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Minoan Realities

 | 
Diamantis Panagiotopoulos
, 
Ute Günkel-Maschek

Chercher la femme1: Identifying Minoan Gender Relations in the Built Environment

Jan Driessen

Texte intégral

  • 1 Inspired by ‘cherchez la femme’, a famous phrase coined by Alexandre Dumas, Les Mohicans de Paris (...)
  • 1 Driessen 2010a; 2010b; 2011.
  • 2 Spain 1992, 22; Blumberg 1984.
  • 3 Georgoudi 1992; Eller 2000; 2005; Eisler 1988, 38; Weinbaum 1999, 71; Hand 2003; Stone 1976, 46.
  • 4 See Evans 1930, 58: “a sign of female predominance characteristic of the matriarchal stage” and ag (...)
  • 5 Voss 2007, 56.
  • 6 Barber Wayland 1994.
  • 7 Driessen et al. 2008, 102.
  • 8 Evans 1902, 94 for the identification of women’s chambers on the basis of loom weights in the sout (...)
  • 9 Alexandri 1994; Nikolaidou 2002, 81.

1The brief we were given for this workshop was to start off with theory and then approach the visual and architectural remains. So this paper implies a very large ‘what if?’ related to Minoan social structure. What if Minoan society was, till the advanced Neopalatial period, a mainly matrilineal and matrilocal House society? The basic premise of this paper, as has been argued elsewhere1, is that an intergenerational investment by a corporate group in an estate constituted by an architectural structure, its domain, its heirlooms and valuables formed the basis of Minoan social relations. The implication is that society was essentially composed not of nuclear families (although these also existed) but of larger groups which stood in an intimate relationship to a residential structure that even in its physical appearance played an important social role. Since matrilocal residence is recurrent in ethnographically attested cases of House societies, and matrilocal societies frequently have significantly larger dwellings than patrilocal societies, I argued that this could explain the considerable size of Minoan residences from the Neolithic onwards. This would then imply that membership of the residential group would have been traced through the female line with, after marriage, the woman continuing to reside in the house where she was born but her husband moving in with her. In general, matrilineal descent and matrilocal residence are considered as allowing a higher status to women since the bride remains in her original residence from which she draws economical and social support2. It is certainly not my intention to argue for some kind of matriarchate or a society dominated by women as has often been done in the past or in New Age literature3 and as Evans assumed at some stage4. To the contrary, in most cases of matriliny, men wield the power and it is especially the brother of a woman (i. e. the mother’s brother) rather than her husband who is the most important male. Indeed, he is a respected person of authority, and the children of his sister, rather than his own children, are his heirs and successors. This is stressed by the attention given to the representation of men–young, muscular and occupied by hunting, boxing, bull sports and what Voss calls “strategic clothing that highlights the penis as it conceals it”5. This suggests a concern with homoerotic display for socially dominant males. A matrilineal descent-matrilocal residence society does imply, however, that women had a special position and were involved in certain aspects of public life. This paper is therefore not concerned with day-to-day female occupations6 and their architectural context, although this too seems a promising avenue to pursue especially for the advanced Bronze Age. We have attempted to explore this briefly elsewhere, especially where Postpalatial Quartier Nu at Malia is concerned7, and, starting with Evans8, others have, on the basis of particular archaeological features such as loom weights or kitchen equipment, attempted to reconstruct areas in which women were especially occupied on a less mundane basis9.

1. Public female roles

  • 10 Alberti 2001; 2002.
  • 11 Chapin 2007; 2011.
  • 12 Kopaka 2009b.
  • 13 Marinatos 1987; 1989.
  • 14 Nikolaidou 2002.
  • 15 Rehak 1998.
  • 16 Kopaka 2009a.
  • 17 See references in Chapin 2007, 140; Alberti 2001; 2002.
  • 18 Morris 2009, 246–47.

2I am hence especially interested in the environment and setting of public female roles. I feel strengthened in this type of quest by the recent work of Alberti10, Chapin11, Kopaka12, Marinatos13, Nikolaidou14, and Rehak15, to mention only a few. Gender relations were indeed high on the agenda of a conference just published as Aegaeum volume 30 FYLO. Engendering Prehistoric ‘Stratigraphies’ in the Aegean and the Mediterranean16, and there are now even suggestions for the existence of transgendered individuals such as white bull leapers17. Most contributors to the FYLO volume emphasized how motherhood was not deemed important as a topic for Minoan iconography and that erotic depictions are also generally lacking from Minoan art. Naked breasts, however, could conceivably convey the latter18.

  • 19 Sakellarakis and Sapouna-Sakellaraki 1997, 185; cf. also Whitley 1996 for interesting remarks.
  • 20 Davaras 1975, 114; Maggidis 1994, 81; but see Soles 1988, 61, n. 3.
  • 21 See my argument in Driessen 2010b.
  • 22 D’Agata 1999; 2005.
  • 23 Koehl 2006, 18.
  • 24 Wingerath 1995.
  • 25 Nörling 1995.
  • 26 Blakolmer 2010.
  • 27 Peatfield 2007; Lewis-Williams and Pearce 2005.

