Meet the Minoan Culture!


The archaeological site is located about 6km south of Herakleion in Crete. The name Knossos survives from ancient Greek references to the major city of Crete. The site was discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos. The excavations in Knossos began in 1900 by the English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans and they continued for 35 years. The palace was excavated and partially restored under the direction of Evans in the earliest years of the 20th century. Its size far exceeded his original expectations, as did the discovery of two ancient scripts, which he termed Linear A and Linear B, to distinguish their writing from the pictographs also present. From the layering of the palace Evans developed de novo an archaeological concept of the civilization that used it, which he called Minoan, following the pre-existing custom of labelling all objects from the location Minoan.

The palace of Knossos was the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. It appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and storerooms close to a central square. An approximate graphic view of some aspects of Cretan life in the Bronze Age is provided by restorations of the palace's indoor and outdoor murals, as it is also by the decorative motifs of the pottery and the insignia on the seals and sealings. The palace was abandoned at some unknown time at the end of the Late Bronze Age. The reason is not certain, but one of the many disasters that befell the palace is generally put forward. The hill was never again a settlement or civic site, although squatters may have used it for a time.

Except for periods of abandonment, other cities were founded in the immediate vicinity, such as the Roman colony, and a Hellenistic Greek precedent. The population shifted to the new town of Chandax (the modern city of Heraklion) during the 9th century AD. By the 13th century, it was called Makruteichos (long wall). Today, the name is used only for the archaeological site now situated in the expanding suburbs of Heraklion. In the first period around 2000 BC the urban area reached a size of up to 18,000 people. In its peak the Palace and the surrounding city boasted a population of 100,000 people shortly after 1700 BC. In Greek mythology, King Minos dwelt in a palace at Knossos. He had Daedalus construct a labyrinth (by some connected with the double-bladed axe, or labrys) in which to retain Minotaur, a creature having man's body and bull's head. Minotaur was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus. Daedalus had so cunningly made the Labyrinth that nobody could escape it. Theseus was aided by Ariadne, who provided him with a skein of thread, so he could find his way out again.

The palace was gradually built between 1700 and 1400 BC, with periodic rebuildings. Structures preceded it on Kephala hill. The features currently most visible date mainly to the last period of habitation. The palace has 1300 rooms all connected with corridors of varying sizes and direction. The 24 km2 of the palace included a theater, a main entrance on each of its four cardinal faces, and extensive storerooms. Within the storerooms were large clay containers that held olives, grains, dried fish and beans. Many of the items were processed at the palace, which had grain mills, oil and wine presses. Part of the palace it was built up to five stories high. The palace had three separate water management systems, one for supply, one for drainage of runoff, and one for drainage of waste water. The palace was a place of color. The walls and pavements were coated with a pale red derived from red ochre. In addition to the background coloring, the walls displayed fresco panel murals, entirely of red.

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