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Minoan Life in Bronze Age Crete [Paperback]

Rodney Castleden
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

17 Dec 1992

Thoroughly researched, Rodney Castleden's Minoans: Life in Bronze Age Crete here sues the results of recent research to produce a comprehensive new vision of the peoples of Minoan Crete.

Since Sir Arthur Evans rediscovered the Minoans in the early 1900s, we have defined a series of cultural traits that make the ‘Minoan personality’: elegant, graceful and sophisticated, these nature lovers lived in harmony with their neighbours, while their fleets ruled the seas around Crete. This, at least, is the popular view of the Minoans. But how far does the later work of archaeologists in Crete support this view?

Drawing on his experience of being actively involved in research on landscapes processes and prehistory for the last twenty years, Castleden writes clearly and accessibly to provide a text essential to the study of this fascinating subject.

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Minoan Life in Bronze Age Crete + Knossos : A Complete Guide To The Palace Of Minos
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Product details

  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; New edition edition (17 Dec 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 041508833X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415088336
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 15.8 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 388,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Displaying sound scholarship, Castleden cites excavations and theories in detailed but accessible prose. . . . A more complex, even contradictory, image of the Minoans than appears in other works."-"Booklist "Strongly recommended for all ancient history collections."-"Choice "Well researched, well illustrated, and bang up to date as far as recent discoveries are concerned."-"Minerva

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Although the Minoan civilization had its origins as long as five thousand years ago and had come to an end by 1000 BC, we nevertheless have a very clear idea of what the Minoan people looked like. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read 29 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Some very persuasive research that overturns Arthur Evans view that he had discovered the "palace" of the fabled King Minos. Castleden relates room by room a much more believable picture of a temple, and a temple society.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars in depth study 11 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very interesting book giving a very good overview of what it must have like in Minoan Crete. I found it very interesting and it greatly added to my knowledge.
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Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading 8 Sep 2005
By Angela Hussein - Published on Amazon.com
The book has a nice bibliography and is useful for looking up sources for research. However, anyone reading this as an introduction to Minoan civilization will me mislead on several key points. 1. The author refers to the Minoan "palaces" throughout as "temples". This is confusing to the reader. Granted, Minoan "palaces" were much more complex buildings with many functions than this accepted scholarly term implies. But simply changing the term doesn't help anything.

2. The author discounts the well accepted idea that the Mycenaeans ever ruled at Knossos. The period of Mycenaean sovreignty is treated as a continuation of Minoan civilization with no break. Most people of Crete were the same and went on living as they had been in Minoan times. But the ruling class changed, as evidenced by the change in administration language at Knossos. The author makes no mention of the change and in fact uses the Linear B tablets from Knossos and even Pylos(!) as evidence for Minoan social institutions.

3. The author displays a real lack of understanding about Minoan religious life. Strange considering how many buildings he refers to as "temples". For those interested, see Nanno Marinatos' "Minoan Religion".

