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Knossos

Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork

<b>Knossos</b>Posted by bawn79Image © Bawn79 © 2008
Also known as:
  • Cnossos

Latitude:35° 16' 49.35" N
Longitude:   25° 8' 16.06" E

Added by C Michael Hogan


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<b>Knossos</b>Posted by julia <b>Knossos</b>Posted by bawn79 <b>Knossos</b>Posted by bawn79 <b>Knossos</b>Posted by bawn79 <b>Knossos</b>Posted by bawn79 <b>Knossos</b>Posted by bawn79 <b>Knossos</b>Posted by C Michael Hogan <b>Knossos</b>Posted by C Michael Hogan

Fieldnotes

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Knossos is the largest Bronze Age settlement on the island of Crete, and it also can lay claim to one of the most advanced civilizations of Europe of that era. It is an expansive palace as well as a religious and residential center, but is also steeped in legend and mystery involving King Minos,. the Minotaur and the Labyrinth as recited by Homer. Originally developed as a large neolithic village around 6000 BC, Knossos evolved into a sophisticated center of language and arts with significant Egyptian contact between 2500 to 1800 BC. The Palace, built at the zenith of Knossos culture, exceeded 1300 maze-like rooms, and was the source of the ancient labyrinth legend. The data herein are based upon my work at Knossos in June, 2005 combined with literature analysis.

NEOLITHIC. Knossos is the only city-sized Neolithic settlement on Crete, with three well defined layers of material bedded to a final depth of seven meters below the Bronze Age city; the Neolithic settlement on Kephala Hill actually extends well beyond the boundaries of the later Bronze Age city. The oldest Neolithic level reveals coarse hand-made brown clay bowls and other unornamented open containers. Pottery artifacts are burnished and many contain handles. (Castleden, 1990) The middle Neolithic manifests more refined pottery, with intricate incised geometric designs and some bird and animal motifs. Hatched triangles, dotted fields and chevrons are incised on ladles, partitioned trays and vases; some use of tubular handles is evident.

Late Neolithic Knossos offers remains of recognizable buildings. For example, numerous sun-dried brick-walled houses founded on large limestone blocks lie below the later Central Court. These structures are presumed to be "ben and but" style, like the extant late Neolithic specimen at Magasa in eastern Crete. Such homes range up to 40 sq meters for a largish home of four rooms with hearth, which heating fixture may be placed by a wall or in the middle of the room. High thresholds were in use as in modern times. Clay floors run under the walls suggesting a community plan level. The extensive maze-like arrangement of rooms is eerily suggestive of a labyrinth. (The word "Labyrinth" derives from the Minoan "labrys" meaning "double-axe", which axe symbol is also found widely at Knossos.) This communal array of houses with common walls is not unlike the Anasazi settlements of the American southwest (e.g. Chaco Canyon). Late Neolithic pottery educes new designs such as the chalice and carinated bridge spouted jar.

EARLY MINOAN. The Early Minoan period of Crete spans the era from 3400 to 2200 BC and is characterized by monumental building and by rough lime plaster over the earlier sun-dried brick and a fine surface wash of deep red which formed a cement hard stucco. (Pendlebury, 2003) Beginning in Early Minoan I, pottery evinces intricate incision designs. Influence of Anatolia and Cyclades (e.g. bottle-neck suspension pots similar to Antiparos) are seen; during the Neolithic period the only foreign influences found are Egyptian.

Notably in the Early Minoan II (EMII) period (2800 to 2400 BC) the Hypogaeum underground vault was created with an eight meter diameter and beehive dome extending 18 meters in height; this edifice was cut into the soft rock which would become the South Porch of the eventual Palace. Homes of this era were mostly razed to make way for the eventual Palace. Other Cretan cultures are now similar in pottery, designs, tools beginning in about 2500 BC. For example, a Knossos cup with high swung handle is similar to specimens from Vasilki and Trapeza. Dishes and bowls at Knossos show broad rim bands of colour and geometrics and in one instance over the rim to the inside of the vessel. Cycladic influence figurines begin appearance in Knossos in EMII. Copper daggers of Early Minoan III were recovered at the Tekke Tomb of Knossos and on the Candia road.

