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The Minoan civilization was a
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of ...
Aegean civilization Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, common ...
on the island of
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern: , Ancient: ) is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th largest island in the world and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, ...
and other
Aegean Islands The Aegean Islands ( el, Νησιά Αιγαίου, Nisiá Aigaíou; tr, Ege Adaları) are the group of islands in the Aegean Sea, with mainland Greece to the west and north and Turkey to the east; the island of Crete delimits the sea to t ...
, whose earliest beginnings were from 3500BC, with the complex urban civilization beginning around 2000BC, and then declining from 1450BC until it ended around 1100BC, during the early
Greek Dark Ages The term Greek Dark Ages refers to the period of History of Greece, Greek history from the end of the Mycenaean civilization, Mycenaean palatial civilization, around 1100 BC, to the beginning of the Archaic Greece, Archaic age, around 750 ...
, part of a wider
bronze age collapse The Late Bronze Age collapse was a time of widespread societal collapse during the 12th century BC, between c. 1200 and 1150. The collapse affected a large area of the Eastern Mediterranean (North Africa North Africa, or Northern Africa ...
around the Mediterranean. It represents the first advanced civilization in Europe, leaving behind a number of massive building complexes, sophisticated art, and writing systems. Its economy benefited from a network of trade around much of the
Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western Europe, Western and Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa ...
. The civilization was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of British archaeologist Sir
Arthur Evans Sir Arthur John Evans (8 July 1851 – 11 July 1941) was a British archaeologist and pioneer in the study of Aegean civilization in the Bronze Age. He is most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on the List of islands of Greece, Greek ...
. The name "Minoan" derives from the mythical King Minos and was coined by Evans, who identified the site at
Knossos Knossos (also Cnossos, both pronounced ; grc, Κνωσός, Knōsós, ; Linear B: ''Ko-no-so'') is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city. Settled as early as the Neolithic period, the na ...
with the
labyrinth In Greek mythology A major branch of classical mythology, Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and ...
of the
Minotaur In Greek mythology, the Minotaur ( , ;. grc, ; in Latin as ''Minotaurus'' ) is a mythical creature portrayed during classical antiquity with the head and tail of a Cattle, bull and the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, a b ...
. The Minoan civilization has been described as the earliest of its kind in
Europe Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in its own right because of its great physical size and the weight of its history and traditions. Europe is also considered a Continent#Subcontinents, subcontinent of Eurasia ...
, and historian
Will Durant William James Durant (; November 5, 1885 – November 7, 1981) was an American writer, historian, and philosopher. He became best known for his work '' The Story of Civilization'', which contains 11 volumes and details the history of eastern a ...
called the Minoans "the first link in the European chain". The Minoans built large and elaborate palaces up to four storeys high, featuring elaborate plumbing systems and decorated with frescoes. The largest Minoan palace is that of
Knossos Knossos (also Cnossos, both pronounced ; grc, Κνωσός, Knōsós, ; Linear B: ''Ko-no-so'') is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city. Settled as early as the Neolithic period, the na ...
, followed by that of
Phaistos Phaistos ( el, Φαιστός, ; Ancient Greek: , , Minoan language, Minoan: PA-I-TO?http://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/download/11991/4031&ved=2ahUKEwjor62y3bHoAhUEqYsKHZaZArAQFjASegQIAhAB&usg=AOvVaw1MwIv3ekgX-SxkJrbORipd ), also transliter ...
. The function of the palaces, like most aspects of Minoan governance and religion, remains unclear. The Minoan period saw extensive trade by Crete with Aegean and Mediterranean settlements, particularly those in the Near East. Through traders and artists, Minoan cultural influence reached beyond Crete to the
Cyclades The Cyclades (; el, Κυκλάδες, ) are an island group in the Aegean Sea, southeast of mainland Greece and a former administrative prefecture of Greece. They are one of the island groups which constitute the Aegean archipelago ...
, the
Old Kingdom of Egypt In ancient Egyptian history, the Old Kingdom is the period spanning c. 2700–2200 BC. It is also known as the "Age of the Pyramids" or the "Age of the Pyramid Builders", as it encompasses the reigns of the great pyramid-builders of the Fourth ...
, copper-bearing
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is geo ...
,
Canaan Canaan (; Phoenician language, Phoenician: 𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍 – ; he, כְּנַעַן – , in pausa – ; grc-bib, Χανααν – ;The current scholarly edition of the Septuagint, Greek Old Testament spells the word without any accents, c ...
and the
Levant The Levant () is an approximation, approximate historical geography, historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, which is in use today in archaeology an ...
ine coast and
Anatolia Anatolia (also Asia Minor), is a large peninsula in Western Asia and is the western-most extension of continental Asia. The land mass of Anatolia constitutes most of the territory of contemporary Turkey. Geographically, the Anatolian region i ...
. Some of the best Minoan art was preserved in the city of Akrotiri on the island of
Santorini Santorini ( el, Σαντορίνη, ), officially Thira (Greek language, Greek: Θήρα ) and classical Greek Thera (English language, English pronunciation ), is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km (120 mi) southeast ...
; Akrotiri had been effectively destroyed by the
Minoan eruption The Minoan eruption was a catastrophic Types of volcanic eruptions, volcanic eruption that devastated the Aegean Islands, Aegean island of Thera (also called Santorini) circa 1600 BCE. It destroyed the Minoan civilization, Minoan settlement at ...
. The Minoans primarily wrote in the
Linear A Linear A is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication, based on a script and a orthography, set of rules regulating its use. While both writing and spoken language, speech are useful in con ...
script and also in
Cretan hieroglyphs Cretan hieroglyphs are a hieroglyph A hieroglyph (Ancient Greek, Greek for "sacred carvings") was a Character (symbol), character of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, ancient Egyptian writing system. logogram, Logographic scripts that are pictographi ...
, encoding a language hypothetically labelled
Minoan The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age Aegean civilization on the island of Crete and other Aegean Islands, whose earliest beginnings were from 3500BC, with the complex urban civilization beginning around 2000BC, and then declining from 1450BC ...
. The reasons for the slow decline of the Minoan civilization, beginning around 1550BC, are unclear; theories include Mycenaean invasions from mainland Greece and the major
volcanic eruption Several types of volcanic eruptions—during which lava, tephra (Volcanic ash, ash, lapilli, volcanic bombs and volcanic blocks), and Volcanic gas, assorted gases are expelled from a Volcano, volcanic vent or fissure vent, fissure—have been ...
of
Santorini Santorini ( el, Σαντορίνη, ), officially Thira (Greek language, Greek: Θήρα ) and classical Greek Thera (English language, English pronunciation ), is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km (120 mi) southeast ...
.


Etymology

The term "Minoan" refers to the mythical King
Minos In Greek mythology, Minos (; grc-gre, Μίνως, ) was a Basileus, King of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa (mythology), Europa. Every nine years, he made Aegeus, King Aegeus pick seven young boys and seven young girls to be sent to Daedalus's ...
of
Knossos Knossos (also Cnossos, both pronounced ; grc, Κνωσός, Knōsós, ; Linear B: ''Ko-no-so'') is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city. Settled as early as the Neolithic period, the na ...
, a figure in
Greek mythology A major branch of classical mythology, Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical co ...
associated with
Theseus Theseus (, ; grc-gre, Θησεύς ) was the mythical king and founder-hero of Athens. The myths surrounding Theseus his journeys, exploits, and friends have provided material for fiction throughout the ages. Theseus is sometimes describe ...
, the
labyrinth In Greek mythology A major branch of classical mythology, Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and ...
and the
Minotaur In Greek mythology, the Minotaur ( , ;. grc, ; in Latin as ''Minotaurus'' ) is a mythical creature portrayed during classical antiquity with the head and tail of a Cattle, bull and the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, a b ...
. It is purely a modern term with a 19th-century origin. It is commonly attributed to the British archaeologist
Arthur Evans Sir Arthur John Evans (8 July 1851 – 11 July 1941) was a British archaeologist and pioneer in the study of Aegean civilization in the Bronze Age. He is most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on the List of islands of Greece, Greek ...
, who established it as the accepted term in both 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: "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'." 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, he coined its archaeological meaning.


Chronology and history

Instead of dating the Minoan period, archaeologists use two systems of relative
chronology Chronology (from Latin ''chronologia'', from Ancient Greek , ''chrónos'', "time"; and , ''wikt:-logia, -logia'') is the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time. Consider, for example, the use of a timeline or sequence ...
. The first, created by Evans and modified by later archaeologists, is based on
pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. Major types include earthenware, stoneware and porc ...
styles and imported Egyptian artifacts (which can be correlated with the
Egyptian chronology The majority of Egyptologists agree on the outline and many details of the chronology of Ancient Egypt. This scholarly consensus is the so-called Conventional Egyptian chronology, which places the beginning of the Old Kingdom in the 27th century ...
). 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 Nikolaos Platon (Greek alphabet, Greek , Anglicisation, Anglicised ''Nicolas Platon''; – ) was a renowned Greek archaeologist. He discovered the Minoan civilisation, Minoan palace of Zakros on Crete. He put forward one of the two systems of r ...
, is based on the development of architectural complexes known as "palaces" at Knossos,
Phaistos Phaistos ( el, Φαιστός, ; Ancient Greek: , , Minoan language, Minoan: PA-I-TO?http://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/download/11991/4031&ved=2ahUKEwjor62y3bHoAhUEqYsKHZaZArAQFjASegQIAhAB&usg=AOvVaw1MwIv3ekgX-SxkJrbORipd ), also transliter ...
, Malia and
Zakros Zakros ( el, Ζάκρος; Linear B Linear B was a syllabary, syllabic script used for writing in Mycenaean Greek, the earliest Attested language, attested form of Greek language, Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet by several cent ...
. 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 The Minoan eruption was a catastrophic Types of volcanic eruptions, volcanic eruption that devastated the Aegean Islands, Aegean island of Thera (also called Santorini) circa 1600 BCE. It destroyed the Minoan civilization, Minoan settlement at ...
of
Thera Santorini ( el, Σαντορίνη, ), officially Thira (Greek language, Greek: Θήρα ) and classical Greek Thera (English language, English pronunciation ), is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km (120 mi) southeast ...
occurred during a mature phase of the LM IA period. Efforts to establish the volcanic eruption's date have been controversial.
Radiocarbon dating Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon, a radioactive isotope of carbon. The method was ...
has indicated a date in the late 17th centuryBC; this conflicts with estimates by archaeologists, who synchronize the eruption with conventional Egyptian chronology for a date of 1525–1500BC. Tree-ring dating using the patterns of carbon-14 captured in the tree rings from
Gordion Gordion ( Phrygian: ; el, Γόρδιον, translit=Górdion; tr, Gordion or ; la, Gordium) was the capital city of ancient Phrygia In classical antiquity, Phrygia ( ; grc, Φρυγία, ''Phrygía'' ) was a kingdom in the west central p ...
and bristlecone pines in North America indicate an eruption date around 1560BC.


