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Storerooms of the Palace of Knossos

Storerooms of the Palace of Knossos

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The Palace of Minos at Knossos

The Palace of Minos at Knossos is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Located on Kephala Hill on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Greece, Knossos palace was the political, social and cultural center of the Minoan culture during the Early and Middle Bronze Age. Founded at least as early as 2400 BC, its power was greatly diminished, but not completely dissipated, by the eruption of Santorini about 1625 BC.

What's perhaps more important, perhaps, is that the ruins of Knossos Palace are the cultural heart of the Greek myths Theseus fighting the Minotaur, Ariadne and her ball of string, Daedalus the architect and doomed Icarus of the waxwings all reported by Greek and Roman sources but almost certainly much older. The earliest representation of Theseus fighting the minotaur is illustrated on an amphora from the Greek island of Tinos dated 670-660 BC

Storerooms of the Palace of Knossos - History

The celebrated palace of Knossos, the most magnificent Minoan monument, residence of the mythical king Minos, was for about three hundred years - from 1650 BC to 1350 BC - the main centre of power in Crete. Its history is even longer and its architecture as complex as its functions. The palace was built early in the second millennium and destroyed two hundred years later, at the end of the Palaeopalatial period. It was rebuilt in a more splendid form, suffered fresh disasters and repairs and was ultimately destroyed by fire in 1350 BC. For the last hundred years of its life, it was the seat of the Mycenaean dynasty that had succeeded the Minoan kings after the large scale disaster in Crete in 1450 BC and the collapse of the Minoan palace system.
Built with sumptuous materials, on the basis of an intricate and coherent architectural design, using highly advanced construction techniques, and boasting an impressive water supply and sewage system, the palace of Knossos, twice the size (ca. 22.000 sq. meters and 1.400 rooms) of the other two large palaces at Phaistos and Malia, is the monumental symbol of the Minoan civilisation. Labyrinthine corridors and the famous Grand Staircase linked the multiple areas of buildings from three to five storeys high that were situated around the Central Court.
The west wing housed the religious and cult activities in the east wing were the royal apartments. The palace contained large storerooms in which were enormous storage jars (pitharia) and various workshops. The South Propylaeum and North Entrance were fortified by colonnaded bastions. Public events were held in the so-called Theatre with the Royal Road and the open-air Courts. The Throne Room, with its wall paintings and contiguous underground purification tank (or "Lustral Basin'), was the most official venue for religious activities. This was where the famous "Throne of Minos' was located. the alabaster throne on which - according to Arthur Evans, the archaeologist who excavated Knossos - sat the "King - Priest', the secular and religious leader, and head of the senior officials who were seated on the benches surrounding the throne.
Many of the exceptional exhibits in the Herakleion Museum have come from the excavation of the palace and the large structures around it, including some of its most famous works, symbols of Minoan civilisation, such as the Snake Goddesses and other findings from the Sacred Treasuries, the rhyton in the shape of a bull`s head, the ivory bull - leaper, the relief wall painting of the "Prince with the Lilies', the wall painting of the bull - leaping, and others.
The architecture of the Minoan palaces was magnificent. At first glance, it seems that improvisation was the order of the day and that one area joins another, seemingly haphazardly, that everything is arranged simply around a central court and that all the structures rise from different levels. This is what the casual observer sees, but a closer look is enough to reveal the existence of a coherent plan. The ingenious design and the perfect organization of space enabled the builders to find a wonderful solution to the problems of light, air and drainage in the great palaces -problems which still present difficulties even today.

Storerooms of the Palace of Knossos - History

In 1878, minor excavations at the site of Kefala Hill (the site of the Palace at Knossos) on Crete undertaken by a man named Minos Kalokairinos from nearby town of Heraklion, had unearthed some fragments of pottery and a clay tablet inscribed with an unknown script. These finds attracted attention and the site was subsequently visited by Heinrich Schliemann. Impressed by what he saw, Schliemann applied successfully to the Turkish governor of Crete for permission to excavate. His attempts to purchase the site, however, were unsuccessful and in 1889 he put the project aside and returned to Troy to conduct further excavations there. The following year Schliemann died.

