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Minoan Realities

 | 
Diamantis Panagiotopoulos
, 
Ute Günkel-Maschek

Open Day Gallery’ or ‘Private Collections’? An Insight on Neopalatial Wall Paintings in their Spatial Context1

Quentin Letesson

Texte intégral

  • 1 I am very grateful to Diamantis Panagiotopoulos and Ute Günkel-Maschek for their invitation to take (...)
  • 1 Morgan 2005, 21.
  • 2 E. g. Marinatos 1984; Kontorli-Papadopoulou 1996; Blakolmer 2000; see also various contributions in (...)

1As L. Morgan once pointed out: “The temptation on discovering wall paintings in private houses is to project anachronistic ideas of the secularity of the art of domestic spaces”1. In a similar vein, one has to acknowledge the anachronistic tone of the title of this paper. In fact, it is problematic in more than one way. First of all, terms like ‘gallery’ and ‘collections’ have obvious secular connotations and no one has to be reminded that Minoan frescoes were often–and sometimes quite convincingly–associated with ritual concerns and practices2. Moreover, ‘open day’ and ‘private’ are contemporary notions and nothing would be more erroneous and misleading than to apply them blindly to the distant past of the Neopalatial period.

  • 3 Palyvou 2004, 207.
  • 4 Letesson 2009.

2Nevertheless, this slightly provocative title draws attention to one of the main concerns of this paper: space, its accessibility and the control exerted upon it. Even if–as C. Palyvou underlined–“the terms ‘private’ and ‘public’ are […] deeply imbued with notions that are time and culture specific”3, the Neopalatial period witnesses a considerable rise in the attempt to create spatial contexts allowing both community and privacy to take place within a segmented, categorized and probably tightly controlled architectural framework4. In a nutshell, the rooms where mural paintings were found are not specifically the main concern of this paper. Instead, we will be focusing on the way these rooms are integrated within the whole architectural complex of which they are part.

  • 5 Blakolmer 2000, 397; 2010, 149–50.
  • 6 Gesell 1985, 19–40; Immerwahr 2000.
  • 7 Blakolmer 2010, 149–50.
  • 8 Cameron 1970, 165; Preziosi 1983, 210 and 213, n. 24; Palyvou 1987, 195; Blakolmer 2000, 397.
  • 9 Palyvou 2005, 161; see also Immerwahr 2000, 488.
  • 10 Driessen 1989–90.
  • 11 Cummer and Schofield 1984, 40–41; Marketou 1996; Schofield 1983; Shaw 1978; 2009, 169–78; Palyvou 1 (...)

3Before turning our attention to some specific spatial properties of the rooms decorated with wall paintings, some general remarks concerning their architectural context are necessary. First and foremost, in terms of distribution within buildings, F. Blakolmer has pointed out that there was a shift between the Proto-and Neopalatial periods5. During the former, as in the Prepalatial period, mural paintings essentially testified to the hierarchical position of a building within a settlement and therefore of its occupants in a community. They were not directly linked to the function of the space they adorned in the sense that, generally, they are found throughout a building, in many types of rooms. At the end of the Protopalatial period, starting with Quartier Mu at Malia, things began to change and, in the Neopalatial period, mural paintings are mainly but not exclusively encountered in spaces often labeled as ceremonial (pillar crypts, lustral basins, some halls with polythyra, etc.)6. Again according to Blakolmer, painted decoration thus evolved from a way to communicate social status to an indicator of the new ‘palatial’ ideology closely associated with ceremonial and ritual activities7. Mural paintings remained a way to manifest prestige and/or social integration, but within a broader framework of socio-economic emulation where palatial institutions and ceremonial practices were influential. It is also well known that some frescoes or areas of painted wall decoration may have served as sign-posts placed at strategic points of the circulation system (corridors, porticoes, staircases) to lead visitors through the buildings and accentuate their legibility8. To conclude on the architectural context of mural decoration, it is very important to keep in mind that–as put forward recently by Palyvou–“wall paintings are enhanced and at the same time restricted by architectural space, and they are experienced not in their own right (regardless of the context), but as part of the experience of being within a building”9. Furthermore, it seems quite obvious that this new character of Neopalatial mural paintings is concomitant and intimately linked to the architectural style that became in vogue throughout the island of Crete10 and had repercussions miles away from its shores11. So, let us now consider some of the main features of this Neopalatial architectural landscape, especially where its spatial syntax is concerned.

  • 12 Hillier and Hanson 1984; Hillier 1996; Hanson 1998.
  • 13 See amongst others: Bonanno et al. 1990; Cunningham 2001; Cutting 2003; 2006; Fisher 2009; Foster 1 (...)
  • 14 Hillier 1996, 251; Hanson 1998, 6.

4Space syntax is an analytical method which translates a standard architectural plan into a specific graph which allows a qualitative and quantitative approach to spatial configuration12. This methodology can be applied to any architectural structure that is sufficiently preserved and has the potential to highlight spatial characteristics which would otherwise remain less obvious or even hidden. In recent years, numerous journal articles, papers and communications testify to the growing interest for this analytical methodology in archaeological research13. In terms of interpretation, space syntax theory considers that the properties of a graph result from cultural prescriptions (unconscious or deliberate), the aim of which is to create an adequate framework to the relationships between two categories of potential users of the built environment–residents and visitors–and to materialize and organize zones of activity in a building. ‘Residents’ are those whose identity as individuals is embedded in the spatial layout of a building and who therefore have some degree of control of space and a privileged access to it. ‘Visitors’, on the other hand, are those who lack control over a particular building. Their access to space is usually temporary and subordinated to control by the residents, and their social identity generally manifests itself collectively14.

