The Ins and Outs of the Great Megaron: Symbol, Performance, and Elite Identities around and between Mycenaean Palaces
Jarrett L. Farmer & Michael F. Lane Studi Micenei 2 (2016): 40-79
A new approach is sought to interpreting the ‘function’ of the central suite, or Great Megaron, of the palaces in Greece during the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1440/1380-1190 BCE). Instead of seeking to correlate the building’s size, organisation, and properties with the features of a social model, be it cultural historical or neo-evolutionary, the roles that knowledgeable agents could have played there, with certain material-cultural resources at their disposal, are examined. The study employs details of architectural design, symbolism in painted surfaces, and records in the contemporary Linear B script of the furniture and instruments required for a particular investiture ceremony to develop a scenario in which religious–political authority is embodied and enacted, and thus presented as wholly necessary and therefore legitimate. This interpretative approach offers one example of how close reading of both documents and inhabited spaces can be used to create middle-range theories for the exploration of agency, personhood, practice, and community, as well as of previously unidentified relevant sites. Part I criticises prior approaches, lays out the ‘fields of practices’ theoretical framework, populates the Great Megaron at Pylos with persons and furniture, and then follows a group of celebrants from the gateway to the central hearth room’s threshold. Part II concerns the denouement of the procession of celebrants in the central hearth room of the Megaron, the social effects of what transpires there when communicated throughout society more broadly, the applicability of observations at Pylos to other Great Megara, and finally new insights into how political–economic power was actually achieved and maintained in the Late Bronze Age Aegean.