An artist's depiction of the Palace of Knossos.
On the island of Crete lies the magnificent Palace of Knossos, an imposing structure that gives insight into the ancient Minoan civilization it once held within its walls. Two written scripts of this society have been discovered, but only one of them is indecipherable. This forces us to rely on artifacts such as the Palace of Knossos to learn about the Minoans.
As the most prominent cultural artifact of the first civilized European society, the Palace of Knossos visually depicts how this civilization rose above the others of its time. First built around 2000 BC, the Palace of Knossos reflected the grandeur of Minoan civilization. The Palace spread over six acres of land with heights reaching four stories. It was constructed in a labyrinth, maze-like pattern and provided housing for about 100,000 people. Colorful friezes and frescoes, or bands of designs, figures and paintings on plaster, fill the walls of the palace and depict life from this era.
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A famous fresco found at the Palace of Knossos.
Both male and female bull leapers are pictured.
Pictures range from animals and people to gods and various ceremonies. These images as well as the palace itself, which was even equipped with plumbing, point to an efficient, advanced and sophisticated society. Pioneering out of the strictly agricultural way of life held by surrounding cultures, Crete thrived on trade, and became an affluent civilization.
Further examination of the Palace's interior décor reveals that war was not a common theme and women were depicted almost as frequently as men. This suggests an innovative culture that valued peace and substantial gender equality even when surrounded by war and oppression.
Throughout the Minoan Period, the Palace of Knossos was destroyed and rebuilt a number of times due to natural disasters, including earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Its final deterioration began around 1380 BC, affecting both the physical and social constructs of the Minoan society. With its legend of the labyrinth, superior organization, and remarkable artwork, aspects of Minoan society would lend themselves to the creation of Greek civilization, the next thriving society, and allow the Minoan culture to survive long after the destruction of the palace and the society that revolved around it.
The present day remains of the palace.
Higgins, Reynold, Minoan and Mycenaean Art, (New York; Frederick A Praeger Inc. Publishers, 1967).
La Boda, Sharon, and Ring, Trudy, and Salkin, Robert M., International Dictionary of Historic Places. Vol. 3. (Chicago; Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1995).
Matthews, Roy T., and Platt, F.Dewitt, The Western Humanities. 3rd ed. (California; Mayfield Publishing Company, 1998).
Turner, Jane, The Dictionary of Art. Vol.18. (New York; Macmillian Publishers Limited, 1996).