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in this volume share this feature: they look both backwards, to Evans and his time,
and forwards, to a future (perhaps a range of alternative futures) for Minoan
archaeology. The papers do share one feature: they have been commissioned to reflect
contemporary theoretical positions. In this sense, the 'rethinking' is polemical in its
stance. It will, of course, be interesting to see what scholars in another hundred years
will make of the collection ...but I don't have my crystal ball to hand. So, I offer a
contemporary reflection on and reaction to a rather diverse group of papers that seek
to challenge the 'status quo' in Minoan archaeology.

John Bennet

'Born' in the year 1900, Minoan archaeology spans the twentieth century. One hundred
years ago it scarcely existed. Evans' excavations at tau Tselevi i leefala inaugurated the
field; his monumental publication of the site (Evans 1921-35) defined its nature. The
publication's full title, The Palace of Minos at Knossos: a comparative account of the
successive stages of the early Cretan civilization as illustrated by the discoveries at Knossos,
better illustrates its goal: Evans identified the site with its ancient name, Knossos,
associated it with a mythical king of Crete, Minos, and provided far more than a
catalogue of finds and their archaeological contexts. He offered a vision of Minoan
society, structured around a tripartite scheme of grorvth, florescence and decay (Evans
1906; cf. Hamilakis this volume on Evans' evolutionism), a vision that he did his best
to reify, situating it within the real spaces of his extensive reconstructions on the site
of Knossos. In the wake of his pervasive influence, it is easy to forget, however, that
Evans was not the first to explore the site. Leaving aside the possibility of its exploration
in the first century of our era, in Nero's day (Evans 1909: 108-10), the first serious
excavations at Knossos were carried out in 1878 by (the appropriately named) Minos
Kalokairinos (Driessen 1990: 14-43; cf. Kopaka 1992; 1993).
Despite these antecedents, it is the date (even the time) Evans began his excavations
at Knossos that we tend to use to mark Minoan archaeology's beginning. And such
celebration is popular at the moment, given the strange effect that round numbers and
multiple zeroes have on us. On 23 March 2000, at the site itself, the British School at
Athens and the Iraklion eforeia jointly sponsored a day of celebrations commemorating
the centenary of the very day that Evans commenced, beginning at 11.00 a.m. - the
very time that Evans' notebook tells us he began - with a ceremony in the West Court
of the palace.
The general tone of the events surrounding the Evans centenary is celebratory,
emphasising both Evans' achievement and the way he has shaped the field, and
continues to do so in many ways. Celebrating Evans' achievement, however, is not the
goal of this volume. 'Revisiting the Labyrinth' is, of course, 'code' for are-evaluation
of the enterprise that is Minoan archaeology. Like another recent volume devoted to
Mycenaean Greece (Galaty and Parkinson 1999), this one seeks to 'rethink' its subject.
For millennia are ambivalent dates. In the year 2000 we stand, Janus-like, gazing both
backwards into the past and forwards to (what we imagine as) the future. The papers


This volume does not constitute a systematic attempt to re-examine all aspects of the
field, but certain coherent groups do emerge, and I discuss the papers within those

The Past in the Present: Archaeologies of Minoan Archaeology

Minoan archaeology - the archaeology of a single island, 250 km long, just over 8000
km2 in area. Not only is the enterprise spatially restricted, but the field's overwhelming
emphasis (shared by this volume) is on the 'palatial' period, at its broadest a
millennium or so between c. 2000 and 1200 B.C. (For an emerging interest in the
broader sweep of Cretan archaeology, see Cavanagh and Curtis 1998; Chaniotis 1999).
This period is defined by the emergence of a specific architectural type, the 'Minoan
palace', so far attested in 'canonical' form at only four sites, Knossos, Phaistos, Malia
and Kato Zakros, although some would dispute the number, maybe doubling or
trebling it. What's all the fuss about? This seems a very narrow time period and a
restricted area to place in a spotlight on the stage of contemporary world archaeology.
It is true that the material culture of Bronze Age Crete offers some spectacular
objects - on display in museums in Crete and beyond - and structures visible to
tourists on the island itself. But then so do many other parts of the world - Egypt,
Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica, China. Those areas also offer writing. So does Crete, in
three scripts, although two of them (rather stubbornly) resist decipherment. It cannot
be the material or the writing, then, that assigns a central place to Crete in archaeologies
of the west. Rather, the significance of Minoan archaeology lies in its status as
'explaining' the origins of European civilisation. Within the formation of modern
western attitudes, Egypt and Mesopotamia came to be constructed as oriental 'others'
to western Europe (Said 1978), but their pre-Islamic pasts, explored and reconstructed
by western scholars in a colonial context (e.g., Larsen 1996), could be incorporated
within the narrative that culminated in western Europe. The significance of the palatial
society of Crete is that it was the earliest - prior even to the civilisation of mainland
Greece - manifestation of Europeanness, the beginning of a cultural thread that ran
through Greece and Rome to the Latin west and, ultimately, to the nation states of
modern Europe (including Greece itself). A prominent trend in the perception of Sir
Arthur Evans by his contemporaries was the way his discoveries 'shed light' on





