Minoan Architecture Timeline

Minoan Architecture Timeline

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Minoan art

Minoan art is the art produced by the Bronze Age Aegean Minoan civilization from about 3000 to 1100 BC, though the most extensive and finest survivals come from approximately 2300 to 1400 BC. It forms part of the wider grouping of Aegean art, and in later periods came for a time to have a dominant influence over Cycladic art. Since wood and textiles have decomposed, the best-preserved (and most instructive) surviving examples of Minoan art are its pottery, palace architecture (with frescos which include "the earliest pure landscapes anywhere"), [3] small sculptures in various materials, jewellery, metal vessels, and intricately-carved seals.

One quick version of the Minoan chronology, Early, Middle and Late periods
3500–2900 BC [2] EMI Prepalatial
2900–2300 BC EMII
2300–2100 BC EMIII
2100–1900 BC MMIA
1900–1800 BC MMIB Protopalatial
(Old Palace Period)
1800–1750 BC MMIIA
1750–1700 BC MMIIB Neopalatial
(New Palace Period)
1700–1650 BC MMIIIA
1650–1600 BC MMIIIB
1600–1500 BC LMIA
1500–1450 BC LMIB Postpalatial
(at Knossos
Final Palace Period)
1450–1400 BC LMII
1400–1350 BC LMIIIA
1350–1100 BC LMIIIB

It was influenced by the neighbouring cultures of Ancient Egypt and the ancient Near East, which had produced sophisticated urban art for much longer, but the character of the small but wealthy mercantile Minoan cities was very different, with little evidence of large temple-based religion, monarchs, or warfare, and "all the imaginative power and childlike freshness of a very young culture". [4] All these aspects of the Minoan culture remain rather mysterious. Sinclair Hood described an "essential quality of the finest Minoan art, the ability to create an atmosphere of movement and life although following a set of highly formal conventions". [5]

The largest and best collection of Minoan art is in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum ("AMH") near Knossos, on the northern coast of Crete. Minoan art and other remnants of material culture, especially the sequence of ceramic styles, have been used by archaeologists to define the three main phases of Minoan culture (EM, MM, LM), and their many sub-phases. The dates to be attached to these remain much discussed, although within narrowing ranges. [6]

The relationship of Minoan art to that of other contemporary cultures and later Ancient Greek art has been much discussed. It clearly dominated Mycenaean art and Cycladic art of the same periods, [7] even after Crete was occupied by the Mycenaeans, but only some aspects of the tradition survived the Greek Dark Ages after the collapse of Mycenaean Greece. [8]

Aegean Architecture

The Minoan homeland was the island of Crete. Minoan buildings were typically made of timber frames filled with clay bricks. At the heart of each Minoan city was a multi-story palace with a large central courtyard. G91,1,3

During the first phase of Minoan history, the Pre-Palace age (ca. 3000-2000 BC), the Minoans were a non-urban culture that lacked large-scale architecture (including palaces, hence the name of the period). The subsequent Palace age (ca. 2000-1400 BC) was the great flowering of Minoan culture, during which they flourished as an urban civilization. Palaces were the foremost type of Minoan architecture. 1

The largest Minoan palace was erected at Knossos, the Minoan capital. This building features hundreds of rooms that served variously as bedrooms, offices, workshops, art studios, and storage chambers. Thus, along with housing the ruling class, a Minoan palace served as the hub of city business. G91,1

Mycenaean Age

The Mycenaeans based their culture firmly on that of the Minoans, as evidenced by their general architectural style. They ascended as a civilization during the Palace age, then ruled the Aegean for about two centuries: a period known as the Mycenaean age (ca. 1400-1200). Unlike the Minoans (who could rely chiefly on naval defence), the Mycenaeans surrounded their cities with massive defensive walls. 3 The ruins of such walls have been preserved at several sites, including Mycenae, the civilization's foremost city.

A typical Mycenaean palace consisted of a central rectangular hall flanked by smaller chambers. The central hall, referred to as a megaron, featured a grand entrance framed with a portico (covered porch with columns). It was from the megaron that the Greek temple developed. D46-47,1,3

Table of Minoan chronology Edit

Prepalatial, Pre-Palace (Προανακτορική), Protominoan Age (Platon) [20]
Copper Age (Matz, Hutchinson) [21]
Early Bronze Age (Hood) EM 3000–2200 (Evans, Hood)
2600–2000 (Matz)
3200–2000 (Hemingway) Πρωτομινωική or ΠΜ in Greek.First Early Minoan (Hutchinson)
Phase I (Platon) EM I 3400–2800 (Evans)
2600–2300 (Matz)
2500–2400 (Hutchinson)
3200–2600 (Gimbutas)
3000–2600 (Willetts, Hood)
2800–2200 (Mackenzie)
3200–2720 (Hemingway) The main problem has been setting the end of the Neolithic its layers were destroyed by building at Knossos.

The period is attested by pottery from a well at Knossos, in Tholos Tomb 2 at Lebena and by an EM I layer at Debla.

The search for a consistent chronology of Cretan civilization goes on. Other tabular chronologies have been published on the Internet by:


The term "Minoan" refers to the mythical King Minos of Knossos, a figure in Greek mythology associated with Theseus, the labyrinth and the Minotaur. It is purely a modern term with a 19th-century origin. It is commonly attributed to the British archeologist Arthur Evans (1851–1941), [4] who was certainly the one to establish it as the accepted term in archaeology and popular usage. But Karl Hoeck had already used the title Das Minoische Kreta in 1825 for volume two of his Kreta this appears to be the first known use of the word "Minoan" to mean "ancient Cretan".

Evans probably read Hoeck's book, and continued using the term in his writings and findings: [5] "To this early civilization of Crete as a whole I have proposed—and the suggestion has been generally adopted by the archaeologists of this and other countries—to apply the name 'Minoan'." [6] Evans said that he applied it, not invented it.

Hoeck, with no idea that the archaeological Crete had existed, had in mind the Crete of mythology. Although Evans' 1931 claim that the term was "unminted" before he used it was called a "brazen suggestion" by Karadimas and Momigliano, [5] he coined its archaeological meaning.

Minoan chronology
3500–2900 BC [7] EMI Prepalatial
2900–2300 BC EMII
2300–2100 BC EMIII
2100–1900 BC MMIA
1900–1800 BC MMIB Protopalatial
(Old Palace Period)
1800–1750 BC MMIIA
1750–1700 BC MMIIB Neopalatial
(New Palace Period)
1700–1650 BC MMIIIA
1650–1600 BC MMIIIB
1600–1500 BC LMIA
1500–1450 BC LMIB Postpalatial
(at Knossos
Final Palace Period)
1450–1400 BC LMII
1400–1350 BC LMIIIA
1350–1100 BC LMIIIB

Instead of dating the Minoan period, archaeologists use two systems of relative chronology. The first, created by Evans and modified by later archaeologists, is based on pottery styles and imported Egyptian artifacts (which can be correlated with the Egyptian chronology). Evans' system divides the Minoan period into three major eras: early (EM), middle (MM) and late (LM). These eras are subdivided—for example, Early Minoan I, II and III (EMI, EMII, EMIII).

Another dating system, proposed by Greek archaeologist Nikolaos Platon, is based on the development of architectural complexes known as "palaces" at Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and Zakros. Platon divides the Minoan period into pre-, proto-, neo- and post-palatial sub-periods. The relationship between the systems in the table includes approximate calendar dates from Warren and Hankey (1989).

The Minoan eruption of Thera occurred during a mature phase of the LM IA period. Efforts to establish the volcanic eruption's date have been controversial. Radiocarbon dating has indicated a date in the late 17th century BC [8] [9] this conflicts with estimates by archaeologists, who synchronize the eruption with conventional Egyptian chronology for a date of 1525–1500 BC. [10] [11] [12] Tree-ring dating using the patterns of carbon-14 captured in the tree rings from Gordion and bristlecone pines in North America indicate an eruption date around 1560 BC. [13]

Overview Edit

Although stone-tool evidence suggests that hominins may have reached Crete as early as 130,000 years ago, evidence for the first anatomically-modern human presence dates to 10,000–12,000 YBP. [14] [15] The oldest evidence of modern human habitation on Crete is pre-ceramic Neolithic farming-community remains which date to about 7000 BC. [16] A comparative study of DNA haplogroups of modern Cretan men showed that a male founder group, from Anatolia or the Levant, is shared with the Greeks. [17] The Neolithic population lived in open villages. Fishermen's huts were found on the shores, and the fertile Messara Plain was used for agriculture. [18]

Early Minoan Edit

The Early Bronze Age (3500 to 2100 BC) has been described as indicating a "promise of greatness" in light of later developments on the island. [19] The Bronze Age began on Crete around 3200 BC. [20] In the late third millennium BC, several locations on the island developed into centers of commerce and handiwork, enabling the upper classes to exercise leadership and expand their influence. It is likely that the original hierarchies of the local elites were replaced by monarchies, a precondition for the palaces. [21] Pottery typical of the Korakou culture was discovered in Crete during the Early Minoan Period. [22]

Middle Minoan Edit

At the end of the MMII period (1700 BC) there was a large disturbance on Crete—probably an earthquake, but possibly an invasion from Anatolia. [23] The palaces at Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and Kato Zakros were destroyed.

At the beginning of the neopalatial period the population increased again, [24] the palaces were rebuilt on a larger scale and new settlements were built across the island. This period (the 17th and 16th centuries BC, MM III-Neopalatial) was the apex of Minoan civilization. After around 1700 BC, material culture on the Greek mainland reached a new high due to Minoan influence. [21]

Late Minoan Edit

Another natural catastrophe occurred around 1600 BC, possibly an eruption of the Thera volcano. The Minoans rebuilt the palaces with several major differences in function. [25] [21] [26]

Around 1450 BC, Minoan culture reached a turning point due to a natural disaster (possibly an earthquake). Although another eruption of the Thera volcano has been linked to this downfall, its dating and implications are disputed. Several important palaces, in locations such as Malia, Tylissos, Phaistos and Hagia Triada, and the living quarters of Knossos were destroyed. The palace in Knossos seems to have remained largely intact, resulting in its dynasty's ability to spread its influence over large parts of Crete until it was overrun by the Mycenaean Greeks. [21]

After about a century of partial recovery, most Cretan cities and palaces declined during the 13th century BC (LHIIIB-LMIIIB). The last Linear A archives date to LMIIIA, contemporary with LHIIIA. Knossos remained an administrative center until 1200 BC. The last Minoan site was the defensive mountain site of Karfi, a refuge which had vestiges of Minoan civilization nearly into the Iron Age. [27]

Foreign influence Edit

The influence of Minoan civilization is seen in Minoan art and artifacts on the Greek mainland. The shaft tombs of Mycenae had several Cretan imports (such as a bull's-head rhyton), which suggests a prominent role for Minoan symbolism. Connections between Egypt and Crete are prominent Minoan ceramics are found in Egyptian cities, and the Minoans imported items (particularly papyrus) and architectural and artistic ideas from Egypt. Egyptian hieroglyphs might even have been models for the Cretan hieroglyphs, from which the Linear A and Linear B writing systems developed. [18] Archaeologist Hermann Bengtson has also found a Minoan influence in Canaanite artifacts.

