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Minoan civilization

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Gwen Parker
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« on: March 24, 2008, 03:26:35 pm »


The History of Crete encompasses the ancient Minoan civilization, which used their own system of script, Linear A and B. After this civilization was destroyed by natural catastrophes Crete developped a Ancient Greece-influenced organization of city states, then became part of successively the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Venetian Republic, and the Ottoman Empire.
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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2008, 03:27:08 pm »

Little is known about the rise of ancient Cretan society, because very few written records remain, and many of them are written in the undeciphered script known as "Linear A". This contrasts with the superb palaces, houses, roads, paintings and sculptures that do remain.

Cretan history is surrounded by myths (such as those of the king Minos; Theseus and the Minotaur; and Daedalus and Icarus) that have been passed to us via Greek historian/poets (such as Homer).

Because of a lack of written records, estimates of Cretan chronology are based on well-established Aegean and Ancient Near Eastern pottery styles, so that Cretan timelines have been made by seeking Cretan artifacts traded with other civilizations (such as the Egyptians) - a well established occurrence. For the earlier times, radiocarbon dating of organic remains and charcoal offers independent dates. Based on this, it is thought that Crete was inhabited from the 7th millennium BC onwards. The fall of Knossos took place circa 1400s BC. Subsequently Crete was controlled by the Mycenaeans from mainland Greece.

The first human settlement in Crete dates to the aceramic Neolithic. There have been some claims for Palaeolithic remains, none of them very convincing. The finds from Samaria-gorge, identified as Mesolithic by some scholars, seem to be the product of trampling. The native fauna of Crete included pygmy hippo, pygmy elephant, dwarf deer (Praemegaceros cretensis), giant rodents and insectivores as well as badger, beech marten and a kind of terrestrial otter. Large carnivores were lacking. Most of these animals died out at the end of the last ice-age. It is still not sure if humans played a part in this extinction, which is found on other big and medium size Mediterranean islands as well, for example on Cyprus, Sicily and Majorca. Up to now, no bones of the endemic fauna have been identified in Neolithic settlements. Crete's religious symbols consisted of a dove, a lily and a double-headed ax.

Remains of a settlement found under the Bronze Age palace at Knossos (layer X) date to the 7th Millennium BC.
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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2008, 03:27:29 pm »

The first settlers introduced cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and dogs, as well as domesticated cereals and legumes.

Up to now, Knossos remains the only aceramic site. The settlement covered approximately 350,000 square metres. The sparse animal bones contain the above-mentioned domestic species as well as deer, badger, marten and mouse: the extinction of the local megafauna had not left much game behind.

Neolithic pottery is known from Knossos, Lera Cave and Gerani Cave. The Late Neolithic sees a proliferation of sites, pointing to a population increase. In the late Neolithic, the donkey and the rabbit were introduced to the island, deer and agrimi hunted. The agrimi, a feral goat, preserves traits of the early domesticates. Horse, fallow deer and hedgehog are only attested from Minoan times onwards.
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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2008, 03:27:53 pm »

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

Archaeologists ever since Sir Arthur Evans have identified and uncovered the palace-complex at Knossos, the most famous Minoan site. Other palace sites in Crete such as Phaistos have uncovered magnificent stone-built, multi-story palaces containing drainage systems, and the queen had a bath and a flushing toilet. The expertise displayed in the hydraulic engineering was of a very high level. There were no defensive walls to the complexes. By the 16th century BC pottery and other remains on the Greek mainland show that the Minoans had far-reaching contacts on the mainland. In the 16th century a major earthquake caused destruction on Crete and on Thera that was swiftly repaired.

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

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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2008, 03:29:12 pm »

Minoan chronology refers to the relative dating scheme developed by Sir Arthur Evans for the Bronze Age in Crete based on the excavations initiated and managed by him at the site of the ancient city of Knossos. He called the civilization that he discovered there Minoan. The same scheme was later applied to the Greek mainland and the Cyclades Islands to form a general plan for dating events of the prehistoric and early historic Aegean. The relative chronology is based on the shapes and decorative styles of pottery found at many sites on Crete and elsewhere.

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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2008, 03:30:10 pm »

Arthur Evans began excavating on a hill called tou tseleve he kephala, "the headland of the chieftain", some three miles from the north coast of Crete, on March 23, 1900. Two of the palace storerooms had been uncovered by Minos Kalokairinos in 1878. He had been stopped by the then owners of the land.