European origins. Indeed, L.R. Farnell, in his introduction (phrased as a letter to

Evans himself) to a volume produced by the Oxford Philological Society in 1927 to
celebrate Evans' 75th birthday praises him as

specific places and the archaeological remains found in such locations (most recently,
Allen 1998: 35-109). Whatever the weaknesses in logic or technique of Schliemann and
his contemporaries, there was an implication that the archaeological remains of the
Mycenaean period were created and used by historical figures. Although there was a
considerable backlash against such a view of the Bronze Age in the wake both of the
decipherment of Linear B (e.g. Finley 1978) and of Renfrew's Emergence of Civilisation
(Renfrew 1972), the very existence of Linear B at a number of major sites and an
emerging sense of continuity from Late Bronze Age to the age of the 'polis', reinforce
the notion that mainland 'Mycenaean' culture is more 'historical'. Minoan culture,
belonging to an age inaccessible through the Homeric texts, has a 'mythic' quality.
Time moves in phases that are often of considerable length, such as 'Protopalatial' and
'Neopalatial'. The primacy of Knossos as an archaeological site has led many to
suppose a political unity for the island, suppressing material culture differences
between different regions. Further contributing to the 'mythic' quality is an emphasis
on religion in Minoan studies. Although we have more textual evidence on cult from
the mainland, the enormous value - both iconographic and monetary - placed on
sealstones and signet rings, often from poorly defined contexts, has contributed to a
largely atemporal picture of Minoan ritual and, perhaps, to an implausible view both
of Minoan culture and politics (although d. Goodison and Morris 1998).
We might even think of distinctions between the way in which 'Mycenaean' and
'Minoan' cultures are discussed as embodying a series of binary oppositions:

one who has done more than any in this University [sc. Oxford], we may say
more than any in this nation, to reveal and illuminate the ancient European
culture of the Mediterranean.
(Farnell, in Casson 1927: v)

It is not difficult to see how such claims embody a nationalist project, claiming the
earliest past of an area only recently (1898) 'freed' from 'oriental' domination as part
of a larger history of European achievement. A similar discourse surrounded the
earliest synthetic accounts of the prehistoric remains from the Greek mainland:
As the outcome of all these discoveries and the studies based upon them,
there stands revealed a distinct and homogeneous civilization, - a civilization
so singular in many aspects that scholars have been slow to see in it a phase
of unfolding Hellenic culture. At first, indeed, it was pronounced exotic and
barbarous; but the wider the area laid under contribution / and brought into
comparison, the stronger has grown the evidence, if not the demonstration,
of its substantially indigenous and Hellenic character.
(Tsountas and Manatt 1897: 10-11)

In this case, the link claimed was a narrower one, between the 'Mycenaean' age and
the recently formed nation-state of Greece. It was il( the broader conceptualisation of
European relations with Greece, particularly in the eighteenth century (e.g. Constantine
1984; Herzfeld 1987; Morris 1994: 15-26), that Greece's ethnic identity became
implicated in a grander narrative of European progress since antiquity.
The ways in which archaeology has been deployed in nationalist projects by modern
nation-states (and other groups) has been explored in a number of collections (e.g.,
Gathercole and Lowenthal 1990; Kohl and Fawcett 1995; Meskell1998) and the first
three papers in this volume fit loosely into that category, representing a refreshing
reflexivity (d. Hodder 1999) in Minoan archaeology. Preziosi takes a broad frame of
reference - the emergence of museums from the eighteenth century - while Hitchcock
and Koudounaris and McEnroe focus more specifically - on Evans' reconstructions at
Knossos (d., also Klynne 1998) and the ideological context in which Evans conducted
his travels and excavations on Crete respectively. It is interesting to compare these reevaluations of Evans's work as a product of its time with others, such as Bintliff's
exploration of Minoan 'flower power' (Bintliff 1984), or MacGillivray's examination of
Evans's individual psychology (MacGillivray 2000).
Ultimately, this group of papers is about how we view the inventor(s) of Minoan
archaeology and the nature of Minoan archaeology. The other papers in the volume
focus on specific reconstructions of the Minoan past.