Minoan palace sites were occupied by the Mycenaeans around 1420–1375 BC. [28] [21] Mycenaean Greek, a form of ancient Greek, was written in Linear B, which was an adaptation of Linear A. The Mycenaeans tended to adapt (rather than supplant) Minoan culture, religion and art, [29] continuing the Minoan economic system and bureaucracy. [21]

During LMIIIA (1400–1350 BC), k-f-t-w was listed as one of the "Secret Lands of the North of Asia" at the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III. [30] Also mentioned are Cretan cities such as Amnisos, Phaistos, Kydonia and Knossos and toponyms reconstructed as in the Cyclades or the Greek mainland. If the values of these Egyptian names are accurate, the Pharaoh did not value LMIII Knossos more than other states in the region. [31]

Crete is a mountainous island with natural harbors. There are signs of earthquake damage at many Minoan sites, and clear signs of land uplifting and submersion of coastal sites due to tectonic processes along its coast. [32]

According to Homer, Crete had 90 cities. [33] Judging by the palace sites, the island was probably divided into at least eight political units at the height of the Minoan period. The majority of Minoan sites are found in central and eastern Crete, with few in the western part of the island, especially to the south. There appear to have been four major palaces on the island: Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, and Kato Zakros. At least before a unification under Knossos, north-central Crete is thought to have been governed from Knossos, the south from Phaistos, the central-eastern region from Malia, the eastern tip from Kato Zakros, the west from Kydonia. Smaller palaces have been found elsewhere on the island.

Major settlements Edit

    – the largest [34] Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. Knossos had an estimated population of 1,300 to 2,000 in 2500 BC, 18,000 in 2000 BC, 20,000 to 100,000 in 1600 BC and 30,000 in 1360 BC. [35][36] – the second-largest [34] palatial building on the island, excavated by the Italian school shortly after Knossos – the subject of French excavations, a palatial center which provides a look into the proto-palatial period – sea-side palatial site excavated by Greek archaeologists in the far east of the island, also known as "Zakro" in archaeological literature – confirmed as a palatial site during the early 1990s (modern Chania), the only palatial site in West Crete – administrative center near Phaistos which has yielded the largest number of Linear A tablets. – town site excavated in the first quarter of the 20th century – early Minoan site in southern Crete – early eastern Minoan site which gives its name to distinctive ceramic ware – southern site – island town with ritual sites – the greatest Minoan peak sanctuary, associated with the palace of Knossos [37] – site of the Arkalochori Axe – refuge site, one of the last Minoan sites – settlement on the island of Santorini (Thera), near the site of the Thera Eruption – mountainous city in the northern foothills of Mount Ida

Beyond Crete Edit

The Minoans were traders, and their cultural contacts reached the Old Kingdom of Egypt, copper-containing Cyprus, Canaan and the Levantine coast and Anatolia. In late 2009 Minoan-style frescoes and other artifacts were discovered during excavations of the Canaanite palace at Tel Kabri, Israel, leading archaeologists to conclude that the Minoan influence was the strongest on the Canaanite city-state. These are the only Minoan artifacts which have been found in Israel. [38]

Minoan techniques and ceramic styles had varying degrees of influence on Helladic Greece. Along with Santorini, Minoan settlements are found [39] at Kastri, Kythera, an island near the Greek mainland influenced by the Minoans from the mid-third millennium BC (EMII) to its Mycenaean occupation in the 13th century. [40] [41] [42] Minoan strata replaced a mainland-derived early Bronze Age culture, the earliest Minoan settlement outside Crete. [43]

The Cyclades were in the Minoan cultural orbit and, closer to Crete, the islands of Karpathos, Saria and Kasos also contained middle-Bronze Age (MMI-II) Minoan colonies or settlements of Minoan traders. Most were abandoned in LMI, but Karpathos recovered and continued its Minoan culture until the end of the Bronze Age. [44] Other supposed Minoan colonies, such as that hypothesized by Adolf Furtwängler on Aegina, were later dismissed by scholars. [45] However, there was a Minoan colony at Ialysos on Rhodes. [46]

Minoan cultural influence indicates an orbit extending through the Cyclades to Egypt and Cyprus. Fifteenth-century BC paintings in Thebes, Egypt depict Minoan-appearing individuals bearing gifts. Inscriptions describing them as coming from keftiu ("islands in the middle of the sea") may refer to gift-bringing merchants or officials from Crete. [47]

Some locations on Crete indicate that the Minoans were an "outward-looking" society. [48] The neo-palatial site of Kato Zakros is located within 100 meters of the modern shoreline in a bay. Its large number of workshops and wealth of site materials indicate a possible entrepôt for trade. Such activities are seen in artistic representations of the sea, including the Ship Procession or "Flotilla" fresco in room five of the West House at Akrotiri. [49]

The Minoans raised cattle, sheep, pigs and goats, and grew wheat, barley, vetch and chickpeas. They also cultivated grapes, figs and olives, grew poppies for seed and perhaps opium. The Minoans also domesticated bees. [50]

Vegetables, including lettuce, celery, asparagus and carrots, grew wild on Crete. Pear, quince, and olive trees were also native. Date palm trees and cats (for hunting) were imported from Egypt. [51] The Minoans adopted pomegranates from the Near East, but not lemons and oranges.

They may have practiced polyculture, [52] and their varied, healthy diet resulted in a population increase. Polyculture theoretically maintains soil fertility and protects against losses due to crop failure. Linear B tablets indicate the importance of orchards (figs, olives and grapes) in processing crops for "secondary products". [53] Olive oil in Cretan or Mediterranean cuisine is comparable to butter in northern European cuisine. [54] The process of fermenting wine from grapes was probably a factor of the "Palace" economies wine would have been a trade commodity and an item of domestic consumption. [55] Farmers used wooden plows, bound with leather to wooden handles and pulled by pairs of donkeys or oxen.

Seafood was also important in Cretan cuisine. The prevalence of edible molluscs in site material [56] and artistic representations of marine fish and animals (including the distinctive Marine Style pottery, such as the LM IIIC "Octopus" stirrup jar), indicate appreciation and occasional use of fish by the economy. However, scholars believe that these resources were not as significant as grain, olives and animal produce. "Fishing was one of the major activities. but there is as yet no evidence for the way in which they organized their fishing." [57] An intensification of agricultural activity is indicated by the construction of terraces and dams at Pseira in the Late Minoan period.

Cretan cuisine included wild game: Cretans ate wild deer, wild boar and meat from livestock. Wild game is now extinct on Crete. [59] A matter of controversy is whether Minoans made use of the indigenous Cretan megafauna, which are typically thought to have been extinct considerably earlier at 10,000 BC. This is in part due to the presence of dwarf elephants in contemporary Egyptian art. [60]

Not all plants and flora were purely functional, and arts depict scenes of lily-gathering in green spaces. The fresco known as the Sacred Grove at Knossos depicts women facing left, flanked by trees. Some scholars have suggested that it is a harvest festival or ceremony to honor the fertility of the soil. Artistic depictions of farming scenes also appear on the Second Palace Period "Harvester Vase" (an egg-shaped rhyton) on which 27 men led by another carry bunches of sticks to beat ripe olives from the trees. [61]

The discovery of storage areas in the palace compounds has prompted debate. At the second "palace" at Phaistos, rooms on the west side of the structure have been identified as a storage area. Jars, jugs and vessels have been recovered in the area, indicating the complex's possible role as a re-distribution center for agricultural produce. At larger sites such as Knossos, there is evidence of craft specialization (workshops). The palace at Kato Zakro indicates that workshops were integrated into palace structure. The Minoan palatial system may have developed through economic intensification, where an agricultural surplus could support a population of administrators, craftsmen and religious practitioners. The number of sleeping rooms in the palaces indicates that they could have supported a sizable population which was removed from manual labor.

Tools Edit

Tools, originally made of wood or bone, were bound to handles with leather straps. During the Bronze Age, they were made of bronze with wooden handles. Due to its round hole, the tool head would spin on the handle. The Minoans developed oval-shaped holes in their tools to fit oval-shaped handles, which prevented spinning. [50] Tools included double adzes, double- and single-bladed axes, axe-adzes, sickles and chisels.

As Linear A, Minoan writing, has not been decoded yet, almost all information available about Minoan women is from various art forms. [62] Most importantly, women are depicted in fresco art paintings within various aspects of society such as child rearing, ritual participation, and worshiping.

Artistically, women were portrayed very differently compared to the representations of men. Most obviously, men were often artistically represented with dark skin while women were represented with lighter skin. [63] Fresco paintings also portray three class levels of women elite women, women of the masses, and servants. [62] A fourth, smaller class of women are also included among some paintings these women are those who participated in religious and sacred tasks. [62] Evidence for these different classes of women not only comes from fresco paintings but from Linear B tablets as well. Elite women were depicted within paintings as having a stature twice the size of women in lower classes: artistically this was a way of emphasizing the important difference between the elite wealthy women and the rest of the female population within society. [62]

Within paintings women were also portrayed as caretakers of children, however few frescoes portray pregnant women, most artistic representations of pregnant women are in the form of sculpted pots with the rounded base of the pots representing the pregnant belly. [62] Additionally, no Minoan art forms portray women giving birth, breast feeding, or procreating. [62] Lack of such actions leads historians to believe that these actions would have been recognized by Minoan society to be either sacred or inappropriate. [62] As public art pieces such as frescoes and pots do not illustrate these acts, it can be assumed that this part of a woman's life was kept private within society as a whole.