Overview

Although stone-tool evidence suggests that
hominin The Hominini form a Tribe (biology), taxonomic tribe of the subfamily Homininae ("hominines"). Hominini includes the extant genera ''Homo'' (humans) and ''Pan (genus), Pan'' (chimpanzees and bonobos) and in standard usage excludes the genus '' ...
s 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. The oldest evidence of modern human habitation on Crete is pre-ceramic
Neolithic The Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, is an Old World archaeological period and the final division of the Stone Age. It saw the Neolithic Revolution, a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several pa ...
farming-community remains which date to about 7000BC. A comparative study of DNA haplogroups of modern Cretan men showed that a male founder group, from
Anatolia Anatolia (also Asia Minor), is a large peninsula in Western Asia and is the western-most extension of continental Asia. The land mass of Anatolia constitutes most of the territory of contemporary Turkey. Geographically, the Anatolian region i ...
or the
Levant The Levant () is an approximation, approximate historical geography, historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, which is in use today in archaeology an ...
, is shared with the Greeks. The Neolithic population lived in open villages. Fishermen's huts were found on the shores, and the fertile
Messara Plain The Messara Plain or simply Messara ( el, Μεσσαρά) is an alluvial plain in southern Crete, stretching about 50 km west-to-east and 7 km north-to-south, making it the largest plain in Crete. On a hill at its west end are the ruin ...
was used for agriculture.Hermann Bengtson: ''Griechische Geschichte'', C.H. Beck, München, 2002. 9th Edition. . pp. 8–15


Early Minoan

The
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of ...
began on Crete around 3200BC. The Early Bronze Age (3500 to 2100BC) has been described as indicating a "promise of greatness" in light of later developments on the island. In the late third millenniumBC, 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 possible that the original hierarchies of the local elites were replaced by monarchies, a precondition for the palaces.Karl-Wilhelm Welwei: ''Die Griechische Frühzeit'', C.H. Beck, München, 2002. . pp. 12–18 Pottery typical of the Korakou culture was discovered in Crete from the Early Minoan Period.


Middle Minoan

The Minoan palaces began to be constructed during this period of prosperity and stability, during which the Early Minoan culture turned into a "civilization". At the end of the MMII period (1700BC) there was a large disturbance on Crete—probably an earthquake, but possibly an invasion from Anatolia. The palaces at Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and Kato Zakros were destroyed. At the beginning of the neopalatial period the population increased again, the palaces were rebuilt on a larger scale and new settlements were built across the island. This period (the 17th and 16th centuriesBC, MM III-Neopalatial) was the apex of Minoan civilization. After around 1700BC,
material culture Material culture is the aspect of social reality grounded in the objects and architecture Architecture is the art and technique of designing and building, as distinguished from the skills associated with construction. It is both the proces ...
on the Greek mainland reached a new high due to Minoan influence.


Late Minoan

Another natural catastrophe occurred around 1600BC, possibly an eruption of the Thera volcano. The Minoans rebuilt the palaces with several major differences in function. Around 1450BC, 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 Hagia Triada (also Ayia Triada, Agia Triada, Agia Trias, , "Holy Trinity") is the archaeological site of an ancient Minoan civilization, Minoan settlement. Hagia Triada is situated on the western end of a prominent coastal ridge, with Phaistos at ...
, 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 Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1750 to 1050 BC.. It represents the first advanced and distinctively Greek civilization in mainland ...
. After about a century of partial recovery, most Cretan cities and palaces declined during the 13th centuryBC (LHIIIB-LMIIIB). The last Linear A archives date to LMIIIA, contemporary with LHIIIA. Knossos remained an administrative center until 1200BC. The last Minoan site was the defensive mountain site of
Karfi Karfi (also Karphi, el, Καρφί) is an archaeological site high up in the Dikti Mountains in eastern Crete, Greece. The ancient name of the site is unknown; "Karfi" ("the nail") is a local toponym for the prominent knob of limestone that mark ...
, a refuge which had vestiges of Minoan civilization nearly into the
Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humanity. It was preceded by the Stone Age (Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic) and the Bronze Age (Chalcolithic). The concept has been mostly appl ...
.


Foreign influence

The influence of Minoan civilization is seen in Minoan art and artifacts on the Greek mainland. The
shaft tomb A shaft tomb or shaft grave is a type of deep rectangular burial structure, similar in shape to the much shallower cist grave, containing a floor of pebble A pebble is a clastic rocks, clast of rock (geology), rock with a grain size, par ...
s of Mycenae had several Cretan imports (such as a bull's-head
rhyton A rhyton (plural rhytons or, following the Greek plural, rhyta) is a roughly conical container from which fluids were intended to be drunk or to be poured in some ceremony such as libation, or merely at table. A rhyton is typically formed in t ...
), 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 Papyrus ( ) is a material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient times as a writing surface. It was made from the pith of the papyrus plant, ''Cyperus papyrus'', a wetland sedge. ''Papyrus'' (plural: ''papyri'') can also refer to a do ...
) and architectural and artistic ideas from Egypt.
Egyptian hieroglyphs Egyptian hieroglyphs (, ) were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt, used for writing the Egyptian language. Hieroglyphs combined logographic, syllabary, syllabic and alphabetic elements, with some 1,000 distinct characters.There were ...
might even have been models for the
Cretan hieroglyphs Cretan hieroglyphs are a hieroglyph A hieroglyph (Ancient Greek, Greek for "sacred carvings") was a Character (symbol), character of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, ancient Egyptian writing system. logogram, Logographic scripts that are pictographi ...
, from which the
Linear A Linear A is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication, based on a script and a orthography, set of rules regulating its use. While both writing and spoken language, speech are useful in con ...
and
Linear B Linear B was a syllabary, syllabic script used for writing in Mycenaean Greek, the earliest Attested language, attested form of Greek language, Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet by several centuries. The oldest Mycenaean writing ...
writing systems developed. Archaeologist Hermann Bengtson has also found a Minoan influence in
Canaan Canaan (; Phoenician language, Phoenician: 𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍 – ; he, כְּנַעַן – , in pausa – ; grc-bib, Χανααν – ;The current scholarly edition of the Septuagint, Greek Old Testament spells the word without any accents, c ...
ite artifacts. Minoan palace sites were occupied by the Mycenaeans around 1420–1375BC.
Mycenaean Greek Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, on the Greek mainland and Crete in Mycenaean Greece (16th to 12th centuries BC), before the hypothesised Dorian invasion, often cited as the ''terminus post quem, terminus ...
, a form of
ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Greek Dark ...
, 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, continuing the Minoan economic system and bureaucracy. During LMIIIA (1400–1350BC), ''k-f-t-w'' was listed as one of the "Secret Lands of the North of
Asia Asia (, ) is one of the world's most notable geographical regions, which is either considered a continent in its own right or a subcontinent of Eurasia, which shares the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with Africa Africa is ...
" at the
Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III The Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III, also known as Kom el-Hettân, was built by the main architect Amenhotep, son of Hapu, for Pharaoh Amenhotep III during the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Egypt, New Kingdom. Th ...
. Also mentioned are Cretan cities such as Amnisos, Phaistos, Kydonia and Knossos and
toponym Toponymy, toponymics, or toponomastics is the study of '' toponyms'' ( proper names of places, also known as place names and geographic names), including their origins, meanings, usage and types. Toponym is the general term for a proper name o ...
s reconstructed as in the
Cyclades The Cyclades (; el, Κυκλάδες, ) are an island group in the Aegean Sea, southeast of mainland Greece and a former administrative prefecture of Greece. They are one of the island groups which constitute the Aegean archipelago ...
or the Greek mainland. If the values of these Egyptian names are accurate, the
Pharaoh Pharaoh (, ; Egyptian language, Egyptian: ''wikt:pr ꜥꜣ, pr ꜥꜣ''; cop, , Pǝrro; Biblical Hebrew: ''Parʿō'') is the vernacular term often used by modern authors for the kings of ancient Egypt who ruled as Monarch, monarchs from th ...
did not value LMIII Knossos more than other states in the region.


Geography

Crete is a mountainous island with natural
harbor A harbor (American English), harbour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differences), or haven is a sheltered body of water where ships, boats, and barges can be docked. The term ''harb ...
s. There are signs of earthquake damage at many Minoan sites, and clear signs of land uplifting and submersion of coastal sites due to
tectonic Tectonics (; ) are the processes that control the structure and properties of the Earth's crust and its evolution through time. These include the processes of orogeny, mountain building, the growth and behavior of the strong, old cores of con ...
processes along its coast. According to
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') (born ) was a Greek poet who is credited as the author of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'', two epic poems that are foundational works of ancient Greek literature. Homer is considered one of the ...
, Crete had 90 cities.Homer, ''Odyssey'' xix. 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 Knossos (also Cnossos, both pronounced ; grc, Κνωσός, Knōsós, ; Linear B: ''Ko-no-so'') is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city. Settled as early as the Neolithic period, the na ...
,
Phaistos Phaistos ( el, Φαιστός, ; Ancient Greek: , , Minoan language, Minoan: PA-I-TO?http://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/download/11991/4031&ved=2ahUKEwjor62y3bHoAhUEqYsKHZaZArAQFjASegQIAhAB&usg=AOvVaw1MwIv3ekgX-SxkJrbORipd ), also transliter ...
, 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 Kydonia or Cydonia (; grc, Κυδωνία; lat, Cydonia) was an ancient city-state on the northwest coast of the island of Crete. It is at the site of the modern-day Greek city of Chania. In legend Cydonia was founded by King Cydon (), a son ...
. Smaller palaces have been found elsewhere on the island.