Agency: Peopling the Minoan World

The quest for an understanding of the prehistory of mainland Greece arose from the
attempts by nineteenth-century (and earlier) scholars to relate the Homeric texts to



Such a view has militated against the identification of particular trends - in political
units (Knossos in control versus multiple polities), in historical phases (such as the LM
I period; d., however, Driessen and McDonald 1997), or in individual behaviour. The
wanax at Late Bronze Age Pylos, for example, carried out actions documented in the
Linear B tablets found there and probably sat on an elaborate seat in the 'main
megaron' at the site, framed by fresco representations designed to boost his authority
and link his presence to events of palace-sponsored conspicuous consumption
(McCallum 1987; Davis and Bennet 1999). He may even have been called Enkheliawon
(Ventris and Chadwick 1973: 265,454). No such reconstruction has been claimed for
any individual Minoan palace. Political actors have been constructed anonymously by
combining the apparent emphasis in iconography on ritual with a recognition that
there must have been some form of political authority - the so-called 'priest-king'. The
generally anonymous appearance in frescoes (and other representational art) has
contributed to this picture.
It is against such a picture that both Alberti and Nikolaidou react. Alberti,
successfully in my opinion, undermines the simplistic distinctions between male and
female applied to (rather than observed in) Minoan fresco representations. Exploiting
the inconsistencies inherent in any interpretative scheme, he questions the existence in
Minoan society of the hard and fast distinctions - familiar to many of us as western




Europeans - between two genders. Nikolaidou, perhaps rather less successfully,

attempts to reinstate the individual within three areas of Minoan life: the bUilt
environment, craft production and ritual. However, trapped within the 'generalising',
'mythic' framework of Minoan archaeology, she is reduced to using subjunctive
'would' in many cases to suggest, rather than clearly identify individual behaviour.
In different ways, both Alberti and Nikolaidou are trying to break down a
generalising, normative view to facilitate the notion that artefacts and architecture
having a meaning (or multiple meanings) created, negotiated and manipulated by
individuals. Such an ideal is not new in Minoan archaeology. Some years ago, at the
Cambridge Colloquium on Minoan Society held in 1981, Sheena Crawford expressed
her frustration at the way the quality of evidence in Minoan archaeology militated
against the kind of approaches now espoused by Alberti and Nikolaidou (Crawford
1983). (Interestingly, Lucia Nixon, one of the organisers of the colloquium bemoaned
the 'sheer volume of finds' available to the archaeologist [Nixon 1983: 241]). It is not
clear just how much the database has changed since the early 1980s to enable studies
like those of Alberti and Nikolaidou. Major contributory factors must be the broad
acceptance of material culture studies in archaeology outside the Minoan field (e.g.,
Shanks and Tilley 1987: 79-117) and more recent attempts to reinstate the role of
individuals in archaeological interpretation (e.g., Dobres and Robb 2000).
There are other signs that the generalising, normative facade of Minoan archaeology
is beginning to crack. Dawn Cain, for example, has recently attempted to see some of
the more famous 'works' in Minoan representational art, not as generic scenes, but as
scenes embodying specific narratives (Cain 1997; 2001). Also, in Crete's earliest
prehistory, Broodbank and Strasser have made us think of its colonisation not as a
chance effect of expanding 'Neolithic' popUlations but as a deliberate act by a group
of individuals (Broodbank and Strasser 1991). Similarly, the individual and distinctive
colonisation trajectories of the islands of the Aegean archipelago outlined by John
Cherry some years ago (Cherry 1990), are now being used to suggest individual
histories (Broodbank 1999; 2000).

