Scholars believe Stonehenge was used as both a
calendar or clock and a religious structure for sacrifices and
ceremonies. The outer ring of the structure was in place by
3000 BC It is a perfect circle of Aubrey holes, 285 feet in
diameter, divided into 56 equal segments. The holes are straight
sided, flat-bottomed, circular, and up to six feet in diameter.
The holes are between two and four feet deep. The holes were
hollowed out, then refilled with rubble, human cremains, and
Aerial View of Stonehenge
Once a child has built a wall
with building blocks, it is only a matter of time before a block
is placed horizontally across the top so as to span the two
blocks, creating the most fundamental form in building; the
post and lintel. This is used in buildings throughout the world.
Here we see trilithons, two large
stone structures supporting a third horizontal stone. Any rocks
of this size are referred to as megaliths.
Many of the rocks have fallen
over time and some have been stolen. Research is still being
done to try to determine the exact dates of the building process.
In 2008 another excavation is taking place on a few buried stones
to provide new information.
The Druids, like many cultural and religious groups,
sought to harness the power of the sun and the planets and thereby
master the secrets of the universe.
The megaliths of Stonehenge provide a gateway
for the beams of the rising and setting sun. During the summer
and winter solstices, the stones line up perfectly with the
main heel stone.
The Sarcen circle, shown here on the left, was
once a complete circle of megaliths with huge stone lintels
creating a continuous level circle. The ceremonies - probably
performed by Druids - took place within the circle.
The best description of what these ceremonies
might be like is in a book called Sarum
by Edward Rutherford. Sacrifice was a likely part of the ritual.
Two thousand years before Hadrian's Wall, the
early Celts, possibly Druids, classified as Barbarians by the
Romans, had a proven engineering knowledge equal to that of
Inigo Jones, among others, speculated during
the 17th century that the monument must have been of Roman origin
due to its technical excellence.
The monument is no longer accessible to the public
except by special appointment or on Druidic festival days.
About 75 kilometers from Stonehenge are the monuments
of Neolithic Avebury. As at Stonehenge, the people in this area
started farming about 3600 BC, and the monuments were constructed
The Avebury Circle is similar to stonehenge in
that it is a large circle of monoliths, probably used as a calendar.
Two concentric circles were constructed on a
white chalk plane. Around the outer circle was a large ditch
encircle by an equally large and imposing bank. The crest of
the bank was originally 6.7 m (18 ft). The span of the ditch
and the bank surrounding it was 15m (50ft), made all the more
impressive by the original bright white colour of the chalk.
The Avebury Circle with its surrounding ditch
and bank covers an area of 11.5 ha (28.5 acres). It was constructed
of local stone which, unlike Stonehenge, was unworked. The stones
were placed upright in the chalk at regular intervals to form
a circle. The stones vary in length from 3m (10 ft) to 6m (20
The standing stones are sarcen, a type of hard
sandstone rock that is found in the surrounding downs. The rock
was broken into large chunks during geological upheavals. These
chunks were dragged onto the Avebury plain to make the Circle
and the nearby West Kennet Long Barrow as well as being dragged
down to Stonehenge.
Most of the stones remained in their original
places until the 1700s when people started breaking them up
to make stone chunks for houses.
Silbury Hill 2700 BC
Within easy walking distance of Avebury Circle
is Silbury Hill, the largest man made mound in Europe. At 39.50
m (130 ft) it is the size of some of the smaller Egyptian pyramids.
The inner chalk formation is in a ziggurat style as seen in
the diagram below.
The purpose of the mound has not been determined,
but scholars have calculated the building time as eighteen million
man hours (700 men for 10 years). This suggests that there was
a relatively sophisticated social structure with organisational
skills not unlike the Egyptians of the same time.
West Kennet Long Barrow - 3700
A barrow is a sort of chambered tomb dug into
the earth and built of stone corbelled up to a roof cap. The
West Kenner Long Barrow was in use for over 1500 years beginning
in 3700 BC. The barrow is 100m (328 feet) in length and once
contained over 45 skeletons.
From a historical perspective, it is interesting
to note that the burial of certain humans was an important aspect
of the life of the community.