Not only was childbirth a private subject within Minoan society but it was a dangerous process as well. Archeological sources have found numerous bones of pregnant women, identified as pregnant by the fetus bones within their skeleton found in the abdomen area. [62] This leads to strong evidence that death during pregnancy and childbirth were common features within society. [62] Further archeological evidence illustrates strong evidence for female death caused by nursing as well. Death of this population is attributed to the vast amount of nutrition and fat that women lost because of lactation which they often could not get back.

As stated above childcare was a central job for women within Minoan society, evidence for this can not only be found within art forms but also within the Linear B found in Mycenaean communities. [64] Some of these sources describe the child-care practices common within Minoan society which help historians to better understand Minoan society and the role of women within these communities.

Other roles outside the household that have been identified as women's duties are food gathering, food preparation, and household care-taking. [65] Additionally, it has been found that women were represented in the artisan world as ceramic and textile craftswomen. [65]

As women got older it can be assumed that their jobs taking care of children ended and transitions to more of a priority towards household management and job mentoring, teaching younger women the jobs that they themselves participated in. [62]

Minoan dress representation also clearly marks the difference between men and women. Minoan men were often depicted clad in little clothing while women's bodies, specifically later on, were more covered up. While there is evidence that the structure of women's clothing originated as a mirror to the clothing that men wore, fresco art illustrates how women's clothing evolved to be more and more elaborate throughout the Minoan era. [66] Throughout the evolutions of women's clothing, a strong emphasis was placed on the women's sexual characteristics, particularly the breasts. [67] Female clothing throughout the Minoan era emphasized the breasts by exposing cleavage or even the entire breast. Similarly to the modern bodice women continue to wear today, Minoan women were portrayed with "wasp" waists. [62] This means that the waist of women were constricted, made smaller by a tall belt or a tight lace bodice. Furthermore, not only women but men are illustrated wearing these accessories.

Within Minoan society and throughout the Minoan era, numerous documents written in Linear B have been found documenting Minoan families. [62] Interestingly, spouses and children are not all listed together, in one section, fathers were listed with their sons, while mothers were listed with their daughter in a completely different section apart from the men who lived in the same household. [62] This signifies the vast gender divide that was present within all aspects of society.

Minoan society was a highly gendered and divided society separating men from women in clothing, art illustration, and societal duties. [64] Scholarship about Minoan women remains limited. [64]

Apart from the abundant local agriculture, the Minoans were also a mercantile people who engaged significantly in overseas trade, and at their peak may well have had a dominant position in international trade over much of the Mediterranean. After 1700 BC, their culture indicates a high degree of organization. Minoan-manufactured goods suggest a network of trade with mainland Greece (notably Mycenae), Cyprus, Syria, Anatolia, Egypt, Mesopotamia and westward as far as the Iberian peninsula. Minoan religion apparently focused on female deities, with women officiants. [68] While historians and archaeologists have long been skeptical of an outright matriarchy, the predominance of female figures in authoritative roles over male ones seems to indicate that Minoan society was matriarchal, and among the most well-supported examples known. [69] [68]

The term palace economy was first used by Evans of Knossos. It is now used as a general term for ancient pre-monetary cultures where much of the economy revolved around the collection of crops and other goods by centralized government or religious institutions (the two tending to go together) for redistribution to the population. This is still accepted as an important part of the Minoan economy all the palaces have very large amounts of space that seems to have been used for storage of agricultural produce, some remains of which have been excavated after they were buried by disasters. What role, if any, the palaces played in Minoan international trade is unknown, or how this was organized in other ways. The decipherment of Linear A would possibly shed light on this.

Government Edit

Very little is known about the forms of Minoan government the Minoan language has not yet been deciphered. [70] It used to be believed that the Minoans had a monarchy supported by a bureaucracy. [71] This might initially have been a number of monarchies, corresponding with the "palaces" around Crete, but later all taken over by Knossos, [72] which was itself later occupied by Mycenaean overlords. But, in notable contrast to contemporary Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, "Minoan iconography contains no pictures of recognizable kings", [68] : 175 and in recent decades it has come be thought that before the presumed Mycenaean invasion around 1450, a group of elite families, presumably living in the "villas" and the palaces, controlled both government and religion. [73]

Saffron trade Edit

A fresco of saffron-gatherers at Santorini is well-known. The Minoan trade in saffron, the stigma of a naturally-mutated crocus which originated in the Aegean basin, has left few material remains. According to Evans, the saffron (a sizable Minoan industry) was used for dye. [74] Other archaeologists emphasize durable trade items: ceramics, copper, tin, gold and silver. [74] The saffron may have had a religious significance. [75] The saffron trade, which predated Minoan civilization, was comparable in value to that of frankincense or black pepper.

Costume Edit

Sheep wool was the main fibre used in textiles, and perhaps a significant export commodity. Linen from flax was probably much less common, and possibly imported from Egypt, or grown locally. There is no evidence of silk, but some use is possible. [76]

As seen in Minoan art, Minoan men wore loincloths (if poor) or robes or kilts that were often long. Women wore long dresses with short sleeves and layered, flounced skirts. [77] With both sexes, there was a great emphasis in art in a small wasp waist, often taken to improbable extremes. Both sexes are often shown with rather thick belts or girdles at the waist. Women could also wear a strapless, fitted bodice, and clothing patterns had symmetrical, geometric designs. Men are shown as clean-shaven, and male hair was short, in styles that would be common today, except for some long thin tresses at the back, perhaps for young elite males. Female hair is typically shown with long tresses falling at the back, as in the fresco fragment known as La Parisienne. This got its name because when it was found in the early 20th century, a French art historian thought it resembled Parisian women of the day. [78] Children are shown in art with shaved heads (often blue in art) except for a few very long locks the rest of the hair is allowed to grow as they approach puberty [79] this can be seen in the Akrotiri Boxer Fresco.

Two famous Minoan snake goddess figurines from Knossos (one illustrated below) show bodices that circle their breasts, but do not cover them at all. These striking figures have dominated the popular image of Minoan clothing, and have been copied in some "reconstructions" of largely destroyed frescos, but few images unambiguously show this costume, and the status of the figures—goddesses, priestesses, or devotees—is not at all clear. What is clear, from pieces like the Agia Triada Sarcophagus, is that Minoan women normally covered their breasts priestesses in religious contexts may have been an exception. [80] This shows a funeral sacrifice, and some figures of both sexes are wearing aprons or skirts of animal hide, apparently left with the hair on. [81] This was probably the costume worn by both sexes by those engaged in rituals. [82]

Minoan jewellery included many gold ornaments for women's hair and also thin gold plaques to sew onto clothing. [83] Flowers were also often worn in the hair, as by the Poppy Goddess terracotta figurine and other figures. Frescos also show what are presumably woven or embroidered figures, human and animal, spaced out on clothing. [84]

Language and writing Edit

Minoan is an unclassified language, or perhaps multiple indeterminate languages written in the same script. It has been compared inconclusively to the Indo-European and Semitic language families, as well as to the proposed Tyrsenian languages or an unclassified pre-Indo-European language family. [85] [86] [87] [88] [89] [90] Several writing systems dating from the Minoan period have been unearthed in Crete, the majority of which are currently undeciphered.

The most well-known script is Linear A, dated to between 2500 BC and 1450 BC. [91] Linear A is the parent of the related Linear B script, which encodes the earliest known form of Greek. [92] and is also found elsewhere in the Aegean. The dating of the earliest examples of Linear B from Crete is controversial, but is unlikely to be before 1425 it is assumed that the start of its use reflects conquest by Mycenae. Several attempts to translate Linear A have been made, but consensus is lacking and Linear A is currently considered undeciphered. The language encoded by Linear A is tentatively dubbed "Minoan". When the values of the symbols in Linear B are used in Linear A, they produce unintelligible words, and would make Minoan unrelated to any other known language. There is a belief that the Minoans used their written language primarily as an accounting tool and that even if deciphered, may offer little insight other than detailed descriptions of quantities.

Linear A is preceded by about a century by the Cretan hieroglyphs. It is unknown whether the language is Minoan, and its origin is debated. Although the hieroglyphs are often associated with the Egyptians, they also indicate a relationship to Mesopotamian writings. [93] They came into use about a century before Linear A, and were used at the same time as Linear A (18th century BC MM II). The hieroglyphs disappeared during the 17th century BC (MM III).

The Phaistos Disc features a unique pictorial script. Although its origin is debated, it is now widely believed to be of Cretan origin. Because it is the only find of its kind, the script on the Phaistos disc remains undeciphered.

In addition to the above, five inscriptions dated to the 7th and 6th centuries BC have been found in Eastern Crete (and possible as late as the 3rd century BC) written in an archaic Greek alphabet that encode a clearly non-Greek language, dubbed "Eteocretan" (lit. "True Cretan"). Given the small number of inscriptions, the language remains little-known. Eteocretan inscriptions are separated from Linear A by about a millennium, and it is thus unknown if Eteocretan represents a descendant of the Minoan language.

Religion Edit

Arthur Evans thought the Minoans worshipped, more or less exclusively, a mother goddess, which heavily influenced views for decades. Recent scholarly opinion sees a much more diverse religious landscape although the absence of texts, or even readable relevant inscriptions, leaves the picture very cloudy. We have no names of deities until after the Mycenean conquest. Much Minoan art is given a religious significance of some sort, but this tends to be vague, not least because Minoan government is now often seen as a theocracy, so politics and religion have a considerable overlap. The Minoan pantheon featured many deities, among which a young, spear-wielding male god is also prominent. [94] Some scholars see in the Minoan Goddess a female divine solar figure. [95] [96]

It is very often difficult to distinguish between images of worshipers, priests and priestesses, rulers and deities indeed the priestly and royal roles may have often been the same, as leading rituals is often seen as the essence of rulership. Possibly as aspects of the main, probably dominant, nature/mother goddess, archaeologists have identified a mountain goddess, worshipped at peak sanctuaries, a dove goddess, a snake goddess perhaps protectress of the household, the Potnia Theron goddess of animals, and a goddess of childbirth. [97] Late Minoan terracotta votive figures like the poppy goddess (perhaps a worshipper) carry attributes, often birds, in their diadems. The mythical creature called the Minoan Genius is somewhat threatening but perhaps a protective figure, possibly of children it seems to largely derive from Taweret the Egyptian hybrid crocodile and hippopotamus goddess.

