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BA Latin and French

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
The Emergence of Civilisation: Palaces, Peak Santuaries and Politics in Minoan Crete

Unit code CAHE30221
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Archaeology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Minotaurs, labyrinth, palaces, matriarchy, Mother Goddess, peace-loving, naval empire, cannibalism – many concepts and ideas have been associated with the colourful Minoan civilization that existed on Crete during the Bronze Age (ca. 3000-1400 BC). However, many of these are based on a misunderstanding or misreading of the evidence. To overcome the legacy of Victorian scholarship, theoretical frameworks are brought to bear upon the available archaeological and scientific evidence in an attempt to problematise key themes around the emergence, endurance and demise of Minoan society. Among the topics to be investigated are major social changes, such as the transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculturalist/pastoralist, the emergence of urban centres, the social context of the appearance of palaces, burial practices and the treatment of the dead, religion as a tool of community cohesion as well as of palatial control, interaction with neighbouring regions and the question of political control as well as the eventual demise of the Minoan civilization and the debate around a invasion by the Mycenaeans.


1.      To familiarize students with the main developments in prehistoric Crete and, where relevant, with neighbouring regions.

2.      To explore in depth key themes in Minoan archaeology.

3.      To develop a solid understanding of the historical and theoretical context within which the discipline of Aegean Prehistory evolved.

4.      To engage with diverse theoretical approaches, concepts and intellectual frameworks.

5.      To evaluate critically the interpretative potential of difference evidence types.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course unit, students will have:


Teaching week

Lecture topic

Seminar topic

Assessments & Feedback

Week 1

The disciplinary, historic and environmental context of Aegean prehistory

Perceptions of Minoans: old and new

Individual feedback on Week 1 submission

Week 2

Early human activity on Crete: from the Palaeolithic to the Neolithic

Interpretative models for the Greek Neolithic

General in-class feedback on weekly submission

Week 3

Early Minoan Crete: settlement and burials

Early Minoan burial practices


Week 4

Early Minoan Crete: metallurgy and pottery

Interpretative models for the Early Bronze Age

Essay briefing

Week 5

The First palaces: spatial organisation and function

Control and communication: roads and fortifications

Individual feedback on Week 5 submission

Week 6

The Neo-palatial period: architecture, function and the organisation of power

The emergence and maintenance of the ‘villa’ system


Week 7

Medicine and healing

-No seminar-

Essay due

Week 8

Water management

The socio-political meaning of sea water


Week 9

Religion and power in Minoan Crete

The relationship between palace and peak sanctuaries


Week 10

External relationships

Minoan thalassocracy: evidence and models


Week 11

The end of the Minoans

Object handling session & Exam revision


Week 12


Reading Log due

Teaching and learning methods

Two hours of lectures, frequently with the addition of analytical activities, are complemented by a one-hour discursive seminar. Compulsory reading that complements the lecture topic is assigned to students in preparation for each seminar. A Museum handling session will introduce students to the archaeological material first-hand. All course materials are delivered fully through Blackboard, including all course literature and compulsory seminar preparation. Dedicated course office hour.

Knowledge and understanding

1.      Gained a good knowledge of the prehistory of Crete and, where appropriate, neighbouring regions from the Palaeolithic through to the collapse of the Minoan civilization.

2.      Engaged critically with key topics in Minoan archaeology, such as the emergence of urban societies, the relationship between the living and the dead, the role of religion, the nature of palatial control on Crete and abroad, the organization of the palaces.

3.      Gained critical understanding with the historical and theoretical context within which Minoan archaeology evolved.

       4. Developed an awareness of different types of evidence, as well as an appreciation of the problems involved in                marshalling these different kinds of evidence.

Intellectual skills

1.      Demonstrated an ability to evaluate and reflect critically upon different theoretical approaches and evidence      types.

2.      Acquired experience in summarizing ones intellectual position coherently verbally and in writing.

3.    Acquired experience in marshalling the evidence to support ones own argument.

Practical skills

1.      Acquired experience in presenting and reflecting upon evidence orally in a group context.

2.      Demonstrated an ability to utilize Blackboard.

3.      Demonstrated an ability to research a topic using library and internet resources.

4.      Developed competency in applying appropriate academic conventions for presentation of written arguments.

        5.      Acquired experience in planning, conducting and presenting an essay.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

1.      Gained practice in managing time and working to weekly deadlines.

2.      Acquired experience in contributing to group discussions.

3.      Demonstrated an ability to communicate effectively in written work.

4.      Developed experience in a critical use of the Internet to retrieve information.

        5.      Gained experience in utilizing computer word processing software.

Employability skills

Group/team working
Practical and Professional Skills: familiarity with a range of theoretical and philosophical frameworks employed in the Humanities and beyond, appreciation of the diversity of cultures and human behaviour, ability to use writing software, work constructively with others on a common task, to work effectively whilst meeting deadlines
Personal Capabilities: ability to work without supervision, willingness to reflect upon your academic performance and improve your skill-set further, ability to respond positively to changing arguments and evidence
Problem solving
Cognitive Skills: critical thinking skills, the evaluation of arguments, interrogation of cultural phenomena
Written communication
Generic Competencies: ability to access different sources, the recognition of key points of arguments, marshal and critically appraise other people¿s arguments, explaining your viewpoint in a structured and logical manner orally and in writing

Assessment methods


Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Reading Log entry 1


400 words




2 hours


Reading log


3000 words (7*400 words per session) plus conclusion



Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback

Twice (weeks 1 and 5) students are provided with formative written feedback on their Reading Log submission. The reading log feedback forms give summative and formative written feedback on the final Reading Log submission.

Oral feedback

In Week 2 students will receive general group feedback on their Reading Log submission. The seminars are a place for directed discussion and thus provide verbal formative feedback on the development and presentation of argument and interpretation on a weekly basis. In advance of the exam, students will receive a revision session.


Recommended reading

        Barrett, J. & P. Halstead (eds.) 2004. The Emergence of Civilisation Revisited. Sheffield University Press. Oxford.

        Branigan, K. (ed.), Urbanism in the Aegean Bronze Age. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

        Cline, E. 2010. The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean. Oxford. Oxford University Press.

        Cullen, T. 2001. Aegean Prehistory: A Review (Suppl. American Journal of Archaeology).

         Dickinson, O. 1994. The Aegean Bronze Age. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

         Hägg, R. & Marinatos, N. (eds.) 1987. The Function of the Minoan Palaces. Stockholm. Aström Förlag.

         Hägg, R. & Marinatos, N. (eds.) 1984. Minoan Thalassocracy. Stockholm. Aström Förlag.

         Hamilakis, Y. (ed.) 2002. Labyrinth revised: rethinking ‘Minoan’ archaeology. Oxford: Oxbow.

         Hamilakis, Y. and N. Momigliano (eds.) Archaeology and European Modernity: Producing and Consuming the        ‘Minoans’. Padova: Bottega d’Erasmo.

        Marinatos, N. 1993. Minoan Religion: Ritual, Image and Symbol. South Carolina.

         Renfrew, C. 1972. The Emergence of Civilisation:  The Cyclades and the Aegean in the Third Millennium B.C. London. Methuen.

         Rutter, J. Aegean Prehistoric Archaeology;

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Tutorials 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 156

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ina Berg Unit coordinator

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