In 1896, the British archaeologist Arthur Evans (later, Sir Arthur Evans 1851-1941) managed to acquire part-ownership of the site of Kefala Hill using his own funds. Later, with the help of the Cretan Exploration Fund that he had established, Evans was able to purchase to entire site excavations began on Friday 23 March 1900. An entry for that day in the day-book of Evans's assistant, Duncan Mackenzie, reads: "The excavations by Mr. Arthur Evans at Knossos began this morning at 11:00 a.m."

Arthur Evans (1851-1941)

Evans's early archaeological interest had been in coins and engraved gems. Stones engraved with unintelligible 'hieroglyphs' reportedly from Crete had caught his attention, and in 1894 he travelled to Crete to collect more examples. He thought that at the site of Knossos, which had already been partially unearthed in 1878, he could discover more about the origins of the Mycenaeans (recently 'discovered' by Heinrich Schliemann) and the early history of writing. The excavation of the palace at Knossos, which was to occupy him for the rest of his life, uncovered not only more script but also a new civilisation.

During the first season, the excavation uncovered about two acres of the Palace site. The dumping ground chosen for the earth removed was located south and east of the site. As the dig progressed and the size of the palace became apparent, it later became necessary to remove one of the dumps. The site was eventually found to cover 5 1/2 acres.

Plan of the Palace at Knossos (LM)

History of Knossos

Knossos (alternative spellings Knossus, Cnossus, Greek Κνωσός, pronounced [knoˈsos]), currently refers to the main Bronze Age archaeological site at Heraklion, a modern port city on the north central coast of Crete. Heraklion was formerly called Candia after the Saracen name for the place, Kandaiki, meaning the moat that was built around the then new settlement for defence. Kandaiki became Byzantine Chandax.

The name, Knossos, survives from ancient Greek references to the major city of Crete. The identification of Knossos with the Bronze Age site is supported by tradition and by the Roman coins that were scattered over the fields surrounding the pre-excavation site, then a large mound named Kephala Hill, elevation 85 m (279 ft) from current sea level. Many of them were inscribed with Knosion or Knos on the obverse and an image of a Minotaur or Labyrinth on the reverse, both symbols deriving from the myth of King Minos, supposed to have reigned from Knossos. The coins came from the Roman settlement of Colonia Julia Nobilis Cnossus, a Roman colony placed just to the north of, and politically including, Kephala. The Romans believed they had colonized Knossos. After excavation, the discovery of the Linear B tablets, and the decipherment of Linear B by Michael Ventris, the identification was confirmed by the reference to an administrative center, ko-no-so, Mycenaean Greek Knosos, undoubtedly the palace complex. The palace was built over a Neolithic town. During the Bronze Age, the town surrounded the hill on which the palace was built.

The palace was excavated and partially restored under the direction of Arthur Evans in the earliest years of the 20th century. Its size far exceeded his original expectations, as did the discovery of two ancient scripts, which he termed Linear A and Linear B, to distinguish their writing from the pictographs also present. From the layering of the palace Evans developed de novo an archaeological concept of the civilization that used it, which he called Minoan, following the pre-existing custom of labelling all objects from the location Minoan.

The palace complex is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. It was undoubtedly the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. It appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and storerooms close to a central square. An approximate graphic view of some aspects of Cretan life in the Bronze Age is provided by restorations of the palace's indoor and outdoor murals, as it is also by the decorative motifs of the pottery and the insignia on the seals and sealings.

The palace was abandoned at some unknown time at the end of the Late Bronze Age, ca. 1380–1100 BC. The occasion is not known for certain, but one of the many disasters that befell the palace is generally put forward. The abandoning population were probably Mycenaean Greeks, who had earlier occupied the city-state, and were using Linear B as its administrative script, as opposed to Linear A, the previous administrative script. The hill was never again a settlement or civic site, although squatters may have used it for a time.

Except for periods of abandonment, other cities were founded in the immediate vicinity, such as the Roman colony, and a Hellenistic Greek precedent. The population shifted to the new town of Chandax (modern Heraklion) during the 9th century AD. By the 13th century, it was called Makruteikhos 'Long Wall' the bishops of Gortyn continued to call themselves Bishops of Knossos until the 19th century. Today, the name is used only for the archaeological site now situated in the expanding suburbs of Heraklion.

