Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


1 November 2014

Malice in Wonderland: The Role of Warface in ‘Minoan’ Society

Barry P.C. Molloy in S. O’Brien & D. Boatright (eds), 2013. Warfare and Society in the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean. Papers arising from a colloquium held at the University of Liverpool, 13th June 2008 [BAR International Series 2583], Oxford, 59-70.


This paper offers diachronic observations on the character and role of warfare and violence in the societies of Bronze Age Crete in light of recent developments in the study of warfare in prehistory. The main emphasis is on the functional properties of weapons and how these related to combat practices from the perspective of individual combatants rather than the macro-perspective of armies and tactics. The bodies of material culture examined are determined temporally as c. 3000-1100 BC and spatially as the island of Crete, with reference to the Argolid on mainland Greece where required. Cretan societies are revealed as possessing complex military institutions supported ideologically and technologically by elite frameworks, and violence and warfare are thus revealed as systemic aspects of these societies. The polarity between ‘peaceful Minoans’ and ‘warlike Mycenaeans’ that often underlies social models implicitly, if not explicitly, is questioned on the grounds that perpetual two-way transfers of military technology existed between the two regions from the origins of purpose-made combat weaponry to the end of the Bronze Age. Furthermore, it is argued that the political, economic and technological capacities of Cretan societies between 3000 and 1450 BC were a more favourable environment than mainland Greece for the origins of the military equipment, practices and ideologies found widely throughout the southern Balkan peninsula and Aegean islands.



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