The book makes an interesting read as an overview or for light reading, but shouldn't be taken too seriously.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking- but not every building is a temple! 23 Feb 1999
By Scott J. Hieger - Published on Amazon.com
I read this book with deep interest and found that most of his impressions were right on the mark. I agree that to survive in the rough world of the Bronze Age the Minoans were very skilled fighters and raiders rather than flower sniffing pacifists pictured by Evans and other discoverers. But not every building was a temple. Each "palace" I agree was a temple in part. The west side of every major "palace" has been shown to have cultic significance since the time of Sir Arthur Evans. However, the east side of the central courts resemble Minoan residental architecture from all over Crete and from Thera. Is it not possible that the rulers (be they kings, priest kings, or a ruling priestess)still needed places to live! I feel that many of the so called villas in Knossos that Castledon calls temples are just very large homes with a home altar or a sacred room.
Still an interesting book with a lot of ideas that I feel will change our views on the Minoan civilization. However, I feel he could have balanced out his views with some good sense. A ruler has to live somewhere? Has Castledon ever come across these sites yet? He makes the argument that just like Egypt and Assyria, monumental temples existed on Crete and these are the so-called "palaces" However, every other major civilization in the Bronze Age had monumental structures that housed the rulers of the state, and why should Minoan Crete be any different there either. Could it be that the palaces of Minoan Crete served both purposes? I would appreciate other readers views on this matter.
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, modern book, both scholarly and accessible. 18 Oct 1999
By N. Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Books about ancient cultures tend to be either slightly soft-focus and "fluffy" or dry and almost excessively scholarly; neither approach succeeds in bringing a culture to vivid life for the interested lay reader. This book, however, does just that. It has scholarly evidence in detail, but also fleshed-out conclusions, and unflinchingly looks even at evidence that doesn't "fit" our modern image of ancient peoples we want to like, in its quest to bring us a living, breathing image of the Minoans. (It also has illustrations in plenty; I feel a bit juvenile to admit this, but I very much appreciate illustrations, as no verbal description can quite convey the brushstrokes, the maze-like floor plans, the quality of line.)It's not a perfect book---I agree with another reviewer who complained that people probably had more houses and fewer temples than Mr. Castleden concludes ---but it is an excellent one, especially for an "armchair archaeologist".
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Misleading & poor 29 July 2010
By Gunar Zagars - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I expected an accurate review of Minoan civilization but instead found an odd seemingly out-of-touch and misleading review. I have no gripe with the author wishing to emphasize the religious aspect of Minoan civilization but he actually conflates Minoan and Mycenaean things in a most misleading way. These two peoples were quite distinct and to use late Linear B texts as explanations of early Minoan culture is quite misleading - he even quotes such texts from Pylos as allegedly shedding light on Minoan ways. In one place he even states that the wars between city-states in Crete in Roman times shed ligth on their alleged interactions 1000 years earlier! Not only does this book contribute nothing new to our knowledge of Minoan civilization it is actually a negative contribution regarding understanding by the interested layman. Consult the works of McEnroe and Fitton if you are really interested in the Minoans.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing new 10 Jan 2008
By Atheen M. Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As the author points out, this book is not so much a presentation of new information on the archaeology of Minoan Crete as it is a reinterpretation of what is already known. That said, individuals who know nothing about the subject will find the book an acceptable overview of the literature. The author cites a number of works, both older material and more recent, some on archaeology and some on the "history" of the Minoans, to complete his own project here. Thus the new comer will find ample resources for further investigation which I would encourage.

Those who know something of the field will probably find little new other than a perspective change. Here rather than "palaces" the extant Minoan ruins are interpreted as "temples." This change allows new ideas regarding the character and accomplishments of the Minoan people to be aired, always a good thing since it allows new discoveries to test the reliability and likelihood of alternate hypotheses.

I probably don't need to caution the reader familiar with the literature that there is little material or written evidence to go on with respect to the Minoans; something the author observes as well but only belatedly in the last chapters of the work. For those less initiated, I would like to flag the author's most significant words: "perhaps," "possibly," "maybe," "should," "could," and "might." All of these modifiers are significant, and they encourage the reader to keep an open mind; in short, other interpretations than these are also possible.

I've studied ancient history, including the Minoans, and have been to a number of sites that figured highly in my studies. It was almost a matter of "pilgrimage." One of the sites I went to was Knossos where I expected something of an epiphany; well, I had one but not that which I had expected.

In treading the corridors and staircases of this very famous archaeological site, I noted that much of what was standing had been rebuilt, the modern materials composing it being abundantly apparent. This is as expected with archaeological reconstruction properly done. Seeing the vast degree to which the standing remains owed their existence to interpretations placed on them by Sir Arthur Evans, I was rather shocked. Admittedly such reconstructions are not based on nothing, but even what they are based on can be subject to preconceived ideas, personal biases, societal or cultural objectives, and other even less substantial influences. The very extent to which the site of Knossos was the result of interpretation and thus to such influences was what was surprising. This fact was very significant to me, since it is not always apparent from books on the topic, and books had been my primary resource on the culture until my visit. It made me realize how important an actual visit to an archaeological site is for anyone studying its history.

Lest the uninitiated think that this type of introduced bias in writing about the past might well be said of any ancient civilization, I would point out that there are far fewer contentions over Egyptian history, where archaeology and written history are able to reinforce and correct one another. This is not the case with Minoan Crete, where although there are written documents in at least four different scripts, their type and frequency are not always helpful to the historian. One can learn something about a person from their laundry and grocery lists perhaps, but not enough to say one actually "knows" them and definitely not enough to say one knows what they "think" or "mean."

I welcome the new perspective and lament the lack of newer field research.
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