Men with a special role as priests or priest-kings are identifiable by diagonal bands on their long robes, and carrying over their shoulder a ritual "axe-sceptre" with a rounded blade. [98] The more conventionally-shaped labrys or double-headed axe, is a very common votive offering, probably for a male god, and large examples of the Horns of Consecration symbol, probably representing bull's horns, are shown on seals decorating buildings, with a few large actual survivals. Bull-leaping, very much centred on Knossos, is agreed to have a religious significance, perhaps to do with selecting the elite. The position of the bull in it is unclear the funeral ceremonies on the (very late) Hagia Triada sarcophagus include a bull sacrifice. [99]

According to Nanno Marinatos, "The hierarchy and relationship of gods within the pantheon is difficult to decode from the images alone." Marinatos disagrees with earlier descriptions of Minoan religion as primitive, saying that it "was the religion of a sophisticated and urbanized palatial culture with a complex social hierarchy. It was not dominated by fertility any more than any religion of the past or present has been, and it addressed gender identity, rites of passage, and death. It is reasonable to assume that both the organization and the rituals, even the mythology, resembled the religions of Near Eastern palatial civilizations." [100] It even seems that the later Greek pantheon would synthesize the Minoan female deity and Hittite goddess from the Near East. [101]

Symbolism Edit

Minoan horn-topped altars, which Arthur Evans called Horns of Consecration, are represented in seal impressions and have been found as far afield as Cyprus. Minoan sacred symbols include the bull (and its horns of consecration), the labrys (double-headed axe), the pillar, the serpent, the sun-disc, the tree, and even the Ankh.

Haralampos V. Harissis and Anastasios V. Harissis posit a different interpretation of these symbols, saying that they were based on apiculture rather than religion. [102] A major festival was exemplified in bull-leaping, represented in the frescoes of Knossos [103] and inscribed in miniature seals. [104]

Burial practices Edit

Similar to other Bronze Age archaeological finds, burial remains constitute much of the material and archaeological evidence for the period. By the end of the Second Palace Period, Minoan burial was dominated by two forms: circular tombs (tholoi) in southern Crete and house tombs in the north and the east. However, much Minoan mortuary practice does not conform to this pattern. Burial was more popular than cremation. [105] Individual burial was the rule, except for the Chrysolakkos complex in Malia. Here, a number of buildings form a complex in the center of Mallia's burial area and may have been the focus for burial rituals or a crypt for a notable family. [ citation needed ] Evidence of possible human sacrifice by the Minoans has been found at three sites: at Anemospilia, in a MMII building near Mt. Juktas considered a temple an EMII sanctuary complex at Fournou Korifi in south-central Crete, and in an LMIB building known as the North House in Knossos.

Architecture Edit

Minoan cities were connected by narrow roads paved with blocks cut with bronze saws. Streets were drained, and water and sewage facilities were available to the upper class through clay pipes. [106]

Minoan buildings often had flat, tiled roofs plaster, wood or flagstone floors, and stood two to three stories high. Lower walls were typically constructed of stone and rubble, and the upper walls of mudbrick. Ceiling timbers held up the roofs.

Construction materials for villas and palaces varied, and included sandstone, gypsum and limestone. Building techniques also varied, with some palaces using ashlar masonry and others roughly-hewn, megalithic blocks.

In north-central Crete blue-greenschist was used as to pave floors of streets and courtyards between 1650 and 1600 BC. These rocks were likely quarried in Agia Pelagia on the north coast of central Crete. [107]

Palaces Edit

The handful of very large structures for which Evans' term of palaces (anaktora) is still used are the best-known Minoan building types excavated on Crete at least five have now been excavated, though that at Knossos was much larger than the others, and may always have had a unique role. The others are at: Phaistos, Zakros, Malia, Gournia, and possibly Galatas and Hagia Triada. They are monumental buildings with administrative purposes, as evidenced by large archives unearthed by archaeologists. Each palace excavated to date has unique features, but they also share aspects which set them apart from other structures. Palaces are often multi-story, with interior and exterior staircases, lightwells, massive columns, very large storage areas and courtyards.

The first palaces were constructed at the end of the Early Minoan period in the third millennium BC at Malia. Although it was formerly believed that the foundation of the first palaces was synchronous and dated to the Middle Minoan period (around 2000 BC, the date of the first palace at Knossos), scholars now think that the palaces were built over a longer period in response to local developments. The main older palaces are Knossos, Malia and Phaistos. Elements of the Middle Minoan palaces (at Knossos, Phaistos and Malia, for example) have precedents in Early Minoan construction styles. [108] These include an indented western court and special treatment of the western façade. One example is the House on the Hill at Vasiliki, dated to the Early Minoan II period. [109] The palaces were centers of government, administrative offices, shrines, workshops and storage spaces. [110] [ self-published source ] [111]

The Middle Minoan palaces are characteristically aligned with their surrounding topography. The MM palace of Phaistos appears to align with Mount Ida and Knossos is aligned with Mount Juktas, [112] both on a north–south axis. Scholars suggest that the alignment was related to the mountains' ritual significance a number of peak sanctuaries (spaces for public ritual) have been excavated, including one at Petsofas. These sites have yielded clusters of clay figurines and evidence of animal sacrifice.

Late palaces are characterized by multi-story buildings with west facades of sandstone ashlar masonry Knossos is the best-known example. Other building conventions included storage areas, north–south orientation, a pillar room and a western court. Architecture during the First Palace Period is identified by a square-within-a-square style Second Palace Period construction has more internal divisions and corridors. [113] The Palace of Knossos was the largest Minoan palace. The palace is about 150 meters across and it spreads over an area of some 20,000 square meters, with its original upper levels possibly having a thousand chambers. The palace is connected to the mythological story of The Bull of Minos, since it is in this palace where it was written that the labyrinth existed. Focusing on the architectural aspects of the Palace of Knossos, it was a combination of foundations that depended on the aspects of its walls for the dimensions of the rooms, staircases, porticos, and chambers. The palace was designed in such a fashion that the structure was laid out to surround the central court of the Minoans. Aesthetically speaking, the pillars along with the stone paved northern entrance gave the palace a look and feel that was unique to the Palace of Knossos. The space surrounding the court was covered with rooms and hallways, some of which were stacked on top of the lower levels of the palace being linked through multiple ramps and staircases. [114]

Others were built into a hill, as described by the site's excavator Arthur John Evans, ". The palace of Knossos is the most extensive and occupies several hills." [115] On the east side of the court there was a grand staircase passing through the many levels of the palace, added for the royal residents. On the west side of the court, the throne room, a modest room with a ceiling some two meters high, [35] can be found along with the frescoes that were decorating the walls of the hallways and storage rooms.

Plumbing Edit

During the Minoan Era extensive waterways were built in order to protect the growing population. These system had two primary functions, first providing and distributing water, and secondly relocating sewage and stormwater. [116] One of the defining aspects of the Minoan Era was the architectural feats of their waste management. The Minoans used technologies such as wells, cisterns, and aqueducts to manage their water supplies. Structural aspects of their buildings even played a part. Flat roofs and plentiful open courtyards were used for collecting water to be stored in cisterns. [117] Significantly, the Minoans had water treatment devices. One such device seems to have been a porous clay pipe through which water was allowed to flow until clean.

Columns Edit

For sustaining of the roof, some higher houses, especially the palaces, used columns made usually of Cupressus sempervirens, and sometimes of stone. One of the most notable Minoan contributions to architecture is their inverted column, wider at the top than the base (unlike most Greek columns, which are wider at the bottom to give an impression of height). The columns were made of wood (not stone) and were generally painted red. Mounted on a simple stone base, they were topped with a pillow-like, round capital. [118] [119]

Villas Edit

A number of compounds known as "villas" have been excavated on Crete, mostly near palaces, especially Knossos. These structures share features of neopalatial palaces: a conspicuous western facade, storage facilities and a three-part Minoan Hall. [120] These features may indicate a similar role or that the structures were artistic imitations, suggesting that their occupants were familiar with palatial culture. The villas were often richly decorated, as evidenced by the frescos of Hagia Triada Villa A.

A common characteristic of the Minoan villas was having flat roofs. Their rooms did not have windows to the streets, the light arriving from courtyards, a common feature of larger Mediterranean in much later periods. In the 2nd millennium BC, the villas had one or two floors, and the palaces even three.

Art Edit

Minoan art is marked by imaginative images and exceptional workmanship. Sinclair Hood described an "essential quality of the finest Minoan art, the ability to create an atmosphere of movement and life although following a set of highly formal conventions". [121] It forms part of the wider grouping of Aegean art, and in later periods came for a time to have a dominant influence over Cycladic art. Wood and textiles have decomposed, so most surviving examples of Minoan art are pottery, intricately-carved Minoan seals, palace frescos which include landscapes (but are often mostly "reconstructed"), small sculptures in various materials, jewellery, and metalwork.

The relationship of Minoan art to that of other contemporary cultures and later Ancient Greek art has been much discussed. It clearly dominated Mycenaean art and Cycladic art of the same periods, [122] even after Crete was occupied by the Mycenaeans, but only some aspects of the tradition survived the Greek Dark Ages after the collapse of Mycenaean Greece. [123]

Minoan art has a variety of subject-matter, much of it appearing across different media, although only some styles of pottery include figurative scenes. Bull-leaping appears in painting and several types of sculpture, and is thought to have had a religious significance bull's heads are also a popular subject in terracotta and other sculptural materials. There are no figures that appear to be portraits of individuals, or are clearly royal, and the identities of religious figures is often tentative, [125] with scholars uncertain whether they are deities, clergy or devotees. [126] Equally, whether painted rooms were "shrines" or secular is far from clear one room in Akrotiri has been argued to be a bedroom, with remains of a bed, or a shrine. [127]

Animals, including an unusual variety of marine fauna, are often depicted the Marine Style is a type of painted palace pottery from MM III and LM IA that paints sea creatures including octopus spreading all over the vessel, and probably originated from similar frescoed scenes [128] sometimes these appear in other media. Scenes of hunting and warfare, and horses and riders, are mostly found in later periods, in works perhaps made by Cretans for a Mycenaean market, or Mycenaean overlords of Crete.

While Minoan figures, whether human or animal, have a great sense of life and movement, they are often not very accurate, and the species is sometimes impossible to identify by comparison with Ancient Egyptian art they are often more vivid, but less naturalistic. [129] In comparison with the art of other ancient cultures there is a high proportion of female figures, though the idea that Minoans had only goddesses and no gods is now discounted. Most human figures are in profile or in a version of the Egyptian convention with the head and legs in profile, and the torso seen frontally but the Minoan figures exaggerate features such as slim male waists and large female breasts. [130]

What is called landscape painting is found in both frescos and on painted pots, and sometimes in other media, but most of the time this consists of plants shown fringing a scene, or dotted around within it. There is a particular visual convention where the surroundings of the main subject are laid out as though seen from above, though individual specimens are shown in profile. This accounts for the rocks being shown all round a scene, with flowers apparently growing down from the top. [131] The seascapes surrounding some scenes of fish and of boats, and in the Ship Procession miniature fresco from Akrotiri, land with a settlement as well, give a wider landscape than is usual. [132]

The largest and best collection of Minoan art is in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum ("AMH") near Knossos, on the northern coast of Crete.

