In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Bronze-Age Cycladic/Minoan Architecture

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews of the Aegean Bronze Age
  • General Overviews of Minoan and Cycladic Architecture
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Monograph Series
  • Design and Construction
  • The Spread of Minoan-Style Architecture through the Eastern Mediterranean

Architecture Planning and Preservation Bronze-Age Cycladic/Minoan Architecture
John McEnroe
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922467-0039


The study of Bronze Age Crete and the Cyclades is a relatively new academic discipline. The first serious archaeological investigations on Crete and on the Cycladic island of Melos began only in the years around 1900, but scholars got off to a fast start. By the time of the First World War, Greek, European, and American excavators had already uncovered vast sections of ancient cities and towns. In some of the larger ancient cities in Crete, they found distinctive monumental palaces that consisted of various specialized quarters grouped around a rectangular central court. In the outlying neighborhoods and in the smaller towns, they came across elaborate “villas” along with more modest houses, shrines, cemeteries, and other urban amenities. After only a few years of work, Arthur Evans, the excavator of the so-called Palace of Minos at Knossos, devised a system that divided the Bronze Age up into three main phases, Early, Middle, and Late. This system still provides the basis for understanding historical developments in the Bronze-Age Aegean particularly for the study of pottery and other artifacts. Increasingly a roughly parallel tripartite system is being used for the architecture of Minoan Crete, using the terms Prepalatial (ca. 3000–1900 BCE), Protopalatial (ca. 1900–1700 BCE), and Postpalatial (ca. 1400–1100 BCE). These two chronological systems are discussed more fully later. Initially the emerging scholarship was somewhat uncomfortably grafted onto the publication outlets that already existed for the archaeology of classical Greece. Eventually new journals devoted specifically to the study of the Bronze Age began to appear. These new journals are supplemented by a number of specialized monograph series along with volumes devoted to international colloquia and workshops. From about 1970 to the present, Aegean studies has tended to shift its focus to include more scientific investigations as well as studies grounded in anthropological theory and, most recently, we have seen widespread use of digital technology. Such shifts have allowed the field to continue to thrive. The list of sites continues to grow. Indeed, the recent pace of excavations rivals the dramatic burst of activity launched by the pioneers of Aegean studies a century ago, and the number of important scholarly publications has grown even more dramatically.

General Overviews of the Aegean Bronze Age

Several useful publications consider Minoan and Cycladic architecture within the wider context of Aegean art and archaeology. Preziosi and Hitchcock 1999 provides a general overview of Aegean Bronze Age art and architecture within a single compact volume, while Aegean Prehistoric Archaeology provides a more archaeologically oriented online source. Cline 2010 and Shelmerdine 2008 each bring together important essays on a broad range of topics.

  • Cline, Eric H., ed. The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

    An expansive edited volume that brings together contributions by more than sixty international scholars. The chronologically organized overview is followed by a section dealing with various categories of material culture and ends with essays on thirty specific sites and/or regions. Excellent bibliography.

  • Preziosi, Donald, and Louise A. Hitchcock. Aegean Art and Architecture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

    This contribution to the Oxford History of Art series is a well-illustrated overview of Bronze Age pottery, sculpture, architecture, and wall painting. Organized chronologically. Useful for students.

  • Rutter, Jeremy. Aegean Prehistoric Archaeology.

    An online survey of Aegean archaeology arranged in twenty-eight lessons, each of which contains a concise narrative, illustrations, and bibliography.

  • Shelmerdine, Cynthia W., ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    An edited volume containing fifteen chapters by leading scholars in the field. The volume combines a chronological organization with topical essays. The sections dealing specifically with architecture are brief.

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