Discovery and modern history of the antiquities

In addition to having a history of some thousands of years in the Neolithic, the Bronze Age, and the Classical period, the ruins in the age of archaeology that is, since the 19th century, have undergone a history of their own, from excavation by renowned archaeologists, education and tourism, to occupation as a headquarters by governments warring over the control of the eastern Mediterranean in two world wars. This site history is to be distinguished from the ancient.

"Prince of lilies" or "Priest-king Relief", plaster relief at the end of the Corridor of Processions, restored by Gilliéron, believed by Arthur Evans to be a priest-king, wearing a crown with peacock feathers and a necklace with lilies on it, leading an unseen animal to sacrifice.

In 1825, Karl Hoeck used the name Das Minoische Kretas for Volume II of his major work, Kreta. This is currently the first known use of the term Minoan to mean ancient Cretan. Arthur Evans read the book, continuing the use of the term for his own writings and findings. The term, however, is often erroneously attributed to Evans, sometimes by noted scholars. Evans said:

"To this early civilization of Crete as a whole I have proposed &mdash and the suggestion has been generally adopted by the archaeologists of this and other countries &mdash to apply the name 'Minoan.'"

He claims to have applied it, but not to have devised it. Hoeck had in mind the Crete of mythology. He had no idea that the archaeological Crete had existed. Similarly, "Minoan" had been in use since ancient times as an adjective meaning "associated with Minos." Evans' 1931 claim that the term was "unminted" before his use of it has been tagged a "brazen suggestion" by Karadimas and Momigliano. However, Evans' statement applies to archaeological contexts. Since he was the one who discovered the civilization, and the term could not have been in use to mean it previously, he did coin that specific meaning.

Legends of Knossos

In Greek mythology, King Minos dwelled in a palace at Knossos. He had Daedalus construct a labyrinth in which to retain his son, the Minotaur. Daedalus also built a dancing floor for Queen Ariadne. The word labyrinth manifestly contains the word labrys, the double axe, at least in folk etymology. It was subsequently adopted by Arthur Evans because it seemed to fit the archaeology of Knossos. It has never been credibly questioned, mainly because of that archaeology.

Western civilization was thus predisposed by legend to associate whatever palace ruin should be found at Knossos with the legends of Minos and the labyrinth. The very first name of the first man to excavate at Knossos, Minos Kalokairinos, was taken from the legend. As far as is currently known, it was Stillman who, seeing the sign of the double axe on the massive walls partly uncovered by Kalokairinos, first associated the complex with the labyrinth of legend. Evans agreed with Stillman. The myth stirred his imagination to such a degree that he viewed the first room uncovered, the Throne Room, as the bathroom of Ariadne. Moreover, he named his subsequently constructed living quarters the Villa Ariadne. As a professional archaeologist he knew that the likelihood of any feature of the palace being associated with any part of the legend was small. Like Schliemann, he was enough of an impressario to retain elements of the legend.

As it turns out, there probably was an association of the word, whatever its etymology, with ancient Crete. The sign was used throughout the Mycenaean world as an apotropaic symbol: its presence on an object would prevent it from being "killed". Axes were scratched on many of the stones of the palace. It appears in pottery decoration and is a motif of the Shrine of the Double Axes at the palace, as well as of many shrines throughout Crete and the Aegean. And finally, it appears in Linear B on Knossos Tablet Gg702 as da-pu2-ri-to-jo po-ti-ni-ja, which probably writes Mycenaean Greek Daburinthoio potniai, "to the mistress of the Labyrinth," recording the distribution of one jar of honey. A credible theory uniting all the evidence has yet to be formulated.

Art and architecture of the palace complex

The features of the palace depend on the time period. Currently visible is an accumulation of features over several centuries, the latest most dominant. The palace was thus never exactly as depicted today. In addition, it has been reconstituted in modern materials. The custom began in an effort to preserve the site from decay and torrential winter rain. After 1922, the chief proprietor, Arthur Evans, intended to recreate a facsimile based on archaeological evidence. The palace is not exactly as it ever was, perhaps in places not even close, and yet in general, judging from the work put in and the care taken, as well as parallels with other palaces, it probably is a good general facsimile. Opinions range, however, from most skeptical, viewing the palace as pure fantasy based on 1920's architecture and art deco, to most unquestioning, accepting the final judgements of Arthur Evans as most accurate. The mainstream of opinion falls between.