Meanwhile the citizens of the area were turning up coins and seals inscribed with a mysterious script. These came to Evans' attention as the curator of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, which he was from 1884 to 1908. The place was rumored to have been the site of the ancient city of Knossos.

Evans examined the site on March 19, 1894. Nothing further could be done at that time, but in 1898 Crete became an independent republic. In 1899 Evans purchased the land with his own funds (his family had been factory owners in industrial Britain) and decided to set up an excavation. In the first two weeks he discovered the Linear A tablets, a streak of luck exceeded only by Carl Blegen's legendary first day's dig at Pylos, when he uncovered the Pylos tablets, written in Linear B, a script also found at Kephala and named by Evans.

Attacking the site with crews of hundreds of diggers, Evans uncovered most of the site's 6 acres within 6 seasons. By 1905 he had named the civilization whose traces he found there Minoan, after the legendary king Minos, and had created a detailed chronology of the serial phases of the pottery styles in Minoan Crete, based on what he found at Knossos. Subsequently he concerned himself mainly with restoration, an activity that is frowned upon by archaeologists of today. He continued to excavate there and elsewhere and to restore until 1935.

Evans was knighted in 1911 for his work, becoming "Sir", which previously he was not. In 1921 the first edition of his monumental work, Palace of Minos, came out, which is a sine qua non for any department of classical archaeology. On Evans' death in 1941, the British School of Archaeology assumed responsibility for the excavation, later turning the property over to the Greek government, while retaining excavation rights.

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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2008, 03:30:35 pm »

Evans' chronological framework had triple divisions each triply divided, a formula that has been retained, thus Early Minoan (EM) I, II and III, Middle Minoan (MM) I, II and III etc. Each subsection he divided into A and B, early and late. In 1918 Alan J. B. Wace and Carl Blegen adapted Evans' chronology to the Greek mainland and the islands, where the culture was termed Helladic and Cycladic. In 1941 Arne Furumark applied the term Mycenaean to LH and LC. As it is clear that the Mycenaean Greeks dominated at Knossos at some point in Late Minoan (LM), the latter is often included under "Mycenaean" or called "Minoan-Mycenaean".

The major study of Cretan pottery was Evans'. A very general trend of facture was from dark decoration on a light background in the Early Minoan to white and red decorations on a dark wash of slip in Middle Minoan, and finally a return to the earlier manner of dark on light in Late Minoan.[1] New body shapes for vessels also emerged and various styles of decoration are evident within Evan's chronology.

Evans never intended to give exact calendrical dates to the pottery periods. He did correlate them roughly to better dated Egyptian periods using finds of Egyptian artifacts in association with Cretan ones and obvious similarities of some types of Cretan artifacts with Egyptian ones. Subsequent investigators checking Evans' work varied the dates of some of the periods a little, usually less than a few hundred years, but the chronological structure remains basically as Evans left it, a solid framework for placing events of Aegean prehistory.

Most criticism does not aim at the overthrow of Evans' system, but only complains that it does not capture all the data, such as local variations. Even with these faults the system has no competitors. In 1958 Nikolaos Platon proposed a new chronology at the Prehistoric Conference in Hamburg. In it, the terms "Pre-palace", "Old Palace" and "New Palace" were to replace Evans' scheme. The academic community accepted the scheme but not the replacement, simply stating where in Evans' system the new terms fit.

The one serious question[2] concerns the date of the Knossos tablets. Allegations were made that Evans falsified the stratum in which the tablets were found to place the tablets at 1400 BCE when they ought to have been the same date as the Pylos tablets, 1200 BCE. This dispute became known as the Palmer-Boardman Dispute when it first appeared. Despite the intense debate that developed on the subject no conclusive evidence has yet been found to settle the question. A key part of the case was that a certain kind of vase, a stirrup jar (named from the handles) found in tablet contexts, is dated only to 1200. Other archaeologists hastened to the journalistic scene with instances of similar jars going back to 1400. The search for closure goes on. By default, archaeologists tend to use Evans' dating.