given both its prominence within the broader field, and also the number of regional
studies projects completed or underway on the island of Crete. Crete is also an island
that offers an almost 10,000 year history of human occupation. The two papers well
exemplify the 'Transatlantic divide'. Haggis, employing an ecological model and
regional data, primarily from his own Kavousi-area survey (Haggis 1996), examines
change in the landscape, something that he clearly perceives as distinct from the
human world. His goal is to understand the nature of the pre-palatial to proto-palatial
phase. In doing so, he sets up a dichotomy between an integrated landscape, in which
settlement is ahierarchical and dispersed, and a connected landscape, in which
settlement is hierarchical and nucleated. The former, he argues, is stable, and emerges
in the Kavousi region in the pre-palatial period (EM III-MM IA) continuing into the
proto-palatial (MM IB-II). The latter is unstable and is a product of state (or palatial;
Haggis conflates the two) intervention in the landscape. Such a pattern only affects the
Kavousi region in the Neopalatial period. Day and Wilson, on the other hand use
multiple landscapes (economic, ritual, symbolic, historical) to explore the unique status
that Knossos enjoyed on Minoan Crete as a cosmological centre (d. Soles 1995; Kotsakis
1999). Much of the production and consumption of ceramics, they argue, was related
to Knossos' unique status as a ceremonial centre, which has much to do with the long
history of occupation there.
To compare the two approaches is perhaps invidious, but it is worth pointing out
that published regional studies data from Crete tend to be confined to the areas away
from major centres. At the time of writing, it is impossible to discuss in detail the
landscapes surrounding the major palaces using systematically collected, intensive
archaeological survey data. Day and Wilson's contribution relies on the fact that the
region of Knossos is well known through its long history of exploration (d. Hood and
Smyth 1981) and their own studies of ceramics. In this respect, we eagerly await
publication of archaeological work in the vicinity of Phaistos (d. Watrous et al. 1993)
and Malia (d. Muller 1990; 1998) and initiation of the first systematic survey of the
Knossos region. To some extent, therefore, the comparison between the two papers in
this volume is a comparison between 'apples and oranges': the material culture of a
large, central site excavated over a century versus that of a series of small, rural sites
evidenced by surface remains. Ideally we need both types of data for both types of
sites in order to carry out either an ecological or a phenomenological approach


Landscapes: Phenomenology versus Ecology

The archaeology of landscapes is perhaps one of the areas in archaeology that has
displayed the largest growth in the 1980s and 1990s. Its prominence has been fuelled
partly by the expansion in regional studies projects designed to explore the
relationships between humans and their 'environments'. A major secondary factor,
however, has undoubtedly been the emergence of broadly phenomenological
approaches within archaeology (e.g., Barrett 1994; Edmonds 1999; Gosden 1994;
Thomas 1996; Tilley 1994). The two trends are reflected to different degrees in
contemporary landscape archaeologies (e.g., Fisher and Thurston 1999; Knapp and
Ashmore 1999; Bradley 2000). For Bender (1999) and Stoddart and Zubrow (1999),
these two trends - a broadly ecological, or scientific approach versus a cultural or
phenomenological one - are characteristic of American and British archaeological
discourses respectively.
That there should be two papers in this collection on landscape is not surprising,

Production and Consumption: Pots and Politics

The study of ceramics has, from the outset, been central to Minoan archaeology.
Shifting styles of fine-ware pottery were used as the basis for Evans's tripartite cultural
scheme and have been refined ever since (e.g., Betancourt 1985). In keeping with the
discipline'S origins in antiquarianism and connoisseurship, some Minoan fine-ware
pottery has even been subject to the identification of individual artists in the way that
Beazley attributed pots in the Athenian Black- and Red-figure styles (d. Cherry 1992).
In the 1970s and 1980s, provenance studies became increasingly important (e.g., Jones