  • 15 Letesson 2009.
  • 16 This concept is rather similar to Palyvou’s Aegean House Model and its idiomatic variations; see Pa (...)

5Studying Neopalatial architecture through space syntax underlines a large number of topological recurrences. This means that there is repetition among the different buildings not only of the way spatial layout is organized, but also how the outside and the inside of a building relate, that the choices for potential circulation networks recur and that certain types of rooms or transitional spaces are characterized by a structural redundancy, impossible to distinguish by a simple visual inspection of standard plans. These features are so often repeated amongst Minoan buildings that they allow us to recognize a genotype–an underlying set of principles–that permeates the Minoan built environment forming a continuum between houses and palaces15. Nevertheless, the existence of such a model does not exclude variations16. These can be contextual and linked, for example, to climate, topography, available materials, technological skills, economic resources, specific function, cultural conventions and so on. Furthermore, domestic buildings tend to provide a looser expression of the genotype in comparison to official and/or communal buildings. The latter need to provide clear clues for their various users and therefore to offer a neat crystallization of social knowledge. Before considering the architectural context of the selected wall paintings, some of the main features of this Neopalatial architectural genotype require a more thorough explanation.

  • 17 Hanson 1998, 285.

6Most of the Neopalatial buildings have one or more areas which may be termed ‘external transition spaces’, that is to say a space–such as a vestibule, a corridor, etc.–forming a kind of liminal zone between the exterior world and the internal arrangement of the buildings. A transition space has a dual nature: it can generate accessibility and contributes to establishing a spatial connection but, at the same time, it has the potential to divide space, separating activities and/or people17. Often, one of these elementary functions is more developed than the other, e. g. a vestibule allows access to a building but its main feature is to create a clearer boundary between inside and outside. A corridor, an internal transition space, however, forms a limit between several rooms and its main function is to ensure the efficiency of the circulation between them. The considerable use of external transition space in Neopalatial architecture suggests a growing concern about undesirable intrusions. This may not only imply an attempt to reduce the permeability of the building, but also acts as an efficient signal, a way of underlining the shift from the external world to the internal domain. Thus, even if the Minoan ‘vestibule’ does not show the same formal regularity as at Akrotiri on Thera, it is nonetheless a basic component of the Neopalatial built environment. Moreover, in terms of form, external transition spaces often create a bent-axis approach (dog’s leg corridor/vestibule). Such an approach tends to constrain movement and thus contributes to reinforce the efficiency of the external transition space. The very existence of such external transition spaces underlines the fact that the contacts between the inside and outside of Minoan buildings were potentially so frequent and/or necessary that they needed to be tightly monitored. Indeed, they suggest frequent, planned encounters that formed integral parts of the social dynamics, tightly controlled and channeled through space. Add to this that Neopalatial buildings often had more than one entrance and most of them were in fact either preceded or followed by external spaces of transition (porches, vestibules, corridors, etc.), then the indications that different categories of visitors frequented the interior of structures become even more persuasive.

  • 18 See Letesson 2009, 330–55.

7Such transitional spaces often lead to a room with an extremely high level of integration. Such a room is closely connected to all the other spaces of a building (as well as generally with the exterior). In other words, from this room, any other space of a building can be reached directly or without having to cross too many intermediary spaces. Generally, such rooms also present a high visual controllability, meaning that they may be easily visually dominated, or kept under surveillance. These spaces mostly form the very core of the buildings in which they are found. They articulate movement towards the other rooms and offer a particularly well adapted framework for encounters among residents and the hosting of ‘visitors’. Such spaces are labeled ‘poles of convergence’, partly because most of the trajectories that crisscross a building have to pass through them. This could imply that they represent rooms to which people (or a selection of specific people) had equal access and equal rights. They were spaces fit for local interactions depending on spatial proximity, such as a communal meal, a particular ritual performance, or the hosting of visitors. In Minoan studies, such ‘poles of convergence’ have usually been labeled as hosting/reception zones or more simply as the ‘functional center’ of a building. From a syntactical point of view, their essential feature is that they formed the main internal arena for encounters and co-presence in Neopalatial architecture. This becomes the more evident when comparing them with other spaces that were not accessible for all the members of the residential group and obviously even less for potential visitors, or with spaces that were more closely associated with particular activities to the exclusion of others, such as storerooms, workshops, etc. In terms of space syntax analysis, the latter usually develop themselves in tree-like and linear arrangements, a type of spatial configuration which easily frames, distinguishes and articulates circulations and categories of people and activities in a pattern of avoidance or controlled encounter. Some of these rooms also have recurrent topological properties but listing them would take us too far from the scope of this paper18.

