|Covering 6 acres, the palace of Knossos and the surrounding city may have|
had a population of 100,000 in the Bronze Age
Although the art at Knossos doesn't play out the precise myth, carvings and paintings found there involve imagery of bulls. Acrobats jumped and did flips over the animals' horns, perhaps part religious ritual. It must have been an exciting but highly dangerous sport, and it's easy to understand that as the story changed over time, later generations would envision a bull-headed monster in a spooky maze.
|The palace at Knossos is on the hillside, about 5 kilometers from the sea. It was never fortified|
Other, smaller palaces have been uncovered on the island.
|The downward taper of Minoan|
columns is unusual but may have
religious significance. The capital
resembles the cushions of Doric
columns of Greece 1000 years later
|The North Entrance has a restored|
fresco of a bull. Minoans were probably
the first to paint in fresco, on wet plaster
There were both small frescoes and life-size frescoes, most of them now in the Archeological Museum in Heraklion, including the bull-leaping fresco. Since Egyptians painted in secco, on dry plaster, it's believed that Minoans invented the fresco technique of painting on wet plaster. Colors such as blue, red and yellow ochre are very vivid. Generally Minoans painted with a freer and more organic style than the artists of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and often had more naturalistic depictions. However, whenever men or women are found marching with erect stiff postures, it's conjectured that they functioned as priests and priestesses partaking in the religious rituals. There's a famous bull-leaping fresco in the local museum.
|La Parisienne from Knossos|
The word labyrinth originates from the labrys, a double-axe related to the double horns of the bull. The language used at the time the first palace was built, around the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, has not yet been deciphered. A second language which appeared at Knossos after mainland Greeks took over the palace after 1500 BC has been translated and is related to the classical Greek language
|The life-size Prince of Lilies was thought by|
Archeologist Arthur Evans to be a priest.
Lilies are common in Minoan imagery.
All the inscriptions on cylinder seals are commercial records and inventories. Besides myth, the art and artifacts are the best way to figure out the story of these people. Only about 10 percent of the ancient Minoan sites have been excavated. Although the contents of the Archeological Museum of Heraklion, near Knossos, is well known and published, the beautiful pottery and artifacts from the museum of Chania, Crete's next largest city, have not been published. Getting outside of the cities and into the countryside leaves the impression that the rural life really hasn't changed too much in 1000 years.
|The grand staircase at Knossos spans 5 levels. The layout of rooms is organic around a|
central courtyard. What seems to be a haphazard arrangement may reflect
building and rebuilding after earthquakes.
|The Throne Room was found with oldest throne in|
Europe, dating to Mycenaean occupation of Crete, around
1450-1400 BC. Evidence shows people had fled suddenly.
Occupation of the palace ended sometime between 1400 and 1100 BC. In the classical era Crete was never as important as Athens, though it is clear that much of what formed later Greek culture came from Crete. A settlement re-emerged in Knossos during Roman times, but during the Middle Ages the population shifted to the city of Heraklion, about 4-5 miles away.
|An area outside of the palace has two sets of seats set at a perpendicular angle. Acoustics indicate it was a theater.|