The Minoan Palace at Malia was discovered and excavated by Greek and French archaeologists at the beginning of the 20th century. The second largest palace in Crete after the one excavated by Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos, the edifice was built around 1900 BCE and used until 1390 BCE, a long period marked by a series of destructions. A major catastrophic event around 1700 BCE thoroughly destroyed the First or Protopalatial Palace (ca. 1900-1700 BCE), after which the edifice was reconstructed in the Neopalatial period (ca. 1700-1450 BCE). Because of the extensive rebuilding of the Second Palace, little is known of the shape and function(s) of the Protopalatial edifice. A new architectural and stratigraphic study of the ruin under the aegis of the French School at Athens aims to fulfil this gap in our knowledge of one of the major edifices of Minoan Crete.

With the support of MAT, we were able in 2018 to focus on the study of a deposit of 173 obsidian unmodified blocks or ‘nodules’ found in a Protopalatial destruction layer in the North-West Area of the Palace. This constitutes the largest assemblage of raw obsidian nodules ever discovered in Minoan Crete and the wider Aegean. Five pieces originate from the Dodecanesian source of Gyali, while the bulk of the obsidian nodules has visual characteristics that indicate procurement from Melos in the Cyclades. The significance of this assemblage lies in it consisting primarily in raw material, i.e. nodules that were collected and transported to Malia before being used to manufacture delicate, razor-sharp blades.

The generous funding of MAT has made it possible to document and complete the full study of this impressive yet seldom published assemblage in order to prepare a publication that will consider it within the larger discussion on (a) the nature of obsidian consumption at Protopalatial Malia, (b) the role of the Palace in the procurement and disbursement of exotic commodities, and (c) the relationship of crafting to political power.

Plan of the Palace at Malia, based on E. Andersen (PELON 1980, plan 28) and M. Schmid and N. Rigopoulos (PELON 2002, pl. XXXII), and view of the excavations of room m in the North-West Area of the Palace, where the obsidian assemblage was discovered, CHAPOUTHIER & DEMARGNE 1942, pl. XXXVI 2 ©EFA
Nodules from the Obsidian North-West Deposit discovered in the Palace at Malia. Photograph by K. Papachrysanthou ©EFA, Malia Palace Project

For further information, please visit https://gerda-henkel-stiftung.academia.edu/MaudDevolder or contact Dr. Maud Devolder (AEGIS Research Group, CEMA/INCAL, UCLouvain) at maud.devolder@uclouvain.be.

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