8To sum up, it is possible to argue that in Pre-and Protopalatial Crete, buildings mostly followed an agglutinative configuration whereas in Neopalatial Crete the widespread introduction of internal spaces of transition created articulated plans that categorized people and their activities more strictly and efficiently. The articulation resulted in a spatial segmentation which is often considered as concomitant with socio-political complexity, related to age, gender, status or other differentiations. It is the socio-political complexity which dictated the architectural arrangement and the architectural arrangement which reciprocally materialized, perpetuated and intensified the socio-political complexity.

  • 19 Kontorli-Papadopoulou 1996, 49–50; Immerwahr 1990, 179–80.
  • 20 Kontorli-Papadopoulou 1996, 50–51; Immerwahr 1990, 180–81.
  • 21 Kontorli-Papadopoulou 1996, 39–49; Immerwahr 1990, 170–79; Hood 2000a; 2005.
  • 22 Hazzidakis 1934, 30–31 and 35.
  • 23 Shaw 2009, 150–52.

9Some preliminary remarks are also necessary before focusing on the architectural settings of the selected Neopalatial wall paintings. First of all, this analysis was not conducted on all Neopalatial extant remains. Space syntax demands a sufficiently well preserved plan to work properly. Therefore it was not possible to take into consideration some heavily destroyed or architecturally confusing buildings despite the presence of famous mural paintings, as for example the Villa of the Lilies at Amnisos19, Hagia Triada20 or–more unfortunate even–the palace at Knossos21. Furthermore, some stucco decoration–as that found in buildings B and C at Tylissos–was rejected because its location is barely known or too imprecise22. Secondly, the selected wall paintings were classified in four broad categories: figurative in situ (in red on the illustrations), figurative fallen from upper floor (in orange), non-figurative in situ (in blue) and non-figurative fallen from upper floor (in green) (table 1). The non-figurative category mostly comprises monochrome stucco, marbling and dado decoration as well as geometric and stylized patterns. In the case of wall paintings fallen from the upper floor, a hypothetical reconstruction of the first storey is proposed and its connections with the ground floor materialized in the j-graph. In total, 32 decorated rooms are taken into account in this study (table 2). Although only wall decoration is considered, it is worth noting that painted plaster decoration was also intensively used on floors (usually between slabs or forming ‘Strip Designs’23).

10To highlight the configurational properties of the rooms decorated with wall paintings in order to delineate some recurrent patterns, we will proceed from the more elementary syntactical features to the more complex topological notions.

  • 24 Popham 1984, 105.

11First of all, it is interesting to note that more or less 70% (22 out of 32) of the rooms adorned with mural paintings have a depth value (i. e. the number of spaces that one has to cross to reach the room from the exterior) that is superior to the mean depth (i. e. the addition of all the individual depths divided by the total number of spaces) of their building (table 2). Of the remaining 30%, the majority have a depth value that is quite close to the mean depth. There are only two instances where a decorated room is immediately accessible from the exterior world: the Unexplored Mansion with the upper floor of corridor L (fig. 7) and vestibule 1 in Building 5 at Palaikastro (fig. 13). Furthermore, in the former, the plan of the second floor is hypothetical and based on some comments made by Popham24. So, of the selected examples, it appears that there is a relatively clear tendency to decorate rooms that are situated in a rather remote location from the exterior.

FIG. 1 Topological types

  • 25 Hillier 1996, 318–20.
  • 26 Hillier 1996, 323–24; Letesson 2009, 9–10.
  • 27 A chi-square test for independence is applied to the analysis of two categorical variables from a s (...)

12In space syntax theory, the spaces forming a graph can also be divided in four broad categories according to their spatial connections25 (see fig. 1). Labeled ‘topological types’ these categories have quite different potentials for occupation and movement within an architectural complex26. Spaces of type a are dead-ends: they have only one connection (link) with the rest of the graph. Topologically speaking they are more prone to be occupational spaces because they can only host movement to and from themselves. Spaces of type b are one way in/one way out linear spaces. They have more than one link with the rest of the graph. In a sub-complex of type b, movement from origins to destinations which necessarily pass through a b-type space must also return to the origin through the same space. Thus, such spaces have a potential to exert a strong control on the through movement they host. Spaces of type c are one way in/one way out ring-like spaces. They have more than one link and are part of a sub-complex of the graph in which there is exactly the same number of links as spaces, i. e. a ring or loop. Like b-type spaces, they raise the possibility of a through movement while constraining it to a specific sequence of spaces, though without the same requirement for the return journey. Spaces of type d are hubs, with multiple ways in and out. They have more than two links with the rest of the graph and are part of a sub-complex that contains at least two rings with at least one space in common. They permit movement but with much less built-in control because there is always choice of routes in both directions. Of 32 decorated spaces, 14 are of type a (45%), 8 of type b (26%), 7 of type c (23%), 2 of type d (6%) and 1 of undefined type (3%). This shows that almost half of the selected spaces are purely occupational; 47% of the remaining spaces can host a through movement but this transitional potential is constrained in a linear (type b) or elementary ring-like (type c) sequence of spaces. There are only two examples–the upper floor of corridor L in the Unexplored Mansion at Knossos (fig. 7) and the central court at Phaistos with its decorated niches (fig. 11)–where wall paintings were found or reconstructed in type d spaces. As aforementioned, these cells are located on more than one ring (or loop) in the graph; they generally represent a hub of the circulation network within the building. Because they are characterized by multiple connections with the rest of the building, their basic architectural impact on the channeling of circulation is less straightforward than in spaces of type b or c. So it appears that, in these particular cases, when decorated rooms are not purely occupational spaces, they were part of a route that was potentially easily controlled through the fabric of the building. If these proportions are valid for the 32 selected examples, this hypothetical association between the type of a room and the presence or absence of wall decoration has to be tested statistically. Therefore, a chi-square test for independence was used and, unfortunately, came to the result that–for the selected buildings–there was no association between the two aforementioned variables27. Nevertheless, a definitive answer about a hypothetical link may only be obtainable by taking all the data we have into account (i. e. all Neopalatial buildings and every single example of decorated room).