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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2008, 03:31:17 pm »

Table of Minoan Chronology
Other Names Relative Chronology[3] Conventional Dates, BCE[4] Notes
Prepalatial, Pre-Palace (Προανακτορική), Protominoan Age (Platon)[5]
Copper Age (Matz, Hutchinson)[6]
Early Bronze Age (Hood) EM 3000-2200 (Evans, Hood)
2600-2000 (Matz) Πρωτομινωική or ΠΜ in Greek.
First Early Minoan (Hutchinson)
Phase I (Platon) EM I 3400-2800 (Evans)
2600-2300 (Matz)
2500-2400 (Hutchinson)
3200-2600 (Gimbutas)
3000-2600 (Willetts, Hood)
2800-2200 (Mackenzie) The main problem has been setting the end of the Neolithic; its layers were destroyed by building at Knossos.
The period is attested by pottery from a well at Knossos, in Tholos Tomb 2 at Lebena and by an EM I layer at Debla.
 
Second Early Minoan (Hutchinson)
Phase II (Platon) EM II 2800-2400 (Evans)
2300-2200 (Matz)
2300-2100 (Hutchinson)[7]
2600-2300 (Gimbutas, Willetts, Hood) Seals like those of Egyptian 1st Intermediate Period, Dynasties 6-11, 2345-1991.
Third Early Minoan (Hutchinson)
Phase III (Platon) EM III 2400-2200 (Evans)
2200-2000 (Matz)
2100-2000 (Hutchinson)
2300-2160 (Gimbutas)
2300-2200 (Willetts, Hood) 
Palace Period (Matz, Platon)
Minoan Age (Platon)[8]
Full Bronze Age (Matz)[9] MM 2200-1500 (Evans)
2000-1570 (Matz)
2000-1580 (Ventris & Chadwick) Μεσομινωική or MM in Greek
Phase III of Pre-Palace (Platon)
Early Palace (Matz)
First or Early Palaces (Hood) MM IA 2000-? (Matz)
2000-1900 (Hutchinson)
2160-1930 (Gimbutas)
2200-2000 (Willetts, Hood)
2000-1925 (Ventris & Chadwick
2200-? (MacKenzie) Kephala mound cleared of earlier structures, palace at Knossos begun (Hutchinson).
Protopalatial
Old Palace (Evans)
Early Palace (Matz)
Old Palace (Παλαιοανακτορική) Phase I (Platon)
First or Early Palaces (Hood) MM IB ?-1800 (Matz)
1900-1850 (Hutchinson)
2000-1900 (Platon, Willetts, Hood)
1925-1850 (Ventris & Chadwick)
1930-1800 (Gimbutas)
?-2100 (MacKenzie) "First Palaces" or "First temple-palaces" (Gimbutas)[10]