MIDDLE MINOAN. This era begins at 2200 BC with founding of the monumental Palace including: (a) insulae (with unusual rounded corners which may harken to an ancient a reed pallisade exterior); (b) magazines; (c) Throne Room; (d) Monolithic Pillar Basement; (e) raised causeways; (f) drainage and water supply systems of tapered clay pipes, with jointed sections 75 cm long. In Middle Minoan I (MMI), the great trackway appears from Komo via a guard fort at Anagyroi. Aqueducts brought water to Kephala Hill from springs at Archanes, which are the source of the Kairatos River. The Juktas Sanctuary, with a massive northern temenos wall where pithoi were recovered, is built on a hill a few kilometers from the Palace. Reconstruction of Knossos at Middle Minoan I is special, since other ruins on Crete such as Pseira are altered by later development.and are almost indecipherable.

Aiding the dating of Knossos MMI layers are a plethora of commingled Egyptian and Babylonian artifacts . Small jugs and handle-less cups appear in vast array in MMI Knossos with elaborate geometric designs and combinations of red, white, buff and black color; the earliest style of vase painting appears at Knossos, but nowhere else on Crete this early. Human figurines first appear at Knossos, males with only a codpiece and topless females with bell-shaped skirts. Pictographic linear writing first appears at Knossos and Phaistos in MMI, with one Knossos ivory cylinder seal manifesting intricate designs and proto-writing; a male figure on the cylinder seal resembles the Petsophas specimens. In the Vat Room a number of blue and green faience beads were found of spherical and disk shapes.

Middle Minoan II (MMII) begins about 1850 BC and lasts about 150 years until a great earthquake. Architecture, art and civil engineering attains great dimensions, paralleling Akrotiri in many ways. High column bases are made of breccia, porphyry, serpentine and conglomerate, while the columns themselves were milled tree trunks, inverted to prevent resprouting and also to minimize drip damage to the wood. To carry surface runoff elaborate stone lined drains were constructed large enough to crawl through. An intricate latrine system was devised including a candidate for the world's first flush toilet with incision in stone for a toilet seat and buckets nearby for flushing.

The adjunct Mavrospelio Cemetary was developed with chambered tombs, from which conical cups and burial pithoi have been retrieved. Two meter tall pithoi with rope designs appear at Knossos in MMII. The first expansive plaster murals turn up, notably the partially extant "Saffron Gatherer" illustrating the gathering of crocuses. Increasingly elaborate pottery designs appear such as rosettes, stylistic palms and scroll patterns.

By at least the latter part of MMI, a myriad of glyphs (read left to right) appear, some borrowed from Egypt. Glyphs depict the olive sprig, saffron, wheat, silphium, dog, ram, goat, snake, fish, short and long horned cattle, some appearing on three sided clay seals and some at Mavrospelio. (Whittaker, 2005) These glyphs blossomed into a full writing form at Knossos known as Linear A, likely the first complete writing system in Europe. Seals are made from carnelian, agate, rock crystal, chalcedony and jasper, with Knossos favorite shapes being signet, lentoid and circular. The first trials at portraiture manifest in MMI at Knossos, with subjects displaying both straight and aquiline noses. The first example of a Egyptian object in the Aegean that has a personal connection appears in Knossos MMII {a diorite statue of a man named "User" from the XII or XIII Egyptian Dynasty).

In Middle Minoan III (MMIII) the Grand Staircase is evident and the use of peristyle at Knossos and Phaistos. Inverted plastered timber columns are now numerous and have been imitated by Minorca and Malta. Lightwells are common in residences and other buildings. Architectural elements are decorated by stone carvings with human and animal motifs, such as a fisherman carrying an octopus; hunter lassoing a wild ewe; and scenes in the bull ring.

Magnificent paintings appear at Knossos in MMIII such as the "Blue Dolfins'', embellished by fish of all colors with bubbles flying off the fins, and edged with coral and sponges. The "Ladies in Blue" in the East Hall depicts women in elaborate garments toying with necklaces. A charging bull painting is reminiscent of an image in the tomb at Vapheio; morever, there is abundant evidence of a bull ring and other support for elaborate bull fighting events.