3Evidence for public roles carried out by women is unfortunately rather limited. Funerary data are either absent or suspect and only from LM II onwards can we see that some women had special status in society as best illustrated by one of the Archanes burials19. Some have argued that the Prepalatial gold diadems such as those found at Mochlos were carried by women and hence the tombs in which they were found could have been occupied by high status females20. I am more hesitant on this because there is evidence to show that many valuable objects did not accompany the dead on burial but were offered at secondary deposition, and represent group concerns rather than personal status21. On the basis of evidence from some Postpalatial tombs, A.-L. D’Agata suggested that kylikes may have been used by males and champagne cups by females22 and it is more than likely that some specific objects were considered gendered during particular ceremonies, but very little work has been done on this for Minoan Crete. There is, of course, a series of rhytons especially dating to the Pre-and Protopalatial periods23, that carry female attributes and may have had some link with fertility which at least seem to stress a female rather than a male element in specific rituals. All this is highly suggestive but does not bring us very far. We are on firmer ground when it comes to iconography and architecture, with convenient corpora made by Wingerath24 and Nörling25 where the iconography of the human figure and architecture is concerned. There is a proviso, however. All authors underline the almost sudden arrival of figurative frescoes in Minoan art26. This is evidently also repeated in other types of artistic impressions since human figures are extremely rare before the Neopalatial period, apart from terracotta votives. One of the reasons could be that taboos existed on such representations, especially of the divine, or–and I would rather opt for this solution–that humanised divine figures were a late arrival on the Minoan scene, replacing ancestor cults, on the one hand, and being incorporated into existing shamanistic rituals27, on the other. In any case, the implication is that iconographic evidence that may illuminate us especially relates to the Neopalatial period.

1.1. The Room of the Lady Seat

  • 28 Cf. Gere 2009, 77–82.
  • 29 Evans 1900, 38.
  • 30 Evans 1900, 42, n. 1.
  • 31 Cf. Koehl 1995, 25–26; Warren 1985, 102, both opting for a ‘chief priestess’ as a ruler.
  • 32 Evans 1901, 31.

4We may perhaps start with a little historiography28. Evans, brought up in Victorian England, varied between a very pro-women position to one that may be described as almost misogynistic. From the very first season of excavations at Knossos, he already gendered some of the architectural spaces he discovered: the presence of a fine gypsum seat in the so-called Throne Room as against a seat “in which the hollowed space was larger” in a nearby room made him decide that the latter “was intended for a woman, while the seat of the throne seems better adapted for a man”29 (fig. 1). Evans’ Victorian attitudes need not concern us here but in a footnote of the same report, he adds that the popularity of female iconography could “favour the view that a queen had occupied the throne”30, an alternative then preferred by his German colleague Wolters, but dismissed by Evans himself because “the masks on the royal tombs of Mycenae were of the male sex”31. Hence the Room of the Lady Seat was born and a duality in gender introduced within Minoan architecture. The next season, a similarly hollowed-out seat was found in another room nearby and “therefore belonging to a person of the female sex, the Mycenaean women, as distinguished from the men, being often depicted in a more or less squatting attitude”32 (fig. 2).

Fig. 1 Madame Lambert, a Belgian socialite, receiving honours on the throne at Knossos in 1901 (© Archives of the City of Brussels, Fonds Charles Buls, Farde 42, Photo 1207; Piette 2008, 175)

  • 33 Evans 1902, 45.
  • 34 Evans 1902, 45.

5When, in 1902, the Domestic Quarter at Knossos was explored, Evans was convinced to have found “the centres of domestic and family life of the Palace”33, adding that there was no question of “a rigorous separation of the sexes in the ‘House of Minôs’”34.

Fig. 2 Sketch of the Room of the Lady Seat as published in Evans 1901, 33, fig. 11

  • 35 Evans 1902, 45 (my italics).

6Close to the Hall of the Double Axes, “the distinctive name of the ‘Queen’s megaron’ has been accordingly given here to the most stately withdrawing room of this region35. The report, published 20 years later in Palace of Minos, repeats the argument:

  • 36 Evans 1930, 296.

“A strong suspicion must exist that this Upper Hall, with its private stairs leading to the ‘Queen’s Megaron’ below–itself, as will be shown, of feminine association–was a large, semi-public withdrawing room largely devoted to women’s use. It would have been thus a necessary complement to the Hall below, the prevailing male character of which, as we have seen, asserted itself in the suspended shields. There are many reasons for believing that harem life in the Oriental sense was unknown to the Minoans, but though, as we see from the groups of women among the men who crowd the front enclosure of the Grand Stands of the Miniature Frescoes, the intermixing of the sexes was to a certain extent customary, we find the ladies entitled to the honorary seclusion of front seats. There was thus a partial and regulated segregation of the two sexes.”36

  • 37 Evans 1930, 296, n. 1.
  • 38 Evans 1902, 50.
  • 39 Evans 1902, 65.
  • 40 Lawrence 1957, 39.
  • 41 Graham 1962, 84, 88, 92–93.

7It should be added that the ‘feminine association’ alluded to by Evans was based on the “proportionally lower benches”37 whereas in the Annual of 1902 it was still “there is no reason to suppose that the benches in the Queen’s Megaron were reserved specially for women”38. It can be suspected (but was never explicitly stated) that two famous frescoes found here, that of the Dancing Girl and the Dolphin Fresco, as well as part of a moulded relief bird and the presence of a fragmentary bathtub originally assumed to come from a small room decorated with veined gypsum and spiral fresco, similar in size and plan to already known lustral basins but without being sunken, helped Evans in his interpretation to see this part of the palace as reserved for women. This was reinforced by what he assumed to be a toilet in one of the inner rooms and by the presence of peculiar mason’s marks identified as distaffs seen as “a distinguishing mark of the chambers somewhat specially set apart for women”39. He was not always followed in this interpretation. Lawrence40, for example, already reacted against the naming of the ‘Queen’s Megaron’: “The name is totally unjustifiable. There is, in fact, no indication that they were specifically women’s quarters; they were little more secluded than the others”. But in a major study on Minoan architecture by J. W. Graham, Evans’ ideas were largely maintained41. Graham proposed that a separation between the sexes existed and suggested that the Minoan Hall, a very Minoan way of opening a space and sometimes attested more than once in a single architectural structure, might have been used exclusively by one or the other sex. Hence his identification of a Men’s Hall and a Women’s Hall in a series of prestigious buildings (table 1).