Vaison le Roman
There are many other sites throughout Europe that
have stone calendars that date from approximately the same time
period. Stonehenge is the most outstanding of these.
Mesopotamia (4000 BC - 300 BC)
more images see Achaemenid
The plains of Mesopotamia were so situated
as to make them the meeting place of a wide variety
of tribes seeking lands for settlement. Unlike Egypt,
it lacked natural defensive boundaries. After farming,
the chief business was war. As a result, Mesopotamia
was quick to develop fortified cities and towns so
people could band together for defense. Jericho, found
here, is the oldest recorded city in the world. The
stories documenting the strife and conflict of this
and the other towns and cities that grew in the surrounding
area are well documented in the Bible in addition
to many other sources.
Known to the Greeks as Mesopotamia, this
area is identified in the Bible as Land of Shinar.
The valley for the Tigrus and Euphrates rivers, currently
the area of Iraq and Iran as well as parts of Syria
and Turkey, and extending down towards the Persian
Gulf, was said to be the site of the Garden of Eden,
where the Bible said that all life began.
This land is now desolate and barren,
but was once the most fertile land on earth. From
the fifth to the first century BC, this was the center
of civilized life and the meeting place of tribal
groups from the Far East, Africa, the Mediterranean
and the north.
From before 4000 BC until the conquests of Alexander
in the 4th century BC, there was unbroken economic
primacy in this area with large
cities, much trade, wealth, and many technological
advancements. Writing was invented in Sumer in the
4th millennium BC.
Ronald Wright in A
Short History of Progress outlines the "progress
traps" that befell this great civilization and
he, like many others, describes well the rich alluvial
delta, teeming with fish and wildlife, that has now
become a desolate wasteland. Many modern economic
powers are diligently following the same path.
The heat of the sun and relative lack
of precipitation made mud-brick a viable building
material. Constantly threatened by rival states and
tribal wars, Mesopotamian builders used these these
bricks to create massive fortifications. In south
Mesopotamia, mud bricks were used exclusively. Archeologists
were slow to discover that large mounds in the desert
were actually mud brick cities that had simply collapsed
and returned to the soil.
In the north, Persepolis being one excellent
example, stone was used in conjunction with the mud-brick
to construct fortifications that held large, sophisticated
cities and trading markets. Because of the accessibility
of Mesopotamia from all directions, it was the meeting
place of people from the Far East, Africa, Egypt,
parts of Europe and the north and the entire Mediterranean
basin. The influence of all these peoples can be seen
in the architecture in this area.
604- 562 BC
The Ishtar Gate, now reconstructed in the Pergamon
Museum, Berlin, was one of the eight gates of the inner city
of Babylon. It was built during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar
The gate is 47 feet high, constructed of fired
brick and faced with glazed bricks, predominantly blue from
lapis lazuli tint. It is resplendent with 152 almost lifesize
golden beasts. Palaces and mosques of Islamic architecture often
use the same colour scheme.
Many of the animals are bulls, lions and dragons.
Others are mythological figures such as the 'sirrush, which
had the back legs of an eagle, the front legs of a lynx, and
the head and tail of a snake.
Babylon was a very attractive city for the time.
It has been suggested that the Israelites were reluctant to
go back to Israel when Nebuchadnezzar set them free.
Persepolis was an ancient capital of the Second
Iranian Dynasty. It was started during the reign of Darius the
Great, mostly completed during that of Xerxes I and finished
by Artaxerxes, during the fifth and sixth centuries BC.
Where Egypt remained a homogeneous architectural
form for 3000 years, Persepolis shows most poignantly the influence
of cultures from throughout the Fertile Crescent, Africa, and
the Far East.
Hall of 100 Columns
Only the bases of the 100 columns of Xerxes throne
room survive. Like Greek columns, the columns in Persepolis
were originally of wood. Stone was used when the wooden ones
were not long enough.
There were large staircases and huge plazas leading
to each of the palaces, this one being that of Xerxes I. In
Darius I's audience hall, the capitals of the columns are the
forefront of animals. The columns have all been stolen
and used in other buildings.