Some MMIII pottery continues to be barbotine, but polychrome and other finishes are present. Most curious is a round vase with suspension handle and curious side aperture; Evans suggests that this could be birdhouse for swallows. A lamp on pedestal design begins in this period, with an ivy motif purple gypsum spiral column specimen in the East-House. Bronze is now common, and at North-West House of Knossos were found double-axes, spearheads, socketed daggers, flared chisels, adzes and vessels. MMIII Sculpture is highly sophisticated as well as furniture, with a grand steatite libation table found at the Temple Repositories.

Literacy rates have been deduced to be very high, based upon ubiquitous writings found at all socioeconomic strata. Animal and human figures never face the beginning of text. Numerals are systemitized: 1 is a vertical stroke; 10 is dot; 100 is circle. Use of ink is widespread, found on pottery and many objects, and likely used on leather, papyrus or palm leaves. tablets are incised by bronze styli. Seals become elaborate such as an agate cylinder showing an ibex defending himself from a hunting dog.

LATE MINOAN. This period begins about 1580 BC with continuing advances in art and writing, but is generally an era of decline and conquest by Mycenaean Greeks. Architecturally there are certain room alterations and the introduction of the first clerestory windows. Environmental factors include manifestation of overpopulation and deforestation. (Pendlebury, 2003) Lack of trees is manifested by the unusual introduction of tall slabs of gypsum instead of wood for door jambs; vertical post timbers which tied in the masonry are missing in much of this era's construction; horizontal beams are notably smaller in diameter. Further evidence of reduction of carrying capacity is seen in the reduced size of Knossos compared to millennia earlier. Art continued to thrive in the earlier parts of Late Minoan, as exemplified by a finely carved sardonyx seal-stone showing the Mistress of Animals with a double-axe and griffins. The important Linear A Chariot Tablets derive from the Late Minoan, with Arthur Evans placing them just before the catastrophe.

Late Minoan II ends about 1425 BC with a catastrophic collapse of the Minoan culture. Mycenaean invasion commenced soon thereafter. While the Minoans never exhibited warfare, it is curious that the invasion came so close to the societal collapse. The syndrome seems mysteriously similar to the sudden demise of the Mayan civilization, where some postulate that carrying capacity was no longer able to serve an expanded population.

REFERENCES
* Rodney Castleden (1990) ''The Knossos Labyrinth: A New View of the 'Palace of Minos' at Knosos'', Routledge ISBN 0415033152
* J.D.S. Pendlebury (2003) ''Handbook to the Palace of Minos at Knossos with Its Dependencies'', republication of earlier work with contributor Arthur Evans, Kessinger Publishing, 112 pages ISBN 0766139166
* Helène Whittaker (2005) ''Social and Symbolic Aspects of Minoan writing'', European Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 8, No. 1, 29-41
C Michael Hogan Posted by C Michael Hogan
22nd December 2007ce
Edited 14th April 2008ce

Folklore

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King Minos of Knossos clearly was a real person, but the treatments of Homer are difficult to discern, since the poet liked to toy with his readers in intermixing fact with embellishment. Factually Minos reigned at Knossos as the king of all Crete prior to the Trojan War (early to mid second millennium BC).

Legend holds that Poseidon gave Minos a splendid bull for sacrifice, the elegance of the bull placed Minos in awe, so that he refused to sacrifice the animal. The enraged Poseidon punished Minos by causing his wife, Pasiphae, to have a child that was half-bull, half-man, the Minotaur. Minos ordered Daedalus, his master architect, to design the labyrinth at Knossos to confine the bull-man Minotaur.

Minos' human son Androgeus competed in the first Panathenaic Games in Athens, but King Aegeus was angered when Androgeus won all the contests; Aegeus slayed Androgeus, with Minos responding with war on Athens; Athens capitulated to a peace by sending seven fair young women and men yearly to Crete to be imprisoned with Minotaur in the labyrinth.

The Minotaur stalked them within the giant maze; the process endured for three years until Aegeus' other human son, Theseus, penetrated the labyrinth and slayed the Minotaur; Theseus Minos' daughter, Ariadne, gave Theseus a spool of thread, which he unwound as he explored the labyrinth, allowing him to retrace his steps and escape the enormous maze. The above story is further memorialized by the historian Plutarch, who further muddles fact with fiction and adds a moralistic ending.

In any case the actual Minos was a potent king who died on Sicily in an attempt to re-capture Daedalus.
C Michael Hogan Posted by C Michael Hogan
26th December 2007ce
Edited 14th August 2008ce