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Storage and States on Prehistoric Crete: The Function of the Koulouras in the First Minoan Palaces

Issue: Vol 10 No. 1 (1997) June 1997

Journal: Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology

Subject Areas: Ancient History Archaeology

DOI: 10.1558/jmea.v10i1.73


Arthur Evans discovered three large stone-lined circular pits, known as koulouras, in the West Court of the first palace at Knossos. A fourth kouloura was found under the Theatral Area. Since Evans's discovery four, or possibly five, koulouras have been found in the West Court at Phaistos, and eight in the southwest corner of the palace at Mallia. All were constructed and used during the first palace period. Like many features of Minoan palaces, the koulouras seemed to be a recurring architectural feature. Evans thought the koulouras at Knossos were 'rubbish-pits' or 'blind wells'. Since then, many scholars have interpreted their function as granaries. This paper contends that the koulouras at Knossos and Phaistos were not granaries, but those at Mallia were. Consequently, the storage capabilities of the first palaces of Knossos and Phaistos have been overestimated. The storage facilities of the three palaces did not function identically, and the role of grain storage in the emergence of the first Minoan palaces has been exaggerated.

Author: Thomas F. Strasser

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