Pottery Edit

Many different styles of potted wares and techniques of production are observable throughout the history of Crete. Early Minoan ceramics were characterized by patterns of spirals, triangles, curved lines, crosses, fish bones, and beak-spouts. However, while many of the artistic motifs are similar in the Early Minoan period, there are many differences that appear in the reproduction of these techniques throughout the island which represent a variety of shifts in taste as well as in power structures. [134] There were also many small terracotta figurines.

During the Middle Minoan period, naturalistic designs (such as fish, squid, birds and lilies) were common. In the Late Minoan period, flowers and animals were still characteristic but more variety existed. However, in contrast to later Ancient Greek vase painting, paintings of human figures are extremely rare, [135] and those of land mammals not common until late periods. Shapes and ornament were often borrowed from metal tableware that has largely not survived, while painted decoration probably mostly derives from frescos. [136]

Jewelry Edit

Minoan jewellery has mostly been recovered from graves, and until the later periods much of it consists of diadems and ornaments for women's hair, though there are also the universal types of rings, bracelets, armlets and necklaces, and many thin pieces that were sewn onto clothing. In the earlier periods gold was the main material, typically hammered very thin. [83] but later it seemed to become scarce. [137]

The Minoans created elaborate metalwork with imported gold and copper. Bead necklaces, bracelets and hair ornaments appear in the frescoes, [138] and many labrys pins survive. The Minoans mastered granulation, as indicated by the Malia Pendant, a gold pendant featuring bees on a honeycomb. [139] This was overlooked by the 19th-century looters of a royal burial site they called the "Gold Hole". [140]

Weapons Edit

Fine decorated bronze weapons have been found in Crete, especially from LM periods, but they are far less prominent than in the remains of warrior-ruled Mycenae, where the famous shaft-grave burials contain many very richly decorated swords and daggers. In contrast spears and "slashing-knives" tend to be "severely functional". [141] Many of the decorated weapons were probably made either in Crete, or by Cretans working on the mainland. [142] Daggers are often the most lavishly decorated, with gold hilts that may be set with jewels, and the middle of the blade decorated with a variety of techniques. [143]

The most famous of these are a few inlaid with elaborate scenes in gold and silver set against a black (or now black) "niello" background, whose actual material and technique have been much discussed. These have long thin scenes running along the centre of the blade, which show the violence typical of the art of Mycenaean Greece, as well as a sophistication in both technique and figurative imagery that is startlingly original in a Greek context.

Metal vessels Edit

Metal vessels were produced in Crete from at least as early as EM II (c. 2500 BC) in the Prepalatial period through to LM IA (c. 1450 BC) in the Postpalatial period and perhaps as late as LM IIIB/C (c. 1200 BC), [144] although it is likely that many of the vessels from these later periods were heirlooms from earlier periods. [145] The earliest were probably made exclusively from precious metals, but from the Protopalatial period (MM IB – MM IIA) they were also produced in arsenical bronze and, subsequently, tin bronze. [146] The archaeological record suggests that mostly cup-type forms were created in precious metals, [147] but the corpus of bronze vessels was diverse, including cauldrons, pans, hydrias, bowls, pitchers, basins, cups, ladles and lamps. [148] The Minoan metal vessel tradition influenced that of the Mycenaean culture on mainland Greece, and they are often regarded as the same tradition. [149] Many precious metal vessels found on mainland Greece exhibit Minoan characteristics, and it is thought that these were either imported from Crete or made on the mainland by Minoan metalsmiths working for Mycenaean patrons or by Mycenaean smiths who had trained under Minoan masters. [150]

Warfare and the "Minoan peace" Edit

According to Arthur Evans, a "Minoan peace" (Pax Minoica) existed there was little internal armed conflict in Minoan Crete until the Mycenaean period. [151] However, it is difficult to draw hard-and-fast conclusions from the evidence [152] and Evans' idealistic view has been questioned. [153]

No evidence has been found of a Minoan army or the Minoan domination of peoples beyond Crete Evans believed that the Minoans had some kind of overlordship of at least parts of Mycenaean Greece in the Neopalatial Period, but it is now very widely agreed that the opposite was the case, with a Mycenaean conquest of Crete around 1450. Few signs of warfare appear in Minoan art: "Although a few archaeologists see war scenes in a few pieces of Minoan art, others interpret even these scenes as festivals, sacred dance, or sports events" (Studebaker, 2004, p. 27). Although armed warriors are depicted as stabbed in the throat with swords, the violence may be part of a ritual or blood sport. [ citation needed ]

Nanno Marinatos believes that the Neopalatial Minoans had a "powerful navy" that made them a desirable ally to have in Mediterranean power politics, at least by the 14th century as "vassals of the pharoah", leading Cretan tribute-bearers to be depicted on Egyptian tombs such as those of the top officials Rekmire and Senmut. [154]

On mainland Greece during the shaft-grave era at Mycenae, there is little evidence for major Mycenaean fortifications the citadels follow the destruction of nearly all neopalatial Cretan sites. Warfare by other contemporaries of the ancient Minoans, such as the Egyptians and the Hittites, is well-documented.

Skepticism and weaponry Edit

Despite finding ruined watchtowers and fortification walls, [155] Evans said that there was little evidence of ancient Minoan fortifications. According to Stylianos Alexiou (in Kretologia 8), a number of sites (especially early and middle Minoan sites such as Aghia Photia) are built on hilltops or otherwise fortified. [ full citation needed ] Lucia Nixon wrote:

We may have been over-influenced by the lack of what we might think of as solid fortifications to assess the archaeological evidence properly. As in so many other instances, we may not have been looking for evidence in the right places, and therefore we may not end with a correct assessment of the Minoans and their ability to avoid war. [156]

Chester Starr said in "Minoan Flower Lovers" that since Shang China and the Maya had unfortified centers and engaged in frontier struggles, a lack of fortifications alone does not prove that the Minoans were a peaceful civilization unparalleled in history. [157] [ full citation needed ] In 1998, when Minoan archaeologists met in a Belgian conference to discuss the possibility that the Pax Minoica was outdated, evidence of Minoan war was still scanty. According to Jan Driessen, the Minoans frequently depicted "weapons" in their art in a ritual context:

The construction of fortified sites is often assumed to reflect a threat of warfare, but such fortified centres were multifunctional they were also often the embodiment or material expression of the central places of the territories at the same time as being monuments glorifying and merging leading power. [158]

Stella Chryssoulaki's work on small outposts (or guardhouses) in eastern Crete indicates a possible defensive system type A (high-quality) Minoan swords were found in the palaces of Mallia and Zarkos (see Sanders, AJA 65, 67, Hoeckmann, JRGZM 27, or Rehak and Younger, AJA 102). [ full citation needed ] Keith Branigan estimated that 95 percent of Minoan "weapons" had hafting (hilts or handles) which would have prevented their use as such. [159] However, tests of replicas indicated that the weapons could cut flesh down to the bone (and score the bone's surface) without damaging the weapons themselves. [160] According to Paul Rehak, Minoan figure-eight shields could not have been used for fighting or hunting, since they were too cumbersome. [161] Although Cheryl Floyd concluded that Minoan "weapons" were tools used for mundane tasks such as meat processing, [162] Middle Minoan "rapiers nearly three feet in length" have been found. [163]

About Minoan warfare, Branigan concluded:

The quantity of weaponry, the impressive fortifications, and the aggressive looking long-boats all suggested an era of intensified hostilities. But on closer inspection there are grounds for thinking that all three key elements are bound up as much with status statements, display, and fashion as with aggression. Warfare such as there was in the southern Aegean early Bronze Age was either personalized and perhaps ritualized (in Crete) or small-scale, intermittent and essentially an economic activity (in the Cyclades and the Argolid/Attica). [164]

Archaeologist Olga Krzyszkowska agreed: "The stark fact is that for the prehistoric Aegean we have no direct evidence for war and warfare per se." [165]

Between 1935 and 1939, Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos posited the Minoan eruption theory. An eruption on the island of Thera (present-day Santorini), about 100 kilometres (62 mi) from Crete, occurred during the LM IA period (1550–1500 BC). One of the largest volcanic explosions in recorded history, it ejected about 60 to 100 cubic kilometres (14 to 24 cu mi) of material and was measured at 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index. [166] [167] [168] The eruption devastated the nearby Minoan settlement at Akrotiri on Santorini, which was entombed in a layer of pumice. [169] Although it is believed to have severely affected the Minoan culture of Crete, the extent of its effects has been debated. Early theories proposed that volcanic ash from Thera choked off plant life on the eastern half of Crete, starving the local population [170] however, more-thorough field examinations have determined that no more than 5 millimetres (0.20 in) of ash fell anywhere on Crete. [171] Based on archaeological evidence, studies indicate that a massive tsunami generated by the Thera eruption devastated the coast of Crete and destroyed many Minoan settlements. [172] [173] [174] Although the LM IIIA (late Minoan) period is characterized by affluence (wealthy tombs, burials and art) and ubiquitous Knossian ceramic styles, [175] by LM IIIB (several centuries after the eruption) Knossos' wealth and importance as a regional center declined.