Site

Men’s Hall

Women’s Hall

Knossos Palace

Hall of Double Axes

Queen’s Hall

Phaistos Palace

Rooms 77–79; Rooms 63–64

Room 81; Room 63b

Malia Palace

Room III7

Room III1

Zakros Palace

Room XXXVIII

Room XXXVI

Hagia Triada Villa

Rooms 3–12

Room 13

Knossos Little Palace

Main Hall system

Absent

Malia House Da

Room 3

Room 6

Malia House Za

Room 12

Room 5

Nirou Chani

Room 2a

Room 5

Tylissos A

Room 6

Absent

Tylissos C

Room 15

Room 14

Table 1 Men and Women’s Halls in Minoan Architecture (based on Graham 1962)

  • 42 Graham 1962, 86.
  • 43 Graham 1962, 87–88, n. 5.

8How he arrived at this interpretation is not specifically stated. We learn that he thought the halls were best suited to be living quarters and “more simply, and to bring it into line with the similar rooms in the other palaces, we may term it the Men’s Hall, for such it must have been, though this is not meant to exclude the probability that women also used the room”42. A similar observation is made for the Women’s Hall: “This and the attached rooms were no doubt not exclusively used by the women […] but since they must have been used particularly by the women we may, for the sake of convenience, continue to employ the terms ‘Queen’s’ or ‘Women’s Hall’, or ‘Apartments’”43. Graham further notes:

  • 44 Graham 1962, 93.

“It is evident that the living quarters in the Minoan palaces follow the general pattern of contemporary Cretan houses of the well-to-do classes, though of course on a larger and more luxurious scale–or should we say that the houses ape the palaces in this respect? One is left with the impression that the design of the royal apartments was based on long experience and on a fine understanding of, and regard for, the needs of the two sexes in their domestic relationships.”44

9In a way, Evans and Graham were both trying to gender architectural space but focussing exclusively on domestic rather than ceremonial contexts. Even the appellation Domestic Quarter or Residential Quarter betrays their traditional way of thinking of Minoan society as made up of kings and queens, necessitating private apartments in the royal residences or elite buildings.

  • 45 E. g. Doumas 2000.
  • 46 E. g. Palyvou 1987.
  • 47 Blakolmer 2010.
  • 48 Marinatos 1989.
  • 49 Marinatos 1987.
  • 50 Marinatos 1987, 23.
  • 51 Marinatos 1987, 25.
  • 52 Wingerath 1995, 153.
  • 53 Zeimbekis 2009, 151–52.

10Since these views were published, more research has been done on the divisions in age and gender that characterise Minoan and especially Theran society45 and several studies have concentrated on the internal organisation of Minoan structures46 so we can perhaps look at this problem again. Before returning to gendered space, it is perhaps appropriate to summarise the work of some scholars addressing iconographic evidence first. Blakolmer has first stressed that frescoes and colored wall paintings in general are never used ‘discriminately’ but always to reinforce a ritual and ceremonial function47. This is corroborated by other specialists and in particular by N. Marinatos to whom we owe some enlightening papers on the representation of women such as The Minoan Harem48 and Role and Sex Division in Ritual Scenes of Aegean Art49. She already stressed that “the sexes almost never mingle in the performance of ritual. Women and men are segregated and perform their cult activities separately. This suggests that there were role divisions which were accentuated in the ritual sphere”50. Marinatos underlined that the spectators in the Sacred Grove and Dance fresco, for example, consisted of intermingling men and women whereas the moment either of them were involved in ritual action, they no longer mixed51 (fig. 3). Men, of course, also participated in rituals but these are of a different nature and context altogether and do not concern us here. For Marinatos, this meant that gender was determinative in structuring Minoan society. H. Wingerath was less convinced but also underlined that each gender seems to have had its own rituals, women specifically cult dances, men specifically bull leaping and tribute bearing, but both being as important in the realm of iconography52. M. Zeimbekis also stressed how “relations between men and women varied significantly from one ritual and cultural context to another–each with its own set of rules about correct ‘bodily comportment’ for these genders”53.

Fig. 3 Reconstruction drawing of the Sacred Grove and Dance fresco from Knossos, clearly separating genders among participants and spectators (redrawn by D. Riccardi-Percy)

11And, in a paper for the 10th Cretological Congress at Chania entitled Gender and Coalitional Power in the Miniature Frescoes of Crete, A. Chapin also concludes that:

  • 54 Chapin 2011, 519.

“the evidence for gendered social relations depicted in the miniature frescoes from Knossos and Thera suggests that Aegean power and authority relied on coalitional success. When the active players are women, the successful group is depicted in an egalitarian manner consistent with average female relations, and when men dominate the action, the coalitions appear to be hierarchical and competitive. Yet neither male nor female forms of gendered social relations express authority individually. No image of a king or queen emerges from the study of Aegean miniature frescoes. Rather, power and prestige in Aegean Neopalatial society seem to derive from the strength of its successful coalitions.”54

  • 55 Compare with Reeves Sanday 2002; Mathieu 2003.
  • 56 Zeimbekis 2009, 152.
  • 57 Wingerath 1995, 151.
  • 58 Webb 2002, 93.
  • 59 For some examples, however, see Nikolaidou 2002, 88–89.