The residential palace had much smaller rooms
that were constricted of clay brick covered with plaster and
painted in earth colours as shown below.
The clay brick decomposed over the years and all
that remains are the door surrounds and fire places.
Either out of respect, fear or because the stone
cornices and door surrounds were too heavy to move, these doorways
and windows have remained largely intact. Note that there are
no arches here, it is all trabeated: post and lintel.
Stone and Claybrick
The museum at the Persepolis
site is reconstructed in the original method. The stone door
surround has a relief of Xerxes killing a lion. The wall has
been filled with clay brick and painted with light Burnt Sienna
Bas Relief of Xerxes 1
The bas relief of Xerxes I and
one of his wives is typical of the period. The King and Queen
were not just political leaders, they were considered to be
higher beings, divine beings. The figures below are smaller,
less important people and thus are shown as a smaller size.
This minimalizing of figures is often found in Egyptian art,
and can be found in medieval European and Christian art as well.
Other good pictures can be seen
Above the figures on the base
relief below is a winged solar disk, the symbol of the Sun God.
There are sun symbols all over Persepolis. The one contains
the figure of Ahnra Mazda, the 'wise god'. It symbolizes the
connection between the kingdom and light.
The solar disk appears in Egyptian
hieroglyphic inscriptions, royal seals, on obelisks and, as
in this case, in a lintel. Its use continues well past the age
of Alexander the Great.
Xerxes and the Griffin
A great many of the remaining
bas reliefs are heroic scenes of Xerxes slaying either lions
or amalgams of animals including lions, serpents and eagles.
The slaying of these beasts was
symbolic both of his strength in the natural world and his strength
in the spiritual world where the beasts had supernatural powers.
Here the beast has the head of an eagle and the body of a lion,
a griffin. These beasts combined the power of the king of beasts
and the king of lions. Griffins are very common in Celtic legend
as well. Griffins in both cultures were the keepers of divine
Xerxes Slaying Lion
The detailing on these reliefs
is beautifully done and remains remarkably intact. Here is the
griffins paws accosting Xerxes' leg.
Xerxes and lion/serpent/bird
This is a detail of the feathers
of the griffins wings.
Xerxes, Gate of All Nations
The Gate of All Nations is protected by Lamassus,
Mesopotamian spiritual guardians with bull's bodies, eagles
wings, and the heads of men. This creature combines the strength
of a bull, the freedom of an eagle and the intelligence of man
and acts as a guardian angel.
Xerxes acknowledged, by the name of the gate,
the large variety of peoples who would be requesting an audience
at his throne.
Xerxes, Gate of All Nations
The thick mud brick of the walls has eroded while
this stone is still intact. here we see the front doorway leading
into the palace enclosure.
Pivoting devices on the door frame indicate a
door that was probably of wood, covered with ornamental metal
The Eastern influence can be seen in this Temple
Lion, a common figure found in the front of temples, civic buildings
and important residences. The lion is symbol of strength and
courage and guards the buildings and its inhabitants from evil.
In this case the lion is a column capital.
In addition to strength, the lion is symbolic
of the sun in Celtic, Persian, Egyptian, Chaldian and Hindu
traditions. It is no coincidence that Leo is a Sun sign
Recent scholarship suggests that Moses got the
idea of monotheism from Egypt and the Sun God.
BC - 500 BC)
Egypt developed because of the Nile River.
When the snow from the mountains surrounding its sources
melted, the water flooded the Nile valley carved into
the rock bed of the Egyptian desert and provided the
rich soil for growing crops. The river rises from
20 to 30 feet annually during the spring thaws fromo
the distant mountains.
In contrast to Mesopotamia, the Nile Valley
was remote, isolated by desert, and thus provided
a relatively serene environment for the building of
a splendid and mysterious culture. This is not to
say that the Egyptians were peace loving. Far from
it. The military was an important part of their culture
and they made forages into the Levant and across the
Mediterranean. Their homeland, however, was protected
by the natural boundary of the desert and thus they
avoided the fortification oriented architecture of
By 4000 BC this energetic people had become acquainted
with the use of copper and gold, yet they maintained
the stone-age basis of much of their civilization.