Significant remains have been found above the late Minoan I-era Thera ash layer, implying that the Thera eruption did not cause the immediate collapse of Minoan civilization. [176] The Minoans were a sea power, however, and the Thera eruption probably caused significant economic hardship. Whether this was enough to trigger a Minoan downfall is debated. Mycenaean Greece conquered the Minoans during the late Minoan II period, and Mycenaean weaponry has been found in burials on Crete soon after the eruption. [177]

Many archaeologists believe that the eruption triggered a crisis, making the Minoans vulnerable to conquest by the Mycenaeans. [172] According to Sinclair Hood, the Minoans were most likely conquered by an invading force. Although the civilization's collapse was aided by the Thera eruption, its ultimate end came from conquest. Archaeological evidence suggests that the island was destroyed by fire, with the palace at Knossos receiving less damage than other sites on Crete. Since natural disasters are not selective, the uneven destruction was probably caused by invaders who would have seen the usefulness of preserving a palace like Knossos for their own use. [178] Several authors have noted evidence that Minoan civilization had exceeded its environmental carrying capacity, with archaeological recovery at Knossos indicating deforestation in the region near the civilization's later stages. [179] [180]

A 2013 archaeogenetics study compared skeletal mtDNA from ancient Minoan skeletons that were sealed in a cave in the Lasithi Plateau between 3,700 and 4,400 years ago to 135 samples from Greece, Anatolia, western and northern Europe, North Africa and Egypt. [181] [182] The researchers found that the Minoan skeletons were genetically very similar to modern-day Europeans—and especially close to modern-day Cretans, particularly those from the Lasithi Plateau. They were also genetically similar to Neolithic Europeans, but distinct from Egyptian or Libyan populations. "We now know that the founders of the first advanced European civilization were European," said study co-author George Stamatoyannopoulos, a human geneticist at the University of Washington. "They were very similar to Neolithic Europeans and very similar to present day-Cretans." [183]

A 2017 archaeogenetics study of Minoan remains published in the journal of Nature concluded that the Mycenean Greeks were genetically closely related to the Minoans, and that both are closely related, but not identical, to modern Greek populations. The same study also stated that at least three-quarters of the ancestral DNA of both the Minoans and the Myceneans came from the first Neolithic-era farmers that lived in Western Anatolia and the Aegean Sea. The remaining ancestry of the Minoans came from prehistoric populations related to those of the Caucasus and Iran, while the Mycenaean Greeks also carried this component. Unlike the Minoans however, the Myceneans carried a small 13-18% Bronze Age Pontic-Caspian steppe component. Whether the 'northern' ancestry in Mycenaeans was due to sporadic infiltration of Steppe-related populations in Greece, or the result of a rapid migration as in Central Europe, is not certain yet. Such a migration would support the idea that Proto-Greek speakers formed the southern wing of a steppe intrusion of Indo-European speakers. Yet, the absence of ‘northern’ ancestry in the Bronze Age samples from Pisidia, where Indo-European languages were attested in antiquity, casts doubt on this genetic-linguistic association, with further sampling of ancient Anatolian speakers needed. [184] [185]

Minoan art, an introduction

The Bronze Age culture of Crete, called Minoan, after King Minos of Crete from Greek mythology, is one of the most vibrant and admired in all of European prehistory.

Coastline of Crete in 2017 (photo: belpo, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The island itself is no doubt part of the story at the watery intersection of Asia, Europe, and Africa, including snow covered mountain tops, lush agricultural plains, sandy beaches and dramatic gorges, Crete is exceptional for its natural richness and variety.

The archaeological site at Knossos, with restored rooms in the background, Crete

The Bronze Age history of the island is one of development, increasing influence, and eventual destruction of a culture centered around sites that have traditionally been called palaces (the most famous and largest one of which was Knossos). Therefore, the historical periods of Bronze Age Crete are called the Pre-palatial, Old Palace (or Protopalatial), New Palace (or Neopalatial) and Post-palatial. Within these historical periods there are more specific designations, largely deriving from pottery studies, which use the terms Early, Middle, and Late Minoan. These then divided again into I, II and III and then into A, B and C.

  • Pre-palatial period: Early Minoan I – Middle Minoan IA (begins c. 3000 B.C.E.)
  • Old Palace or Protopalatial period: Middle Minoan IB – Middle Minoan IIB (begins c. 1900 B.C.E.)
  • New Palace or Neopalatial period: Middle Minoan IIIA – Late Minoan IB (begins after 1730 B.C.E.)
  • Post-palatial period: Late Minoan II-IIIC (begins after 1450 B.C.E.)

Bull-leaping fresco from the east wing of the palace of Knossos (reconstructed), c. 1400 B.C.E., fresco, 78 cm high (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, photo: Jebulon, CC0)

Pre-palatial period

The early Bronze Age history of Crete, the pre-palatial era, began around 3000 B.C.E. This period is marked by large towns, evidence of foreign contacts through trade, as well as very elaborate burial practices: large above-ground multi-use tombs which seems to indicate the existence of elite families. During this period, the skill of Minoan goldsmiths and potters becomes well established, producing finely detailed jewelry and beautiful pottery.

Old Palace or Protopalatial period

Plan of Phaistos, Protopalatial period, showing typical characteristics of this period (open central court, storage spaces, and elite domestic spaces)

By around 1900 B.C.E., at the beginning of the Old Palace or Protopalatial period, the Minoan palaces were established, first at Knossos followed by Phaistos, Mallia, and Chania. Archaeologists have also discovered other smaller palaces at Petras, Galatas, and Monastiraki, although presently these sites are less well excavated and understood. These early palaces are extraordinary not only for the complexity of their construction but their striking similarity to one another, certainly a sign of a central administration of some kind. Built with large cut limestone ashlar blocks, Minoan palaces of the Old Palace period include a large open central court oriented north-south, storage spaces in the west of the structure, and a complex of decorated domestic rooms to the east which often feature elite details such as wall painting and indoor plumbing.

Kamares ware jug from Phaistos, c. 2000-1900 B.C.E., 27 cm (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, photo: Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Minoan pottery of this period, Kamares ware, much of it produced in palace workshops, was widely traded and has been found in Kahun and Harageh in Egypt, Ras Shamra in Syria, and several sites on the island Cyprus.

New Palace or Neopalatial period

The ruins at Palaikastro (photo: Panegyrics of Granovetter, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Octopus vase from Palaikastro, c. 1500 B.C.E., 27 cm high (Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, photo: Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Old Palace or Protopalatial period of Minoan history ends in a dramatic event, an earthquake, around 1730 B.C.E., which was so severe that the palaces had to be rebuilt, which they were, in an even more grand manner (and a new palace is built at Zakros). This era is referred to as the New Palace or Neopalatial period. Lots of big settlement sites thrive during this era as well, such as Palaikastro, Gournia and Kommos, with close connections to nearby palaces. It is from this period that written documents survive. Clay tablets (marked in a script called Linear A) were used to keep administrative records at the palaces, recorded in a language which has yet to be fully deciphered. Pottery changes at this time as well, to feature marine animals, which perhaps reflects the sea power (thalassocracy) of the Minoans.

“Spring fresco,” Building Complex Delta, room delta 2, west wall from Akrotiri, Thera (Santorini), Greece, 16th century B.C.E. (National Archaeological Museum, Athens photo: Steven Zucker, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Dating to this period are some of the most remarkable figural frescos of the Aegean Bronze Age, including those from Santorini, an island, very much under Minoan influence. During this era, the Minoans were players in the international politics of the Eastern Mediterranean as recorded in Egyptian tomb paintings of the 18 th Dynasty in Thebes, which show Minoans bearing gifts for the Pharaoh.

The New Palace or Neopalatial era flourishes for two centuries. Then, beginning around 1500 B.C.E., Crete saw increasing influence from the Mycenaean culture of mainland Greece. Around 1450 B.C.E., over a period of approximately 50 years, nearly all sites on the island are burned and/or abandoned, including all of the palaces. This dramatic end to such a prominent and dynamic culture is remarkable and still essentially mysterious was it natural disaster, social upheaval, extended draught, or some combination?

Post-palatial period

Contemporary view of Knossos looking Southwest from the Monumental North Entrance, photo: Theofanis Ampatzidis (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The era following this turmoil on Crete is called the Post-palatial period, which has a distinctively Mycenaean flavor. Knossos and Chania are the only palace sites which are rebuilt although with new Mycenaean architectural forms this is the period to which the famous throne room at Knossos dates, which looks a lot like the throne rooms at Mycenae, Pylos, and Tiryns on Mainland Greece.

Most importantly in post-palatial Crete, a new script and language is used for administration, Linear B, which records an early form of the Classical Greek language, the same language and script which was used at Mycenaean sites on the mainland of Greece. What the texts describe is a theocratic society with a king (Wanax) and several high officials, priests, and priestesses who oversee religious ceremonies as well as the production of a massive and complex textile industry. This work employed over 700 shepherds harvesting between 50–75 tons of raw wool, woven by nearly 1,000 workers, men, women, and children, who produced some 20,000 individual textile pieces. New to Crete during this period is a warrior grave tradition. We find chamber tombs and shaft graves that include bronze vessels, swords, and daggers with the deceased interred on biers or in wooden coffins.

Minoan civilization

This article covers the society, economy and culture of the Minoan civilization. For more on its history, and its place within the broader story of Greek history, see the article on the history of Ancient Greece.



The Minoans have an important place in world history, as building the first civilization to appear on European soil.

Minoan civilization emerged around 2000 BCE, and lasted until 1400 BCE. It was located on the island of Crete, which is now a part of Greece. The Minoans were famous for the magnificent palaces they built, above all at Knossos.

There was, if fact, never a people who called themselves the “Minoans”. The civilization of Ancient Crete was given this name by the 19th century British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who, when he began excavating at Knossos in 1900, thought he had discovered the palace of the legendary king Minos, who appears in several Greek myths.

The rise of a Bronze Age civilization

Neolithic (Stone Age) farming villages began to appear in Crete sometime from 7000 BCE. With the arrival of the Bronze Age, trade routes spread out from the Middle East in search of copper, tin and other resources. Given that water transport was, until the coming of railways, much more efficient than land transport over distances of more than a few miles – one of those often-ignored factors which had such an impact on world history – it was natural that the Mediterranean would from ancient times be a major conduit of trade. Several regional cultures emerged in the 4th millennium BCE in and around the Aegean Sea, which pioneered seaborne commerce. One of these evolved into the Minoan civilization.

As an island in the eastern Mediterranean, Crete enjoyed a strategic location between the centers of civilization in the Middle East and the sources of much-needed minerals in the Balkans, Italy, and as far west as Spain. The rulers of Crete were therefore able to make their land into a center for international maritime trade.

Bronze Age centers of power

The long-distance trade networks of the Bronze Age were largely dominated by the rulers of well-placed chiefdoms and city-states which straddled the trade routes. They were able to tax the flow of trade, and their seats of power became centers of industrial activity, where goods were manufactured – especially elite items such as bronze weapons, armor and jewelry.

Bronze Age cultures outside the main river valley civilizations therefore tended to consist of largely Neolithic farming populations ruled over by a small but wealthy ruling class, who lived in comparatively luxurious – and often fortified – centers. Minoan civilization is a spectacular example of this.