12Indeed, the iconographic evidence suggests that women, and perhaps especially senior women, possessed agency and authority in public ceremonies55. What is interesting for our purpose is that these gendered differences allow us to focus on the actual loci of ceremonial activities56. Wingerath’s study on the human figure in Minoan art underlined that women occur in iconography only in ritual and ceremonial aspects, never in situations of common life as men do57. This is, for example, a serious difference between Crete and Bronze Age Cyprus where representational data were used by J. Webb to show how women were represented as “active agents in one or other of three major capacities–as lovers or partners, as mothers (or child-minders) and as a source of productive labor”58. Indeed, on Cyprus, all representations of grinding, pounding, baking and perhaps pot-making involve women. Such representational evidence can then be checked with artefacts and facilities within the residences to identify gender relations. The absence (or scarcity)59 of such imagery on Minoan Crete does not mean that women did not engage in these activities of course but that they were not deemed important enough to be represented whereas ceremonial activities were. If then our iconographic evidence shows women in action in ritual contexts separate from men, why not try to find ritual distinctions also in public and semi-public buildings, in the actual loci of ceremonial activities. Were there gendered ritual environments as seems suggested by the iconographic evidence?

1.2. Women in Action

  • 60 Cf. Garfunkel 2003; Liveri 2008.
  • 61 Shaw 1972.
  • 62 Cf. Letesson and Vansteenhuyse 2006, 104.
  • 63 Evans 1902, 111.

13What seems clear from Minoan iconographic evidence is that ritual actions very often took place outside, with architectural and natural elements especially forming a background or a frame for the performance. Indeed, performance seems to be the key word, since dancing may have been one of the major ceremonies in which women were involved60. Performances most often involve observers or a public which was at least passively engaged, and the rituals were meant to impress a crowd. The miniature fresco from Tylissos illustrates this point but many dozens of examples exist61. The association between women and raised walks, as suggested by one of the miniature frescoes may imply that the West Court (as most assume62) or the Theatral Area (as Evans proposed63), formed one of the prime stages for performative ceremonies in which specific women played a major role but at which also other men and women assisted, either as spectators or as minor players. Most other scenes, either on rings, sealstones or frescoes involving women seem to take place either in the middle of nature as suggested by specific natural elements (trees, rocks), or with architectural facades and portals as backdrops. The same may be said for women and men involved in bull-leaping rituals. Scenes involving women taking place inside are, however, more difficult to find.

  • 64 Militello 1998.
  • 65 Shaw 1998, 73–75.
  • 66 Niemeier 1989.
  • 67 Driessen and Sakellarakis 1997.

14We may draw attention to the tripartite platform on which the Akrotiri goddess is seated. A similar platform has been reconstructed for the Hagia Triada goddess64 and could be also suggested for a missing goddess originally associated with the Amnissos frescoes or perhaps for the one from Pseira65. Some seals also show such a platform66. It is a possibility (but no more than that) that this tripartite platform had a connection with the tripartite shrine, as shown by the miniature fresco, perhaps by the Zakros rhyton, the Mycenae and Volos gold plaques and, as I believe, the archaeological remains at Vathypetro and Mitropolis-Kannia67.

FIG. 4 Reconstruction drawing of the Grand Stand Fresco from Knossos, clearly stressing females among participants and spectators (redrawn by D. Riccardi-Percy)

  • 68 Reusch 1958.
  • 69 Niemeier 1986.

15A link with women is suggested (at least by some reconstructions) by the importance given to the female participants in the Grand Stand Fresco (fig. 4). We could at least suspect that in real life women also played a special role in such architectural contexts. Again, the presence of natural elements, courts and especially large crowds may imply that these ceremonies too happened especially often outside. The connection between heraldically posed animals and thrones is regarded by some, starting with Reusch68, as evidence that the Throne Room at Knossos (and perhaps elsewhere) served for the enactment of rituals centring around the Minoan Goddess during which a priestess took place on the throne which, I remind you, Evans attributed to Minos, because too small to fit a female bottom69! From this brief review, it seems clear, however, that women had a special role either as participants or spectators in particular religious ceremonies that were held in the open either in the countryside or in close association with monumental public architecture.

  • 70 See the discussion by Laffineur 2005.
  • 71 Cf. Shaw 1998, 67–72.

16Ceremonial scenes involving women possibly taking place inside are more difficult to find. That a specific architectural environment was sometimes intended where men are concerned, is suggested by the discrete presence of encoded features like pillars, as on the Boxer Rhyton from Hagia Triada70. Where women are concerned, there are several frescoes that show women, especially of larger scale, without sufficient detail around them preserved as to be useful (e. g. Women in Blue, Dancing Girl, etc.71) but there are also a few representations, especially from Knossos, showing women behind balustrades, in windows or on balconies (figs. 5a–b).

Fig. 5 a: Knossos: fragment found in the North Fresco Heap (after Evans 1928, 602, fig. 375); b: fragment from the Area of the Miniature Frescoes shows a standing woman on the balcony of a structure (after Evans 1928, 603, fig. 376)

  • 72 Evans 1928, 603, fig. 376; 1930, 59, fig. 35.
  • 73 Shaw 1996.

17The first fragment, from the North Fresco Heap, shows three women standing behind some kind of an opening, framed by wooden bars. Another fragment from the Area of the Miniature Frescoes shows a standing woman on the balcony of a structure72. The latter fragment is interesting in showing architectural details that recur elsewhere, without women associated. Assuming that these representations depict specific ceremonies, it is most likely that these women represent spectators of bull leaping scenes, as M. Shaw has argued on the basis of evidence from Mycenae, in close connection with a tripartite shrine73 (fig. 6). So even such scenes seem indirectly linked with performances taking place outside.

Fig. 6 Reconstruction drawing of the Fresco from the Ramp House of Mycenae, stressing females among participants of bull games (after Shaw 1996, pl. B3)

2. The House in Action

  • 74 Grøn 1991, 7.

“The Bushmen […] have the rule that the fire in front of their huts has a male and a female side. Males should sit on the male side and females on the female side […]. Such conceptions of space are not confined to foreign cultures. Our churches were not long ago organized with a male and a female side, as well as a sacral end (the choir) opposed to a profane end.”74

  • 75 Goldberg 1999; Antonaccio 2000; Joyce 2008, 85.

