Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory

BOOKS | 2012

2 March 2012

Back to the Beginning: Reassessing Social and Political Complexity on Crete during the Early and Middle Bronze Age.

edited by Ilse Schoep, Peter Tomkins & Jan Driessen

Back to the Beginning: Reassessing Social and Political Complexity on Crete during the Early and Middle Bronze Age.

City: Oxford/Oakville

Year: 2012

Publisher: Oxbow Books

Description: Paperback, xi & 435 p., 90 b/w illustrations, 24,2x17 cm


Ever since their first discovery, more than a century ago, the Minoan Palaces have dominated scholarship on the Cretan Bronze Age. Opinion long held that their first appearance, seemingly at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, marked a pivotal transformation point, during which the simple, egalitarian societies of the Early Bronze Age were transformed into something significantly more complex, hierarchical and civilised. Over the last three decades, however, theoretical developments, together with new research and discoveries, have so thoroughly undermined this conceptualisation of the Early and Middle Bronze Age that it seemed advisable to go back to the beginning, re-evaluate our theories and models and ask anew what we really know about social and political complexity on Crete from the end of the Neolithic to Middle Minoan II (c.3600-1750/00 BC).

Back to the Beginning explores this theme through fifteen papers. They cover both the principal central Cretan urban centres of Knossos, Malia and Phaistos and the smaller communities that lay beyond them in central and eastern Crete. Many present significant new bodies of settlement and cemetery data, whether recently acquired or re-interpreted from older excavations. All place a clear and concerted emphasis on breaking down complexity into different social processes and relations and building up an understanding of society, from the bottom up, as a host of interacting and potentially conflicting agents or scales of identity. All too are concerned with addressing longstanding and fundamental research questions. When, in fact, does the Bronze Age begin in real terms? How did socioeconomic diversity play out across the Cretan landscape? When and where did the monumental Court Complexes, which convention terms Palaces, emerge; how did they function and how did this vary? Were the Court Complexes entirely new phenomena or were they rooted more firmly in pre-existing traditions and practices? What happened in MM I and how, more generally, might we frame and explain the Early and Middle Bronze Age in more inclusive terms? How were different communities structured and how did this vary? Is it appropriate to talk of urbanism and state formation during this period and if so, when and where? By taking us significantly closer to resolving these questions, Back to the Beginning ushers in a new era of understanding for the Early and Middle Bronze Age on Crete.


Preface [v]
Abbreviations [vii]
List of Contributors [ix]
Chronological Table [xi]

1. Ilse Schoep & Peter Tomkins, ‘Back to the Beginning for the Early and Middle Bronze Age on Crete’ [1-31]

2. Peter Tomkins, ‘Behind the Horizon. Reconsidering the Genesis and Function of the ‘First Palace’ at Knossos (Final Neolithic IV-Middle Minoan IB)’ [32-80]

3. Colin F. Macdonald, ‘Palatial Knossos: the Early Years’ [81-113]

4. Todd Whitelaw, ‘The Urbanisation of Prehistoric Crete: Settlement Perspectives on Minoan State Formation’ [114-176]

5. Jean-Claude Poursat, ‘The Emergence of Elite Groups at Protopalatial Malia. A Biography of Quartier Mu’ [177-183]

6. Philip P. Betancourt, ‘Trade and Interconnections in Lasithi between EM II and MM I, the Evidence from the Ayios Charalambos Cave’ [184-194]

7. Simona Todaro, ‘Craft Production and Social Practices at Prepalatial Phaistos: the Background to the First ‘Palace’’ [195-235]

8. Pietro Militello, ‘Emerging Authority: A Functional Analysis of the MM II Settlement of Phaistos’ [236-272]

9. Kostas Sbonias, ‘Regional Elite-Groups and the Production and Consumption of Seals in the Prepalatial period. A Case-Study of the Asterousia Region’ [273-289]

10. Maria Relaki, ‘The Social Arenas of Tradition. Investigating Collective and Individual Social Strategies in the Prepalatial and Protopalatial Mesara’ [290-324]

11. Borja Legarra Herrero, ‘The Construction, Deconstruction and Non-construction of Hierarchies in the Funerary Record of Prepalatial Crete’ [325-357]

12. Jan Driessen, ‘A Matrilocal House Society in Pre- and Protopalatial Crete?’ [358-383]

13. Carl Knappett, ‘A Regional Network Approach to Protopalatial Complexity’ [384-402]

14. Ilse Schoep, ‘Bridging the divide between the ‘Prepalatial’ and the ‘Protopalatial’ periods?’ [403-428]

15. Peter Warren, ‘‘Back to the Beginning’ – An Overview’ [429-435]


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