Lessons from the past: some Greek Bronze Age responses to natural disasters and their modern counterparts

Lucia Alberti

Abstract


Earthquakes were so well known a phenomenon in antiquity as to inspire myths and require the creation of apotropaic cults. The stories linked to Poseidon, god of the sea, earthquakes and tsunami, had their origins during the Bronze Age, when Poseidon is the most frequently named god. In addition to literary traditions, we are able to recognize quite well in archaeological excavations traces of earthquakes and sometimes also of tsunami.

The question we here investigate is how Bronze Age people formulated a practical response to these events in terms of suitably resistant architecture. And what of these techniques still can be used in modern times.

In Aegean Bronze Age architecture, a series of anti-seismic practices were early developed during the more than two millennia. In Minoan palaces in particular, lighter walls were superimposed on stone ones built at basement or ground floor levels. Using vertical, horizontal and cross timbers they put up wooden frames into which stone and mudbrick elements were integrated and bonded, and over which clay and plaster were later applied. Recent research has improved our knowledge not only about the buildings and their basic structures, but also about more detailed aspects, such as the expertise of the Minoan masters in developing various types of plasters with different degrees of elasticity.

This contribution will investigate how extensively these techniques are spread in the Mediterranean basin and elsewhere, both in ancient and modern times. And how they can be applied to contemporary architecture in a more sustainable way.

Keywords


Bronze Age anti-seismic techniques; Minoan palaces; wood and mudbrick technique; mudbrick architecture; ancient sustainability

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References


DOI: https://doi.org/10.4401/ag-8143
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Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN: 2037-416X