18Recent research on Classical Athens has shown that, rather than an assumed division between women’s quarters and andron–the men’s quarter–, most plans should now be interpreted as reflecting a separation between a reception space and a household space, often with a separate entrance75 with the first used by resident and visiting males, the second by resident males and females. Still and although we cannot be sure that the Minoan iconographic evidence relating to out-door space activities and rules that engaged participants in extra-mural actions were the same as those directing intra-house relationships, I would think, on the basis of anthropological parallels, that it is relatively safe to assume that the gender separation we observe during outside rituals was maintained to some degree during in-house ceremonies. The domestic sphere was, in most societies, the prime

  • 76 Balakrishna Menon 1998, 70.

“arena for age and sex roles, for forging kin solidarity, for socialization and economic cooperation. It is therefore, apparent that, beyond possibilities offered by the design and furnishing of rooms for the spatial and temporal ordering of domestic activities, the way different households organize household chores, both routine and ceremonial, is related to gender, age, socio-economic status and kinship structure of the inhabitants and their interpretation of roles, routines and rituals. The household’s choice in turn, is circumscribed by the larger external socioeconomic order. This is then manifested in the overall settlement morphology.”76

  • 77 Cf. Hood 1997.
  • 78 For a list see Gesell 1985.

19This would imply that public performances were, to some measure, the reflection of what happened at a smaller scale. The implication is that Minoan residential structures were likewise used to stage specific ceremonies. This was already noticed by Evans, especially when remarking the presence of portable ritual objects and permanent installations in a series of Knossian domestic buildings77. Spaces in which such features have been encountered are usually identified as domestic shrines78. This seems somewhat reductive since there is little reason to see a separation within Minoan society between the religious and the secular. Seeing residential structures as having multiple identities is certainly more appropriate. Letesson argues that

  • 79 Letesson this volume p. 29.

“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.”79

  • 80 Letesson this volume p. 48.
  • 81 Palyvou 1987.
  • 82 Romanou 2007.
  • 83 Letesson 2005; 2009; Letesson and Driessen 2008.

20Moreover he underlines that “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”80. The similarity between circulation patterns in palatial buildings and domestic structures as noted especially by Palyvou81, Romanou82 and Letesson83, suggests that the performance of rituals was essential for both types of construction. As much as there was a continuum between different scales of architectural forms, there must have been a ritual continuum. In her innovative study of Batammaliba architecture in Africa, Preston Blier notes how, when certain funeral ceremonies have to be performed within and around the house:

  • 84 Preston Blier 1987, 173.

“the role of architecture is critical because the house serves as staging for much of the action [...]. Batammaliba houses, in their roles as performance staging areas, utilize their diverse identities to give deeper meaning to the dramatic action taking place within them. Each house’s theatrical role in turn impacts on its nontheatrical functioning because its dramaturgical associations are retained long after the performance has concluded [...]. [The] house in its residential features utilizes a variety of domestic chambers for the action sequences of each performance. Before each drama begins, the house furnishings and animals are removed to other family residences; for all but dramatic purposes, the house ceases to function as a domicile. So important is this theatrical role for each house that key design features are incorporated into it in anticipation of its role as performance stage [...]. Architectural structure, in other words, complements key features of performance structure.”84

21Or likewise

  • 85 Lewis-Williams and Pearce 2005, 65.

“Something similar is experienced by the Desana of South America when they drink a brew made from the hallucinogenic vine yajé. The house becomes the universe during the ritual so that the men’s door becomes the eastern entrance to the earth we inhabit. The house is thus transformed by people’s altered consciousness; what they had built for daily use becomes an exemplar of the cosmos and movement through it becomes equivalent to movement through the cosmos.”85

  • 86 Cf. Preston Blier 1987; Gero and Conkey 1991; Spain 1992, 11; LeMoine 2003; Lewis-Williams and Pea (...)

22If Minoan residential structures were indeed stages for performances, are we allowed to look for female and/or male architectural contexts for the performance of such ceremonies, whether or not combined with or in contrast to normal domestic activities where this separation may or may not have been maintained? There are plenty of anthropological parallels illustrating how residential structures, especially those that fulfil a special function in society, are composed of a male and a female part, often with a central, axial corridor, as the quote which opens this paragraph illustrates86. Those parts are meant to cooperate to make the household viable.

  • 87 Preston Blier 1987, 90.

“Each house is divided down the middle into two symbolically separate sections. The right (north) side of the house (i. e., that side closest to one’s right hand when one is positioned inside the house’s doorway facing out [toward the west] is associated with women. The left (south) side of the house, again as defined when one looks out from the house portal, is identified with men [...]. On the female side of the house are located the female granary, the female crops, the shrines of game animals killed by women, and the shrine of the women’s initiation god. On the male (south) side of the house are located the men’s granary, the male crops, the shrines of the wild game killed by men, and the shrines of the men’s initiation and war gods. Each house, in its structure and organization of space, honors Kuiye by incorporating a key dimension of the god’s physiognomy, the division into male and female parts.”87

  • 88 Brusasco 2004, 152.
  • 89 Balakrishna Menon 1998, 120.

23Anthropological research has shown how the societal make-up can be read in the plan of the residential structures. Brusasco, for example, notes for a typical matrilocal society such as that of the Ashanti, that the female residential quarters (32, 58) were located in the shallowest space (meaning closest to the outside) “and are thus strongly oriented towards the external relations whereas the chief male residential areas (27, 33, 34, 51) are far more integrated with the inside than with the outer world”88. On the other hand, from a study of the Nair, it is obvious that male-oriented spaces are located on the outside since here women rule in-house relations and rituals89 (fig. 7).

  • 90 Balakrishna Menon 1998, 131–32.
  • 91 Palyvou 2005, 132–36; Driessen 2005, 88.