From 4000 to 1000 BC the building forms and embellishments
remained remarkably static.
Like most early building, the first structures were
round and conical or rectangular with curved, arched
tops. Porches consisted of columns composed of local
ferns and rushes. Shafts and sometimes flowering heads
of plants were tied together with bunches of reeds
which formed posts that were decorative as well as
structural. This important aspect of Egyptian residential
building gave rise to many variations in both residential
and civic buildings which were later perpetuated in
During the Predynastic Era (before 3100 BC), elements
of Egyptian religion and Egyptian decorative forms
were alike developed. Egyptian religion was based
primarily on a cult of the dead, coupled with a mythology
coming from two sources; first an African source leaning
toward the deification of animals and probably related
to totemism as a tribal matter, and second a quite
advanced type of anthropomorphic theology which came
- like the evergreens and metals - from Syria.
This blend led to the series of animal and bird-headed
but otherwise human gods which played such a large
part in Egyptian temple carvings and produced in the
artist a sense of the fantastic and the imaginative
to counterbalance the highly skilled engineering of
the buildings themselves.
These decorative beginnings achieved definitive expression
only when the separated though related tribes of the
valley were at last united into one organized whole
- only when the dynastic history of Egypt began. A
unified government allowed the arts and crafts movement
Egyptian architecture is the architecture of Immortality.
The buildings that were the most important were the
resting places of the Pharoahs who were, in the minds
of the people, given divine status. The idea of death,
even for the common people, was much removed from
that of modern Western culture. The link between the
living and the dead was much stronger, and people
believed that the spirits of their dead ancestors
were always present to guide them on their way. Consequently,
large necropolises can be found along the banks of
Nile where the bodies of families were placed and
Cities for the living were constructed where the
Pharoah required a town to house men working on his
tomb. In addition to farmers and laborers, there were
many people involved in commerce and in administration.
Egypt developed the math discipline of geometry that
can be best seen in the pyramids. Numbers and their
relationships, evident in basic geometric forms, have
religious or spiritual connotations: circles express
the everlasting, the square and the isosceles triangle
express solidity and strength. These geometric forms
and their religious significance can be seen on buildings
through the ages from Romanesque, through Gothic and
renaissance and into the modern age. they have been
kept alive by the Freemasons among others.
The first major monuments were mud brick tombs known
as mastabas. These eventually became stone, then were
replaced by pyramids and finally rock-hewn tombs.
Pyramid of Zoser 2700 BC
The Step Pyramid and Tomb temple of King Zoser
in Sakara (Saqqara) is the world's first large scale monument
in stone. The structure originally had sharp, cut edges, with
both granite and limestone as part of the finish.
This is the first of Egypt's unique contribution to architecture.
The architect was IMHOTEP. It shows an exquisite artistic feeling
combined with a perfection in the use of stone which was not
to be surpassed for many centuries.
Pyramid of Zoser Detail
Architects were well respected and often part
of the court, but because Imhotep had changed the look of architecture,
probably the first great user of stone for monumental buildings,
he was reserved the honour of deification. Imhotep used cut
stone as opposed to rubble stone for this pyramid. Stones were
floated together on mortar.
The pyramid is 200 feet high. Originally it had
an ashlar finish.
The pyramid was surrounded by a vast rectangular
enclosure (1790' x 912').
Before Imhotep turned their attention to stone,
Egyptians were proficient in wood. Most of the joints available
in modern wood construction today were used at this time. Building
traditions more appropriate to wood than to stone continued
in the temples. The size of the columns suggests that they were
not aware of the limits of the structural integrity of the stone.
Hypostyle Hall Zoser's Palace
In Imhotep's temples no arches or vaults are found.
The hypostyle halls, the great spaces spanned by stone
lintels, became a forest of columns lit through grill windows
above central colonnades. From the white alabaster floor light
was reflected back increasing the mystery and grandeur.
The basic component of stone architecture is the
column. Imhotep's great contribution was trans- lating the bundles
of reeds used to hold up roofs in mud-brick structures into
stone structural members or columns.