FIG. 2 Visual integration caption

  • 28 Hillier and Hanson 1984, 108–10 and 151–52; Hillier 1996, 35–38; Hanson 1998, 27–32.
  • 29 Turner 2001; 2004.
  • 30 Turner 2004, 14–15.

13We may then consider the integration of these rooms. This quantitative value is the central concern of space syntax analysis28. As mentioned, the integration value (or RRA–real relative asymmetry) corresponds to the degree of connectedness of a cell within its whole spatial complex. It gives an idea of how much this particular space is closely connected to all the other rooms or spaces of the building as well as with the exterior. A cell with a low numerical value (ex: 0,500) is an integrated space. Such a room is closely connected to all the other rooms of the building and the exterior; in practice, this implies that one does not need to cross many intermediary spaces to go from this particular room to any other room or the exterior. On the other hand, a cell with a high numerical value (ex: 1,500) is a segregated space. Such a room is rather remote from all the other rooms of the buildings and the exterior; from this space, one would need to follow a long and a potentially sinuous circulation route to reach most of the other rooms and the exterior. Space syntax and its topological view of architectural configuration can be reinforced using Depthmap29. This software allows us to calculate some visual properties of the built environment and to map these with a color scale ranging from blue–low value–to red–high value. One of these properties is visual integration. This concept is quite close to that of normal integration but it takes as its main referent the visual instead of the spatial connection30. An area in red or close to red is highly visually connected and more central in the layout whereas a zone colored in blue or green has a low visual connection and is more peripheral in the layout (fig. 2). Of the 32 selected rooms (table 2), 22 (69%) appear to be relatively segregated spaces. To be more precise, they have a numerical integration value that is higher than the mean integration value of the building they are part of. Furthermore, of the remaining 10 examples, only 4 rooms (12%) can be labeled as highly integrated in their architectural environment (with an integration value lower than 1,000). This is the case of–once again–the upper floor of corridor L in the Unexplored Mansion (0,634–fig. 7), the large hall C in the palace of Gournia (0,908–fig. 3), room 8 in the so-called Little Palace (Maison Epsilon) at Malia (0,913–fig. 8) and the Banquet Hall in the palace of Zakros (0,880–fig. 17). It thus seems that in most cases, rooms adorned with wall paintings were relatively isolated from the rest of the building and the exterior. In other words, they were not easily accessible from and tightly connected with other spaces of the same building. In a sense, these rooms may be considered as relatively peripheral in the architectural layout.

FIG. 3 Gournia–Palace

FIG. 4 Knossos–House of the Frescoes

FIG. 5 Knossos–Little Palace

FIG. 6 Knossos–South House

  • 31 Hillier and Hanson 1984, 109.
  • 32 Turner 2001, 6–7; 2004, 16–17.

14The last value that is taken into consideration is that of control31. Whereas integration is a global value calculated on the basis of the connection between one cell and the rest of the j-graph, control is a local value, concerning one cell and its neighboring spaces. A space with a high control value (2,000 and higher) is a local hub in the circulation network; in practice, it means that this cell is directly connected to many other spaces that do not have many other direct connections. On the other hand, a space with low control value (1,000 and lower) has no real local impact on the neighboring circulation flow within the building. In other words, this type of cell is either a dead-end space or does not create a local link between many other cells. Again, Depthmap can be used to create visual maps ranging from red–areas with a high local visual control–to blue–areas with a low local visual control32. 24 out of the 32 selected rooms (75%) have a quite low control value (table 2). Of the remaining rooms, 6 (19%) have a high control value (room T in the House of the Frescoes–fig. 4; room 8 in the Little Palace at Malia–fig. 8; vestibule 77 of the northern Minoan Hall and the central court of the Palace of Phaistos–fig. 11; room 5 in House B and vestibule 1 in Building 5 at Palaikastro–figs. 12 and 13) and only 2 (6%) show an extremely high potential of local control (upper floor of corridor L in the Unexplored Mansion–fig. 7–and room 81 in the north wing of the palace of Phaistos–fig. 11). Thus, one can say that in most of these examples, decorated rooms were not playing a major role in the circulation flow directly linked with them.

FIG. 7 Knossos–Unexplored Mansion

FIG. 8 Malia–House Epsilon

FIG. 9 Malia–Palace

FIG. 10 Nirou Chani

FIG. 11 Phaistos–Palace

FIG. 12 Palaikastro–House B

  • 33 Turner 2004, 16–17.
  • 34 These illustrations are not included in this paper but can be consulted in Letesson 2009: Gournia P (...)