Major settlements

*
Knossos Knossos (also Cnossos, both pronounced ; grc, Κνωσός, Knōsós, ; Linear B: ''Ko-no-so'') is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city. Settled as early as the Neolithic period, the na ...
– the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. Knossos had an estimated population of 1,300 to 2,000 in 2500BC, 18,000 in 2000BC, 20,000 to 100,000 in 1600BC and 30,000 in 1360BC. *
Phaistos Phaistos ( el, Φαιστός, ; Ancient Greek: , , Minoan language, Minoan: PA-I-TO?http://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/download/11991/4031&ved=2ahUKEwjor62y3bHoAhUEqYsKHZaZArAQFjASegQIAhAB&usg=AOvVaw1MwIv3ekgX-SxkJrbORipd ), also transliter ...
– the second-largest palatial building on the island, excavated by the Italian school shortly after Knossos * Malia – the subject of French excavations, a palatial center which provides a look into the proto-palatial period * Kato Zakros – sea-side palatial site excavated by Greek archaeologists in the far east of the island, also known as "Zakro" in archaeological literature * Galatas – confirmed as a palatial site during the early 1990s *
Kydonia Kydonia or Cydonia (; grc, Κυδωνία; lat, Cydonia) was an ancient city-state on the northwest coast of the island of Crete. It is at the site of the modern-day Greek city of Chania. In legend Cydonia was founded by King Cydon (), a son ...
(modern
Chania Chania ( el, Χανιά ; vec, La Canea), also spelled Hania, is a city in Greece and the capital of the Chania (regional unit), Chania regional unit. It lies along the north west coast of the island Crete, about west of Rethymno and west ...
), the only palatial site in West Crete *
Hagia Triada Hagia Triada (also Ayia Triada, Agia Triada, Agia Trias, , "Holy Trinity") is the archaeological site of an ancient Minoan civilization, Minoan settlement. Hagia Triada is situated on the western end of a prominent coastal ridge, with Phaistos at ...
– administrative center near Phaistos which has yielded the largest number of
Linear A Linear A is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication, based on a script and a orthography, set of rules regulating its use. While both writing and spoken language, speech are useful in con ...
tablets. * Gournia – town site excavated in the first quarter of the 20th century * Pyrgos – early Minoan site in southern Crete * Vasiliki – early eastern Minoan site which gives its name to distinctive ceramic ware * Fournou Korfi – southern site * Pseira – island town with ritual sites *
Mount Juktas A mountain in north-central Crete, Mount Juktas ( el, Γιούχτας - ''Giouchtas''), also spelled Iuktas, Iouktas, or Ioukhtas, was an important religious site for the Minoan civilization. Located a few kilometers from the palaces of Knossos ...
– the greatest Minoan peak sanctuary, associated with the palace of Knossos *
Arkalochori Arkalochori ( el, Αρκαλοχώρι) is a town and a former municipality in the Heraklion regional unit, Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern: , Ancient: ) is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th l ...
– site of the Arkalochori Axe *
Karfi Karfi (also Karphi, el, Καρφί) is an archaeological site high up in the Dikti Mountains in eastern Crete, Greece. The ancient name of the site is unknown; "Karfi" ("the nail") is a local toponym for the prominent knob of limestone that mark ...
– refuge site, one of the last Minoan sites * Akrotiri – settlement on the island of
Santorini Santorini ( el, Σαντορίνη, ), officially Thira (Greek language, Greek: Θήρα ) and classical Greek Thera (English language, English pronunciation ), is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km (120 mi) southeast ...
(Thera), near the site of the
Thera Eruption The Minoan eruption was a catastrophic Types of volcanic eruptions, volcanic eruption that devastated the Aegean Islands, Aegean island of Thera (also called Santorini) circa 1600 BCE. It destroyed the Minoan civilization, Minoan settlement at ...
* Zominthos – mountainous city in the northern foothills of
Mount Ida In Greek mythology, two sacred mountains are called Mount Ida, the "Mountain of the Goddess": Mount Ida (Crete), Mount Ida in Crete, and Mount Ida (Turkey), Mount Ida in the ancient Troad region of western Anatolia (in modern-day Turkey), which wa ...


Beyond Crete

The Minoans were traders, and their cultural contacts reached the
Old Kingdom of Egypt In ancient Egyptian history, the Old Kingdom is the period spanning c. 2700–2200 BC. It is also known as the "Age of the Pyramids" or the "Age of the Pyramid Builders", as it encompasses the reigns of the great pyramid-builders of the Fourth ...
, copper-containing
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is geo ...
,
Canaan Canaan (; Phoenician language, Phoenician: 𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍 – ; he, כְּנַעַן – , in pausa – ; grc-bib, Χανααν – ;The current scholarly edition of the Septuagint, Greek Old Testament spells the word without any accents, c ...
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 Tel Kabri ( he, תֵל כַבְרִי), or Tell al-Qahweh ( ar, تَلْ ألْقَهوَة, , mound of coffee), is an archaeological Tell (archaeology), tell (mound created by accumulation of remains) containing one of the largest Bronze Age, ...
,
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, ; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, ), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated ...
, leading archaeologists to conclude that the Minoan influence was the on the Canaanite
city-state A city-state is an independent sovereign city which serves as the center of political, economic, and cultural life over its contiguous territory. They have existed in many parts of the world since the dawn of history, including cities such as ...
. Minoan techniques and ceramic styles had varying degrees of influence on Helladic Greece. Along with Santorini, Minoan settlements are found at Kastri, Kythera, an island near the Greek mainland influenced by the Minoans from the mid-third millenniumBC (EMII) to its Mycenaean occupation in the 13th century. Minoan strata replaced a mainland-derived early
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of ...
culture, the earliest Minoan settlement outside Crete. The Cyclades were in the Minoan cultural orbit and, closer to Crete, the islands of
Karpathos Karpathos ( el, Κάρπαθος, ), also Carpathos, is the second largest of the Greek Dodecanese islands, in the southeastern Aegean Sea. Together with the neighboring smaller Saria Island it forms the municipality of Karpathos, which is part of ...
, Saria and
Kasos Kasos (; el, Κάσος, ), also Casos, is a Greek island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on ...
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. Other supposed Minoan colonies, such as that hypothesized by Adolf Furtwängler on
Aegina Aegina (; el, Αίγινα, ''Aígina'' ; grc, Αἴγῑνα) is one of the Saronic Islands of Greece in the Saronic Gulf, from Athens. Tradition derives the name from Aegina (mythology), Aegina, the mother of the hero Aeacus, who was born ...
, were later dismissed by scholars. However, there was a Minoan colony at Ialysos on
Rhodes Rhodes (; el, Ρόδος , translit=Ródos ) is the largest and the historical capital of the Dodecanese islands of Greece. Administratively, the island forms a separate municipality within the Rhodes (regional unit), Rhodes regional unit, w ...
. Minoan cultural influence indicates an orbit extending through the Cyclades to Egypt and Cyprus. Fifteenth-centuryBC paintings in
Thebes, Egypt Thebes ( ar, طيبة, grc, Θῆβαι, ''Thēbai''), known to the ancient Egyptians as Waset, was an list of ancient Egyptian sites, ancient Egyptian city located along the Nile about south of the Mediterranean. Its ruins lie within the modern ...
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. Some locations on Crete indicate that the Minoans were an "outward-looking" society. 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.


