National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Carl Knappett

Affiliation: University of Toronto

Carl Knappett is the Walter Graham/Homer Thompson Chair in Aegean Prehistory at the University of Toronto, and holds his degrees from the University of Cambridge (Ph.D. in Archaeology).  His areas of specialization are Bronze Age Crete and the eastern Mediterranean, early urbanism and political geography, theories of materiality, network analysis, ceramic analysis, and early art/semiotics/cognitive archaeology.  He has received numerous awards for his work, and among his publication projects is his forthcoming Aegean Bronze Age Art (Cambridge University Press, 2020).  Professor Knappett was an AIA Joukowsky Lecturer for 2019/2020.


Palaikastro is one of the most intensively excavated settlements of Minoan Crete. Yet, we still understand relatively little of its urban organization, and how the town fit in its wider landscape. In this talk I report on a five-year project (2012-16) that has conducted excavations in a new neighborhood on the edge of town, while also applying techniques of landscape analysis to look at the site’s environmental setting. Besides the themes of urban development and landscape use in the Bronze Age, I will also touch on issues concerning collaborative research, community involvement, and the politics of the past.

Network science is having a profound impact on many areas of scholarly endeavor. Archaeology is no exception, with network concepts and methods changing the ways in which we investigate interactions and relations at many scales. In this talk I will review this new paradigm and illustrate with examples from the east Mediterranean.

The Aegean Bronze Age is famous for its striking artefacts, such as the gold death masks of Mycenae, the faience snake goddesses of Knossos, or the wall paintings from Thera. However, while such riches elicit awe among museum-goers, archaeologists have been largely turning their attention instead to more mundane artefacts: cooking pots, storage jars, and middens. Although this archaeological focus does make perfect sense in many ways, it studiously omits some of the most important finds for our understanding of Aegean Bronze Age societies. I will argue that this can in part be attributed to a nervousness about discussing seemingly outmoded categories such as ‘art’ and ‘religion’; and that with fresh theoretical eyes we can rehabilitate these areas and generate new interpretations of ‘artworks’ and their role in Minoan and Mycenaean religion.

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