Institute for Mediterranean Studies

Between Peak and Palace. Reinterpretation of the Minoan Cultural Landscape in Space and Time

Crete is the spatial entity where the history of the Cretan Bronze Age was enacted. It is obvious that the landscape as a whole and the temporal dynamics within it contain many distinctive properties for the better understanding of culture. One of the key parameters for capturing the dynamics of the Minoan landscape is the specific social, religious and topographic character of the Minoan peak sanctuary. In the past, it has been argued that the location of the peak sanctuaries depends on the topography of the landscape. Their position would also be determined by their relation with the court complexes. In order to test the validity of the above argument, Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) was employed for the accurate positioning of the relevant archaeological sites. The topographical and environmental parameters of peak sanctuaries and palaces were extracted from digitized maps and from SPOT stereoscopic satellite images. GIS (Geographical Information System) analysis was systematically applied to investigate the spatial characteristics of these sites and their spatial relations. Among other techniques, intervisibility between peak sanctuaries and other sites was simulated through viewshed analysis and line of sight. Results of the least-cost distance computed from the peak sanctuaries to the near-by environmental and archaeological features were subjected to statistical analysis in order to define the weight of importance of these features as an indication of their relevance to the location of the peak sanctuaries. Hypothetical territories were suggested for the court complexes, through the application of the most commonly used models, namely Thiessen polygons, Cost Surface Analysis and the Xtent model. The location of peak sanctuaries within these territories suggests that they played a neutral role in the early stages of their existence. This picture evolves through time and geographical regions. The origin, acme and decline of peak sanctuaries seem to be strongly related to the political development within the island.

  • Apostolos Sarris