Agriculture and cuisine

The Minoans raised
cattle Cattle (''Bos taurus'') are large, domestication, domesticated, Cloven hoof, cloven-hooved, herbivores. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae and the most widespread species of the genus ''Bos''. Adult females are referr ...
,
sheep Sheep or domestic sheep (''Ovis aries'') are domesticated, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Although the term ''sheep'' can apply to other species in the genus ''Ovis'', in everyday usage it almost always refers to domesticated sh ...
,
pig The pig (''Sus domesticus''), often called swine, hog, or domestic pig when distinguishing from other members of the genus ''Sus (genus), Sus'', is an Omnivore, omnivorous, Domestication, domesticated, even-toed ungulate, even-toed, hoofed ma ...
s and
goat The goat or domestic goat (''Capra hircus'') is a domesticated species of Caprinae, goat-antelope typically kept as livestock. It was domesticated from the wild goat (''C. aegagrus'') of Southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a membe ...
s, and grew
wheat Wheat is a Poaceae, grass widely Agriculture, cultivated for its seed, a cereal grain that is a worldwide staple food. The Taxonomy of wheat, many species of wheat together make up the genus ''Triticum'' ; the most widely grown is common wheat ...
,
barley Barley (''Hordeum vulgare''), a member of the grass family, is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates globally. It was one of the first cultivated grains, particularly in Eurasia Eurasia (, ) is the largest continental area o ...
,
vetch ''Vicia'' is a genus Genus ( plural genera ) is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of extant taxon, living and fossil organisms as well as Virus classification#ICTV classification, viruses. In the hierarchy of biological ...
and
chickpea The chickpea or chick pea (''Cicer arietinum'') is an annual plant, annual legume of the family (biology), family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. Its different types are variously known as gram" or Bengal gram, garbanzo or garbanzo bean, or Egypti ...
s. They also cultivated grapes,
figs The fig is the edible fruit of ''Ficus carica'', a species of small tree in the flowering plant family Moraceae. Native plant, Native to the Mediterranean Basin, Mediterranean and western Asia, it has been cultivated since ancient times and is no ...
and
olive The olive, botanical name ''Olea europaea'', meaning 'European olive' in Latin, is a species of small tree or shrub in the family (biology), family Oleaceae, found traditionally in the Mediterranean Basin. When in shrub form, it is known as '' ...
s, grew poppies for
seed A seed is an Plant embryogenesis, embryonic plant enclosed in a testa (botany), protective outer covering, along with a food reserve. The formation of the seed is a part of the process of reproduction in seed plants, the spermatophytes, includ ...
and perhaps opium. The Minoans also domesticated bees. Hood, Sinclair (1971) "The Minoans; the story of Bronze Age Crete" Vegetables, including
lettuce Lettuce (''Lactuca sativa'') is an annual plant of the family Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable, but sometimes for its stem and seeds. Lettuce is most often used for salads, although it is also seen in other kinds of food, ...
,
celery Celery (''Apium graveolens'') is a marshland plant in the family Apiaceae that has been cultivated as a vegetable since antiquity. Celery has a long fibrous stalk tapering into leaves. Depending on location and cultivar, either its stalks, lea ...
,
asparagus Asparagus, or garden asparagus, folk name sparrow grass, scientific name ''Asparagus officinalis'', is a perennial flowering plant species in the genus ''Asparagus (genus), Asparagus''. Its young shoots are used as a spring vegetable. It was ...
and
carrot The carrot (''Daucus carota'' subsp. ''sativus'') is a root vegetable, typically orange in color, though purple, black, red, white, and yellow cultivars exist, all of which are domesticated forms of the Daucus carota, wild carrot, ''Daucus ...
s, grew wild on Crete.
Pear Pears are fruits produced and consumed around the world, growing on a tree and harvested in the Northern Hemisphere in late summer into October. The pear tree and shrub are a species of genus ''Pyrus'' , in the Family (biology), family Rosacea ...
,
quince The quince (; ''Cydonia oblonga'') is the sole member of the genus ''Cydonia'' in the Malinae subtribe (which also contains apples and pears, among other fruits) of the Rosaceae family (biology), family. It is a deciduous tree that bears hard ...
, and olive trees were also native.
Date palm ''Phoenix dactylifera'', commonly known as date or date palm, is a flowering plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit called dates. The species is widely cultivated across northern Africa, the Middle Eas ...
trees and cats (for hunting) were imported from Egypt. The Minoans adopted
pomegranate The pomegranate (''Punica granatum'') is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub in the family Lythraceae, subfamily Punicoideae, that grows between tall. The pomegranate was originally described throughout the Mediterranean Basin, Mediterranean re ...
s from the Near East, but not
lemon The lemon (''Citrus limon'') is a species of small evergreen trees in the flowering plant family Rutaceae, native to Asia, primarily Northeast India (Assam), Northern Myanmar or China. The tree's ellipsoidal yellow hesperidium, fruit is us ...
s and
oranges An orange is a fruit In botany, a fruit is the seed-bearing structure in flowering plants that is formed from the ovary after flowering. Fruits are the means by which flowering plants (also known as angiosperms) disseminate their see ...
. They may have practiced
polyculture In agriculture Agriculture or farming is the practice of cultivating Plant, plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of Sedentism, sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of Domestication, domesticated spe ...
, 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 The fig is the edible fruit of ''Ficus carica'', a species of small tree in the flowering plant family Moraceae. Native plant, Native to the Mediterranean Basin, Mediterranean and western Asia, it has been cultivated since ancient times and is no ...
, olives and grapes) in processing crops for "secondary products".
Olive oil Olive oil is a vegetable oil, liquid fat obtained from olives (the fruit of ''Olea europaea''; family Oleaceae), a traditional Tree fruit, tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin, produced by pressing whole olives and extracting the oil. It is co ...
in Cretan or
Mediterranean cuisine Mediterranean cuisine is the food and methods of preparation used by the people of the Mediterranean Basin. The idea of a Mediterranean cuisine originates with the cookery writer Elizabeth David's book, ''A Book of Mediterranean Food'' (1950) ...
is comparable to butter in northern European cuisine. 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. Farmers used wooden
plow A plough or plow (Differences between American and British spellings, US; both ) is a farm tool for loosening or turning the soil before sowing seed or planting. Ploughs were traditionally drawn by oxen and horses, but in modern farms are draw ...
s, bound with leather to wooden handles and pulled by pairs of
donkey The domestic donkey is a hoofed mammal in the family Equidae, the same family as the horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a Domestication, domesticated, odd-toed ungulate, one-toed, ungulate, hoofed mammal. It belongs to the t ...
s or oxen. Seafood was also important in Cretan cuisine. The prevalence of edible molluscs in site material and artistic representations of marine fish and animals (including the distinctive Marine Style pottery, such as the LM IIIC "Octopus"
stirrup jar A stirrup jar is a type of pottery, pot associated with the culture of Mycenaean Greece. They have small squat bodies, a pouring spout, and a second nonfunctioning spout over which the handles connect like a stirrup. During the Late Bronze Age, th ...
), 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." 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 The wild boar (''Sus scrofa''), also known as the wild swine, common wild pig, Eurasian wild pig, or simply wild pig, is a Suidae, suid native to much of Eurasia and North Africa, and has been introduced to the Americas and Oceania. The speci ...
and meat from livestock. Wild game is now extinct on Crete. 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 10,000BC. This is in part due to the possible presence of
dwarf elephant Dwarf elephants are prehistoric members of the order Proboscidea The Proboscidea (; , ) are a taxonomy (biology), taxonomic order (biology), order of afrotherian mammals containing one living family (biology), family (Elephantidae) and sever ...
s in contemporary Egyptian art. 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 A rhyton (plural rhytons or, following the Greek plural, rhyta) is a roughly conical container from which fluids were intended to be drunk or to be poured in some ceremony such as libation, or merely at table. A rhyton is typically formed in t ...
) on which 27 men led by another carry bunches of sticks to beat ripe olives from the trees. 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

Tools, originally made of wood or bone, were bound to handles with leather straps. During the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of ...
, they were made of
bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals (including aluminium, manganese, nickel, or zinc) and sometimes non-metals, such as phosphorus, or metalloids such ...
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. Tools included double
adze An adze (; alternative spelling: adz) is an ancient and versatile cutting tool similar to an axe but with the cutting edge perpendicular to the handle rather than parallel. Adzes have been used since the Stone Age. They are used for smoothing o ...
s, double- and single-bladed axes, axe-adzes,
sickle A sickle, bagging hook, reaping-hook or grasshook is a single-handed agricultural tool designed with variously curved blades and typically used for harvesting, or reaping, grain crops or cutting succulent forage chiefly for feeding livest ...
s and
chisel A chisel is a tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge (such that wood chisels have lent part of their name to a particular Grind#Typical grinds, grind) of blade on its end, for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, Rock (g ...
s.


Women

As
Linear A Linear A is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication, based on a script and a orthography, set of rules regulating its use. While both writing and spoken language, speech are useful in con ...
Minoan writing has not been deciphered yet, most information available about Minoan women is from various art forms and
Linear B Linear B was a syllabary, syllabic script used for writing in Mycenaean Greek, the earliest Attested language, attested form of Greek language, Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet by several centuries. The oldest Mycenaean writing ...
tablets, and scholarship about Minoan women remains limited. Minoan society was a divided society separating men from women in art illustration, clothing, and societal duties. For example, documents written in Linear B have been found documenting Minoan families, wherein spouses and children are not all listed together. In one section, fathers were listed with their sons, while mothers were listed with their daughters in a completely different section apart from the men who lived in the same household, signifying the vast gender divide present in Minoan society. Artistically, women were portrayed very differently from men. Men were often artistically represented with dark skin while women were represented with lighter skin. 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 increasingly elaborate throughout the Minoan era. Throughout the evolution of women's clothing, a strong emphasis was placed on the women's sexual characteristics, particularly the breasts. Female clothing throughout the Minoan era emphasized the breasts by exposing cleavage or even the entire breast. Minoan women were also portrayed with "wasp" waists, similar to the modern bodice women continue to wear today.
Fresco Fresco (plural ''frescos'' or ''frescoes'') is a technique of Mural, mural painting executed upon freshly laid ("wet") lime plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the dry-powder pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the ...
paintings portray three class levels of women; elite women, women of the masses, and servants. A fourth, smaller class of women are also included among some paintings; women who participated in religious and sacred tasks. Elite women were depicted in paintings as having a stature twice the size of women in lower classes, as this was a way of emphasizing the important difference between the elite wealthy women and the rest of the female population within society. Childcare was a central job for women within Minoan society. Other roles outside the household that have been identified as women's duties are food gathering, food preparation, and household care-taking. Additionally, it has been found that women were represented in the artisan world as ceramic and textile craftswomen. As women got older it can be assumed that their job of taking care of children ended and they transitioned towards household management and job mentoring, teaching younger women the jobs that they themselves participated in. While women were often portrayed in paintings as caretakers of children, pregnant women were rarely shown in frescoes. Pregnant women were instead represented in the form of sculpted pots with the rounded base of the pots representing the pregnant belly. Additionally, no Minoan art forms portray women giving birth, breast feeding, or procreating. Lack of such actions leads historians to believe that these actions would have been recognized by Minoan society to be either sacred or inappropriate, and kept private within society. Childbirth was a dangerous process within Minoan society. Archeological sources have found numerous bones of pregnant women, identified by the fetus bones within their skeleton found in the abdomen area, providing strong evidence that death during pregnancy and childbirth were common features within society. Further archeological finds provide 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.


Society and culture

Apart from the abundant local agriculture, the Minoans were also a
mercantile Trade involves the transfer of goods and services from one person or entity to another, often in exchange for money. Economists refer to a system or network that allows trade as a market (economics), market. An early form of trade, barter, s ...
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 1700BC, their culture indicates a high degree of organization. Minoan-manufactured goods suggest a network of trade with mainland
Greece Greece,, or , romanized: ', officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country in Southeast Europe. It is situated on the southern tip of the Balkans, and is located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Greece shares land borders with ...
(notably
Mycenae Mycenae ( ; grc, Μυκῆναι or , ''Mykē̂nai'' or ''Mykḗnē'') is an archaeological site near Mykines, Greece, Mykines in Argolis, north-eastern Peloponnese, Greece. It is located about south-west of Athens; north of Argos, Peloponne ...
),
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is geo ...
,
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or سُورِيَة, translit=Sūriyā), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, الجمهورية العربية السورية, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-Sūrīyah), is a Western Asian country loc ...
,
Anatolia Anatolia (also Asia Minor), is a large peninsula in Western Asia and is the western-most extension of continental Asia. The land mass of Anatolia constitutes most of the territory of contemporary Turkey. Geographically, the Anatolian region i ...
,
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مصر , ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning the North Africa, northeast corner of Africa and Western Asia, southwest corner of Asia via a land bridg ...
,
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the F ...
and westward as far as the
Iberian peninsula The Iberian Peninsula (), ** * Aragonese language, Aragonese and Occitan language, Occitan: ''Peninsula Iberica'' ** ** * french: Péninsule Ibérique * mwl, Península Eibérica * eu, Iberiar penintsula also known as Iberia, is a pe ...
.
Minoan religion Minoan religion was the religion of the Bronze Age Minoan civilization of Crete. In the absence of readable texts from most of the period, modern scholars have reconstructed it almost totally on the basis of archaeological evidence of such as Mi ...
apparently focused on female deities, with women officiants. While historians and archaeologists have long been skeptical of an outright
matriarchy Matriarchy is a social system in which women hold the primary power positions in roles of authority. In a broader sense it can also extend to moral authority, social privilege and control of property. While those definitions apply in general En ...
, 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. The term
palace economy A palace economy or redistribution economy is a system of economic organization in which a substantial share of the wealth Wealth is the abundance of Value (economics), valuable financial assets or property, physical possessions which can be ...
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

Very little is known about the forms of Minoan government; the Minoan language has not yet been deciphered. It used to be believed that the Minoans had a
monarchy A monarchy is a government#Forms, form of government in which a person, the monarch, is head of state for life or until abdication. The legitimacy (political)#monarchy, political legitimacy and authority of the monarch may vary from restric ...
supported by a
bureaucracy The term bureaucracy () refers to a body of non-elected governing officials as well as to an administrative policy-making group. Historically, a bureaucracy was a government administration managed by departments staffed with non-elected offi ...
. This might initially have been a number of monarchies, corresponding with the "palaces" around Crete, but later all taken over by Knossos, which was itself later occupied by Mycenaean overlords. But, in notable contrast to contemporary Egyptian and
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the F ...
n civilizations, "Minoan
iconography Iconography, as a branch of art history, studies the identification, description and interpretation of the content of images: the subjects depicted, the particular compositions and details used to do so, and other elements that are distinct fro ...
contains no pictures of recognizable kings", and in recent decades it has come to be thought that before the presumed Mycenaean invasion around 1450BC, a group of elite families, presumably living in the "villas" and the palaces, controlled both government and religion.


