BA Latin and Italian

Year of entry: 2024

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

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE20221
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
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.

2.      To be familiar with key themes in Minoan archaeology.

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

4.      To be aware of diverse theoretical approaches, concepts and intellectual frameworks.

5.      To understand the interpretative potential of difference evidence types.

Learning outcomes

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

Knowledge and understanding

1.      Gained a solid knowledge of the prehistory of Crete from the Palaeolithic through to the collapse of the Minoan civilization.

2.      Become familiar 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 basic understanding of the historical and theoretical context within which Minoan archaeology evolved.

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

Intellectual skills

5.      Demonstrated an awareness of different theoretical approaches and evidence types.

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

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

Practical skills

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

9.      Demonstrated an ability to utilize Blackboard.

10.      Demonstrated an ability to research a topic using museum, library and internet resources.

11.      Demonstrated an ability to present an archaeological object in photos, making use of proper photographic conventions

12.      Demonstrated an ability to describe an archaeological object in writing, making use of appropriate terminology, and to place it into its wider socio-political context.

13.      Demonstrated an ability to apply appropriate academic conventions for presentation of written arguments.

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

Transferable skills and personal qualities

15.      Gained practice in managing time and working to deadlines.

16.      Acquired experience in contributing to group discussions.

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

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

19.      Gained experience in utilizing computer word processing software.

        20.     Gained experience in presenting an archaeological objects with relevant photos and illustrations.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Cognitive Skills: critical thinking skills, the evaluation of arguments, interrogation of cultural phenomena
Project management
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
Oral communication
Generic Competencies: ability to access different sources, the recognition of key points of arguments, ability to `deconstruct¿ a text or object, explaining your viewpoint orally and in writing
Practical and Professional Skills: 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

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback

The Object Essay offers summative and formative written feedback.

Oral feedback

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 submitting the Object Essay, students are encouraged to discuss their project plan with the course convenor who will provide formative feedback.


Recommended reading

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.

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;

Shelmerdine, C.W. 2008. The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ina Berg Unit coordinator

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