Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


4 March 2012

Tracing the ancestry of the Minoan Hall system

Joseph W. Shaw The Annual of the British School at Athens 106 (2011): 141-165


Among the more intriguing Minoan architectural forms is the so-called ‘Minoan Hall’. It consists, at its simplest, of a light well, a fore hall, and a room (polythyron) closed off by what are known as pier-and-door partitions. The Hall was located in the residential areas of the palaces, also in some Neopalatial houses, and was usually accompanied by a ‘lustral basin’, a square sunken room reached by steps often flanked by an elaborate balustrade. A window or a platform often enabled observation within the basin from ground level.

Examples of the Hall were once known only from the Neopalatial period, but two earlier, Protopalatial, examples have been identified at Malia. The later of the two occurs in Middle Minoan II Building A in Quartier Mu. It consists of the lustral basin, a large hall with a light well, and a polythyron. The earlier example, a Minoan Hall suite in the Middle Minoan I Crypte hypostyle, consists of a unique series of five basement rooms, the first bordered by a light well, then a polythyron, followed by a relatively small, square room with a large interior window (a lustral basin?), with a benched entrance room next door. South of these rooms was a large hall at ground level, probably for groups, from which one accessed separately the first and last of the rooms underground.

Comparison of the two room groups suggests that the Crypte hypostyle example is the forerunner of the Quartier Mu group. Specifically, the latter’s polythyron was, for practical reasons, set at ground level while its lustral basin, which involved chthonic connections, remained at basement level and was approached by steps. The same arrangement, but with some adjustments, was to be adapted later, in Neopalatial times, completing a long history of a social and ceremonial architectural form that may have begun as early as the Early Minoan Period.


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