In the administrative building
at Sakkara are three stone columns that illustrate the origin
of the column. The shaft is carved to imitate the triangular
stem of the papyrus reeds that grow in the marshes of Lower
Egypt. The capital is shaped like the open head bud of the papyrus.
The rings around the upper part of the shaft are annulets repre-
senting the twine used to secure the reeds. A mud-brick was
used to level off these reeds to support the lintel.
Bell Capital Karnak
These columns are from the temple
of Amun-Re in Karnak.
On the bank opposite the City of the dead was the city of the
living. In the new kingdom period, Thebes became the capital
and religious center and was the greatest city on earth. Karnak
and Luxor further south were part of this. The peak was during
the three dynasties of the New Kingdom, particularly in the
reign of the Ramses. - the Imperial phase. 1400 - BC.
Above the column is a bud form.
Here the capitals are bell shaped indicating that the papyrus
was in flower.
Bell Capital Thebes
The building materials that
were readily available to the Egyptians were reeds, papyrus,
and palm branches that could be bound together and then covered
with clay to preserve their shape. This method was used for
millennia to build civic buildings as well as in the design
This decorated bell capital is
from the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of Pharaoh Ramesses
II located in the Theban necropolis in Upper Egypt, across the
River Nile from the modern city of Luxor.
The original still bears the
fresco paint from the papyrus decoration.
The palm was used both vertically
and horizontally to build walls and roofs. The palm shafts could
be woven together to form a fairly solid "sheet" and
when covered with clay, could last under the baking sun for
many months, even years.
Palm-leaf ribs were planted in
the ground at regular intervals and attached to horizontal stalks
to make porches and entrances. After Imhotep, the column had
been invented and the capitals were carved to represent many
of the plants that had been used in earlier construction.
This palm capital, drawn from
the temple at Edfu, shows the graphic representation of the
twine used to hold the palms together as well as a shaft decoration.
3000 years later the same motifs
are used in Rome. The palm capitals create a wonderful peristyle
under a cornice adorned with a sun disk.
Deir El Bahari Temple of Queen
Hatsepshut 1520 BC
On the west bank opposite Thebes
lie the cool, well bred horizontal lines of the complex which
includes valley temple, mortuary chapel, and causeway. The contrast
impressively with the vertically scored precipice under which
it is set. The limestone terraces of smooth post-and-lintel
linked from level to level by massive ramps, are elegant and
Hatshepsut was the only female pharaoh.
She built herself a great tomb temple. Pyramids
had gone out of fashion, and long straight lines were considered
harmonious to the surroundings. The architect Senmut designed
a series of courtyards on successively raised terraces, continuous
post and lintel porches, attached by great stone ramps with
solid railings. This is one of the great conceptions of Egyptian
architectural feeling that was to characterize the new empire.
Pylon Gateway - Karnak
These pylon gateways were used in the later periods
after 500 BC.
This is the Temple of the Theban moon god Khonsu at Karnak.
He is the son of Amon and Mut and is often represented as a
human headed figure wearing a crescent and disk.
The pylon gates protect the columns inside.
Pylon Gateway Luxor
At Luxor, these pylons still have their seated
figures at the front.
Egyptian architecture - endless patience, unlimited
manpower and great care.
Osiris was the judge of the dead in the afterlife,
and also the deity that supplied the Nile with water and thus
the plantlife that the Egyptians survived on.
Eye of Horus - a human eye morphed with a hawk's.
Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, had a man's body and a hawk's
head. When Osiris was murdered by his brother Seth, Horus fought
with Seth for the throne of Egypt. In this battle Horus lost
one of his eyes and later this became a sign of protection in
Egypt. This symbol has been brought through the ages by the
Freemasons among others.
This is the depiction of Ra or Am Ra. He is shown
with a falcon's head and crowned with a sun disk.
Ra was the God of the sun and thus the highest
God in the Egyptian hierarchy. The sun disk is seen slightly
above and in front of the figure of Ra.
Legend has it that Ra was born anew each day and
began a travel across the sky in a large boat crossing the twelve
provinces of Egypt, and thus the twelve hours of the day. Each
night Ra would die and travel 12 hours in darkness until the
beginning of the next day cycle. The spring and vernal equinox
were days of great celebration for the Egyptians. March 21 was
the coming forth of the great Ones from the House of Ra.