24The house was also the first object that was transferred as inheritance to women and “became the primary setting for reinforcing spatially the unique position that women of the community held”90. Moreover, apart from the most important male in Nair society (the brother of the most important woman), who lives in the residence, other men usually live elsewhere (duolocal) and visit the residence at night which is why many of these residences are characterised by a staircase leading to sleeping areas from the outside. Incidentally, the immediate access from outside to staircases is also something remarked for Minoan architecture and may possibly indicate two types of users, one external, one internal91. Especially characteristic for the Nair but also for many other matrilineal social systems is the ritual and ceremonial role of the residence with the physical structure at the same time being the symbol and the screen against which the solidarity of its members was expressed through many collective ceremonies and rituals. The longevity and size of the residence both underline the intergenerational and corporate nature of this association.

Fig. 7 Plan of a Nair House (India), showing male (green) and female (orange) related spaces (after Balakrishna Menon 1998, 121, fig. 4.23)

25If Minoan society stands a chance of being a matrilineal and matrilocal House society, as I have argued, the implication would be that, within some large structures, different related women (sisters especially) should live together with different non-related men (the husbands of these sisters). Moreover, since the residential structure would have been inherited through the female line, the central ritual aspect of the building may well have been related to female in-house ceremonies with gender specific rituals being practiced in some of the major Minoan domestic buildings. This does not mean that men and women led separate lives within the residences, but that the ceremonial function of the residence may have been foremost linked to female performances. The implication is that in smaller residences which had less developed ceremonial functions, men and women did not lead segregated lives. Moreover, since public male-and female-oriented rituals seem relatively distinctive with especially bull-leaping, tribute bearing and perhaps communal drinking for men and dances and sacrifices especially for women, the architectural settings of performances within the residences may also have been distinctively different.

  • 92 Kopaka 2009b, esp. 186.
  • 93 Marinatos 1984, 74.
  • 94 Gesell 2000, 955.
  • 95 Platonos 1990.
  • 96 Driessen 1982; 1999; Palyvou 1987.
  • 97 Cf. Wilson 2008.

26If we combine the hypothesis of a matrilocal, matrilineal House society with the fact that many Minoan residential structures had an obvious semi-public nature and were ritually charged, we may conceivably explore whether certain larger Minoan structures were internally separated into gender-specific areas, at least on occasion of certain in-house rituals. Here I return to a recent paper by K. Kopaka in which she draws attention to the existence in certain tribal societies of a woman’s house or menstrual hut92. Following earlier studies by Marinatos who identified blood on the horns depicted in the sunken room of Xeste 3 at Akrotiri93, Kopaka proposes to see the lustral basin as such a menstruation environment, linked to specific rites of fertility. In this case, the iconography, involving women and blood, may reinforce such a hypothesis. There is some evidence that similar practices occurred on Crete since, in the northeast wing at Zakros, red horns decorated at least one of the walls of the lustral basin (fig. 8). Moreover, following Gesell94, we may play with the possibility that lustral basin 63d in the palace of Phaistos also functioned as such since real, red painted miniature horns of consecration were found in this room. M. Platonos already stressed that 16 lustral basins were located near polythyra, seven close to shrines and only two close to palace entrances95. Can we go so far as to suggest that all lustral basins were specifically reserved for women and their initiation rituals? This would have an impact on our reading of the Minoan Hall, the polythyron and the Palaikastro Hall, three types of major architectural spaces that occur in connection to the lustral basin96. Their association with a room specifically used for female rites could imply that they too had such an association. In a sense, I am revamping Graham’s old hypothesis of men’s halls and women’s halls, but I am turning the argument around: Minoan residences were foremost female domains for both ritual and domestic activities centering on lustral basins and associated Minoan halls. Important House groups in general gave attention to ceremonies centring on the female whereas men may have largely been busy in alcohol consumption and bull jumping to put it crudely97.

  • 98 Graham 1975.

27If we use this dichotomy ritual/woman versus consumption/man, this may offer us a hint at the functional organisation of certain larger Minoan residential structures. House A at Tylissos (fig. 9), for example, has a south wing with a Minoan Hall and a lustral basin whereas its north wing may have carried a banqueting hall upstairs above the storerooms. This banqueting hall was immediately approachable from the outside98. Houses Za (fig. 10) and Epsilon at Malia also have lustral basins attached to the more secluded areas whereas other, more easily reachable halls were more public.

Fig. 8 Lustral Basin in the Palace of Zakros: Horns painted red (photo: J. Driessen); Reconstruction drawing (after Platonos 1990, pl. 27B)

  • 99 Olsen 2009.

28Many examples exist in Minoan architecture (e. g. Malia Delta-Alpha, Tylissos Gamma, etc.). In fact, the same contrast used in the palaces between Minoan Hall or polythyron linked to lustral basins as a female area against other large, especially dining-related installations as a men’s area, may allow a different perception of the functional and gender-specific organisation of the palaces where rituals are concerned. At Knossos, for example, a lustral basin is associated with the Throne Room and the Queen’s Megaron, but there is also one in both the northwest and southeast wings, and more than one example also occurs in the palaces of Zakros and Phaistos. The areas usually identified as banqueting halls are all located in different zones of their respective buildings and these are never associated with either lustral basins or Minoan Halls. These specific types of rooms are obviously rather exceptional and are absent from most residential structures that usually show a more simple, less elaborate construction. The implication would then be that control over and participation in specific rituals was not only gender-specific but also exclusive to some corporate House groupings. At all levels, however, gender integration for domestic activities may have been the case. It may be a case in point that, in contrast to Linear B, where specific logograms for men and women have been identified, in Linear A a more generic ‘person’ symbol seems to have been used. It may be only with the Mycenaean-inspired Linear B economy that we encounter specific, segregated work forces of men and women. Still, Olsen underlines the fact that at least some women in the Knossos tablets may have had an independent economic identity in contrast to Pylos99.

