Minoan and Cretan Civilization
The island of Crete was the center of a great civilization, the first western-european civilization, known as the Minoan, which reached its zenith by 2000/1500 B.C. The development of this civilization was the result of many factors- interior (the intensive cultivation of the olive and the vine, the security that living on an island provides) and exterior (commercial relations with the Egyptians and the Phoenicians). Evidence of the importance of this civilization is found in the palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Mallia. Sir Arthur Evans, the first to bring to light this civilization and reconstruct the palace of Knossos, gave it the name "Minoan", after the mythical king Minos. The palaces, built c. 2000 B.C, were destroyed c. 1700 to be rebuilt on a greater scale and finally destroyed in 1450 B.C. They share the same method of construction, the additive, with rooms added around a rectangular central court (used for ceremonies and games) in a centrifugal action (labyrinthine structures), without the restriction fortification walls would have imposed. The lack of protective walls has been a major issue which, along with the absence of war or hunting scenes in iconography, leads to the conclusion that the Cretans were not involved in warfare. The palaces, made mainly of mud-brick, timber beams, occasional limestone blocks and with wooden columns, are, at some points, multi-storied with an excellent drainage system of terra-cotta pipes and huge magazine areas to use for food storage. The wall paintings that decorated the palace rooms depict marine life, landscapes and floral designs, scenes of Minoan life, ceremonial games, acrobatics, etc. in a naturalistic style with vivacity, spontaneity and lack of formalism. In pottery, the same dynamic representation of natural motifs decorates their wares. From the Kamares Ware, with the stylized spiral forms and scrolls, to the Octopus Jar, with the lively, expressive and highly naturalistic marine motif, we see the Minoan Civilization emerge at its best. The flowering of this civilization stemmed from the trading contacts they had developed exchanging their goods both locally and in long distances (with Egyptians and Phoenicians) as their economies became more diversified. Commercial contact resulted in artistic contact through the designs on pottery and other crafts.
The earliest system of writing, Linear A, has not been deciphered. It contains about seventy different characters deriving from ideograms, but they have lost their resemblance to recognizable objects. In religion, we see the agony shared by all societies after the inception of agriculture, to create symbols of rejuvenation, most commonly reflected in composite depiction of a feminine image with a snake, dove, double-axe. The Minoan civilization came to an end under still disputed circumstances. Since 1450, in the repaired palace of Knossos, a new stylized, highly formalized and symmetrical style in pottery, which tries to control the natural environment, provides evidence of a different aesthetic value.
More Prehistoric Greek Civillizations
Mycenaean Civilization The new political, economic and cultural superpower of the Aegean region,
The Early Greek Years The Mycenaean civilization comes to an end, the Dark Ages begin.
Around 1500 B.C. another civilization succeeded the Minoan Crete as the political, economic and cultural superpower of the Aegean region, with Mycenae as its major city. It is a civilization, described by Homer, who immortalized it in the Iliad and in the Odyssey, as being "rich in gold".
All Prehistoric Greek Civillizations...
The Mycenaean civilization came to an abrupt end, in an obscure way, in c. 1200, after the Trojan War, with the destruction of its power centers and the dispersing of their population over the Aegean and Asia Minor.