Ra is seen here at the top of a passage. He was
probably a fearsome figure for advancing armies to come across,
being largely lit by torches. The kings of Egypt were identified
with the Gods, and became an integral part of the religion.
This fresco is of the Egyptian
canine God Anubis who helped Osiris retrieve and wrap the dead
body of her husband Isis. The dog could have been a jackal,
but sources disagree on this point.
Here the God is depicted seated,
Period (3000 BC - 1400 BC)
Farming in settled communities throughout
Greece and the Mediterranean is known to have taken
place for 7,000 years before the birth of Christ.
The farming lifestyle allowed people to plan ahead,
to use their intelligence for more than mere survival.
All the way from England to the Crimea,
people were taking over the land in remarkably similar
ways. The beginning of architecture is intrinsically
linked to the beginning of communities based around
The first great sea power of the Mediterranean
started on the island of Crete at least one thousand
years before the great Classical Age in the fifth
century BC. The Minoan culture in Crete shown here
in the Palace of Knossos (3000 BC- 1400 BC) preceded
the more violent culture at Mycenae (1600-1100 BC).
The Minoans were peaceable and artistic where the
Mycenaeans were warlike and formidable. The Minoans
were protected by the sea whereas the Myceneans were
on mainland Greece and thus more open to attack.
Archeologists have found graves containing
large quantities of gold iIn Crete, dating from before
the building of this palace. This suggests that they
were in touch with Egypt and other societies.
Many small civilizations were built and
destroyed both on Crete and on other Greek islands
before the beginning of the Palace Culture seen in
the Palace of Knossos and the other palaces on Crete.
This Palace of Knossos is called the
Minoan Palace after Minos, the stepfather of the ferocious
Minotaur, who was the original King of Knossos. The
Minotaur, a creature with the body of a man but the
head of a bull, was allegedly kept in the labyrinth
behind the palace.
The site of the Palace of Knossos was
the focus of intense research in 1900 by the distinguished
Oxford Professor Sir Arthur Evans. He excavated much
of the site and interpreted it according to his ideas
on Greek civilization in Bronze Age Culture. Over
the next 20 years he restored and rebuilt a large
area of the palace, a task that received mixed reviews
from his piers.
The palace started as a collection of
small buildings, then grew to be a large continuous
complex situated around an open court. By 1400 BC
when it was destroyed, it was over 10,000 square meters
or about 4 acres. The main floor of the building had
no windows, and the interior consisted of a labyrinth
of interlocking rooms and magazines, many of which
had no natural light and had to be lighted by lamps.
what we now consider to be the layout
of the palace was the work of Arthur Evans. He has
peiced together residences, meeting rooms, kitchens,
storage rooms and staff rooms. There was also a large
market area and a theater for watching sports and
Palace of Knossos
There is evidence that the civilization
in Crete was initiated in the fourth millennium BC. Palace culture
was supported by a growing naval power fed by a large commercial
This is only one of the Minoan
palaces found on Crete. They were all vast and unfortified.
This palace shows evidence of a highly centralized and sophi-
sticated society that had music, crafts, dancing and athletic
activities. Here is the remains of a terraced hypostyle porch.
Palace of Knossos
One of the most notable elements of the Minoan
civilization are the downward tapering columns. The colours
vary around the palace from burnt sienna, found in the local
mountains, to white and black.
The lintel on this porch is a decorative representation
of squared timber plates trapping round logs between them.
This wall section, and various other parts of
the palace, was reconstructed by Evans in the ealry 20th century.
Most scholars agree that it is largely a correct reproduction
of the original.
Downward Tapering Columns
Palace of Knossos
Columns are found in various parts of the palace,
in various sizes and shapes, largely downward tapering. Thecolumns
shown here are found near the North wall of the palace in the
The columns support very large ceiling
beams. These have been constructed of concrete, but are
finished in a wood pattern to emulate the original wood. The
mixture of wood support members and stone walls is very pleasing.
