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"The purpose of this blog is to generate discussions about historical issues. Students, enthusiasts, and friends are all welcome to join by reading and participating with comments. I hope to generate interest in history and offer help to the perplexed." Caleb Johnson

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Minoans

If you travel to the Island of Crete and explore the countryside, you can find the remains of an old palace complex called Knossos. Knossos was the once-capital of the ancient civilization of the Minoans. The Minoans were the people who inhabited the Aegean Islands during the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. Their name comes from the Greek legend of their King Minos. Minos is the king who is said to have kept the Minotaur in a labyrinth under his palace. But there was more to these people than myth.
Palace Knossos

Minoan trading Vessel
The Minoans were a well organized people who effectively consolidated their control over the Aegean Sea. This control allowed for the flourishing of pan-Aegean trade that brought the Minoans great prosperity. They built large cities and had a well ordered and sophisticated society. Minoan palaces seem to have served more as a community centre than exclusively royal residences. The palace at Knossos covered more than 500 sq. ft. and had multiple stories. The ruins of large storage facilities and granaries stand next to private chambers decorated by beautiful frescos, hinting that the Minoans were people of taste as well as business. Although Minoan dominance of the Aegean area lasted for many centuries, it did eventually come to an end.

The end of the Minoan civilization started with a series of earthquakes and invasions that shook the Aegean world. Sometime around 1450 BC, the caldera underneath the Minoan Island of Thera erupted. Most of the island disappeared, and the column of ash and smoke could be seen as far away as Egypt. After the devastating effects of the eruption on the surrounding islands and peoples, the Minoans slipped into decline. The end came when the main island of Crete was invaded by a new power, the Mycenaeans. What we know of the Minoans comes from archaeology as the eruptions which destroyed the civilization also encased its cities in the molten ash. Many buildings were preserved, much like the Roman Pompeii, and are now subject to the scrutiny of modern historians. Although they seem to have left no permanent mark on history, their sudden end should serve as a reminder that all societies are only temporary.


  1. That is a great image of a Minoan vessel, we know for sure tat such vessels traded as far as Cornwall, UK for tin, perhaps even up to the Baltic for amber. All this as long ago as 2000-1500BC. Could they have made it over to the copper mines of Lake Superior though?

  2. Oops i think Cyprus was a much more convenient and near source, for copper.

    However there is something wrong with the vessel illustration, can you tell me what it is ? ;)