Saffron trade

A fresco of saffron-gatherers at
Santorini Santorini ( el, Σαντορίνη, ), officially Thira (Greek language, Greek: Θήρα ) and classical Greek Thera (English language, English pronunciation ), is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km (120 mi) southeast ...
is well-known. The Minoan trade in
saffron Saffron () is a spice derived from the flower of ''Crocus sativus'', commonly known as the "saffron crocus". The vivid crimson stigma (botany), stigma and stigma (botany)#style, styles, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly ...
, the stigma of a naturally-mutated
crocus ''Crocus'' (; plural: crocuses or croci) is a genus of seasonal flowering plants in the family Iridaceae (iris family) comprising about 100 species of perennial plant, perennials growing from corms. They are low growing plants, whose flower stem ...
which originated in the Aegean basin, has left few material remains. According to Evans, the saffron (a sizable Minoan industry) was used for dye. Other archaeologists emphasize durable trade items: ceramics, copper, tin,
gold Gold is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Au (from la, aurum) and atomic number 79. This makes it one of the higher atomic number elements that occur naturally. It is a Brightness, bright, slightly orange-yellow, dense, s ...
and
silver Silver is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Ag (from the Latin ', derived from the Proto-Indo-European wikt:Reconstruction:Proto-Indo-European/h₂erǵ-, ''h₂erǵ'': "shiny" or "white") and atomic number 47. A soft, whi ...
. The saffron may have had a religious significance. The saffron trade, which predated Minoan civilization, was comparable in value to that of
frankincense Frankincense (also known as olibanum) is an Aroma compound, aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes, obtained from trees of the genus ''Boswellia'' in the family (biology), family Burseraceae. The word is from Old French ('high-quality incen ...
or
black pepper Black pepper (''Piper nigrum'') is a flowering plant, flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, known as a peppercorn, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit is a drupe (stonefruit) which is ...
.


Costume

Sheep
wool Wool is the textile fibre obtained from sheep and other mammal, mammals, especially goat, goats, rabbit, rabbits, and camelid, camelids. The term may also refer to inorganic materials, such as mineral wool and glass wool, that have properties ...
was the main fibre used in textiles, and perhaps a significant export commodity.
Linen Linen () is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant. Linen is very strong, absorbent, and dries faster than cotton. Because of these properties, linen is comfortable to wear in hot weather and is valued for use in garments. It also h ...
from
flax Flax, also known as common flax or linseed, is a flowering plant, ''Linum usitatissimum'', in the family Linaceae. It is cultivated as a food and fiber crop in regions of the world with temperate climates. Textiles made from flax are known in W ...
was probably much less common, and possibly imported from Egypt, or grown locally. There is no evidence of
silk Silk is a natural fiber, natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be weaving, woven into textiles. The protein fiber of silk is composed mainly of fibroin and is produced by certain insect larvae to form cocoon (silk), cocoons. The be ...
, but some use is possible. As seen in
Minoan art Minoan art is the art produced by the Bronze Age Aegean civilization, 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 grou ...
, Minoan men wore
loincloth A loincloth is a one-piece garment, either wrapped around itself or kept in place by a Belt (clothing), belt. It covers the genitals and, at least partially, the buttocks. Loincloths which are held up by belts or strings are specifically known a ...
s (if poor) or robes or
kilt A kilt ( gd, fèileadh ; Irish language, Irish: ''féileadh'') is a garment resembling a wrap-around knee-length skirt, made of twill woven worsted wool with heavy pleats at the sides and back and traditionally a tartan pattern. Originating in ...
s that were often long. Women wore long dresses with short sleeves and layered, flounced skirts. 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 A bodice () is an article of clothing traditionally for women and girls, covering the torso from the neck to the waist. The term typically refers to a specific type of upper garment common in Europe during the 16th to the 18th century, or to the ...
, and clothing patterns had
symmetrical Symmetry (from grc, συμμετρία "agreement in dimensions, due proportion, arrangement") in everyday language refers to a sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance. In mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowle ...
, 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. 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; this can be seen in the
Akrotiri Boxer Fresco The Akrotiri Boxer Fresco, discovered in 1967, is one of the Wall Paintings of Thera and a leading example of Minoan painting. It is a fresco depicting two young boys wearing boxing gloves and belts and dates back to the Bronze Age, 1700 BCE. Ar ...
. Two famous
Minoan snake goddess figurines Two Minoan snake goddess figurines were excavated in 1903 in the Minoan palace at Knossos in the Greek island of Crete. The decades-long excavation programme led by the English archaeologist Arthur Evans greatly expanded knowledge and awareness ...
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. 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. This was probably the costume worn by both sexes by those engaged in rituals.
Minoan jewellery Minoan art is the art produced by the Bronze Age Aegean civilization, 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 grou ...
included many gold ornaments for women's hair and also thin gold plaques to sew onto clothing.Hood (1978), 188-190 Flowers were also often worn in the hair, as by the
Poppy Goddess The name poppy goddess is often used for a famous example of a distinctive type of large female Greek terracotta figurines, terracotta figurine in Minoan art, presumably representing a goddess, but not thought to be cult images, rather votive offe ...
terracotta figurine and other figures. Frescos also show what are presumably woven or embroidered figures, human and animal, spaced out on clothing.


Language and writing

Minoan is an
unclassified language An unclassified language is a language whose Genetic relationship (linguistics), genetic affiliation to other languages has not been established. Languages can be unclassified for a variety of reasons, mostly due to a lack of reliable data but s ...
, or perhaps multiple indeterminate languages written in the same script. It has been compared inconclusively to the
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to the languages of Europe, overwhelming majority of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some European languages of this family, English language, Englis ...
and Semitic language families, as well as to the proposed
Tyrsenian languages Tyrsenian (also Tyrrhenian or Common Tyrrhenic), named after the Tyrrhenians (Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to ...
or an unclassified pre-Indo-European language family. 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 Linear A is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication, based on a script and a orthography, set of rules regulating its use. While both writing and spoken language, speech are useful in con ...
, dated to between 1800BC and 1450BC. Linear A is the parent of the related
Linear B Linear B was a syllabary, syllabic script used for writing in Mycenaean Greek, the earliest Attested language, attested form of Greek language, Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet by several centuries. The oldest Mycenaean writing ...
script, which encodes the earliest known form of Greek. 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 BC; 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 Cretan hieroglyphs are a hieroglyph A hieroglyph (Ancient Greek, Greek for "sacred carvings") was a Character (symbol), character of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, ancient Egyptian writing system. logogram, Logographic scripts that are pictographi ...
. 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. They came into use about a century before Linear A, and were used at the same time as Linear A (18th centuryBC; MM II). The hieroglyphs disappeared during the 17th centuryBC (MM III). The
Phaistos Disc The Phaistos Disc (also spelled Phaistos Disk, Phaestos Disc) is a disk of fired clay from the Minoan civilization, Minoan palace of Phaistos on the island of Crete, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age (second millennium BC). ...
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 centuriesBC have been found in Eastern Crete (and possible as late as the 3rd centuryBC) 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

Arthur Evans thought the Minoans worshipped, more or less exclusively, a
mother goddess A mother goddess is a goddess who represents a personified deification of motherhood, fertility goddess, fertility, Creation myth, creation, natural disasters, destruction, or the earth goddess who embodies the bounty of the earth or nature. W ...
, 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 Mycenaean 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 Theocracy is a form of government in which one or more deity, deities are recognized as supreme ruling authorities, giving divine guidance to human intermediaries who manage the government's daily affairs. Etymology The word theocracy origina ...
, 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. Some scholars see in the Minoan Goddess a female divine solar figure. 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 Minoan civilization, Minoan peak sanctuaries are widespread throughout the island of Crete (Greece). Most scholars agree that peak sanctuaries were used for religious rites. In all peak sanctuaries human and animal clay figurines have been found. ...
, a dove goddess, a snake goddess perhaps protectress of the household, the Potnia Theron goddess of animals, and a goddess of childbirth. Late Minoan
terracotta Terracotta, terra cotta, or terra-cotta (; ; ), in its material sense as an earthenware substrate, is a clay-based unglazed or glazed ceramic A ceramic is any of the various hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials m ...
votive figures like the
poppy goddess The name poppy goddess is often used for a famous example of a distinctive type of large female Greek terracotta figurines, terracotta figurine in Minoan art, presumably representing a goddess, but not thought to be cult images, rather votive offe ...
(perhaps a worshipper) carry attributes, often birds, in their
diadem A diadem is a type of Crown (headgear), crown, specifically an ornamental headband worn by monarchs and others as a badge of royalty. Overview The word derives from the Ancient Greek, Greek διάδημα ''diádēma'', "band" or "fillet", fr ...
s. 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 In Ancient Egyptian religion, Taweret (also spelled Taurt, Tuat, Tuart, Ta-weret, Tawaret, Twert and Taueret, and in Greek language, Greek, Θουέρις – Thouéris, Thoeris, Taouris and Toeris) is the protective ancient Egyptian deities, anc ...
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. The more conventionally-shaped labrys or double-headed axe, is a very common
votive offering A votive offering or votive deposit is one or more objects displayed or deposited, without the intention of recovery or use, in a sacred place for religious purposes. Such items are a feature of modern and ancient societies and are generally ...
, 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 Bull-leaping ( grc, ταυροκαθάψια, ) is a term for various types of non-violent bull fighting. Some are based on an ancient ritual from the Minoan civilization involving an acrobat leaping over the back of a charging bull (or cow). ...
, 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. 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." It even seems that the later Greek pantheon would synthesize the Minoan female deity and Hittite goddess from the Near East.