The columns are quite close together for their
size and have extra large abicuses.
Downward Tapering Columns
Palace of Knossos
In the Queen's Megaron, there was a water closet
with a flushing toilet. It was constructed largely of Parian
marble. The plumbing was attached to socketted earthenware pipes
which supplied fresh water and discarded used water to outside
the palace limits.
There are many water ways still visible throughout
Palace of Knossos
This wall illustrates the use of vernacular materials,
rubble stone, with an ashlar and cut stone finish. The decorative
band under the cornice would be cut
stone. Interiors would be finished with a frescoed
or stucco finish.
Rubble stone walls were laced with timber both
for strength and to keep walls straight and plumb. It is a pleasing
look and an easy building method that changed very little over
the following centuries.
Palace of Knossos
The palace is organized around one central area
or square that has many rooms and apartments both above and
below the main level.
The rooms have a striking treatment of light and
shade generated by the many light wells. Stairs are organised
around the light wells to make use of the sunlight. These palaces
are the first known structures to have staircases with regular
Note the use of wood as a beam to support the
ledge stone walls above. This method of construction would not
alter much in the very dry, warm climate.
Palace of Knossos
The lightwell shown here with the downward tapering
columns along the stairwell is typical of Island palaces in
the area at that time. The palace of Phaestos, also in Crete,
is almost identical. The arrangement of stairs and adjoining
rooms, which at first seems chaotic, is the result of the organic
growth of the complex. This was not done by a city planner the
way Roman cities, developments and palaces were.
The stairs descend towards storage magazines and
small living quarters. The same downward tapering columns are
found here and above in the hypostyle halls and galleries.
Palace of Knossos
Another lightwell close by has an opening for
light but no staircase. The headers for the opening are supported
on 5 columns with a different colour and a slightly different
style than those above. The roof members would have been wood.
The ceiling would have been plaster, possibly on reids or matting.
This small room has three doors that exit onto
different rooms and terraces. A room having multiple openings
is called a poliithyron. The paintings on the wall are copies
of the frescoes that were once directly on the wall surface.
Palace of Knossos
Columns are also used along staircases
without central light wells in many parts of the palace. The
support beams were built up and placed above the abacuses.
Knossos and Crete are located
quite a distance south of Athens and south of many North African
cities. The light is intense all times of the year, so side
lighting would be adequate in many cases as well.
The Griffin is a mythical creature that is half
bird and half lion. Here the beast is in a peaceful setting
as decoration, as opposed to the images above from Persepolis
where the griffin was fighting the emperor.
Here he looks to be almost a pet.
Most of the Minoan decoration is fish, mythical
creatures or scenes of palace life.
Palace of Knossos
Wall paintings, frescoes
and pottery all have pictures of a bright, leisurely society,
surrounded by wine, butterflies and flowers.
An earthquake in 1600 damaged the palace and badly
hurt the island. The palace was largely rebuilt, only to be
destroyed again by fire in the 14th century BC.
This signaled the end of the Minoan ageand the
beginning of the Mycenaens.
Mycenea was built on mainland Greece and
was vulnerable to a wide variety of invaders. Crete,
on the other hand, was the central naval power for
many centuries, and many small islands were protected
by the Minoan armies. These islands were unified politically
very early on, and thus a leisure lifestyle was allowed
to grow and flourish. The Minoan island palaces were
built to protect the inhabitants, but they were largely
protected by the sea.
Mainland Greece, in contrast, was composed
of fortified towns that were situated within the agricultural
areas and meant to house the inhabitants in time of
conflict. The king or chieftain would be housed luxuriously
in the palace, and the farmers and farm workers would
supply the palace and gain protection in return. The
resulting geometry is less decorative and more solid
than the island counterparts.
Palace at Tiryns, Mycenae 1400
- 1100 BC
Mycenae was a city in the Peloponnese
which flourished between 1600 and 1200 BCE. It was the home
of Agamemnon, and the birthplace of the Illiad and the Odyssey.
Mycenae was on mainland Greece.
A fortified city of barbaric splendor, the ordinary citizens
lived in reed huts outside the city walls.
