The Bronze Age had amazing architecture, much of it located in Greece. In order to clearly understand all that the time period had to offer and how what was seen during that time in that particular country influenced others, information about architecture in the Bronze Age in Greece has to be carefully analyzed. Discussed here will be six separate works that address the Bronze Age in Greece and the architecture offered during that time. These articles will show how valuable the architecture was, not just for that period of time but also as society advanced, grew, and changed. Four of the writings deal primarily with Minoan architecture, while another addresses Minoan and Mycenaean styles and the final work is focused more on Cypriot details. By working with all six writings, it is easier to see not only the value of the architecture, but how much of a strong role the Minoan style actually played during that time. This style was more significant than the others, but that does not mean that Mycenaean and Cypriot styles were without merit.
Much of the details of what Cyprus had to offer when it comes to architecture during the Bronze Age have been lost because of unscrupulous excavation methods and a lack of proper recording of what was found (Swiny, 2008). Beginning in the 1970s, there were many changes in what was discovered in Cyprus and how it was categorized and recognized, making it easier for those who study the Bronze Age there to gain information (Swiny, 2008). The first extensive remains of a Bronze Age settlement at Mouttes were uncovered by a team from Cornell University, and rows of multi-roomed, rectangular structures there indicated the value of an egalitarian community with little to no social stratification (Swiny, 2008). The way the structures were constructed was focused much more on the usage of the rooms as opposed to the architectural design of the created space, but that was not all that was found in the area. More architectural information would be forthcoming.
As more discoveries took place, it appeared that all of the structures had been ransacked and torched (Swiny, 2008). That provided the excavation teams with information as to the art, architecture, and political instability of Cyprus during much of the Bronze Age. However, it also made it difficult to draw conclusions about the architectural styles and plans of the Cypriot period, because so much damage had been done (Swiny, 2008). Most of the discovered buildings had utilitarian goals and features, as opposed to anything that was designed for royalty or wealthy people. In a society where most of the people were relatively equal in wealth and status, there was little need for grand locations (Swiny, 2008). It was noted, however, that the beginning of the prehistoric Bronze Age saw the inclusion and usage of rectilinear architecture, as opposed to the circular, traditional style of the Chalcolithic period that preceded it (Swiny, 2008). This was a significant change, and one that was evident despite the damage that had been done to many of the structures.
Accretive, rectilinear structures were uncovered at Kaminoudhia in 1981, and were the earliest recorded buildings of the Bronze Age (Swiny, 2008). The settlement appeared to have been abandoned in 2230 BC, and is known for the broad range of architectural layouts that are seen in the three clusters of buildings located on the site (Swiny, 2008). There does not appear to be any kind of standard plan for building there, and square, rectangular, and even round buildings are all grouped together in various ways, instead of having a more planned development that would allow for buildings of the same or a similar type to remain grouped closer together (Swiny, 2008). Many other civilizations created their buildings this way, as well, but this was the first and earliest settlement where the mix-matched style of building appeared to be so prevalent.
Swiny (2008) noted the unique issues with the architecture of the settlement. There were two-room and three-room habitats, while others had courtyards, and there were also single-room structures that seemed to be used for a multitude of various purposes (Swiny, 2008). D-shaped complexes subdivided by parapet walls were also a significant part of the buildings in that area, as were floors that were cut into the bedrock so as to give horizontal flooring services on which to walk (Swiny, 2008). The ways in which the buildings were constructed at the time were solid and impressive based on what was available. With that being the case, many of the walls and other structures were still standing and were able to be studied and analyzed. There were also many characteristic features found there, including low-built benches next to many of the walls and a rectangular heart that was well-preserved (Swiny, 2008). There was one room excavated that did not have any actual door, and was believed to be the only true basement in the settlement out of 27 rooms that were located (Swiny, 2008).
There were both wide streets and narrow alleyways throughout the settlement, and evidence of people throwing refuse and debris out into the alleyways (Swiny, 2008). Soot and ashes from fires, as well as damaged and broken pots and other waste were commonly tossed there, and the buildings were constructed in such a way as to keep those items from coming back into the dwellings (Swiny, 2008). While not everything can be known about Cypriot style from the basic architecture of the settlements that remain, quite a bit of information about the Bronze Age can be collected just based on the basics that are left. In addition to information from Cyprus, the Bronze Age in Greece also provided many researchers with information on Mycenaean and Minoan styles.
Some of the most significant work done in addressing the Mycenaean architecture in the Bronze Age was done by Walsh, et al., (1986). The indication in that study was that, like history, it is hard to keep archaeology moving forward when one does not have its timeline correct in the past. By understanding how architecture has changed, more can be understood about when particular settlements occurred and when they disappeared (Walsh, et al., 1986). When the civilization was first found at Mycenae, it was deemed prehistoric because there was no evidence that the people were literate (Walsh, et al., 1986). However, as time went on it was determined that some people in the Mycenaean culture were indeed literate, and that some of the works they created could be translated (Walsh, et al., 1986). Even with that being the case, though, most people still refer to the Mycenaean area as prehistoric (Walsh, et al., 1986). Many people try to date art and pottery, but dating architecture is often not as easy to do -- partially because of the damage that is often done to it over time.
Buildings get abandoned, ransacked, or torn down. They can also get damaged or destroyed by fire, earthquake, floods, and other problems. Over time, the materials with which the buildings were created simply erode and break down, making it difficult for archaeologists and others who study the buildings to determine when something was created, when it might have been destroyed, and what it was used for during the time period in which it was available (Walsh, et al., 1986). One of the main issues Walsh, et al. (1986) addressed in their study was how techniques of stonemasonry have changed. This was important, because determining the age of the buildings and how they were constructed based on the techniques that are available in the present day does not actually work properly. Instead, one has to determine how the stonemasons of the Mycenaean era used their tools, what tools they had at their disposal, and how they put together the buildings and other structures they created (Walsh, et al., 1986). Only then can the work of the stonemasons really be understood.
Unfortunately, excavation of the settlements that came from that time period were found to have been unacceptable for determining what the stonemasons might have done and/or how they may have used their tools and materials (Walsh, et al., 1986). Reports from the stonemasons contain insufficient information and evidence, so those reports must be deemed unreliable and cannot be used to make any final determinations regarding stonemasons during that time period. The above-ground remains were too badly disturbed to be used, as well, and could not provide any kind of dependable evidence (Walsh, et al., 1986). The hypothesis was presented that stonemasons, as well as their methods and tools, would have continued to evolve throughout time, even if evidence indicating that was not readily available from the excavation reports (Walsh, et al., 1986). From that point, other sites that were being excavated were studied in an effort to determine how stonemasonry and architecture changed through the Mycenaean era and beyond.
One of the focuses of Walsh, et al. (1986) was on…