Palaces, towns and villas

Palace complexes dotted ancient Crete. These began to be built around 2000 BCE, with phases of palace construction and enlargement interspersed with periods of decline and retrenchment. The long-term trend was for a few of the palaces to get larger, while others declined in size, or disappeared altogether. In the final phase (1600 – 1400 BCE) Knossos emerged as by far the largest and most sophisticated palace, a multi-storied complex of stone buildings impressive by any standards. It was clearly the seat of the most powerful ruler on the island.

Minoan palaces were usually situated in or near towns and cities. Here lived the bronze workers, wall painters, potters and other craftsmen who worked in the palace workshops, as well as the traders and crews who manned the Minoan ships. The city of Knossos, adjacent to the great royal palace, was one of the largest urban centers anywhere in the ancient world.

Between the main palaces were situated much smaller groups of buildings which scholars interpret as rural “villas” for members of the palace elite. They often exhibit the same artistic and architectural motifs as the palaces, though on a less magnificent scale.

High culture

The remains of Minoan palaces, especially Knossos, show an astonishing level of material culture for the time. The larger ones would have housed hundreds of inhabitants, and were serviced by elaborate water supply and sewage systems. Our knowledge of the lives of the people who lived in these palaces is limited by the fact that, although writing was practiced (in the form of a script called Linear A, which was a pictographic script like Egyptian hieroglyphics and Sumerian cuneiform), it has not yet been deciphered by modern scholars.

Lively and colorful wall frescoes, however, have survived, as well as some statuettes and painted pottery. These give us a vivid glimpse of some aspects of Minoan life. They apparently depict a religious life dominated by priestesses. Their ceremonial dress was almost Victorian in its shape and decoration, with its wide skirts and tight bodices but there was one glaring difference – the Minoan priestly dresses were bare-breasted. It is likely that this is linked to a fertility cult, prevalent in ancient religions.

A fresco found at the Minoan site of Knossos,
indicating a sport or ritual of “bull leaping”

Another remarkable feature shown in the paintings is bull-jumping – a sport undertaken by both men and women. This too was almost certainly connected to religious ceremonies, as was most public sport in the pre-modern world. It is tempting to see here the origins of bull-fighting, which became prevalent in southern Europe hundreds of years later.

Far-flung influence

The influence of Minoan civilization spread to many places on the Mediterranean coast – on the Greek mainland, where it had a major impact on the emerging Mycenaean civilization on the coast of Asia Minor as far west as the coasts of Italy and Sicily and in the east, on the Canaanite culture.

Minoan pottery has also been found in Egypt. Clearly Minoan traders and sailors journeyed far and wide in search for trade items, and, judging by the power and wealth apparent at Knossos, the Minoans came to dominate maritime trade in the eastern and central Mediterranean.

Cypro Minoan Tablet from Enkomi in the Louvre

Decline and fall

In about 1400 BCE, the archaeological evidence shows a sudden break in the historical record – the palace of Knossos collapsed, its inhabitants dispersed. Modern scholars have linked this to a devastating earthquake and tsunami caused by a volcanic eruption on the nearby island of Thera. Palace-building returned after a little while, but on a smaller scale and the script has changed – it is now one which scholars call Linear B. This script has, unlike Linear A, been deciphered, with most of the documents relating to routine trade and administration. Linear B was also used on the Greek mainland at this time, and this suggests that the centers of power in Crete had been taken over by conquerors from Greece. These held sway for some two centuries before themselves vanishing.

After that, there are no signs of palace building, nor of writing, nor of any other kind of high culture, for several centuries. When at last literate civilization returns to the island it is as part of the civilization of Classical Greece, an entirely different one from that of the Minoans. A new chapter in the history of the world has begun.

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The Cretans believed in life after death. Useful stuff, such as clothes, weapons, charms and jewels that were found buried with the dead indicate that. However, they did not believe in the preservation of the body.

As in Crete, in Mycenae, no monumental temples were found. Rodney Castelden believes that the structures that researchers present as Mycenaean palaces were actually temples. The same approach he applies to the Minoan palaces which in his opinion (see chapter on Minoan architecture) were actually shrines.

To the right of the dome structure, there is a rectangular room, whose purpose is not clear. A huge stone weighing about 120 tons roofs the monumental entrance to the Treasury of Atreus, rising to a height exceeding five meters. A red stone relief with spiral patterns hid the space above the entrance, which, was left blank to reduce the pressure on the beam. Flanking the entrance were green columns (today in the British Museum in London). The inner walls of the tomb were originally decorated with bronze tablets.

The City of Karphi
Karphi, located 1,100 meters above sea level, was the largest and richest city in Crete after the fall of Knossos. It was built in c.1100 BCE, probably due to the invasion of the Dorians that caused mass flight of residents to the mountains of Crete, where they built outposts. After the year 900 BCE, after the withdrawal of the invaders, the inhabitants abandoned the city and moved to lower sites. All city streets were paved and it was necessary to create terraces.


Through their interaction with other civilizations of the middle east, the Minoans were aware and utilized the art of metalworking Their skillful jewelry creations adorned the collections of noble palace inhabitants and were even exported around the Mediterranean.

The archaeological museums in Crete present a number of gold artifacts, along with an assortment of copper instruments that date back to 2300 BC. Copper was a much sought after commodity during this time, and it does not appear naturally in Crete. Most likely the Minoans imported copper from Cyprus.

The skill of the Minoan metal smiths was renown in the ancient world, and many artisans worked abroad in mainland Greece and the Aegean islands. The Mycenaeans learned the art of inlaying bronze with gold from the Minoans.


In 2002, the paleontologist Gerard Gierlinski discovered what he claimed were fossil footprints left by ancient human relatives 5,600,000 years ago, but the claim is controversial. [2]

Excavations in South Crete in 2008–2009 revealed stone tools at least 130,000 years old. [3] [4] This was a sensational discovery, as the previously accepted earliest sea crossing in the Mediterranean was thought to occur around 12,000 BC. The stone tools found in the Plakias region of Crete include hand axes of the Acheulean type made of quartz. It is believed that pre-Homo sapiens hominids from Africa crossed to Crete on rafts. [5] [6] [ better source needed ]

In the neolithic period, some of the early influences on the development of Cretan culture arise from the Cyclades and from Egypt cultural records are written in the undeciphered script known as "Linear A". The archaeological record of Crete includes superb palaces, houses, roads, paintings and sculptures. Early Neolithic settlements in Crete include Knossos and Trapeza.

For the earlier times, radiocarbon dating of organic remains and charcoal offers some dates. Based on this, it is thought that Crete was inhabited from about 130,000 years ago, in the Lower Paleolithic, [7] perhaps not continuously, with a Neolithic farming culture from the 7th millennium BC onwards. The first settlers introduced cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and dogs, as well as domesticated cereals and legumes.

The native fauna of Crete included pygmy hippo, pygmy elephant Paleoloxodon chaniensis, dwarf deer Praemegaceros cretensis, giant mice Kritimys catreus, and insectivores as well as badger, beech marten and Lutrogale cretensis, a kind of terrestrial otter. Large mammalian carnivores were lacking in their stead, the flightless Cretan owl was the apex predator. Most of these animals died out at the end of the last ice-age. Humans played a part in this extinction, which occurred on other medium to large Mediterranean islands as well, for example, on Cyprus, Sicily and Majorca.

Remains of a settlement found under the Bronze Age palace at Knossos date to the 7th millennium BC. Up to now, Knossos remains the only aceramic site. The settlement covered approximately 350,000 square metres. The sparse animal bones contain the above-mentioned domestic species as well as deer, badger, marten and mouse: the extinction of the local megafauna had not left much game behind.

Neolithic pottery is known from Knossos, Lera Cave and Gerani Cave. The Late Neolithic sees a proliferation of sites, pointing to a population increase. In the late Neolithic, the donkey and the rabbit were introduced to the island deer and agrimi were hunted. The Kri-kri, a feral goat, preserves traits of the early domesticates. Horse, fallow deer and hedgehog are only attested from Minoan times onwards.

Crete was the centre of Europe's most ancient civilization, the Minoans. Tablets inscribed in Linear A have been found in numerous sites in Crete, and a few in the Aegean islands. The Minoans established themselves in many islands besides Ancient Crete: secure identifications of Minoan off-island sites include Kea, Kythera, Milos, Rhodes, and above all, Thera (Santorini).

Because of a lack of written records, estimates of the Minoan chronology are based on well-established Minoan pottery styles, which can at points be tied to Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern chronologies by finds away from Crete and clear influences. Archaeologists ever since Sir Arthur Evans have identified and uncovered the palace-complex at Knossos, the most famous Minoan site. Other palace sites in Crete such as Phaistos have uncovered magnificent stone-built, multi-story palaces containing drainage systems, [8] and the queen had a bath and a flushing toilet. The expertise displayed in the hydraulic engineering was of a very high level. There were no defensive walls to the complexes. By the 16th century BC pottery and other remains on the Greek mainland show that the Minoans had far-reaching contacts on the mainland. In the 16th century a major earthquake caused destruction on Crete and on Thera that was swiftly repaired.

By about the 15th century BC a massive volcanic explosion known as the Minoan eruption blew the island of Thera apart, casting more than four times the amount of ejecta as the explosion of Krakatoa and generating a tsunami in the enclosed Aegean that threw pumice up to 250 meters above sea level onto the slopes of Anaphi, 27 km to the east. Any fleet along the north shore of Crete was destroyed and John Chadwick suggests that the majority of Cretan fleets had kept the island secure from the Greek-speaking mainlanders. The sites, save Knossos, were destroyed by fires. Mycenaeans from the mainland took over Knossos, rebuilding some parts to suit them. They were in turn subsumed by a subsequent Dorian migration.

The collapse of the Mycenaean civilization was followed by the appearance of the first Greek city-states in the 9th century BC and the epics of Homer in the 8th century BC. Some of the Dorian cities that prospered on Crete during those times are Kydonia, Lato, Dreros, Gortyn and Eleutherna.

In the Classical and Hellenistic period Crete fell into a pattern of combative city-states, harboring pirates. In the late 4th century BC, the aristocratic order began to collapse due to endemic infighting among the elite, and Crete's economy was weakened by prolonged wars between city states. During the 3rd century BC, Gortyn, Kydonia (Chania), Lyttos and Polyrrhenia challenged the primacy of ancient Knossos.