Use of potter's wheel. It may have been introduced in IA.
Protopalatial
Old Palace (Evans)
Early Palace (Matz)
Old Palace Phase II (Platon)
First or Early Palaces, Middle Bronze Age (Hood) MM IIA 1850-? (Hutchinson, Ventris & Chadwick)
1900-1800 (Platon, Willetts, Hood)
2100-? (MacKenzie) 
Protopalatial
Old Palace (Evans)
Early Palace (Matz)
Old Palace Phase III (Platon)
First or Early Palaces, Middle Bronze Age (Hood) MM IIB ?-1700 (Matz, Ventris & Chadwick)
?-1750 (Hutchinson)
1800-1700 (Platon, Willetts, Hood)
?-1900 (MacKenzie) Palaces were so destroyed by an earthquake ca. 1700 that they had to be rebuilt. This is the dividing line between Old and New Palace and between II and III.[11]
Neopalatial
Old Palace (Evans)
Late Palace I (Matz)
New Palace (Νεοανακτορική) Phase I (Platon)
Middle Bronze Age (Hood) MM IIIA 1700-? (Matz)
1700-? (Platon)
1700/1750-1600 (Hutchinson)
1700-1660 (Ventris & Chadwick)
1700-? (Willetts)
1700-? (Hood)
1900-? (MacKenzie) Frescoes begin.
First pot signs in Linear A.
Neopalatial
Late Palace I (Matz)
New Palace Period Phase I (Platon)
Middle Bronze Age (Hood) MM IIIB 1600-1550 (Hutchinson)
?-1570 (Matz)
?-1600 (Platon)
1660-1580 (Ventris & Chadwick)
?-1600 (Willetts)
?-1550 (Hood)
1700-1600 (Palmer)
?-1700 (MacKenzie) Linear A.
Another earthquake requiring more rebuilding occurred ca. 1570, which for some was the middle of IIIB and for others the start.
First Linear A archives from Mallia.
 LM 1500-1000 (Evans) Υστερομινωική or ΥΜ in Greek
Late Palace II (Matz)
New Palace Phase II (Platon) LM IA 1550-1500 (Hutchinson)
1600-1500 (Palmer, Furumark)
1570-? (Matz)
1600-? (Platon)
1580-1510 (Ventris & Chadwick)
1700-? (MacKenzie) Most likely period of Thera eruption and tsunami.[12]
Largest cache of Linear A tablets, Hagia Triada, IA and/or IB.
Late Palace II (Matz)
New Palace Phase II (Platon) LM IB 1500-1450 (Hutchinson)
?-1450 (Matz)
1510-1450 (Ventris & Chadwick)
1500-1450 (Palmer, Furumark)
?-1450 (Platon)
?-1500 (MacKenzie) All the palaces except Knossos were burned ca. 1450, events interpreted by the majority view as the advent of the Greeks and installment at Knossos.
Late Palace II (Matz)
New Palace Phase III (Platon)
Palace Period (Evans, MacKenzie) LM II 1450-1400 (Hutchinson, Palmer, Furumark, Matz, Platon)
1450-1405 (Ventris & Chadwick) The period ends with a destruction by fire of all the palaces on Crete from unknown causes.[13] They were, of course, reoccupied.
Post-Palace Phase I (Platon) LM IIIA 1400- (Matz)
1400-1320 (Platon)
1400-1300 (Hutchinson) Linear B tablets ca. 1400 (Evans and his defender, Boardman)
Post-Palace Phases II, III (Platon) LM IIIB 1300-1200 (Hutchinson)
1320-1280 (II), 1260-1150 (III) (Platon) Linear B tablets ca. 1200 (Palmer, doubter of Evans' chronology)
 LM IIIC ?-1100 (Matz)
1260-1050 (Willetts) A general Mycenaean Greek palace destruction by fire on the mainland and Crete happened in a window of time ca. 1200 at the end of IIIB. How wide a window is not known, nor are the causes for sure. Some possibilities are any or all of civil strife, the Sea Peoples, the Dorians.
Subminoan Age (Platon, Matz, Willetts)  1100- (Matz)
1150-1000 (Platon)
1075-1025 (Furumark)
1050-900 (Willetts) This period is considered a Mycenaean Greek holdout against the Dorian Greeks arriving at this time. Its end marks the completion of assimilation to them.
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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2008, 03:32:59 pm »



Palace of Knossus, overall view.
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« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2008, 03:33:49 pm »



Another View of the Palace.
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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2008, 03:35:45 pm »

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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2008, 03:12:33 pm »

Minoan pottery

Minoan pottery is more than a useful tool for dating the mute Minoan civilization. Its restless sequence of rapidly-maturing artistic styles reveal something of Minoan patrons' pleasure in novelty while they assist archaeologists assign relative dates to the strata of their sites. Pots that contained oils and ointments, exported from 18th century BC Crete, have been found at sites through the Aegean islands and mainland Greece, on Cyprus, along the coastal Syria and in Egypt, showing the wide trading contacts of the Minoans. The extremely fine palace pottery called Kamares ware, and the Late Minoan all-over patterned "Marine style" are the high points of the Minoan pottery tradition.

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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2008, 03:13:25 pm »



"Medallion Pithoi", or storage jars, at the Knossos palace. Named from the raised disks, they date to MM III/LM IA.
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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2008, 03:14:02 pm »



Restored frieze at Knossos showing Minoan ware. Although the rhyton (conical vase) is probably steatite, the other ware is most likely ceramic.
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Gwen Parker
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« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2008, 03:14:34 pm »

Traditional chronology

The traditional chronology for dating Minoan civilization was developed by Sir Arthur Evans in the early years of the 20th century AD. His terminology and the one proposed by N. Platon are still generally in use and appear in this article.

For more details on on Minoan chronology, see Minoan chronology.
Evans classified fine pottery by the changes in its forms and styles of decoration. Platon concentrated on the episodic history of the Palace of Knossos. Currently a new method is in its infancy, fabric analysis, which features geologic analysis of coarse and mainly undecorated sherds as though they were rocks. The resulting classifications are based on composition of the sherds.

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