Symbolism

Minoan horn-topped altars, which
Arthur Evans Sir Arthur John Evans (8 July 1851 – 11 July 1941) was a British archaeologist and pioneer in the study of Aegean civilization in the Bronze Age. He is most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on the List of islands of Greece, Greek ...
called Horns of Consecration, are represented in seal impressions and have been found as far afield as Cyprus. Minoan sacred symbols include the
bull A bull is an intact (i.e., not Neutering, castrated) adult male of the species ''Cattle, Bos taurus'' (cattle). More muscular and aggressive than the females of the same species (i.e., Cattle, cows), bulls have long been an important symbol i ...
(and its horns of consecration), the labrys (double-headed axe), the
pillar A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a structural element that transmits, through compression (physical), compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. In other words, a column i ...
, the serpent, the sun-disc, the
tree In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated Plant stem, stem, or trunk (botany), trunk, usually supporting branches and leaves. In some usages, the definition of a tree may be narrower, including only woody plants with secondar ...
, and even the
Ankh The ankh or key of life is an ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization in Northeast Africa situated in the Nile Valley. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100Anno Domini, BC (accordi ...
. Haralampos V. Harissis and Anastasios V. Harissis posit a different interpretation of these symbols, saying that they were based on
apiculture Beekeeping (or apiculture) is the maintenance of bee colonies, commonly in man-made beehives. Honey bees in the genus ''Apis (insect), Apis'' are the most-commonly-kept species but other honey-producing bees such as ''Melipona'' stingless bees ar ...
rather than religion. A major festival was exemplified in
bull-leaping Bull-leaping ( grc, ταυροκαθάψια, ) is a term for various types of non-violent bull fighting. Some are based on an ancient ritual from the Minoan civilization involving an acrobat leaping over the back of a charging bull (or cow). ...
, represented in the frescoes of Knossos and inscribed in miniature seals.


Burial practices

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 Burial, also known as interment or inhumation, is a method of Disposal of human corpses, final disposition whereby a dead body is placed into the ground, sometimes with objects. This is usually accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, plac ...
was more popular than
cremation Cremation is a method of Disposal of human corpses, final disposition of a Cadaver, dead body through Combustion, burning. Cremation may serve as a funeral or post-funeral rite and as an alternative to burial. In some countries, including India ...
. 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. Evidence of possible
human sacrifice Human sacrifice is the act of killing one or more humans as part of a ritual, which is usually intended to please or appease deity, gods, a human ruler, an authoritative/priestly figure or spirits of veneration of the dead, dead ancestors or as ...
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 Knossos (also Cnossos, both pronounced ; grc, Κνωσός, Knōsós, ; Linear B: ''Ko-no-so'') is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city. Settled as early as the Neolithic period, the na ...
.


Architecture

Minoan cities were connected by narrow roads paved with blocks cut with bronze saws. Streets were drained, and water and
sewage Sewage (or domestic sewage, domestic wastewater, municipal wastewater) is a type of wastewater Wastewater is water generated after the use of Fresh water, freshwater, raw water, drinking water or saline water in a variety of deliberate applic ...
facilities were available to the upper class through
clay Clay is a type of fine-grained natural soil material containing clay minerals (hydrous aluminium phyllosilicates, e.g. kaolin, aluminium, Al2Silicon, Si2Oxygen, O5(hydroxide, OH)4). Clays develop plasticity (physics), plasticity when wet, du ...
pipes. Minoan buildings often had flat, tiled roofs;
plaster Plaster is a building material used for the protective or decorative coating of walls and ceilings and for Molding (decorative), moulding and casting decorative elements. In English, "plaster" usually means a material used for the interiors of ...
, wood or
flagstone Flagstone (flag) is a generic flat Rock (geology), stone, sometimes cut in regular rectangular or square shape and usually used for Sidewalk, paving slabs or walkways, patios, flooring, fences and roofing. It may be used for memorials, headstone ...
floors, and stood two to three stories high. Lower
wall A wall is a structure and a surface that defines an area; carries a load; provides security Security is protection from, or resilience against, potential harm (or other unwanted Coercion, coercive change) caused by others, by restraining th ...
s were typically constructed of stone and
rubble Rubble is broken rock (geology), stone, of irregular size, shape and texture; undressed especially as a filling-in. Rubble naturally found in the soil is known also as 'brash' (compare cornbrash)."Rubble" def. 2., "Brash n. 2. def. 1. ''Oxford En ...
, and the upper walls of
mudbrick A mudbrick or mud-brick is an air-dried brick, made of a mixture of loam, mud, sand and water mixed with a binding material such as rice husks or straw. Mudbricks are known from 9000 BCE, though since 4000 BCE, bricks have also been fi ...
. Ceiling timbers held up the roofs. Construction materials for villas and palaces varied, and included sandstone,
gypsum Gypsum is a soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate Hydrate, dihydrate, with the chemical formula . It is widely mined and is used as a fertilizer and as the main constituent in many forms of plaster, blackboard or sidewalk chalk, and ...
and limestone. Building techniques also varied, with some palaces using
ashlar Ashlar () is finely dressed (cut, worked) stone, either an individual rock (geology), stone that has been worked until squared, or a structure built from such stones. Ashlar is the finest stone masonry unit, generally rectangular cuboid, ment ...
masonry and others roughly-hewn, megalithic blocks. In north-central Crete
blue Blue is one of the three primary colours in the RYB color model, RYB colour model (traditional colour theory), as well as in the RGB color model, RGB (additive) colour model. It lies between Violet (color), violet and cyan on the optical sp ...
-
greenschist Greenschists are metamorphic rocks that formed under the lowest temperatures and pressures usually produced by regional metamorphism, typically and 2–10 kilobars (). Greenschists commonly have an abundance of green minerals such as Chlorite ...
was used as to pave floors of streets and
courtyard A courtyard or court is a circumscribed area, often surrounded by a building or complex, that is open to the sky. Courtyards are common elements in both Western and Eastern building patterns and have been used by both ancient and contemporary ...
s between 1650 and 1600BC. These rocks were likely quarried in
Agia Pelagia Agia Pelagia ( el, Αγία Πελαγία, " Saint Pelagia") is a popular seaside resort 23 km northwest of Crete's capital city of Heraklion Heraklion or Iraklion ( ; el, Ηράκλειο, , ) is the largest city and the administrative c ...
on the north coast of central Crete.


Palaces

The handful of very large structures for which Evans' term of
palace A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence, or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word is derived from the Latin name palātium, for Palatine Hill in Rome which ...
s (''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 Knossos (also Cnossos, both pronounced ; grc, Κνωσός, Knōsós, ; Linear B: ''Ko-no-so'') is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city. Settled as early as the Neolithic period, the na ...
was much larger than the others, and may always have had a unique role. The others are at:
Phaistos Phaistos ( el, Φαιστός, ; Ancient Greek: , , Minoan language, Minoan: PA-I-TO?http://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/download/11991/4031&ved=2ahUKEwjor62y3bHoAhUEqYsKHZaZArAQFjASegQIAhAB&usg=AOvVaw1MwIv3ekgX-SxkJrbORipd ), also transliter ...
,
Zakros Zakros ( el, Ζάκρος; Linear B Linear B was a syllabary, syllabic script used for writing in Mycenaean Greek, the earliest Attested language, attested form of Greek language, Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet by several cent ...
, Malia, Gournia, and possibly Galatas and
Hagia Triada Hagia Triada (also Ayia Triada, Agia Triada, Agia Trias, , "Holy Trinity") is the archaeological site of an ancient Minoan civilization, Minoan settlement. Hagia Triada is situated on the western end of a prominent coastal ridge, with Phaistos at ...
. They are monumental buildings with administrative purposes, as evidenced by large
archive An archive is an accumulation of Historical document, historical records or Historical source, materials – in any medium – or the physical facility in which they are located. Archives contain primary source documents that have accumula ...
s unearthed by
archaeologist Archaeology or archeology is the scientific study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of Artifact (archaeology), artifacts, architecture, biofact (archaeology), biofacts ...
s. Whether they were the actual residences of elite persons remains unclear. 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,
lightwell In architecture Architecture is the art and technique of designing and building, as distinguished from the skills associated with construction. It is both the process and the product of sketching, conceiving, planning, designing, and const ...
s, massive
column A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a structural element that transmits, through compression (physical), compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. In other words, a column i ...
s, very large storage areas and courtyards. The first palaces were constructed at the end of the Early Minoan period in the third millenniumBC at Malia. Although it was formerly believed that the foundation of the first palaces was synchronous and dated to the Middle Minoan period (around 2000BC, 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. 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. The palaces were centers of
government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, executive, and judiciary. Government ...
, administrative offices,
shrine A shrine ( la, scrinium "case or chest for books or papers"; Old French: ''escrin'' "box or case") is a sacred or holy sacred space, space dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor worship, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, Daemon (mythology), daem ...
s, workshops and storage spaces. The Middle Minoan palaces are characteristically aligned with their surrounding topography. The MM palace of Phaistos appears to align with
Mount Ida In Greek mythology, two sacred mountains are called Mount Ida, the "Mountain of the Goddess": Mount Ida (Crete), Mount Ida in Crete, and Mount Ida (Turkey), Mount Ida in the ancient Troad region of western Anatolia (in modern-day Turkey), which wa ...
and Knossos is aligned with
Mount Juktas A mountain in north-central Crete, Mount Juktas ( el, Γιούχτας - ''Giouchtas''), also spelled Iuktas, Iouktas, or Ioukhtas, was an important religious site for the Minoan civilization. Located a few kilometers from the palaces of Knossos ...
, both on a north–south axis. Scholars suggest that the alignment was related to the mountains' ritual significance; a number of
peak sanctuaries Minoan civilization, Minoan peak sanctuaries are widespread throughout the island of Crete (Greece). Most scholars agree that peak sanctuaries were used for religious rites. In all peak sanctuaries human and animal clay figurines have been found. ...
(spaces for public ritual) have been excavated, including one at Petsofas. These sites have yielded clusters of clay figurines and evidence of
animal sacrifice Animal sacrifice is the ritual killing and offering of one or more animals, usually as part of a religious ritual or to appease or maintain favour with a deity. Animal sacrifices were common throughout Europe and the Ancient Near East until the spr ...
. Late palaces are characterized by multi-story buildings with west facades of sandstone ashlar masonry;
Knossos Knossos (also Cnossos, both pronounced ; grc, Κνωσός, Knōsós, ; Linear B: ''Ko-no-so'') is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city. Settled as early as the Neolithic period, the na ...
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. 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. 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." 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, can be found along with the
fresco Fresco (plural ''frescos'' or ''frescoes'') is a technique of Mural, mural painting executed upon freshly laid ("wet") lime plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the dry-powder pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the ...
es that were decorating the walls of the hallways and storage rooms.