15Finally we may mention that many of the 32 selected rooms also show a relatively pronounced visual controllability33. This measure, also calculated through Depthmap, gives an idea of how easily an area can be visually dominated or kept under visual surveillance34.

  • 35 As in the case of the syntactical features of the decorated rooms of the palace of Knossos, presuma (...)

16When all these recurrent properties are considered together, a coherent pattern emerges. In the Neopalatial period, rooms adorned with wall paintings are usually remote from the exterior. When they are not purely occupational spaces, they are usually situated on a circulation route that is potentially easily channeled and controlled through the fabric of the building. Their implantation within their built environment gives them a segregated character in a sense that they are not especially easily accessible from and tightly connected with other spaces of the same complex as well as the exterior. Furthermore, the majority of these decorated rooms are not playing a major role in the circulation system surrounding them. Most of them tend to be easily visually dominated and kept under surveillance. It is worth noting that our data are probably biased–notably by the usually poor preservation of wall paintings–and have some unfortunate gaps35. A clear pattern nonetheless comes out of the examples selected on the basis of the applicability of space syntax analysis and makes sense in the light of the Neopalatial architectural genotype.

FIG. 13 Palaikastro–Building 5

FIG. 14 Pseira–‘Shrine’ (House AC)

  • 36 Chapouthier and Joly 1936, 21–22, pl. IV. 2; MacGillivray et al. 2000, 40.
  • 37 Popham 1984, 140–41 and 146–47.
  • 38 MacGillivray et al. 2000, 94–96.

17If we now turn our attention to the functions of mural paintings evoked earlier, some remarks seem necessary. In our selection, there were very few transition spaces (vestibule 1 in Building 5 at Palaikastro–fig. 13, the upper floor of corridor L in the Unexplored Mansion–fig. 7, corridor XIX in the palace of Malia–fig. 9). The two first examples are clear variations of the model in various aspects but both are directly accessible from the exterior. The vestibule of Building 5 and the corridor at Malia were both simply decorated with bands of colored stucco36; the upper floor of corridor L was adorned with floral subjects and red blobs on an ochre background37. In these cases, it is quite clear that the ‘sign-post’ function is the more relevant option. In the case of Building 5 and the Unexplored Mansion, the decoration served as a cue and probably enhanced the liminal function of the exterior transition space, signaling at the same time the specificity of the spaces following the latter. In the case of Building 5 where other painted decoration is almost absent, the need to distinguish vestibule 1 makes sense if one keeps in mind that this cell connected the small plateia and the room where the Palaikastro kouros was probably originally exhibited38. In this case, it is also quite interesting to note that vestibule 1 is one of the few examples in Neopalatial architecture where an exterior transition space does not present a bent-axis, an architectural trick that usually reinforces the liminal power of such a cell. This straight-axis room may have permitted people to see the kouros from the plateia but was probably painted to appear as a clear limit between inside and outside as much as a sign-post to the ceremonial room that followed.

FIG. 15 Pseira–‘Plateia Building’ (BS/BV)

FIG. 16 Tylissos–Building A

  • 39 Blakolmer 2010, 152.
  • 40 Blakolmer 2010, 155.
  • 41 ‘Egalitarian’ in the sense of equal access to and rights over these spaces.
  • 42 Hillier and Hanson 1984, 145: “[…] a spatial solidarity […] builds links with other members of the (...)
  • 43 Hillier and Hanson 1984, 145: “A solidarity will be transpatial to the extent that it […] emphasize (...)
  • 44 Letesson and Driessen 2008.

18Neopalatial mural paintings were considered by Blakolmer to be an indicator of a new ‘palatial’ ideology closely associated with ceremonial and ritual activities as well as a way to manifest prestige and/or social integration39; of course these functions are not mutually exclusive. Blakolmer postulates that, in important buildings, mural paintings were focal points for communication between palatial authorities, their officials and visitors40. Whatever the various entities potentially gathered around such focal points comprised, some general remarks based on the configurational properties of the selected rooms are nonetheless relevant to the topic of Minoan social structure. In the majority of the 32 case studies, the rooms in which mural paintings were found or reconstructed were not particularly well adapted for the egalitarian41 gathering of different categories of people. If spatial solidarity, a term that defines egalitarian gathering in space syntax theory42, was the main concern, it seems likely that the poles of convergence would have been the spaces chosen to be adorned with wall paintings. On the contrary, decorated spaces tend to have configurational properties that do not testify to an egalitarian use of space. They are generally relatively remote from the exterior world, segregated from the other spaces or areas of their buildings; even when they are not purely occupational, their access is easily controlled (through an elementary sequence of cells) and, finally, they have no real impact on the local circulation flow. All these characteristics point to transpatial solidarity, a spatial pattern that contributes to prevent uncontrolled and undesirable incursions through a recurrent mode of architectural segregation and personal categorization43. In other words, the activities that were performed with wall paintings as focal points were most likely exclusive and these rooms were only accessible to certain categories of people via a potentially tightly controlled circulation route. This implies that practices related to Neopalatial rooms with wall paintings as discussed here are coherent with the aforementioned architectural genotype and perfectly fit in the evolution from ‘free-for-all’ communal activities to standardized and segregated encounters and practices that we recently underlined as a shift from the Pre-/Proto-to the Neopalatial period44.

