Greek Ancient Artists Used Palace Floors as Creative Canvas

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The floors of ancient Greek palaces dating back to the Bronze age, were made of plaster that was engraved and painted with colorful patterns and marine animals.

Doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati Department of Classics, Emily Catherine Egan, has carried out research on a floor from one of the best preserved Mycenaean palaces, in the Throne Room at the Palace of Nestor. She has discovered that the painted designs not only served as decoration, but were also educational.

As reported by the website phys.org, she is due to present her discoveries at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, in Chicago on January 2-5.

According to Egan, “Mycenaean palatial floor paintings are typically believed to represent a single surface treatment – most often cut stone or pieces of carpet. At Pylos, the range of patterns suggests that the floor of the great hall of the palace was deliberately designed to represent both of these materials simultaneously, creating a new and clever way to impress visitors while at the same time showing them where to look and how to move through the hall.”

Egan’s research on the painted floor at the Palace of Nestor was carried out during 2012-13. She noted that some of the intricate motifs of the Throne Room floor echoed the mottled and veined patterns of painted stone masonry, while other elements mimicked patterns on depictions of textiles in wall paintings both from Crete and mainland Greece. She argues that the hybrid combination of these materials on the Throne Room floor (also evident in other paintings in the palace) was specifically designed to, “suspend reality. It depicted something that could not exist in the real world, a floor made of both carpet and stone. As such, the painting would have communicated the immense and potentially supernatural power of the reigning monarch, who seemingly had the ability to manipulate and transform his physical environment.”