3. Conclusions

29The important role of women in ceremonies and rituals as illustrated by Minoan iconography may suggest that gender-specific architectural space for the performance of rituals formed an intrinsic part of the built environment in which social relations took place, both at a public and semi-public/semi-private level. Starting off with a hypothesis of a matrilineal and matrilocal House society, a new reading of some elaborate Minoan residential structures has been suggested, with segregated gender-specific ritual spaces. Some of the specific room types within these structures have been presented as primarily related to female ceremonies, others to male ceremonies. At the same time, it should be stressed that these residential structures formed part of a continuum of ritual expression that also included buildings interpreted as palaces. Moreover, I have underlined the apparent absence of gender segregation where normal domestic functions are concerned and in less elaborate residences.

Fig. 9 House A at Tylissos–Gendering Minoan residential architecture

  • 100 Westgate 2007, 450–51.
  • 101 This in contrast to Pomeroy 1975, 42: “the freedom of the […] women seems to have been a result of (...)
  • 102 Koehl 1997.
  • 103 Driessen 2003.
  • 104 Halbherr 1893, 111.
  • 105 Mosso 1907, 161.
  • 106 Spain 1992, 6.

30A final observation may be given to that wretched institution and chimerical architectural form called the Cretan andreion. Westgate suggests that the simplicity and linear, unsegmented plan of Cretan Classical and Hellenistic houses can be explained by a limited semi-public social function of the residences whereas an “alternative arena for the expression of social roles” existed outside, formed by a communal system centred on the andreion100. Minoan Crete, on the other hand, gave unprecedented attention to a series of residential structures, with complex access and circulation systems. The segregation of men and women and the setting apart of a male-specific architectural environment for communal dining that characterises Archaic Crete more than any other Greek region (apart from Cretan influenced Sparta) could well be a consequence of this earlier, Minoan situation. Despite the presence of male-oriented ritual space within elaborate residences, a consequence of the matrilineal and matrilocal tradition may have been that men were accustomed to unite outside of residential structures which were, especially where ceremonial functions were concerned, primarily the domain of women101. Koehl argued for something similar, tracing the origin of the andreion back to the Minoan period102. He hypothesised the existence of a dining and sleeping hall–andreion and koimeterion–in the villas of Hagia Triada and Nirou Chani. Although his hypothesis has its merits–especially by involving the relief rhytons found in the villa reale, I think it is better to allow for a gradual development of these Iron Age institutions. Elsewhere I have argued that we should see the palaces in general as integrative communal dining, ritual and ceremonial areas103. I would certainly not go so far as to see the Minoan palaces as the direct ancestors of the andreia despite Halbherr’s104 and Mosso’s105 claims, since sufficient iconographic evidence exists to see both sexes involved in the ceremonies organised in and around the court-centred buildings. Still, if Minoan women primarily used the House for their ceremonies, palaces may, although largely integrative, have been more specifically male-oriented spaces. The destruction of the palaces and the concomitant disappearance of means of reunion for males and females would then throughout the Postpalatial period see the development first of segregated gendered ritualised and domestic spaces at all levels of society and eventually into a more preferential link between men and external, communal structures to which eventually the name ‘Men’s House’ would be given. In a sense, I suspect that the hypothesis presented by D. Spain, in her book Gendered Spaces, in which she suggests that “initial status differences between women and men create certain types of gendered spaces and that institutionalised spatial segregation then reinforces prevailing male advantages”106, applies to the Cretan situation: spatial segregation would eventually have led to gender stratification and a different social situation altogether.

Fig. 10 House Za at Malia–Gendering Minoan Residential architecture

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Notes

1 Driessen 2010a; 2010b; 2011.

2 Spain 1992, 22; Blumberg 1984.

3 Georgoudi 1992; Eller 2000; 2005; Eisler 1988, 38; Weinbaum 1999, 71; Hand 2003; Stone 1976, 46.

4 See Evans 1930, 58: “a sign of female predominance characteristic of the matriarchal stage” and again p. 227: “Women among the Minoans […] took the higher rank in Society, just as their great Goddess took the place later assigned to Zeus”.

5 Voss 2007, 56.

6 Barber Wayland 1994.

7 Driessen et al. 2008, 102.

8 Evans 1902, 94 for the identification of women’s chambers on the basis of loom weights in the southeast part of the Knossos palace.

