ARCH30840 Minoan Archaeology

Academic Year 2023/2024

This course covers the archaeology of Crete during the Bronze Age (Minoan period) 3000-1000 B.C. As the culture is prehistoric, i.e. without contemporary written records, study is based primarily on artefacts and architecture. Emphasis is given to the understanding of Minoan society, especially religion, iconography, gender roles, economy, foreign relations, politics and history. The course takes a fundamentally chronological perspective, encouraging a firm knowledge of the main artefact classes, including architecture (palaces and villas), pictorial art (frescoes, sealstones and rings, carved stone), vases (pottery, stone, metal), and sculpture (terracotta, bronze). Beyond that, you are encouraged to understand and analyse the various methodological processes involved in the interpretation of a prehistoric culture and society.
This course is designed to give you an in-depth overview of Minoan Bronze Age civilization. It should be of particular interest if you interested in Bronze Age civilizations in general, or in the Greek and Roman world. This course is further recommended if you also wish to study the Stage 3 option module “Combat Archaeology”, as it has sections on combat and warfare in the Minoan and Mycenaean Bronze Age.
In addition, if there is any theme or material from this Minoan course in which you become particularly interested, you are reminded that you may use the Stage 3 Supervised Research Topic module (if you are eligible) in order to further explore and research to your own interest and satisfaction.
This course accounts for 10 credits.

Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens
The UCD School of Archaeology is also affiliated with the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies in Athens, which organizes student study tours of Greece and Crete, and which sponsors Irish excavations and study projects in Greece and Crete. Further information can be sought from Dr Peatfield.
Also consult the website:

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Learning Outcomes
On completion of this module students should be able to:
1) demonstrate familiarity with the essential Minoan archaeological material in its chronological and social contexts.
2) have a broad understanding of the role of Minoan society within the cultural history of the Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean, and its contribution to later European cultural development
3) critically review and assess interpretative models and strategies.
4) Identify key Minoan objects and themes, and write about them critically.

Indicative Module Content:

This is a potential list of topics that will be addressed. Please note it is indicative, not final

1. Introduction
Cretan myths (Zeus, Europa and the Bull, Minos, Minotaur and the Knossos Labyrinth, Theseus)
Sir Arthur Evans and the beginnings of archaeology

2. Chronology/Geography/Neolithic
Topography and landscape
Political geography and terminology
Chronological frameworks (ceramic, and cultural/palatial)
Neolithic and earliest settlement

3. Early Minoan
Early Minoan/Prepalatial
Ceramic development
Settlement patterns
Tombs and offerings

4. Early Minoan/Transition to the palaces
Emergent hierarchies
Early Minoan/Prepalatial evidence from Knossos
Social transition to palaces (fortified settlements)

5. Middle Minoan Palaces (Phaistos, Mallia)
Defining a palace
Middle Minoan/Protopalatial palaces (Phaistos and Mallia)
Social, economic, and political organisation

6. Middle Minoan Knossos
Knossos in the Middle Minoan/Protopalatial period
Architectural development, social and political organisation
Transition from Proto- to Neopalatial periods
Minor palaces (Monastiraki)
Knossos Temple Repositories
Anemospilia human sacrifice

7. Art - Early Minoan to Middle Minoan 1
Pottery, stone vases, seals

8. Early Minoan to Middle Minoan 2
Gold, faience, ivory

9. Neopalatial Knossos 1
Knossos in the Neopalatial period (Middle Minoan III - Late Minoan I).
Palace as microcosm of Minoan society - economic, religious and political functions
Setting, use and meaning of wall-paintings

10. Neopalatial Knossos 2

11. Neopalatial Knossos 3, Phaistos and Mallia
Subsidiary palaces - Phaistos and Mallia
Relationships with Knossos

12. Neopalatial Zakro, minor palaces, towns and villas
Zakro palace, Galatas palace
Neopalatial economic and political organisation (network of villas and towns)
Administration - seals/sealings, writing systems

13. Neopalatial Art 1
Frescoes, pottery, metal vases, bronze figurines, ivory, stone vases

14. Neopalatial Art 2
Carved stone vases, jewellery, seals and sealings, Linear A writing

15. Early Mycenaeans
The end of the Neopalatial period (Late Minoan I destructions)
Contributions of the Mycenaeans (Shaft Grave period, Mycenaeans on Crete, Linear B writing)

16. Thera/End of the Neopalatial period
Minoans overseas (Thera volcano eruption)
Understanding the Late Minoan II period, the final destruction of Knossos)

17. Postpalatial Crete
Late Minoan III period, breakup of the palatial system
Final flourishes of art (pottery, painted coffins)
Late Minoan IIIc period refuge sites and the end of the Bronze Age

18. Minoan religion - iconographic evidence 1
Iconography, deities, rituals and beliefs

19. Minoan religion - iconographic evidence 2
Iconography, deities, rituals and beliefs

20. Minoan religion - cult places
Settlement shrines
Rural shrines – caves and sacred enclosures

21. Minoan religion – cult places
Peak sanctuaries

22. Minoan religion – cult places
Atsipadhes peak sanctuary

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Critical writing
Student presentations 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Presentation: A 10 minute presentation to be presented in class, on a Minoan subject (an artefact or building). Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: An essay which is a written version of your presentation. 2000 words with Illustrations, references and bibliography. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Assignment: 2 essays from choice of 6 essays, plus one Compulsory picture question. Set in week 10, to be completed within three weeks. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Name Role
Assoc Professor Meriel McClatchie Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Tadhg O'Keeffe Lecturer / Co-Lecturer