Palace of Knossos & Archaeological Museum in Heraklion

Discover the Palace of Knossos, known to be Europe's oldest "city." Crete was home to the ancient Minoan civilization, and the palace was the center of it all during the Bronze Age. You'll visit the ruins and walk through the Heraklion Archaeological Museum to admire preserved murals and artifacts.

Upon arrival at Knossos, you'll enjoy a tour of the 3,500-year-old Minoan palace. As you navigate the maze of royal chambers, grand staircases, storerooms, workshops, and the first European theater, your guide will explain the site's history and mythology. A favorite story amongst visitors is that of the labyrinth, the mythical Minotaur, and Theseus, who killed the beast with Ariadne's help. You'll also hear about the mythical King Minos and the monster Minotaur.

After touring the grounds, head to Heraklion's Archaeological Museum, one of the world's greatest museums. It hosts unique Minoan art and a complete collection of Minoan artifacts. If time allows, explore Heraklion, Crete's largest city with many historical buildings, monuments, and churches that bear witness to its centuries-old history. Consider visiting the Morozini Fountain, the Venetian Loggia, and St. Titus Church.

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The theory that the volcano Thera put paid to the Minoans has long been put to rest.

The volcano on Santorini did not destroy life in Knosses, Haaretz

Yes, there had been an eruption in the 16th century B.C.E. and it had been a big one, rivaled in modern times only by the eruption of Krakatoa.

The island of Santorini was evacuated and buried under meters of pumice. The shores of Crete would have been hit by tsunamis, which also wrecked the Knossos port on that island. Though much of the ash-fall blew in other directions, the eruption apparently did trigger decline on the island, the east part of which became quite depopulated.

However: &ldquoThera&rsquos eruption did not directly affect Knossos &ndash no volcanic-induced earthquake or tsunami struck the palace which, in any case, is 100 meters above sea level,&rdquo Macdonald points out.

However, archaeologists have found evidence of widespread destruction in the settlements of ancient Crete a generation or two after Thera&rsquos eruption. How the devastation was caused has yet to be demonstrated.

Absent specific indicators, the cause could have been earthquake, famine, attacks from mainland centers of ancient Greece, like Mycenae, or some combination of the above, though a wholescale invasion of marauding Mycenaean mainlanders as the central factor seems less likely.

It is also theoretically possible that Knossos, not having been much physically affected by the eruption, tried to flex its muscle and attacked other centers of civilization on its own home island, Crete. Or, there could have been local unrest: class struggles, with the country people rising up against the elites.

What can be said is that some decades after the destruction in Crete in about 1450 B,C.E., a different style of burial custom appeared at Knossos and the administration adopted a new language and writing system.

Say it in Linear B

It is the change in writing system that indicates top-down change at Knossos.

The earliest writing in Crete dates to the early Bronze Age and was hieroglyphic. That was followed by a syllabic writing system called Linear A, one of the oldest known in the world, which remains undeciphered to this day.

But starting around 1450 B.C.E., the very time of the destruction layers in Crete, the tablets archaeologists find in Knossos were written in Linear B, which was the Greek and Mycenaean writing system at the time.

Possibly, the Minoan administrative apparatus at Knossos was taken over by Greeks from the mainland or Knossos came under outright control of Greek mainland centers, perhaps even Mycenae.

Minoan tablet about oil offerings to deities, dated 1450-1375 B.C.E., found at Knossos - and written in Linear B Ann Wuyts

New discoveries by the Greek Archaeological Service at the turn of the 21st century, at the west Cretan site of Chania, included a cemetery with Mycenaean-style burials. Linear B writing also appears in Chania, though in the 13th century B.C.E., apparently later than at Knossos.

Another change after 1450 B.C.E. is that the practice by stonemasons of leaving marks on their work, disappeared from Knossos. (This was a practice throughout the region, not a local invention.)

The bottom line is that by the 14th century B.C.E., the Mycenaeans seem to have overrun Minoan interests in the eastern Mediterranean. Mycenaean material culture became ubiquitous in the south Aegean Sea, where once Minoan influence had been strong.