1986), offering the possibility (not always realised) of pinpointing production centres
and therefore charting the distribution of pottery within Crete and beyond. Since then,
pottery study has increased in sophistication, employing chemical and petrographic
analyses as provenance indicators at the micro level, within the island itself, and
combining them with detailed studies, along the lines of the chaine opera to ire model,
of the processes of manufacture. If there is one area in which large amounts of new
data have been generated within Minoan archaeology in the past ten years, it is in the
study of ceramics.
The emphasis on production and distribution by the 'new generation' of ceramic
analysts has produced significant insights into the 'social life' of Minoan ceramics,
overturning pre-conceptions about the lack of complexity in pre-palatial distribution
or the nature of palatial production (e.g., Day and Wilson 1998; this volume; Wilson
and Day 1994; Knappett 1999b; Whitelaw et al. 1997). It is to this tradition that both
van de Moortel's and Knappett's contributions belong. Both see the production,
distribution and consumption of ceramics as implicated in cultural behaviour and not,
therefore, part of a distinct 'economic' life within Minoan society. Van de Moortel
explicitly links her analysis of pottery production in the transitional period between
Proto- and Neo-Palatial (MM II-LMIA) to the question of whether Knossos came to
control other areas of Crete - particularly the Mesara - in this period. She argues that
the huge quantities of ceramics and their consumption in some cases as 'prestige
artefacts' imply a significant position for ceramics within socio-political culture on
Minoan Crete. In her view, in other words, pots can pe used as political indicators. She
concludes, using her concept of 'technological profiles' (i.e. the degrees of labour
investment, standardisation and skill employed in manufacture), that there is nothing
in ceramic production in the Mesara that confirms a Knossian take-over during this
period. Knappett's contribution, in keeping with his other work (e.g., Knappett 1999a),
situates the insights derived from ceramic analysis within broader questions about
Minoan socio-political organisation. Like Van de Moortel, he also uses ceramic
production as a case-study, but, unlike her, works from a theoretical point of view
toward the case-study rather than vice versa. His contribution outlines an ambitious
sociological approach to conceptualising Minoan society, advocating an initial,
analytical separation of economic, political and cultural aspects before recombining
these in the overlapping terms 'political economy', 'political culture' and 'economic
culture'. Only through the apparently contradictory practices of analytical separation
and recombination can the complexities of Minoan socio-cultural behaviour be
understood. My reservations about Knappett's work stem mainly from the compressed
framework in which it is presented as a short contribution in this volume. I look
forward to its future development at greater length.
Of all the contributions, those that use the insights gained through detailed
interaction with ceramic data - in which I would also include Day and Wilson's
contribution - seem to offer the most cogent conclusions about the nature of Minoan
society. Nevertheless, as a non-ceramicist, nagging at the back o! my mind is the idea
that overemphasis on the quality data offered by ceramics might have privileged their
contribution to questions about broader political relations. We need similar detailed
studies of other artefact categories and technologies (including writing: d. Knappett

and Schoep 2000) embedded in their social, economic and political contexts of
production, distribution and consumption to set alongside the insights based on
analysis of ceramics.




A volume like this one can never satisfy all readers, nor can it hope to be
comprehensive. But what missed opportunities might there be. From my point of
view, I am surprised not to see anything about text and language, areas ripe for reevaluation in a broader context. To return to the theme of the earlier contributions,
Evans originally got interested in Minoan culture through texts (Brown 1993: 35; d.
Evans 1894) and we are now in a position, fifty years after the decipherment of Linear
B, where we understand that script's use and development both on Crete (e.g., Driessen
2000) and on the mainland well enough to use it as a route into the nature of society
and political economy in 'Post-Palatial' or 'Mycenaean' Crete. In the Palatial period,
Cretan Hieroglyphic, Linear A and sealing systems have much to offer also, even in
advance of a decipherment (d., e.g., Duhoux 1998; Hallager 1996; Schoep 1994; 1996;
Studies of language ought to have some implications for identity on what is (for
Homer at least: Odyssey 19.172-180; d. Sherratt 1996) a multicultural island. The study
of ethnicity has been a prominent trend in archaeology (e.g., Jones 1997; Shennan
1989; although, d. Banks 1994 for an anthropological view that questions it as a valid
category). It is striking, in my view, that we still use the terms 'Minoan' and
'Mycenaean' (d. Tsountas and Manatt 1897: 11) of those societies that inhabited the
Bronze Age Aegean (d. Hamilakis this volume), since they are modern coinages,
culture-historical terms that define areas of broad material culture similarity, not
groups with any social or political reality at any particular time in the Bronze Age.
Perhaps it is the possibility that Knossos controlled the whole island in the Palatial
period that prevents us from thinking of 'ethnic' distinctions in that period (see now
Hitchcock 1999), but studies of identity based on material culture are emerging for
periods of the Minoan Bronze Age that lie outside this volume's emphasis: the 'PostPalatial' (e.g., Preston 1999), the Iron Age (e.g., Hoffman 1997), and the 'Pre-Palatial'
(e.g., Carter 1998; Day, Wilson and Kiriatzi 1998; d. Betancourt et al. 1999).
These are just some areas that I would like to see receive the same sort of treatment
embodied in many of the contributions to this volume. Other readers will certainly
have other reactions and will also be able to cite their own examples of work not
represented. I do hope, however, that potential readers will make allowances for the
volume's selective coverage, accept its explicitly theoretical position and use the
implicit challenge in refining and expanding their own views Minoan archaeology. If
the volume inspires a reflexive moment in archaeologists at the beginning of a new
millennium, and brings at least some aspects of Minoan archaeology into discourse
with the wider field of global archaeology, then, irrespective of the value of its
individual components, it will have achieved a large part of its goal.



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