Symbol and structure: Palaces, paradigms and the rise of palatial civilization on Crete
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This paper will attempt to explore three main phases of theoretical development concerning the rise of palatial civilization on Crete. When Arthur Evans excavated Knossos at the turn of the twentieth century major changes in the archaeological record were most often explained by the spread of superior ideas, technology and ethnic traits through processes of migration and diffusion. These ideas were later criticized for their subjective and intuitive methods eventually leading to an empirical revolution in the early 1960’s that rejected diffusionist ideas, viewing culture instead as an adaptive mechanism where growth resulted from the interaction between parts of a functioning system. Systems theory’s application to the Aegean led many to accept an indigenous evolutionary development of Minoan civilization. It was also argued that the scarcity of foreign material in the early palatial period ruled out any form of impactful economic relationship with Egypt or the Near East. In recent years, however, the significance of high value/low volume symbolic exchanges in the Aegean have begun to be reassessed and are now thought to have been critical in the development of an elite identity. Regional competition and emulation seem to have fueled these exchanges promoting similar cultural structures while exotic material and knowledge acquired through more distant foreign contacts may have provided a greater edge in peer competition leading to the assimilation of foreign ideology and the eventual adoption of economic models and structures of authority.