It was quite the reversal of fate.In the centuries before the eruption, Cretan culture had exercised notable influence on the Greek mainland. But even though the blast didn&rsquot necessarily affect Knossos too much directly, it plausibly weakened Cretan civilizations, opening the door to Mycenaean influences, as reflected in changes in administration and burial practices.

With the administration, perhaps even religious authority collapsed. &ldquoThis could well have manifested itself in local uprisings and the burning of administrative and elite buildings,&rdquo Macdonald speculates. If the eruption did not break the backbone of Minoan civilization, it may have fractured its economy, and Mycenae - the powerhouse of mainland Greece &ndash exploited that.

This theory is supported by the fact that the eruption destroyed the Theran port that had been aligned with Crete and Knossos, plausibly enabling the Mycenaeans to develop their own trading hubs, such as the other largest site in the Cyclades, namely Phylakopi, on Milos. There is no doubt that Phylakopi was instrumental in promoting the Mycenaean Greek language and writing, Linear B, as the lingua franca of Aegean economy after the eruption.

Human sacrifice and King Minos the Terrible

By the time of the classical authors of Greece and Rome (700 B.C.E. -100 C.E.), there was little concrete memory of the Minoans, it seems, and what little they thought they knew seems negative. Epimenides, a Knossian philosopher and soothsayer of the 7th century B.C.E., apparently wrote that &ldquoall Cretans are liars&rdquo - immortalized years later in Saint Paul&rsquos letter to Titus (1:12-13).

Even so, the ancient Greek myths refer to Crete time and again - perhaps because of their common origin.

One myth tells of Europa, a beautiful Phoenician princess whom Zeus seduced in the guise of a bull. When Europa came to pat the beautiful animal and even dared to sit on its back, the &ldquobull&rdquo rushed away over land and sea to Crete, were he resumed his godly guise and poured out his declarations of love. Europa later became the mother of Knossos&rsquo King Minos &mdash according to Greek lore, the first king of Crete.

North East entrance of the palace of Knossos: Gorgeous art made past scholars think the Minoans came from "somewhere else" Iannis Papadakis for Colin Macdo

Minos, according to another legend, ordered the construction of a labyrinth, in which the fabled half-bull half-man Minotaur resided. Our word &ldquolabyrinth&rdquo may be related to labrys, a double-headed ax carved onto dressed stones throughout the palace at Knossos. Myth has it that after losing a war with Crete, the people of Athens were compelled every nine years to send seven boys and seven girls as sacrifices to the Minotaur. These youths were released into the labyrinth, where they would wander and the Minotaur would eat them.

While the Minotaur was legend, archaeology has found evidence for human sacrifice in ancient Greek circles, including at Knossos and at the sacred site of Anemospilia, a few kilometers to the south. In Knossos itself, the remains of children, dismembered and defleshed using obsidian blades, were discovered in a religious or cult context associated with to the period following the eruption of Thera. Human sacrifice was also found at Anemospilia, dating about two centuries earlier.

During their heyday from about 1750 to 1450 B.C.E. the Minoans were first and foremost a sea power, as evident in palace frescos in Knossos and Theram at Akrotiri. Wall art from Akrotiri displays Minoan ships entering the port. More than a thousand years later, the Greeks remained impressed by the Cretan achievement:

&ldquoMinos. was the first person to organize a navy. He controlled the greater part of what is now called the Aegean Sea he ruled over the Cyclades, in most of which he founded colonies&rdquo - Thucydides 1.4.

In the golden age of the Minoan civilization, they traded with Egypt, the Levant, the Aegean, Asia Minor and less so beyond Italy and Sicily, and possibly as far as Spain and up the Atlantic coast. But all things come to an end.

According to historians, Knossos was Europe&rsquos oldest proper city, established between 2000 to 1900 B.C.E.. Its palace had features considered very advanced for the time, for instance monumental architecture, stone-built storm drains and sewers, and lavatories. And although the Minoans did suffer from earthquakes, studies of the architectural remains at the palace of Knossos have shown that the basic plan remained the same over 500 years, with some major renovations, repairs and additional buildings that added to the palace&rsquos grandeur.