Plumbing

During the Minoan Era extensive waterways were built in order to protect the growing population. This system had two primary functions, first providing and distributing water, and secondly relocating sewage and stormwater. 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. 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

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 Capital may refer to: Common uses * Capital city, a municipality of primary status ** List of national capitals, List of national capital cities * Capital letter, an upper-case letter Economics and social sciences * Capital (economics), the dura ...
.


Villas

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. 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 Hagia Triada (also Ayia Triada, Agia Triada, Agia Trias, , "Holy Trinity") is the archaeological site of an ancient Minoan civilization, Minoan settlement. Hagia Triada is situated on the western end of a prominent coastal ridge, with Phaistos at ...
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 2nd millennium BC spanned the years 2000 BC to 1001 BC. In the Ancient Near East, it marks the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age. The Ancient Near Eastern cultures are well within the historical era: The first half of the m ...
, the villas had one or two floors, and the palaces even three.


Art

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". It forms part of the wider grouping of
Aegean art Aegean art (2800–1100 BC) is art that was created in the lands surrounding, and the islands within, the Aegean Sea during the Bronze Age, that is, until the 11th century BC, before Ancient Greek art. Because is it mostly found in the territory of ...
, 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 Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. Major types include earthenware, stoneware and porc ...
, intricately-carved Minoan seals, palace
fresco Fresco (plural ''frescos'' or ''frescoes'') is a technique of Mural, mural painting executed upon freshly laid ("wet") lime plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the dry-powder pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the ...
s 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 Ancient Greek art stands out among that of other ancient cultures for its development of naturalistic but idealized depictions of the human body, in which largely nude male figures were generally the focus of innovation. The rate of stylistic d ...
has been much discussed. It clearly dominated
Mycenaean art Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1750 to 1050 BC.. It represents the first advanced and distinctively Greek civilization in mainland ...
and Cycladic art of the same periods, even after Crete was occupied by the Mycenaeans, but only some aspects of the tradition survived the
Greek Dark Ages The term Greek Dark Ages refers to the period of History of Greece, Greek history from the end of the Mycenaean civilization, Mycenaean palatial civilization, around 1100 BC, to the beginning of the Archaic Greece, Archaic age, around 750 ...
after the collapse of
Mycenaean Greece Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1750 to 1050 BC.. It represents the first advanced and distinctively Greek civilization in mainland ...
. 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 Bull-leaping ( grc, ταυροκαθάψια, ) is a term for various types of non-violent bull fighting. Some are based on an ancient ritual from the Minoan civilization involving an acrobat leaping over the back of a charging bull (or cow). ...
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, with scholars uncertain whether they are deities, clergy or devotees. 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. 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 An octopus (plural, : octopuses or octopodes, Octopus#Etymology and pluralisation, see below for variants) is a soft-bodied, eight-cephalopod limb, limbed Mollusca, mollusc of the order (biology), order Octopoda (, ). The order consists of ...
spreading all over the vessel, and probably originated from similar frescoed scenes; 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 Ancient Egyptian art refers to art produced in ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization in Northeast Africa situated in the Nile Valley. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100Anno Do ...
they are often more vivid, but less naturalistic. 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. What is called
landscape painting Landscape painting, also known as landscape art, is the depiction of natural scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, and forests, especially where the main subject is a wide view—with its elements arranged into a coherent composi ...
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. 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. The largest and best collection of Minoan art is in the
Heraklion Archaeological Museum The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is a museum located in Heraklion Heraklion or Iraklion ( ; el, Ηράκλειο, , ) is the largest city and the administrative capital city, capital of the island of Crete and capital of Heraklion (regi ...
("AMH") near
Knossos Knossos (also Cnossos, both pronounced ; grc, Κνωσός, Knōsós, ; Linear B: ''Ko-no-so'') is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city. Settled as early as the Neolithic period, the na ...
, on the northern coast of Crete.


Pottery

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
spiral In mathematics, a spiral is a curve which emanates from a point, moving farther away as it revolves around the point. Helices Two major definitions of "spiral" in the American Heritage Dictionary are:triangle A triangle is a polygon with three Edge (geometry), edges and three Vertex (geometry), vertices. It is one of the basic shapes in geometry. A triangle with vertices ''A'', ''B'', and ''C'' is denoted \triangle ABC. In Euclidean geometry, an ...
s, curved lines,
cross A cross is a geometrical figure consisting of two intersecting lines or bars, usually perpendicular to each other. The lines usually run vertically and horizontally. A cross of oblique lines, in the shape of the Latin letter X, is termed a sal ...
es, 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. There were also many small
terracotta Terracotta, terra cotta, or terra-cotta (; ; ), in its material sense as an earthenware substrate, is a clay-based unglazed or glazed ceramic A ceramic is any of the various hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials m ...
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 Ancient Greek pottery, due to its relative durability, comprises a large part of the archaeological record of ancient Greece, and since there is so much of it (over 100,000 painted vases are recorded in the Corpus vasorum antiquorum), it has exe ...
, paintings of human figures are extremely rare, 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.


Jewelry

Minoan jewellery has mostly been recovered from graves, and until the later periods much of it consists of
diadem A diadem is a type of Crown (headgear), crown, specifically an ornamental headband worn by monarchs and others as a badge of royalty. Overview The word derives from the Ancient Greek, Greek διάδημα ''diádēma'', "band" or "fillet", fr ...
s 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. but later it seemed to become scarce. The Minoans created elaborate metalwork with imported gold and copper. Bead necklaces, bracelets and hair ornaments appear in the frescoes, and many labrys pins survive. The Minoans mastered granulation, as indicated by the Malia Pendant, a gold pendant featuring bees on a honeycomb. This was overlooked by the 19th-century looters of a royal burial site they called the "Gold Hole".


Weapons

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
dagger A dagger is a fighting knife with a very sharp point and usually two sharp edges, typically designed or capable of being used as a thrusting or stabbing weapon.State v. Martin, 633 S.W.2d 80 (Mo. 1982): This is the dictionary or popular-use def ...
s. In contrast spears and "slashing-knives" tend to be "severely functional". Many of the decorated weapons were probably made either in Crete, or by Cretans working on the mainland. 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. The most famous of these are a few inlaid with elaborate scenes in gold and silver set against a black (or now black) "
niello Niello is a black mixture, usually of sulphur Sulfur (or sulphur in British English) is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol S and atomic number 16. It is abundance of the chemical elements, abundant, Polyvalency (chemi ...
" 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

Metal vessels were produced in Crete from at least as early as EM II (c. 2500BC) in the Prepalatial period through to LM IA (c. 1450BC) in the Postpalatial period and perhaps as late as LM IIIB/C (c. 1200BC), although it is likely that many of the vessels from these later periods were heirlooms from earlier periods. The earliest were probably made exclusively from
precious metal Precious metals are rare, naturally occurring metallic chemical elements of high Value (economics), economic value. Chemically, the precious metals tend to be less reactivity (chemistry), reactive than most elements (see noble metal). They ...
s, but from the Protopalatial period (MM IB – MM IIA) they were also produced in
arsenical bronze Arsenical bronze is an alloy in which arsenic, as opposed to or in addition to tin or other constituent metals, is combined with copper to make bronze. The use of arsenic with copper, either as the secondary constituent or with another component s ...
and, subsequently, tin
bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals (including aluminium, manganese, nickel, or zinc) and sometimes non-metals, such as phosphorus, or metalloids such ...
. The
archaeological record The archaeological record is the body of physical (not Recorded history, written) scientific evidence, evidence about the past. It is one of the core concepts in archaeology, the academic discipline concerned with documenting and interpreting the a ...
suggests that mostly cup-type forms were created in precious metals, but the corpus of bronze vessels was diverse, including cauldrons, pans,
hydria The hydria ( el, ὑδρία; plural hydriai) is a form of Greek pottery from between the late Geometric period (7th century BC) and the Hellenistic period In Classical antiquity, the Hellenistic period covers the time in History of the Med ...
s, bowls, pitchers, basins, cups, ladles and lamps. The Minoan metal vessel tradition influenced that of the Mycenaean culture on mainland Greece, and they are often regarded as the same tradition. 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 Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows on another. In the history of art, arts patronage refers to the support that kings, popes, and the wealthy have provided to artists su ...
or by Mycenaean smiths who had trained under Minoan masters.


Warfare and the "Minoan peace"

According to
Arthur Evans Sir Arthur John Evans (8 July 1851 – 11 July 1941) was a British archaeologist and pioneer in the study of Aegean civilization in the Bronze Age. He is most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on the List of islands of Greece, Greek ...
, a "Minoan peace" (''Pax Minoica'') existed; there was little internal armed conflict in Minoan Crete until the Mycenaean period. However, it is difficult to draw hard-and-fast conclusions from the evidence and Evans' idealistic view has been questioned. 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 Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1750 to 1050 BC.. It represents the first advanced and distinctively Greek civilization in mainland ...
in the Neopalatial Period, but it is now very widely agreed that the opposite was the case, with a Mycenaean conquest of Crete around 1450BC. 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. 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 pharaoh", leading Cretan tribute-bearers to be depicted on Egyptian tombs such as those of the top officials Rekmire and Senmut. 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 The Hittites () were an Anatolian peoples, Anatolian people who played an important role in establishing first a kingdom in Kussara (before 1750 BC), then the Kültepe , Kanesh or Nesha kingdom (c. 1750–1650 BC), and next an empire centere ...
, is well-documented.


Skepticism and weaponry

Despite finding ruined watchtowers and fortification walls, 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. Lucia Nixon wrote: Chester Starr said in "Minoan Flower Lovers" that since Shang China and the
Maya Maya may refer to: Civilizations * Maya peoples, of southern Mexico and northern Central America ** Maya civilization, the historical civilization of the Maya peoples ** Maya language (disambiguation), Maya language, the languages of the Maya peop ...
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. 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: 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). Keith Branigan estimated that 95 percent of Minoan "weapons" had hafting (
hilt The hilt (rarely called a haft or shaft) of a knife, dagger, sword, or bayonet is its handle, consisting of a guard, grip and pommel. The guard may contain a crossguard or quillons. A tassel or sword knot may be attached to the guard or pommel. ...
s or handles) which would have prevented their use as such. 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. According to Paul Rehak, Minoan figure-eight shields could not have been used for fighting or hunting, since they were too cumbersome. Although Cheryl Floyd concluded that Minoan "weapons" were tools used for mundane tasks such as meat processing, Middle Minoan "
rapier A rapier () or is a type of sword with a slender and sharply-pointed two-edged blade that was popular in Western Europe, both for civilian use (dueling and self-defense) and as a military Sidearm (weapon), side arm, throughout the 16th and 17th ...
s nearly three feet in length" have been found. About Minoan warfare, Branigan concluded: Archaeologist Olga Krzyszkowska agreed: "The stark fact is that for the prehistoric Aegean we have no direct evidence for war and warfare ''per se''."