9 Alexandri 1994; Nikolaidou 2002, 81.

10 Alberti 2001; 2002.

11 Chapin 2007; 2011.

12 Kopaka 2009b.

13 Marinatos 1987; 1989.

14 Nikolaidou 2002.

15 Rehak 1998.

16 Kopaka 2009a.

17 See references in Chapin 2007, 140; Alberti 2001; 2002.

18 Morris 2009, 246–47.

19 Sakellarakis and Sapouna-Sakellaraki 1997, 185; cf. also Whitley 1996 for interesting remarks.

20 Davaras 1975, 114; Maggidis 1994, 81; but see Soles 1988, 61, n. 3.

21 See my argument in Driessen 2010b.

22 D’Agata 1999; 2005.

23 Koehl 2006, 18.

24 Wingerath 1995.

25 Nörling 1995.

26 Blakolmer 2010.

27 Peatfield 2007; Lewis-Williams and Pearce 2005.

28 Cf. Gere 2009, 77–82.

29 Evans 1900, 38.

30 Evans 1900, 42, n. 1.

31 Cf. Koehl 1995, 25–26; Warren 1985, 102, both opting for a ‘chief priestess’ as a ruler.

32 Evans 1901, 31.

33 Evans 1902, 45.

34 Evans 1902, 45.

35 Evans 1902, 45 (my italics).

36 Evans 1930, 296.

37 Evans 1930, 296, n. 1.

38 Evans 1902, 50.

39 Evans 1902, 65.

40 Lawrence 1957, 39.

41 Graham 1962, 84, 88, 92–93.

42 Graham 1962, 86.

43 Graham 1962, 87–88, n. 5.

44 Graham 1962, 93.

45 E. g. Doumas 2000.

46 E. g. Palyvou 1987.

47 Blakolmer 2010.

48 Marinatos 1989.

49 Marinatos 1987.

50 Marinatos 1987, 23.

51 Marinatos 1987, 25.

52 Wingerath 1995, 153.

53 Zeimbekis 2009, 151–52.

54 Chapin 2011, 519.

55 Compare with Reeves Sanday 2002; Mathieu 2003.

56 Zeimbekis 2009, 152.

57 Wingerath 1995, 151.

58 Webb 2002, 93.

59 For some examples, however, see Nikolaidou 2002, 88–89.

60 Cf. Garfunkel 2003; Liveri 2008.

61 Shaw 1972.

62 Cf. Letesson and Vansteenhuyse 2006, 104.

63 Evans 1902, 111.

64 Militello 1998.

65 Shaw 1998, 73–75.

66 Niemeier 1989.

67 Driessen and Sakellarakis 1997.

68 Reusch 1958.

69 Niemeier 1986.

70 See the discussion by Laffineur 2005.

71 Cf. Shaw 1998, 67–72.

72 Evans 1928, 603, fig. 376; 1930, 59, fig. 35.

73 Shaw 1996.

74 Grøn 1991, 7.

75 Goldberg 1999; Antonaccio 2000; Joyce 2008, 85.

76 Balakrishna Menon 1998, 70.

77 Cf. Hood 1997.

78 For a list see Gesell 1985.

79 Letesson this volume p. 29.

80 Letesson this volume p. 48.

81 Palyvou 1987.

82 Romanou 2007.

83 Letesson 2005; 2009; Letesson and Driessen 2008.

84 Preston Blier 1987, 173.

85 Lewis-Williams and Pearce 2005, 65.

86 Cf. Preston Blier 1987; Gero and Conkey 1991; Spain 1992, 11; LeMoine 2003; Lewis-Williams and Pearce 2005, 65, 89–91.

87 Preston Blier 1987, 90.

88 Brusasco 2004, 152.

89 Balakrishna Menon 1998, 120.

90 Balakrishna Menon 1998, 131–32.

91 Palyvou 2005, 132–36; Driessen 2005, 88.

92 Kopaka 2009b, esp. 186.

93 Marinatos 1984, 74.

94 Gesell 2000, 955.

95 Platonos 1990.

96 Driessen 1982; 1999; Palyvou 1987.

97 Cf. Wilson 2008.

98 Graham 1975.

99 Olsen 2009.

100 Westgate 2007, 450–51.

101 This in contrast to Pomeroy 1975, 42: “the freedom of the […] women seems to have been a result of the Dorian tradition with its communal social structure and separation of the sexes”. See also Gere 2009, 77–78 on Bachofen and Lewis Henry Morgan who, on the basis of a testimony by Herodotos that the Lycians originated from Crete, argued that the island retained traces of a ‘matriarchal’ system and a descent in the female line.

102 Koehl 1997.

103 Driessen 2003.

104 Halbherr 1893, 111.

105 Mosso 1907, 161.

106 Spain 1992, 6.

Notes de fin

1 Inspired by ‘cherchez la femme’, a famous phrase coined by Alexandre Dumas, Les Mohicans de Paris (1871, 232). While preparing this paper for publication, I came across Gere (2009) who discusses related issues, especially on pp. 76–82. I thank Florence Gaignerot, Donald Haggis and Quentin Letesson for constructive comments, and Diamantis Panagiotopoulos and Ute Günkel-Maschek for organising the workshop and the invitation to participate.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1 Madame Lambert, a Belgian socialite, receiving honours on the throne at Knossos in 1901 (© Archives of the City of Brussels, Fonds Charles Buls, Farde 42, Photo 1207; Piette 2008, 175)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2842/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,0M
Légende Fig. 2 Sketch of the Room of the Lady Seat as published in Evans 1901, 33, fig. 11
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2842/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 269k
Légende Fig. 3 Reconstruction drawing of the Sacred Grove and Dance fresco from Knossos, clearly separating genders among participants and spectators (redrawn by D. Riccardi-Percy)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2842/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 509k
Légende FIG. 4 Reconstruction drawing of the Grand Stand Fresco from Knossos, clearly stressing females among participants and spectators (redrawn by D. Riccardi-Percy)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2842/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 444k
Légende Fig. 5 a: Knossos: fragment found in the North Fresco Heap (after Evans 1928, 602, fig. 375); b: fragment from the Area of the Miniature Frescoes shows a standing woman on the balcony of a structure (after Evans 1928, 603, fig. 376)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2842/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 84k
Légende Fig. 6 Reconstruction drawing of the Fresco from the Ramp House of Mycenae, stressing females among participants of bull games (after Shaw 1996, pl. B3)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2842/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 302k
Légende Fig. 7 Plan of a Nair House (India), showing male (green) and female (orange) related spaces (after Balakrishna Menon 1998, 121, fig. 4.23)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2842/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 118k
Légende Fig. 8 Lustral Basin in the Palace of Zakros: Horns painted red (photo: J. Driessen); Reconstruction drawing (after Platonos 1990, pl. 27B)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2842/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 157k
Légende Fig. 9 House A at Tylissos–Gendering Minoan residential architecture
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2842/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 153k
Légende Fig. 10 House Za at Malia–Gendering Minoan Residential architecture
URL http://books.openedition.org/pucl/docannexe/image/2842/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 141k

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