FIG. 17 Zakros–Palace

FIG. 18 Akrotiri–West House

  • 45 Palyvou 2005, 45–46.
  • 46 For more detailed information on the spatial syntax of the West House see Letesson 2009, 305–8.
  • 47 Palyvou 2005, 184.
  • 48 See Palyvou in this volume.
  • 49 Doumas 2005, 76–78; Palyvou 2005, 61; Vlachopoulos 2008.
  • 50 Blakolmer 2010, 150.
  • 51 Blakolmer 1995, 464, pl. LVa. In Blakolmer’s paper, various types of decoration are taken into acco (...)
  • 52 See various contributions in Driessen et al. 2002; Letesson 2009, 351–57.
  • 53 Blakolmer 2010.
  • 54 Although the plan of the palace of Knossos is too confused (especially in terms of architectural ph (...)
  • 55 Macdonald 2002, 53, fig. 19.
  • 56 According to Macdonald (2002, 53), “many of the cracked dadoes and stone reliefs were apparently re (...)
  • 57 See Günkel-Maschek in this volume.
  • 58 See Macdonald 2002 and more recently Macdonald 2005 for many new refinements in the architectural p (...)

19To conclude and return to the anachronistic title of this paper, it is possible to state that, in many examples, and whatever their particular functions were, wall paintings were not largely accessible. They adorned rooms of which the permeability and integration were rather low and to which access was easily controlled. So, practices related to these frescoes and painted stuccoes were more segregated (i. e. private in a sense) than inclusive (i. e. public). In most cases, their architectural setting is not particularly well adapted for the hosting of different categories of people which could reach these areas without too many interferences. A glance at the evidence from Akrotiri is very informative. It is interesting to note, for example, that in the West House, a building that has been labeled as typical of the local house model45, the rooms adorned with wall paintings have quite similar configurational properties46 (fig. 18), as already noticed by Palyvou: “The ‘typical Theran House’ […] seems to include a specific room with wall paintings. It is usually situated deep in the fabric of the house, far from the entrance”47. Furthermore, the pole of convergence of the building–the room with the central column–had simple white plastered walls. The model does not exclude variations, however, and in this sense, another well-known building from Akrotiri, Xeste 3, could well have been closer to the exception than the rule. This building presents a very elaborate pictorial programme, developed over a large number of rooms48 with syntactical properties that are entirely different from the aforementioned examples. The building has been interpreted as a civic center of a communal nature, and the profusion of its wall decoration is most likely related to its special status49. With this observation in mind, we may now return to Crete and to Knossos. The palace at Knossos is home to the most elaborate and largest iconographic ensemble on the island50 (fig. 19 and table 3). Its mural paintings represent the most sophisticated and monumental examples of this art, even if–proportionally speaking–the other palaces have as many decorated rooms51. If the decoration programme of Knossos stands out amongst the palaces, it is rather due to its elaboration and iconography than to its profusion. Nevertheless, a quick glance at Knossos plan suffices to realize that–as Xeste 3 for Akrotiri–the spatial context of the frescoes partly departs from the syntactical model proposed here. Even if one admits that Minoan palaces were communal buildings52 and if we treat the peculiar pictorial programme of Xeste 3 as an analogy, this does not explain the unusual elaboration of the iconographic repertoire of Knossos. Blakolmer’s hypothesis, seeing the Knossos relief frescoes as the origin of a Neopalatial iconographic language53, is appealing but, again, does not fully account for the pictorial idiosyncrasies of the palace and even less for the apparently uncommon syntactical properties of several of its rooms adorned with wall paintings54. Indeed, some of the decorated rooms in this palace seem to have been more centrally located in the layout and more closely associated with other rooms55. Therefore, the practices associated with them could well have been less exclusive than in most of our 32 examples. But why is this56? Answering this question requires a detailed reexamination of all decorated rooms of the palace57 and furthermore a full architectural study of the complex architectural phases of the building58, both being far beyond the scope of this paper. We can at least say that this case strengthens the notion of a singular pictorial programme for the palace of Knossos and also of the practices associated with the wall paintings within it.

FIG. 19 Knossos–Location of wall paintings

  • 59 Doumas 2005.
  • 60 Blakolmer 2010 and in this volume.

20Finally, in terms of function, it is worth noting that, in several instances, frescoes at Akrotiri may have been visible from outside59. In our studied examples, the presence of windows is unsecure or totally unknown but it is tempting to propose that–for example–the ‘prestige/social integration’ function could have been effective through the perception of the wall paintings from outside. The ‘ceremonial and ritual’ functions which are often suggested for wall paintings may have necessitated a spatial segregation and control. But glyptic as well as stone and metal vases, sharing the same iconographic repertoire as frescoes and probably influenced by the latter (especially those of Knossos60), may have worked as mobile devices playing a role related to that of wall paintings outside of their immediate and restrictive architectural context.

  • 61 Letesson and Driessen 2008; Letesson 2009.
  • 62 Immerwahr 2000, 488 (my italics).