While the cities continued to prey upon one another, they invited into their feuds mainland powers like Macedon and its rivals Rhodes and Ptolemaic Egypt. In 220 BC the island was tormented by a war between two coalitions of cities. As a result, the Macedonian king Philip V gained hegemony over Crete which lasted to the end of the Cretan War (205–200 BC), when the Rhodians opposed the rise of Macedon and the Romans started to interfere in Cretan affairs. In the 2nd century BC Ierapytna (Ierapetra) gained supremacy on eastern Crete.

In 88 BC Mithridates VI of Pontus on the Black Sea, went to war to halt the advance of Roman hegemony in the Aegean. On the pretext that Knossos was backing Mithradates, Marcus Antonius Creticus attacked Crete in 71 BC and was repelled. Rome sent Quintus Caecilius Metellus with three legions to the island. After a ferocious three-year campaign Crete was conquered for Rome in 69 BC, earning this Metellus the agnomen "Creticus." At the archaeological sites, there seems to be little evidence of widespread damage associated with the transfer to Roman power: a single palatial house complex seems to have been razed. Gortyn seems to have been pro-Roman and was rewarded by being made the capital of the joint province of Crete and Cyrenaica.

Gortyn was the site of the largest Christian basilica on Crete, the Basilica of Saint Titus, dedicated to the first Christian bishop in Crete, to whom Paul addressed one of his epistles. The church was begun in the 1st century. As revealed in the Epistle to Titus in the New Testament and confirmed by Cretan poet Epimenides, the people of Crete were considered to be always liars, evil beasts and gluttons. (Note: Epimenides was a poet in the 6th century BC. Paul cited him in Titus 1:12.)

Crete continued to be part of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, a quiet cultural backwater, until it fell into the hands of Iberian Muslims under Abu Hafs in the 820s, who established a piratical emirate on the island. The archbishop Cyril of Gortyn was killed and the city so thoroughly devastated it was never reoccupied. Candia (Chandax, modern Heraklion), a city built by the Iberian Muslims, was made capital of the island instead.

The Emirate of Crete became a center of Muslim piratical activity in the Aegean, and a thorn in Byzantium's side. Successive campaigns to recover the island failed until 961, when Nikephoros Phokas reconquered Crete for the Byzantine Empire and made it into a theme. [9] The Byzantines held the island until the Fourth Crusade (1204). In its aftermath, possession of the island was disputed between the Genoese and the Venetians, with the latter eventually solidifying their control by 1212. Despite frequent revolts by the native population, the Venetians retained the island until 1669, when the Ottoman Empire took possession of it.

(The standard survey for this period is I.F. Sanders, An archaeological survey and Gazetteer of Late Hellenistic, Roman and Early Byzantine Crete, 1982)

In the partition of the Byzantine empire after the capture of Constantinople by the armies of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Crete was eventually acquired by Venice, which held it for more than four centuries (the "Kingdom of Candia").

The most important of the many rebellions that broke out during that period was the one known as the revolt of St. Titus. It occurred in 1363, when indigenous Cretans and Venetian settlers exasperated by the hard tax policy exercised by Venice, overthrew official Venetian authorities and declared an independent Cretan Republic. The revolt took Venice five years to quell.

During Venetian rule, the Greek population of Crete was exposed to Renaissance culture. A thriving literature in the Cretan dialect of Greek developed on the island. The best-known work from this period is the poem Erotokritos by Vitsentzos Kornaros (Βιτσένζος Κορνάρος). Another major Cretan literary figures were Marcus Musurus (1470–1517), Nicholas Kalliakis (1645–1707), Andreas Musalus (1665–1721), and other Greek scholars and philosophers who flourished in Italy in the 15–17th centuries. [10]

Georgios Hortatzis was author of the dramatic work Erophile. The painter Domenicos Theotocopoulos, better known as El Greco, was born in Crete in this period and was trained in Byzantine iconography before moving to Italy and later, Spain. [11]

During the Cretan War (1645–1669), Venice was pushed out of Crete by the Ottoman Empire, with most of the island lost after the siege of Candia (1648–1669), possibly the longest siege in history. The last Venetian outpost on the island, Spinalonga, fell in 1718, and Crete was a part of the Ottoman Empire for the next two centuries. There were significant rebellions against Ottoman rule, particularly in Sfakia. Daskalogiannis was a famous rebel leader. One result of the Ottoman conquest was that a sizeable proportion of the population gradually converted to Islam, with its tax and other civic advantages in the Ottoman system. Contemporary estimates vary, but on the eve of the Greek War of Independence as much as 45% of the population of the island may have been Muslim. [12]

Some Muslim converts were crypto-Christians, who converted back to Christianity others fled Crete because of the unrest. By the last Ottoman census in 1881, Christians were 76% of the population, and Muslims (usually called "Turks" regardless of language, culture, and ancestry) only 24%. Christians were over 90% of the population in 19 out of 23 of the districts of Crete, but Muslims were over 60% in the three large towns on the north coast, and in Monofatsi. [13]

Greek War of Independence (1821) Edit

The Greek War of Independence began in 1821, with extensive Cretan participation. An uprising by Christians met with a fierce response from the Ottoman authorities and the execution of several bishops, regarded as ringleaders. Between 1821 and 1828, the island was the scene of repeated hostilities. The Muslims were driven into the large fortified towns on the north coast and it would appear that as many as 60% of them died from plague or famine while there. The Cretan Christians also suffered severely, losing around 21% of their population in the 1830s. [14]

After Greece achieved its independence, Crete became an object of contention as the Christians revolted several times against Ottoman rule. Revolts in 1841 and 1858 secured some privileges, such as the right to bear arms, equality of Christian and Muslim worship, and the establishment of Christian councils of elders with jurisdiction over education and customary law. Despite these concessions, the Christian Cretans maintained their ultimate aim of union with Greece, and tensions between the Christian and Muslim communities ran high. Thus, in 1866 the great Cretan Revolt began.

The uprising, which lasted for three years, involved volunteers from Greece and other European countries, where it was viewed with considerable sympathy. Despite early successes of the rebels, who quickly confined the Ottomans to the northern towns, the uprising failed. The Ottoman Grand Vizier A'ali Pasha personally assumed control of the Ottoman forces and launched a methodical campaign to retake the rural districts, which was combined with promises of political concessions, notably by the introduction of an Organic Law, which gave the Cretan Christians equal (in practice, because of their superior numbers, majority) control of local administration. His approach bore fruits, as the rebel leaders gradually submitted. By early 1869, the island was again under Ottoman control.

During the Congress of Berlin in the summer of 1878, there was a further rebellion, which was halted quickly by the intervention of the British and the adaptation of the 1867-8 Organic Law into a constitutional settlement known as the Pact of Halepa. Crete became a semi-independent parliamentary state within the Ottoman Empire under an Ottoman Governor who had to be a Christian. A number of the senior "Christian Pashas" including Photiades Pasha and Kostis Adosidis Pasha ruled the island in the 1880s, presiding over a parliament in which liberals and conservatives contended for power.

Disputes between the two powers led to a further insurgency in 1889 and the collapse of the Pact of Halepa arrangements. The international powers, disgusted at what seemed to be factional politics, allowed the Ottoman authorities to send troops to the island and restore order but did not anticipate that Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II would use this as a pretext to end the Halepa Pact Constitution and instead rule the island by martial law. This action led to international sympathy for the Cretan Christians and to a loss of any remaining acquiescence among them to continued Ottoman rule. When a small insurgency began in September 1895, it spread quickly, and by the summer of 1896 the Ottoman forces had lost military control of most of the island.

A new Cretan insurrection in 1897 led to the Ottoman Empire declaring war on Greece. However, the Great Powers (Austria-Hungary, France, the German Empire, the Kingdom of Italy, the Russian Empire and Great Britain) decided that the Ottoman Empire could no longer maintain control and intervened, dispatching a multinational naval force, the International Squadron, to Cretan waters in February 1897. The squadron's senior admirals formed an "Admirals Council" which temporarily governed the island. The International Squadron bombarded Cretan insurgents, placed sailors and marines ashore, and instituted a blockade of Crete and key ports in Greece, bringing organized combat on the island to an end by late March 1897. Soldiers from the armies of five of the powers (Germany refused to participate) then occupied key cities in Crete during late March and April 1897. [15] Eventually, the Admirals Council decided to establish an autonomous state within the Ottoman Empire on Crete. [16] After a violent riot by Cretan Turks on 6 September 1898 (25 August according to the Julian calendar then in use on Crete, which was 12 days behind the modern Gregorian calendar during the 19th century), the admirals also decided to expel all Ottoman troops from Crete, which was accomplished on 6 November 1898. When Prince George of Greece arrived in Crete on 21 December 1898 (9 December according to the Julian calendar) as the first High Commissioner of the autonomous Cretan State, Crete effectively was detached from the Ottoman Empire, although it remained under the Sultan's suzerainty. [17]

The Final Palace period

Around 1450 BCE there was widespread destruction throughout the island of Crete. All the other palaces were destroyed as were many towns and villages, although it tended to be the prestige buildings that were primarily targeted. While there was some damage to the Palace at Knossos it was not destroyed in the same way as the other Palaces. Ashlar masonry went out of use, replaced by the increased use of gypsum. Architectural changes to the palace showed inferior quality of materials. A lot of the changes made during this period were removed by Evans during his excavation of the Palace and in Colin Macdonald's words "Evans had stripped most of the palace down to its Middle Minoan III to Late Minoan I skeleton, so that it's later plan is now difficult to reconstruct."

One of the most important developments during this period of the history of Knossos is the arrival of Linear B. Although there are differences between Linear A and Linear B scripts the most significant difference is that Linear B has been deciphered and is now known to be an early form of the Greek language spoken by the Mycenaeans while Linear A, which remains undeciphered, represents a different language. It seems likely that the Mycenaeans had a presence at Knossos from Late Minoan II onwards but the exact nature of that presence is not known.

When the Palace was finally destroyed a large number of clay tablets and sealings were baked, and therefore preserved, in the fire. The town survived the destruction of the palace which seems to have been left deserted but much of the evidence from this period, which would have formed the top layers over the site at Knossos were removed by Evans and so vital evidence about this period has been lost.

The date of the final destruction of the Palace at Knossos is still the subject of debate with suggestions varying from Late Minoan II, to Late Minoan IIA or IIIB. Macdonald favours a Late Minoan III A2 (1325-1300 BCE) date for the final destruction of what he calls the Linear B palace.

Watch the video: Η Μινωική Κρήτη.. αναπαράσταση της Κνωσού (July 2022).


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