2nd millennium BCE fresco from the palace of Akrotiri, on the island of Thera. The style is similar pf those discovered on the Minoan palaces on Crete. Iannis Papadakis for Colin Macdo

&ldquoEarthquakes were not &lsquogame changers&rsquo, but often spurred the authorities to try something new,&rdquo says Macdonald adding, &ldquoThe earthquakes were important in terms of architectural change but not of cultural discontinuity.&rdquo

The palace storerooms and advanced drainage systems, built around 2000 B.C.E., remained in use until the final destruction of the palace in the 14th century B.C.E.

The palace was destroyed sometime in the 14th century B.C.E., perhaps towards its end, by a conflagration that baked the Linear B clay tablets and seal impressions.

In the 13th century B.C.E., there are scattered signs of reoccupation in the badly damaged palace buildings. But by this time the Minoans, with or without the &ldquoMycenaean veneer&rdquo, had largely disappeared from the world stage of history.

Knossos palace, Crete: The hub of Minoan civilization Iannis Papadakis for Colin Macdonald

A Native of Crete

The first archaeologist who excavated Knossos was (the appropriately named) Minos Kalokairinos who was a native of Crete and had already dug a few areas of the palace before Evans, unearthing in the process a wealth of artifacts that proved the existence of a previously unknown civilization.

Kalokairinos began excavating Knossos in 1878, and he exposed to other areas part of the antechamber of the Throne room with its red frescoes.

Assisted by Dr. Duncan Mackenzie, who had already distinguished himself by his excavations on the island of Melos, and Mr. Fyfe, the British School of Athens architect, Evans employed a large staff of excavators and by June of 1900 had uncovered a large portion of the palace.

At Knossos, the Minoans took advantage of the steep grade of the land to devise a drainage system with lavatories, sinks, and manholes. Archaeologists have found pipe laid in depths from just below the surface in one area to almost 11 feet deep in others.

One of the remarkable discoveries at Knossos was the extensive murals that decorated the plastered walls. All were very fragmentary and their reconstruction and re-placement into rooms by the artist Piet de Jong are not without controversy.

At Knossos, we find the earliest known flushing toilet. The toilet was screened off by partitions and was flushed by rainwater or by water held in cisterns from conduits built into the wall. Not just palaces but ordinary homes were heated with sophisticated hypocaust systems, where heat was conducted under the floor, the earliest known to exist.

Storerooms of the Palace of Knossos - History

The Palace of Knossos, the largest of the Cretan palaces, and the city that arose around it are built on the top and slopes of the low hill of Kefala, where the River Kairatos meets the small Vlychia stream. Security, fertile land, water and proximity to the sea were the main reasons not only for the choice of the site as a place of habitation from earliest prehistoric times, but also for its subsequent prosperity and growth.

The first traces of habitation date back to the Neolithic period, when there appears to have been an extensive settlement on the site, parts of which have been identified in the “West” and “Central Court”. Parts of Prepalatial buildings have also been excavated in the “West Court”.

The first palace was built circa 1900 BC, following the levelling and landscaping of the hill. From the few parts of it that survive (“Magazine of the Giant Pithoi”, etc.), it seems that its basic layout was set out in sectors around the great “Central Court”. The water supply and drainage systems were already functional. The first palace was destroyed around 1700 BC and the new palace was erected in its place. It is this palace, with a few later additions, which survives to this day.

The new palace was constructed according to a specific architectural plan, similar to that of the other palaces, befitting its character and function as the centre of political, economic and religious authority. The main feature remained the Central Court, with monumental buildings rising around it, oriented N-S. There were entrances on every side, the most official being the Southwest and the North Entrance. The West Wing contained shrines, official halls and extensive storage areas, while the East Wing housed the royal apartments. There were also workshops, storerooms and other areas serving a variety of functions to north and south. They feature typical architectural elements of the period, such as polythyra (sets of rooms with multiple pier-and-door partitions on two or three sides) and lustral basins (small, rectangular, semi-underground rooms accessed by a small, L-shaped set of stairs).

Indented façades, flat roofs of different heights crowned with double horns, and upper storeys (two on the west and five on the east), combined with the wide variety of colours and building materials, all gave the exterior of the Palace an imposing aspect. Poros-stone ashlars were used in the masonry. The floors were paved with slabs of green schist pointed with red plaster. The columns, beams and doorframes were made of wood. Gypsum slabs covered the walls (in the form of marble revetment) and floors, giving the spaces an air of luxury. Gypsum was also used for the bases of columns and jambs, seats, stairs, etc. The decoration of the rooms was supplemented by colourful plaster and frescoes.