21This last remark highlights the fact that the study of wall paintings is related to complex and multiple issues, therefore demanding a plural approach. This paper has argued for a new way of understanding the spatial context of wall paintings and therefore of the practices that were related to them. It also takes part in a broad re-thinking of Minoan architecture through space syntax61 and underlines that S. Immerwahr could not have been more right when she wrote that “[…] we cannot view the paintings in isolation, but must consider them as part of the rooms they decorated and see these rooms as part of an architectural complex62.

Tables

Figurative mural paintings (in situ)

Figurative mural paintings (fallen)

Non-figurative mural paintings (in situ)

Non-figurative mural paintings (fallen)

Little Palace–35

Tylissos A–17

House of the Frescoes–H

Tylissos A–17

South House–10

House of the Frescoes–Fallen from Q

Unexplored Mansion–C

Palaikastro B–Upper floor of 10

Nirou Chani–17

House of the Frescoes–Fallen from T

Little Palace–37

Palaikastro B–Upper floor of 13

Zakros Palace–Lustral Basin

Unexplored Mansion–Upper floor of P

Malia Palace–XIX

Pseira AC–Upper floor of west wall of BV1

Unexplored Mansion–Upper floor of L

Malia Palace–XXIV. 1

South House–Upper floor of Lavatory

Malia Epsilon–8

Gournia Palace–Upper floor of 2

Malia Epsilon–10

Pseira AC–Fallen from East wall of AC2

Phaistos Palace–77, 78 and 79

Phaistos Palace–85

Phaistos Palace–niches to the North of CC

Phaistos Palace–81

Phaistos Palace–83 Palaikastro B–21

Palaikastro B–5

Palaikastro B–22

Zakros Palace–Banquet Hall

TABLE 1 Types of wall paintings and their location

TABLE 2 General Table
1 TT = Topological Types
2 MD = Mean Depth
3 RRA = Real Relative Asymmetry (Integration Value).

Table 3 Knossos wall paintings and their location

Bibliographie

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Notes

1 Morgan 2005, 21.

2 E. g. Marinatos 1984; Kontorli-Papadopoulou 1996; Blakolmer 2000; see also various contributions in this volume.

3 Palyvou 2004, 207.

4 Letesson 2009.

5 Blakolmer 2000, 397; 2010, 149–50.

6 Gesell 1985, 19–40; Immerwahr 2000.

7 Blakolmer 2010, 149–50.

8 Cameron 1970, 165; Preziosi 1983, 210 and 213, n. 24; Palyvou 1987, 195; Blakolmer 2000, 397.

9 Palyvou 2005, 161; see also Immerwahr 2000, 488.

10 Driessen 1989–90.

11 Cummer and Schofield 1984, 40–41; Marketou 1996; Schofield 1983; Shaw 1978; 2009, 169–78; Palyvou 1999; 2005, 179–87; Whitelaw 2005.

12 Hillier and Hanson 1984; Hillier 1996; Hanson 1998.

13 See amongst others: Bonanno et al. 1990; Cunningham 2001; Cutting 2003; 2006; Fisher 2009; Foster 1989; Romanou 2007; Thaler 2005.

14 Hillier 1996, 251; Hanson 1998, 6.

15 Letesson 2009.

16 This concept is rather similar to Palyvou’s Aegean House Model and its idiomatic variations; see Palyvou 2005, 170.

17 Hanson 1998, 285.

18 See Letesson 2009, 330–55.

19 Kontorli-Papadopoulou 1996, 49–50; Immerwahr 1990, 179–80.

20 Kontorli-Papadopoulou 1996, 50–51; Immerwahr 1990, 180–81.

21 Kontorli-Papadopoulou 1996, 39–49; Immerwahr 1990, 170–79; Hood 2000a; 2005.

22 Hazzidakis 1934, 30–31 and 35.

23 Shaw 2009, 150–52.

24 Popham 1984, 105.

25 Hillier 1996, 318–20.

26 Hillier 1996, 323–24; Letesson 2009, 9–10.

27 A chi-square test for independence is applied to the analysis of two categorical variables from a single population. It is used to determine whether there is a significant association between the two variables. For example, in an election survey, voters might be classified by gender (male or female) and voting preference (Democrat, Republican, or Independent). A chi-square test for independence could be used to determine whether gender is related to voting preference. Our test was based on the following contingency table, with a level of significance of 0.05 and a degree of freedom of 3.
Image 10000000000000C80000008F9F374849.jpg

28 Hillier and Hanson 1984, 108–10 and 151–52; Hillier 1996, 35–38; Hanson 1998, 27–32.

29 Turner 2001; 2004.

30 Turner 2004, 14–15.

31 Hillier and Hanson 1984, 109.

32 Turner 2001, 6–7; 2004, 16–17.

33 Turner 2004, 16–17.

34 These illustrations are not included in this paper but can be consulted in Letesson 2009: Gournia Palace (fig. 364d); House of the Frescoes (fig. 81d); Little Palace (fig. 102d); South House (fig. 90d); Unexplored Mansion (fig. 113d); Malia House Epsilon (fig. 236d); Malia Palace (fig. 163d); Nirou Chani (fig. 143d); Phaistos Palace (fig. 270d); Palaikastro–B (fig. 473d); Palaikastro–5 (fig. 452d); Pseira–BS/BV (fig. 600d); Tylissos–A (fig. 36e); Zakros Palace (fig. 510d).

