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2 January 2014
Bronze Age artists used palace floor as a creative canvas

The floors of Greek Bronze Age palaces were made of plaster that was often incised and painted with grids containing brightly colored patterns and/or marine animal figures.
     In researching one such floor in the Throne Room at the Palace of Nestor, one of the best-preserved palaces of the Mycenaean civilization, University of Cincinnati student Emily Catherine Egan has found evidence that the floor's painted designs, dating back to between 1300-1200 BCE, were meant to replicate a physical hybrid of cloth and stone - serving not only to impress but also to instruct the ancient viewer.
     According to Egan, "Mycenaean palatial floor paintings are typically believed to represent a single surface treatment - most often cut stone or pieced carpets. At Pylos, however, the range of represented patterns suggests that the floor in the great hall of the palace was deliberately designed to represent both of these materials simultaneously, creating a new, clever way to impress visitors while simultaneously instructing them on where to look and how to move within the space."
     During her research, Egan noted that some of the intricate motifs of the Throne Room floor recalled 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 the Greek mainland. She contended that the hybrid combination of these materials on the Throne Room floor was specifically designed to "supersede 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."
     Egan also argued that the hybrid quality of the floor was intended to draw attention to one of its other notable features - a dramatic diagonal in the grid design. Past studies had posited that this introduction of a strong diagonal into the floor's otherwise regular grid pattern had been an uncorrected mistake. However, Egan believes that the diagonal was intentional: "A way to draw both a visitor's eyes and his or her footsteps toward the throne positioned along the right-hand wall of the room. It was painting with a purpose." In addition, Egan's study at the Palace of Nestor has uncovered the first evidence for the use of a drafting technique called an artist's grid to paint a floor.

Edited from EurekAlert! (2 January 2014)

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