Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, BrynMawr College, Bryn Mawr PA 19010, U.S.A. E–mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I finished my dissertation in 1978, Oliver’s
The Originsof Mycenaean Civilisation
(1977) had just been published andwas a ‘must read’ for anyone in the field. As I read it my zeal todelve into the many problems of Mycenaean archaeology wasfired up and much of my subsequent scholarship has beeninspired by it. My copy of
is dog–eared fromconstant use for it remains a reliable and accurate source of basic information and fundamental interpretation. As a smallcontribution to our understanding of the indigenous nature of much of what we call Mycenaean, I offer to Oliver this study of a characteristic detail of Mycenaean architecture.
For Anatolian examples, see Naumann 1971: 236–66.
demonstrated, the architecture of the palace at Pylos,and especially the use of ashlar masonry, is stronglyinfluenced from Crete (Nelson 2001: 17,
).Offsets also appear in the exterior façades of theresidential building at Glas
, but theexplanation given for Pylos will not work here. Theseoffsets are not related to the use of ashlar masonry andnot apparently to the placement of windows. I have previously argued that the offsets are related to principles of planning that reflect the placement andstabilisation of foundations and a process of construction by compartments (Wright 1980).
In thisstudy I wish to pursue the use of offsets as a peculiar Mycenaean architectural practice and investigate their appearance in fortification walls.There have been differences of opinion as to the purpose of offsets in fortification walls. W. Dörpfeld,noticing how frequently they appeared at Tiryns
, particularly in the
, thought that theywere defensive in nature, to provide an enfilade against
Subsequent research has not supported in every instance myinterpretation that the corners of offsets in terraces always mark the foundation for a wall of the superstructure. Notably, thisdoes not seem to be the case at Tiryns, where investigations of the predecessors of the last palace have disclosed walls thatwere built inside the line of these offsets (Kilian 1987: 209;Maran 2001). But, in other instances, it is clear that offsets aredirectly related to a method of construction of compartments, asIakovidis demonstrates in his analysis of the planning andconstruction of buildings B and K at Glas (Iakovidis 1998;2001: 46–7, 65–8).