35 As in the case of the syntactical features of the decorated rooms of the palace of Knossos, presumably the model for Neopalatial wall paintings elsewhere (Blakolmer 2010, 155).

36 Chapouthier and Joly 1936, 21–22, pl. IV. 2; MacGillivray et al. 2000, 40.

37 Popham 1984, 140–41 and 146–47.

38 MacGillivray et al. 2000, 94–96.

39 Blakolmer 2010, 152.

40 Blakolmer 2010, 155.

41 ‘Egalitarian’ in the sense of equal access to and rights over these spaces.

42 Hillier and Hanson 1984, 145: “[…] a spatial solidarity […] builds links with other members of the group not by analogy or isolation–as transpatial solidarity does–but by contiguity and encounter. […] Encounters have to be generated, not limited, and this implies the weakening of restrictions at and within the boundary. A spatial solidarity would be undermined, not strengthened, by isolation.”

43 Hillier and Hanson 1984, 145: “A solidarity will be transpatial to the extent that it […] emphasizes the discreteness of the interior by strong control of the boundary. […] The essence of a transpatial solidarity lies in the local reproduction of a structure recognizably identical to that of other members of the group. Such a solidarity requires the segregating effect of the boundary to preserve interior structure from uncontrolled incursion. Solidarity means in this case the reproduction of an identical pattern by individuals who remain spatially separated from each other, as well as from the surrounding world.”

44 Letesson and Driessen 2008.

45 Palyvou 2005, 45–46.

46 For more detailed information on the spatial syntax of the West House see Letesson 2009, 305–8.

47 Palyvou 2005, 184.

48 See Palyvou in this volume.

49 Doumas 2005, 76–78; Palyvou 2005, 61; Vlachopoulos 2008.

50 Blakolmer 2010, 150.

51 Blakolmer 1995, 464, pl. LVa. In Blakolmer’s paper, various types of decoration are taken into account, from frescoes to stuccoes, whether on the walls or on floors. Adding floor stuccoes clearly raises the number of decorated rooms in Malia, Phaistos and Zakros without really affecting the proportions at Knossos.

52 See various contributions in Driessen et al. 2002; Letesson 2009, 351–57.

53 Blakolmer 2010.

54 Although the plan of the palace of Knossos is too confused (especially in terms of architectural phases) for space syntax analysis to be applied efficiently, it is immediately obvious that some of its decorated rooms are not as secluded and segregated as the majority of the 32 examples presented in this paper.

55 Macdonald 2002, 53, fig. 19.

56 According to Macdonald (2002, 53), “many of the cracked dadoes and stone reliefs were apparently replaced with plaster and some new rubble walls were rendered with plaster and, in certain instances, with large-scale frescoes in more public places, perhaps with a view to emphasizing the control exercised by the elite over major religious ceremonies and even to communicate their power more clearly to foreign visitors”.

57 See Günkel-Maschek in this volume.

58 See Macdonald 2002 and more recently Macdonald 2005 for many new refinements in the architectural phasing of the palace.

59 Doumas 2005.

60 Blakolmer 2010 and in this volume.

61 Letesson and Driessen 2008; Letesson 2009.

62 Immerwahr 2000, 488 (my italics).

Notes de fin

1 I am very grateful to Diamantis Panagiotopoulos and Ute Günkel-Maschek for their invitation to take part in the Minoan Realities conference as well as for their hospitality. I also greatly appreciated the comments and good criticisms of the participants at the conference. Special thanks to Jan Driessen and Carl Knappett for their advice and corrections, and to Vincent Guffens for his invaluable help on statistic matters. Any remaining errors are all my own.

Table des illustrations

Légende FIG. 1 Topological types
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Légende FIG. 2 Visual integration caption
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Légende FIG. 3 Gournia–Palace
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Légende FIG. 4 Knossos–House of the Frescoes
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Légende FIG. 5 Knossos–Little Palace
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Légende FIG. 6 Knossos–South House
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Légende FIG. 7 Knossos–Unexplored Mansion
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Légende FIG. 8 Malia–House Epsilon
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Légende FIG. 9 Malia–Palace
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Légende FIG. 10 Nirou Chani
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Légende FIG. 11 Phaistos–Palace
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Légende FIG. 12 Palaikastro–House B
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Légende FIG. 13 Palaikastro–Building 5
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Légende FIG. 14 Pseira–‘Shrine’ (House AC)
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Légende FIG. 15 Pseira–‘Plateia Building’ (BS/BV)
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Légende FIG. 16 Tylissos–Building A
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2837/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 288k
Légende FIG. 17 Zakros–Palace
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2837/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 360k
Légende FIG. 18 Akrotiri–West House
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2837/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 372k
Légende FIG. 19 Knossos–Location of wall paintings
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2837/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 364k
Légende TABLE 2 General Table1 TT = Topological Types2 MD = Mean Depth3 RRA = Real Relative Asymmetry (Integration Value).
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2837/img-20.jpg
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Légende Table 3 Knossos wall paintings and their location
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2837/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 548k

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