The stonework is constructed of such gigantic
pieces of stone that it is often referred to as cyclopean.
In the distance can be seen the circuitous route
needed to approach the palace. This was, obviously, for defense.
The roadway led through two gateways and two propylaea composed
of an inner and and outer columned porch with one single doorway
into the inner walled space.
The King's residential apartments and palace were
at the top of the hill, and the king's court and retainers had
smaller residences along the northern edge of this. A large
open area between the smaller residences and the ramparts was
to house the farmers for extended periods during times of siege.
The buildings were of rubble often faced by ashlar
War was the major business, so most of the buildings
were fortress like in nature. The citadel was built to protect
the people and trade. The walls were 6 -7 meters thick and as
much as 10 metres high.
The gateway to the Palace of Tiryns was built
to protect. The lintel is 4.9 m (16ft) long and spans an opening
of 3.2m (10ft6inches). The massive jambs support the lintel
as well as a huge wooden door with iron hinges.
The Lion Gate is the best known
detail of the Palace of Tiryns, part of the large citadel. Two
lions are facing the downward tapering column typical of Agean
architecture of the time. The column supports a lintel with
round logs as shown above.
The walls of the fortress were constructed of
heavy stone. This is referred to as cyclopean,
the blocks of stone are huge and irregular, yet fitted together
perfectly with no mortar joints. Cyclopean architecture is found
in Etruscan, Anatolian other Greek sites.
In many centers throughout the Fertile
Crescent and southern Europe, what we now know as
France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, you can find housing
dating from many millennia BC. Early houses and settlements
are generally in temperate climates and make good
use of natural lighting and local materials. Those
who built their homes within
the existing caves are called troglodytes. Sources
differ in the dating of the earliest settlements,
but good examples can be found in a number of places.
The often cave houses have separate rooms, ledges
for shelving, beds and couches, and stone tables.
Les Baux de Province
The rock spur that forms the base of Les Baux
de Province is found adjacent to the Alpilles in southern France.
The climate is relatively mild in the winter and extremely hot
in the summer. This is the perfect setting for early man who
found the vertical ravines useful for protection from predators,
both man and beast. The limestone that comprises the hill had
many natural crevices that were hollowed out by early man to
form two and three room houses. Many of these dwellings were
occupied up until the late 1800s. The surrounding hills have
similar cave dwellings.
Les Baux de Province
The houses that are situated on the side of the
hill, such as the one above, are facing south and are accessible
from only one rocky craig. Those found on the top of the plateau
like this one were more easily accessible and larger in size.
Windows were cut into many walls to allow views across the valleys.
Fresh water was not available on top of the plateau so the inhabitants
carved gullies into the rock face which drained rain water into
a basin or rock cavern. These houses are generally south facing
Les Baux de Province
Other houses were carved out of the rock face
of a southwest facing rise on the plateau. Inside the house,
sections of the walls were carved out to form basins for water
and oil .The region produces some of the best olive oil in the
world, There is evidence in the bible and other sources, that
olive oil was produced several millennia before the birth of
Shelving and storage areas can be found in the
houses as well as in the public areas. Beds, chairs and tables
were also made from stone as well as wood.
The image on the right shows a water gully coming
down from a plateau higher up. Small holes on the exterior wall
were for pigeons - an original dove cote.
Above the Greek theatre in Syracuse are a crescent
of natural rock outcrops that provide a southern exposeure over
a dell and series of natural plains that descend gently to the
sea. The soft limestone of the cave walls plus the brilliant
location makes this a natural site for early troglodytes.
During the Greek era, these caves became sites
for worship, just as those in Athens and other centers were,
but they were used prior to this as living accomodations.
World Extra Reading and Films
Diamond, Jared, Guns,
Germs and Steel, New York, W.W.Norton and Company,
Hawkins, Gerald, Stonehenge
Decoded, Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1965
Rutherford, Edward, Sarum,
The Novel of England, New York, Ivy Books,
Tarnas, Richard, Cosmos
and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View,
Toronto, Penguin, 1987
Wright, Ronald, A Short
History of Progress, Toronto, House of Anansi
Alexander - Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie
The Mummy - Brandon Fraeser