The Palace of Knossos was the only palace to remain in use after the destruction of 1450 BC, when the Mycenaeans settled Crete. The “Throne Room” and the surrounding apartments date from this period.

Following the final destruction of 1380 BC, large parts of the Palace were reoccupied and remodelled, mainly as private houses. The “Propylaeum” was turned into a storeroom and a room in the SE wing became the “Shrine of the Double Axes”.

The first excavations at Knossos were carried out in 1878 by a merchant and antiquarian from Heraklion, Minos Kalokairinos, who discovered part of the West Wing of the Palace.

Systematic excavations began in March 1900 under Arthur Evans, then Curator of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Two years later, the excavation of the Palace was almost complete.

Over the following years there were supplementary excavations, which were completed in 1930-31. After the Second World War, the British School of Archaeology continued the excavations with significant results, both in the area of the Palace itself and in the Minoan city surrounding it.

The necessity of restoring the Palace was evident from the first years of the excavation. The fragile building materials proved extremely sensitive to weathering. During the first phase of their restoration efforts, in 1905, Evans and his colleagues restricted themselves to protecting the ruins. After 1925, however, Evans attempted a radical reconstruction of the monument, with large-scale use of reinforced concrete. Upper storeys and architectural elements were reconstructed. The timber frames and wooden Minoan columns were made of concrete and painted to imitate the originals. The frescoes were restored and copies placed in different parts of the Palace.

Evans’s interventions provoked a variety of reactions. It was noted that the archaeological data on which the reconstruction was based were not always clear. In other cases, the ancient remains cannot be distinguished from the interventions. The reconstructions are irreversible. However, many people believe that the interventions were necessary for the preservation of the monument. Moreover, they attract visitors’ interest and make it easier for them to understand the architecture of the Palace. Others, on the contrary, believe that the interventions largely present visitors with Evans’s ideas and the dominant aesthetic and ideological trends of his time. Today, however, Evans’s reconstruction of the Palace forms an integral part of the monument and its history.

After the Second World War, extensive restoration work was carried out on the Palace by the Directors of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum N. Platon and S. Alexiou. This work was limited to the conservation of the ancient masonry, the restoration of the floors and the protection of certain areas with roofing.

In the 1990s, the Directorate of Reconstruction and the 23rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities carried out conservation work on Evans’s concrete.

The “Palace and Archaeological Site of Knossos” project was included in the 3rd Common Strategic Framework in 2000 and implemented by the Fund for the Credit Management of Archaeological Works (TDPEAE).

From 2001, the responsibility of coordinating both this and the project implemented under the National Strategic Reference Framework lay with the Knossos Scientific Committee.

The History

The most important monuments of the site are:

The Palace of Knossos. It is the largest of the preserved Minoan palatial centres. Four wings are arranged around a central courtyard, containing the royal quarters, workshops, shrines, storerooms, repositories and the throne room and banquet halls. Dated to 2000-1350 B.C.

The Little Palace. It lies to the west of the main palace and has all the features of palatial architecture: scraped wall masonry, reception rooms, a pristyle hall, a double megaron with polythyra (pi er-and-door partitions) and a lustral basin-shrine. Dated to the 17th-15th centuries B.C.

The Royal Villa. It lies to the NE of the palace and its architectural form is distinguished by the polythyra, the pillar crypt and the double staircase, with two flights of stairs. It is strongly religious in character and might have been the residence of an aristocrat or a high priest. Dated to the 14th century B.C.

House of the Frescoes. It is located to the NW of the palace and is a small urban mansion with rich decoration on the walls. Dated to the 15th, 14th-12th centuries B.C.

Caravanserai. It lies to the south of the palace and was interpreted as a reception hall and hospice. Some of the rooms are equipped with baths and decorated with wall paintings.

The "Unexplored Mansion". Private building, probably of private-industrial function, to the NW of the palace. It is rectangular, with a central, four-pillared hall, corridors, storerooms and remains of a staircase. Dated to the 14th-12th centuries B.C.

