Bronze Age Architecture on Crete
c. 1500-1100 BCE



Minoan palaces from the Neopalatial Period exhibit a number of common features. These include:
  1. A Central Court, usually oriented north-south. It has been variously suggested that the orientation is
    1. to provide maximum sunlight to the colonnades bordering the central court
    2. to have a major axis aligned directly with the sacred mountain of Iuktas (at Knossos) and at Ida (at Phaistos)
    3. to have the openings into the cult rooms along the West Side of the central court facing toward the rising sun
    It has been argued by James Graham (see Bibliography) that bull-leaping sports were conducted in the central court, but not everyone thinks this was the case.

  2. A West Court. A large paved area west of the main palace building. At Knossos, Phaistos, and Mallia, this paved area is crisscrossed by pathways or "causeways" of cut limestone slabs raised slightly above the level of cobbled-stoned court.

  3. Magazines are found at Knossos, Phaistos, and Mallia. At each they occupied large areas of the ground floor and served as storage facilities. At all three sites, the exterior face of the West magazines constitutes the west facade of the palace, which is the most carefully built of all the palace facades. These west facades are characterized in plan by a stepped series of projections, each of which corresponds to a section of magazines behind the wall.

  4. Residential Quarters have been identified at Knossos, Phaistos, and Mallia. They normally consist of
    1. a hall-forehall-lightwell combination
    2. a more private room
    3. a "Lustral Basin" opening directly off the private room
    4. a toilet, closely connected with the private room

  5. Public Apartments. There is evidence for major "halls of state" (or reception halls) on the second floor of the palaces in the West Wing. The evidence includes:
    1. broad flights of stairs at Knossos and Mallia that lead up from the central court to a level above the magazines
    2. fragments of elaborately decorated plaster found fallen in the area of the west magazines at Knossos
    3. door jam and pillar bases fallen into the west magazines at Knossos, Phaistos, and Mallia
    4. Some of the magazine walls are thickened at regularly spaced intervals to support columns or piers on the second floor

  6. Cult Rooms along the West Side of the Central Court. At both Knossos and Mallia, there are "pillar crypts" in the ground-floor rooms west of the central court that are considered by some as cult places in which rites were conducted. Most of the west side of the central court at Knossos appears to have been taken up by cult rooms. A somewhat similar arrangement may have existed at Mallia. some of the odd rooms along the west side of the central court at Phaistos may also have served religious functions.

  7. A Theatral Area. A shallow, stepped area, the function of which is uncertain. They are usually considered to be accomodations for a standing audience. At Knossos, the theatral area is located at the north-west corner of the palace. At Phaistos, it is located at the north end of the middle west court.

  8. Grain Silos ("Kouloures"). The function of these large, cylindrical structures built of rubble and ordinarily unplastered on the interior, is uncertain. At Knossos, they are preserved in an east-west row in the southern part of the west court (see map). At Phaistos, four are preserved in much the same location. At Mallia, a series of eight fairly shallow kouloures in two rows of four are located in a walled enclosure set into a recess between the west court and the west facade at the southern end of the palace. The placement of these cylinders in front of the principal facade at each of the palaces suggests they had considerable symbolic significance

  9. All the palaces have Multiple Entrances, most of which lead ultimately to the central court by way of corridors that usually take a few right-angled turns enroute from the palace's exterior to its interior core. No entrance is marked specifically as the principal entrance

  10. Each palace is built with concern for the circulation of light, air, and water (both open drains and closed piping)





    © Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe