Labouring with large stones

A study into the investment and impact of construction projects on Mycenaean communities in Late Bronze Age Greece

Yannick Boswinkel | 2021

Labouring with large stones

A study into the investment and impact of construction projects on Mycenaean communities in Late Bronze Age Greece

Yannick Boswinkel | 2021


Paperback ISBN: 9789464280098 | Hardback ISBN: 9789464280104 | Imprint: Sidestone Press Dissertations | Format: 210x280mm | 196 pp. | Language: English | 13 illus. (bw) | 31 illus. (fc) | Keywords: ancient Greece; labour cost study; Mycenae; Late Bronze Age; fortifications; Cyclopean | download cover

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This book explores the cost, expressed in labour, of constructing fortifications during the Late Bronze Age in Greece (ca. 1600 – 1050 BCE). The underlying question for this study is whether the cost of large scale constructions, built with large, unwieldy blocks, may have overstretched the (economic) capabilities of communities, leading to their collapse.

In order to determine the labour costs, the building process is deconstructed and for each sub-process, the costs are determined. The costs for these sub-processes are based on the amount of material that is required and the speed with which the tasks associated with these processes can be performed. However, a simplistic number expressing the labour (in person-hours, for example), gives limited insight into the impact such building projects may have had on the communities. Hence, elaborate comparisons are made to put these labour costs into context. This involves, for instance, comparisons between different fortifications, different building styles, as well as between types of structures. It is in these comparisons where the true strength of labour cost studies lie.

This study on its own cannot definitively answer the question whether these construction projects led to the downfall of the Mycenaean communities. However, based purely on the results of the labour cost analyses, it is shown that, despite the impressive nature of the walls, both due to their size as well as due to the size of the stones used, communities seem to have been able to cope with the stress it may have put on their economies. This study, therefore, provides insights into building processes, the impact of material and building styles on construction costs as well as the large varieties that exist within a context collectively known as ‘Mycenaean’.

English Summary
Nederlandse samenvatting
Acknowledgments
List of figures
List of tables
Glossary

1 Introduction
2 Late Bronze Age Greece
3 The fortifications of Mycenaean Greece
4 The case studies
5 Methodology
6 The data: measurements of blocks, fortifications and houses
7 Labour costs of fortifications and domestic structures
8 Interpreting the results of a labour cost study
9 Conclusions

Bibliography
Curriculum Vitae

Appendices
Appendix 1 Overview of the calculated volumes of material for domestic structures
Appendix 2 Overview of the calculations of the volume of the blocks according to the scenarios used
Appendix 3 Overview of the quarrying calculations
Appendix 4 Overview of the transport calculations
Appendix 5 Overview of the assembly calculations
Appendix 6 Overview of the calculations of the total costs

Dr. Yannick Boswinkel

Yannick Boswinkel (Schiedam 1987) started his archaeological education in 2009 at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University. He completed the two-year research master ‘Town and Country in the Mediterranean and the Near East’, cum laude in 2015. In 2016 he started his PhD project in the SETinSTONE project, led by Prof. dr. Ann Brysbaert at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University. The study into the investment required for large scale fortifications in Mycenaean Greece, was finished in four years. Within the same period, Yannick was also head of the Faculty Council at the same institute for two years (2017-2019) and an editor for the journal INTER-SECTION for three years (2016-2019). After finishing his PhD, Yannick gained a position as a project manager with an engineering firm, Econsultancy.

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Abstract:

This book explores the cost, expressed in labour, of constructing fortifications during the Late Bronze Age in Greece (ca. 1600 – 1050 BCE). The underlying question for this study is whether the cost of large scale constructions, built with large, unwieldy blocks, may have overstretched the (economic) capabilities of communities, leading to their collapse.

In order to determine the labour costs, the building process is deconstructed and for each sub-process, the costs are determined. The costs for these sub-processes are based on the amount of material that is required and the speed with which the tasks associated with these processes can be performed. However, a simplistic number expressing the labour (in person-hours, for example), gives limited insight into the impact such building projects may have had on the communities. Hence, elaborate comparisons are made to put these labour costs into context. This involves, for instance, comparisons between different fortifications, different building styles, as well as between types of structures. It is in these comparisons where the true strength of labour cost studies lie.

This study on its own cannot definitively answer the question whether these construction projects led to the downfall of the Mycenaean communities. However, based purely on the results of the labour cost analyses, it is shown that, despite the impressive nature of the walls, both due to their size as well as due to the size of the stones used, communities seem to have been able to cope with the stress it may have put on their economies. This study, therefore, provides insights into building processes, the impact of material and building styles on construction costs as well as the large varieties that exist within a context collectively known as ‘Mycenaean’.

Contents

English Summary
Nederlandse samenvatting
Acknowledgments
List of figures
List of tables
Glossary

1 Introduction
2 Late Bronze Age Greece
3 The fortifications of Mycenaean Greece
4 The case studies
5 Methodology
6 The data: measurements of blocks, fortifications and houses
7 Labour costs of fortifications and domestic structures
8 Interpreting the results of a labour cost study
9 Conclusions

Bibliography
Curriculum Vitae

Appendices
Appendix 1 Overview of the calculated volumes of material for domestic structures
Appendix 2 Overview of the calculations of the volume of the blocks according to the scenarios used
Appendix 3 Overview of the quarrying calculations
Appendix 4 Overview of the transport calculations
Appendix 5 Overview of the assembly calculations
Appendix 6 Overview of the calculations of the total costs

Dr. Yannick Boswinkel

Yannick Boswinkel (Schiedam 1987) started his archaeological education in 2009 at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University. He completed the two-year research master ‘Town and Country in the Mediterranean and the Near East’, cum laude in 2015. In 2016 he started his PhD project in the SETinSTONE project, led by Prof. dr. Ann Brysbaert at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University. The study into the investment required for large scale fortifications in Mycenaean Greece, was finished in four years. Within the same period, Yannick was also head of the Faculty Council at the same institute for two years (2017-2019) and an editor for the journal INTER-SECTION for three years (2016-2019). After finishing his PhD, Yannick gained a position as a project manager with an engineering firm, Econsultancy.

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