Temple Tomb. It is located almost 600 m. to the south of the palace and was connected with the "House of the High Priest" by means of a paved street. It seems that one of the last kings of Knossos (17th-14th centuries B.C.) was buried here. Typical features of its architecture are the hypostyle, two-pillar crypt, the entrance with the courtyard, the portico and a small anteroom.

House of the High Priest. It lies 300 m. to the south of Caravanserai and contains a stone altar with two columns, framed by the bases of double axes.

The South Mansion. Private civic house, located to the south of the palace. It is a three-storeyed building with a lustral basin and a hypostyle crypt, dating from the 17th-15th centuries B.C.

Villa of Dionysos. Private, peristyle house of the Roman period. It is decorated with splendid mosaics by Apollinarius, depicting Dionysos. The house contains special rooms employed for the Dionysiac cult. Dated to the 2nd century A.D.


Knossos was undeniably the capital of Minoan Crete. It is grander, more complex, and more flamboyant than any of the other palaces known to us, and it is located about twenty minutes south of the modern port town of Iraklio.

Knossos was inhabited for several thousand years, beginning with a neolithic settlement sometime in the seventh millennium BC, and was abandoned after its destruction in 1375 BC which marked the end of Minoan civilization. The first palace on the low hill beside the Krairatos river was built around 1900 BC on the ruins of previous settlements. It was destroyed for the first time along with the other Protopalatial palaces around Crete at 1700 BC, probably by a large earthquake or foreign invaders. It was immediately rebuilt to an even more elaborate complex and until its abandonment was damaged several times during earthquakes, invasions, and in 1450 BC by the colossal volcanic eruption of Thera, and the invasion of Mycenaeans who used it as their capital as they ruled the island of Crete until 1375 BC.

Arthur Evans, the British Archaeologist who excavated the site in 1900 AD restored large parts of the palace in a way that it is possible today to appreciate the grandeur and complexity of a structure that evolved over several millennia and grew to occupy about 20,000 square meters. Walking through its complex multi-storied buildings one can comprehend why the palace of Knossos was associated with the mythological labyrinth.

According to Greek mythology, the palace was designed by famed architect Dedalos with such complexity that no one placed in it could ever find its exit. King Minos who commissioned the palace then kept the architect prisoner to ensure that he would not reveal the palace plan to anyone. Dedalos, who was a great inventor, built two sets of wings so he and his son Ikaros could fly off the island, and so they did. On their way out, Dedalos warned his son not to fly too close to the sun because the wax that held the wings together would melt. In a tragic turn of events, during their escape Ikaros, young and impulsive as he was, flew higher and higher until the sun rays dismantled his wings and the young boy fell to his death in the Aegean sea. The Labyrinth was the dwelling of the Minotaur in Greek mythology, and many associate the palace of Knossos with the legend of Theseus killing the Minotaur.

The Greek myth associated with the palace about Theseus and the Minotaur is fascinating, but walking around the ruins of Knossos today it is hard to imagine it to be a place of torment and death. Instead, the palace radiates with joyous exuberance through the elaborate architectural planes and volumes that were clustered around the central courtyard over time. The elegant wall frescoes which decorated the walls speak of a people who approached the subtleties of life and the splendor of nature with a joyous disposition.

For the visitor today, the area around the ramp which leads to the main palace, immediately exposes the rich strata of ruins that span millennia. To the left of the entrance ramp three large kouloures in the shape of large round pits reveal in their deep bottom the remains of Prepalatial building ruins. The palace of Knossos was the center of administration of the entire island during Minoan times, and its position as such allowed for unprecedented growth and prosperity as witnessed by the plethora of storage magazines, workshops, and wall paintings. The Throne room with its gypsum throne and benches to accommodate sixteen persons, the central courtyard, and the theater, along with the royal chambers paint a portrait of Knossos as a forum of elaborate rituals and extraordinary historical occurrences.

The restorations performed by Evans have been criticized as inaccurate, and there is a feeling that many of the details were reconstituted (to use Evans' term) utilizing at best "educated guesses". For the visitor however, the restorations render the incomprehensible strata of ruins along with their past grandeur a bit more obvious, and bring the majesty of Minoan life at the palace a little closer.

Watch the video: Η Μινωική Κρήτη.. αναπαράσταση της Κνωσού (May 2022).