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Doctoral Project

Open Spaces in Minoan Culture. A Transdisciplinary Approach to Public Spheres and Social Interaction in Bronze Age Crete
Yasemin Leylek (M.A.)

Since earliest times open spaces have been the most important sites of social interaction. This is a phenomenon which is independent from culture. But how did the spheres of open spaces work and what functions did they have?
A comparison between open spheres in different ancient cultures – namely Egypt and the cultures of the Near East – will demonstrate that open spaces with differing design and function were in use. The earliest examples come from the Near East, but the Minoan culture was one of the earliest civilisations in Europe which integrated them in their living space (from ca. 3000 B.C. onwards). It shall be shown that open spaces fulfilled a variety of functions within the sphere of social interaction – depending on time and location: Some of these places – namely the courts around the palaces – were meeting-points between ruler and the ruled. But also values, norms and laws could be mediated. But they were also the place for legitimation of an authority, which was achieved by performing elite 'sport' (bull leaping) or through conspicuous consumption. In contrast to the outer palace courts, which functioned as a liminal zone, the open spaces in front of funeral architecture were places where the entire society could meet and interact, most probably not only in case of death.
Within the scope of intercultural studies it is important to make a comparison between the early cultures, to demonstrate asymmetries or similarities in use and function and to analyse the power of non-built spaces. Additionally, these cultures provide the researcher with a spectrum of written material, which is not the case on Crete, where only the architectural remains and the visual material (seals and frescoes) can be analysed. Besides the method of comparison, sociological and anthropological theories will be used to enlighten the function and performances in open spaces.