Collapse

Between 1935 and 1939, Greek archaeologist
Spyridon Marinatos Spyridon Nikolaou Marinatos ( el, Σπυρίδων Νικολάου Μαρινάτος; November 4, 1901 – October 1, 1974) was a Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greek ...
posited the
Minoan eruption The Minoan eruption was a catastrophic Types of volcanic eruptions, volcanic eruption that devastated the Aegean Islands, Aegean island of Thera (also called Santorini) circa 1600 BCE. It destroyed the Minoan civilization, Minoan settlement at ...
theory. An eruption on the island of Thera (present-day
Santorini Santorini ( el, Σαντορίνη, ), officially Thira (Greek language, Greek: Θήρα ) and classical Greek Thera (English language, English pronunciation ), is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km (120 mi) southeast ...
), about from Crete, occurred during the LM IA period (1550–1500BC). One of the largest volcanic explosions in recorded history, it ejected about of material and was measured at 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index. The eruption devastated the nearby Minoan settlement at Akrotiri on Santorini, which was entombed in a layer of
pumice Pumice (), called pumicite in its powdered or dust form, is a volcanic rock that consists of highly Vesicular texture, vesicular rough-textured volcanic glass, which may or may not contain crystals. It is typically light-colored. Scoria is ano ...
. 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 Volcanic ash consists of fragments of rock, mineral crystals, and volcanic glass, created during volcano, volcanic eruptions and measuring less than 2 mm (0.079 inches) in diameter. The term volcanic ash is also often loosely used t ...
from Thera choked off plant life on the eastern half of Crete, starving the local population; however, more-thorough field examinations have determined that no more than of ash fell anywhere on Crete. Based on archaeological evidence, studies indicate that a massive
tsunami A tsunami ( ; from ja, 津波, lit=harbour wave, ) is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a tsunamis in lakes, large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and othe ...
generated by the Thera eruption devastated the coast of Crete and destroyed many Minoan settlements. Although the LM IIIA (late Minoan) period is characterized by affluence (wealthy tombs, burials and art) and ubiquitous Knossian ceramic styles, 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. 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. Many archaeologists believe that the eruption triggered a crisis, making the Minoans vulnerable to conquest by the Mycenaeans. 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. Several authors have noted evidence that Minoan civilization had exceeded its environmental
carrying capacity The carrying capacity of an Natural environment, environment is the maximum population size of a biological species that can be sustained by that specific environment, given the food, habitat, Drinking water, water, and other resources available. ...
, with archaeological recovery at
Knossos Knossos (also Cnossos, both pronounced ; grc, Κνωσός, Knōsós, ; Linear B: ''Ko-no-so'') is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city. Settled as early as the Neolithic period, the na ...
indicating
deforestation Deforestation or forest clearance is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land that is then land conversion, converted to non-forest use. Deforestation can involve conversion of forest land to farms, ranches, or urban area, urban ...
in the region near the civilization's later stages.


Genetic studies

A 2013
archaeogenetics Archaeogenetics is the study of ancient DNA using various Molecular genetics, molecular genetic methods and DNA resources. This form of genetic analysis can be applied to human, animal, and plant specimens. Ancient DNA can be extracted from various ...
study compared skeletal
mtDNA Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA or mDNA) is the DNA located in mitochondrion, mitochondria, cellular organelles within eukaryotic cells that convert chemical energy from food into a form that cells can use, such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Mit ...
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 Anatolia (also Asia Minor), is a large peninsula in Western Asia and is the western-most extension of continental Asia. The land mass of Anatolia constitutes most of the territory of contemporary Turkey. Geographically, the Anatolian region i ...
, western and northern Europe, North Africa and Egypt. 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 The University of Washington (UW, simply Washington, or informally U-Dub) is a Public university, public research university in Seattle, Washington (state), Washington. Founded in 1861, Washington is one of the oldest universities on the West ...
. "They were very similar to Neolithic Europeans and very similar to present day-Cretans." A 2017 archaeogenetics study of Minoan remains published in the journal of ''
Nature Nature, in the broadest sense, is the physics, physical world or universe. "Nature" can refer to the phenomenon, phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. The study of nature is a large, if not the only, part of science. ...
'' concluded that the Minoans and the
Mycenaean Greeks Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1750 to 1050 BC.. It represents the first advanced and distinctively Greek civilization in mainland ...
were genetically highly similar - but not identical - and that modern
Greeks The Greeks or Hellenes (; el, Έλληνες, ''Éllines'' ) are an ethnic group and nation indigenous to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea regions, namely Greece, Greek Cypriots, Cyprus, Greeks in Albania, Albania, Greeks in Italy, ...
descend from these populations. The same study also stated that at least three-quarters of the ancestral DNA of both the Minoans and the Mycenaeans came from the first Neolithic-era farmers that lived in Western Anatolia and the
Aegean Sea The Aegean Sea ; tr, Ege Denizi ( Greek: Αιγαίο Πέλαγος: "Egéo Pélagos", Turkish: "Ege Denizi" or "Adalar Denizi") is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and Asia. It is located between the Balkans ...
. The remaining ancestry of the Minoans came from prehistoric populations related to those of the
Caucasus The Caucasus () or Caucasia (), is a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, mainly comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia (country), Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia. The Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus range ...
and
Iran Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmeni ...
, while the Mycenaean Greeks also carried this component. Unlike the Minoans however, the Mycenaeans carried a small 4-16% Bronze Age
Pontic–Caspian steppe The Pontic–Caspian steppe, formed by the Caspian steppe and the Pontic steppe, is the steppeland stretching from the northern shores of the Black Sea (the Pontus Euxinus of antiquity) to the northern area around the Caspian Sea The ...
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 The Proto-Greek language (also known as Proto-Hellenic) is the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language which was the last common ancestor of all varieties of Greek language, Greek, including Mycenaean Greek, the subsequent ancient G ...
speakers formed the southern wing of a steppe intrusion of
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to the languages of Europe, overwhelming majority of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some European languages of this family, English language, Englis ...
speakers. Yet, the absence of 'northern' ancestry in the Bronze Age samples from
Pisidia Pisidia (; grc-gre, Πισιδία, ; tr, Pisidya) was a region of ancient Asia Minor located north of Pamphylia, northeast of Lycia, west of Isauria and Cilicia, and south of Phrygia, corresponding roughly to the Antalya Province, modern-da ...
, where Indo-European languages were attested in antiquity, casts doubt on this genetic-linguistic association, with further sampling of ancient Anatolian speakers needed.


See also

*
Atlantis Atlantis ( grc, Ἀτλαντὶς νῆσος, , island of Atlas (mythology), Atlas) is a fictional island mentioned in an allegory on the hubris of nations in Plato's works ''Timaeus (dialogue), Timaeus'' and ''Critias (dialogue), Critias'' ...
*
Caucasus The Caucasus () or Caucasia (), is a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, mainly comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia (country), Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia. The Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus range ...
*
Hyksos Hyksos (; Egyptian language, Egyptian ''wikt:ḥqꜣ, ḥqꜣ(w)-wikt:ḫꜣst, ḫꜣswt'', Egyptological pronunciation: ''hekau khasut'', "ruler(s) of foreign lands") is a term which, in modern Egyptology, designates the kings of the Fifteenth ...
* Minoa * Sacred caves of Crete


Notes


References

* * * Benton, Janetta Rebold and DiYanni, Robert. ''Arts and Culture: An Introduction to the Humanities.'' Volume 1. Prentice Hall. New Jersey, 1998. * Bourbon, F. ''Lost Civilizations''. Barnes and Noble, Inc. New York, 1998. * Branigan, Keith, 1970. ''The Foundations of Palatial Crete''. * * * Burkert, Walter, 1985. ''Greek Religion''. J. Raffan, trans. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press Harvard University Press (HUP) is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. After the retirem ...
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, 1921–35. ''The Palace of Minos: A Comparative Account of the Successive Stages of the Early Cretan Civilization as Illustrated by the Discoveries at Knossos'', 4 vols. in 6 (reissued 1964). * * * * Gates, Charles, 1999. "Why Are There No Scenes of Warfare in Minoan Art?" pp 277–284 In Laffineur, Robert, ed., ''Polemos: Le Contexte Guerrier en Egee a L'Age du Bronze. Actes de la 7e Rencontre egeenne internationale Universite de Liège, 1998.'' Université de Liège. *Gates, Charles (2004), "Pictorial Imagery in Minoan Wall Painting", in ''Charis: Essays in Honor of Sara A. Immerwahr'', ''Hesperia'' (Princeton, N.J.) 33, 2004, ASCSA, , 9780876615331
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and John Fleming, ''A World History of Art'', 1st edn. 1982 (many later editions), Macmillan, London, page refs to 1984 Macmillan 1st edn. paperback. * Hood, Sinclair, 1971, ''The Minoans: Crete in the Bronze Age''. London. * Hood, Sinclair (1978), ''The Arts in Prehistoric Greece'', 1978, Penguin (Penguin/Yale History of Art), * Hughes, Dennis, 1991. ''Human Sacrifice in Ancient Greece.'' Routledge: London. * Hutchinson, Richard W., 1962. ''Prehistoric Crete'' (reprinted 1968) * Kristiansen, Kristiansen & Larsson, Thomas B. (2005) ''The Rise of Bronze Age Society: Travels, Transmissions and Transformations'' Cambridge University Press * * Lapatin, Kenneth, 2002. ''Mysteries of the Snake Goddess: Art, Desire, and the Forging of History''. Boston:
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. * * * Yule, Paul. ''Early Cretan Seals: A Study of Chronology''. Marburger Studien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte 4, Mainz 1980 *Vasilakis, Andonis, ''Minoan Crete: From Myth to History'', 2000, Adam Editions, Athens, {{authority control 27th-century BC establishments 12th-century BC disestablishments States and territories established in the 3rd millennium BC States and territories disestablished in the 12th century BC Pre-Indo-Europeans Prehistoric Crete History of Crete