Reconstructing Minoan Dining Practice and Sociopolitical Organization in Neopalatial Households and Palaces

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Food is among the most symbolically potent materials with which humans interact because it is simultaneously biologically necessary and socially constructed. Nevertheless, studies of Minoan Crete, as in other areas of the Bronze Age Mediterranean, fail to acknowledge this dual nature of food. Instead, most current scholarship on Minoan food is divided into two distinct camps: studies of subsistence focus on the nutritional qualities of food, and studies of feasting invoke its role in elite social organization. The result of this dichotomy is that while scholars have been able to list the ingredients in the typical Minoan’s diet and have been quick to identify sumptuous banquets at palaces, tombs, and religious sites, little attention is paid to the practices of cooking and eating in Minoan homes. This dissertation addresses this lacuna by analyzing the evidence of cuisine and dining etiquette at four Late Minoan IB domestic sites. Through a functional analysis of ceramic vessels and close examination of architectural layout, I investigate what kinds of foods were cooked, what cooking techniques were used, how diners interacted with the food and with each other, and how household layout reflected commensality behaviors. Furthermore, this study clarifies the political role of feasting in Neopalatial palaces by comparing the palace evidence to the general system of Minoan commensality gleaned from the case studies. I accomplish this goal by implementing a theoretical model that treats feasting as one end of a spectrum of food-sharing behaviors encompassing the most mundane to the most elaborate meals. Treating meals comparatively allows a closer understanding of the experience of the diners, who would have judged a meal’s value against all those they had eaten previously. Thus, I consider the intentions of the hosts and the messages received by the guests. As a result, my analysis of Minoan cuisine and reevaluation of palatial feasts sheds light on the functions of the palaces themselves, and the sociopolitical systems that they upheld through their banquets.

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Bronze Age; Ceramics; Feasting; Houses; Minoan; Archaeology; Classical studies; food


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Manning, Sturt

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Khatchadourian, Lori
Barrett, Caitlin Eilis

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Ph. D., Classics

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Doctor of Philosophy

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dissertation or thesis

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