The Ancient Greece Minoans civilization was Bronze Age civilization that took place on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans.
Evidence of early inhabitants of Crete settled as early as 128,000 BC, which was during the Middle Paleolithic age. However, it was not until 5000 BC that the first signs of advanced agriculture appeared, thereby marking the beginning of civilization.
Their most distinguishing factor was their huge multi-storied Palaces with great water suplly and drainage system. They were specialized seas going people who derived their prosperity from overseas trade.
Crete is a rocky island with natural harbors. There are signs of earthquake damage at several Minoan sites and clear signs of both elevating of land as well as submersion of coastal sites due to tectonic processes all along the coasts can be found.
Homer recorded that Crete had 90 cities. From the point of view of all the palace sites, the island was believed to have been divided into minimum eight political units during the pinnacle of the Minoan period. The north is thought to have been governed by Knossos, the south by Phaistos, the central eastern part by Malia, and the eastern tip by Kato Zakros and the west by Chania. Smaller palaces have been found in other places.
Origins of the Civilization
The term Minoan was given to the civilization which flourished on the island of Crete around 2700 BC by the British excavator, Arthur Evans, referring to the king Minos, the mythical king of Knossos who is a popular character of Greek mythology. It was a name given in the 19th and not the actual name used by the ancient civilizations.
The civilization was established by migratory populations probably from the Mediterranean or northern Egypt which settled on this island in the pre-ceramic Neolithic age around 5000 BC. It was not actually a Greek civilization as its language has not been deciphered yet as they used Linear A script. Although their script are said to have influenced the Mycenean script which was the earliest form of Greece.
Ancient Greece Minoans History
The oldest evidence of inhabitants on Crete from the pre-ceramic Neolithic farming community remains dates back to approximately 7000 BC. The Bronze Age began in Crete around 2700 BC. In the latter part of the 3rd Millennium BC, several localities on the island developed into centers of commerce and handwork which enabled the upper classes to incessantly practice leadership activities and expand their influence. Around 1700 BC, there was a large disturbance in Crete, probably due to an earthquake, or an invasion from Anatolia.
The palaces at Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, and Kato Zakros were destroyed. But with the start of the Neopalatial period, the population increased again, the palaces were rebuilt on a larger scale and new settlements were built all over the island. This period which includes the 17th and 16th centuries BC represents the time when the Minoan civilization was at its peak. Around 1600 BC, there was an eruption of the Thera volcano. However, even a disaster like this didn’t discourage the Minoans from reconstructing the palaces making them were made on a grander scale.
Basically, the Minoans were a mercantile class of people engaged in overseas trade. Their culture, from 1700 BC onwards, exemplifies a high degree of organization. According to many historians and archaeologists, the Minoans were involved in the Bronze Age’s important tin trade: tin, alloyed with copper apparently from Cyprus, which was used to manufacture bronze.
The decline of Minoan civilization and the decline in the use of bronze tools in favor of iron further substantiate this point. The Minoan also traded in saffron. Objects of Minoan manufacture suggest there was a network of trade with mainland Greece more specifically Mycenae, Cyprus, Syria, Anatolia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, along with the coast of Spain to the west.
The Religious Duties
The Minoan religion focused chiefly on female deities, with females performing the religious duties. As a result of this, this civilization is also known as the Matriarchal religion.
The statues of priestesses in Minoan culture and frescoes showing men and women participating in the same sports such as bull-leaping lays down the fact that both men, as well as women, enjoyed an equal status in society.
Inheritance was to have been matrilineal. The frescos include many depictions of people, with the genders distinguished by color: the men’s skin being reddish-brown, while that of the women’s being white.
The concentration of wealth played a great role in the structure of society. Multi-room constructions were discovered in even the poor areas of town, revealing a social equality and even distribution of wealth.
Language of the Minoans
Due to the poor number of evidence, knowledge of the spoken and written language of the Ancient Greece Minoans is scant. Around 3000, clay tablets have been found with the various Cretan scripts and hence Clay tablets were believed to have been in use either from 3000BC or even prior to that.
Sometimes the Minoan language is referred to as Eteocretan, but this creates some sort of confusion. Confusion between the language written in Linear A scripts and the language written in a Euboean-derived alphabet after the Greek Dark Ages. While the Eteocretan language is believed to be a descendant of Minoan, there is not enough source material in either language to make such inferences.
Late Minoan Period
In the Early Minoan period, ceramics were characterized by linear patterns of spirals, triangles, curved lines, crosses, fishbone motifs, and such while in the Middle Minoan period naturalistic designs such as fish, squid, birds, and lilies gained popularity.
In the Late Minoan period, flowers and animals were still the most characteristics, but the variability had increased. Noteworthy similarities between Late Minoan and Mycenaean art can be observed. Frescoes were the main form of art during this time of the Minoan culture.
The Minoan cities were connected with each other by stone-paved roads, formed from blocks cut with bronze saws. Streets were drained and water and sewer facilities were available to the upper class, through clay pipes.
Minoan buildings often had flat tiled roofs; plaster, wood, or flagstone floors, and stood two to three stories high. Generally, the lower walls were constructed of stone and rubble, and the upper walls of mud brick. Ceiling timbers held up the roofs.
The materials used in constructing the villas and palaces varied and sometimes also included sandstone, gypsum, or limestone. Equally, building techniques also varied between different constructions as some palaces used ashlars masonry while others used roughly hewn megalithic blocks.
The Ancient Greece Minoans raised cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats, and grew wheat, barley, vetch, and chickpeas, apart from cultivating grapes, figs, and olives, and also grew poppies, for poppy seeds and, sometimes, for opium. The Ancient Greece Minoans also domesticated bees.
Crops including lettuce, celery, asparagus and carrots grew wild in Crete, while the produce was pears, quinces, and olive trees were native. They also imported date palm trees, and cats for the purposes of hunting from Egypt and adopted pomegranates and quinces from the Near East, They developed Mediterranean poly-culture, which involved the practice of growing more than one crop at a time, and as a result of their more varied and healthy diet, the population increased.
Method of Farming
This method of farming would also contribute greatly to maintaining the fertility of the soil, as well as offering protection against low yields in any single crop. Additionally, Linear B tablets indicate the importance of orchard farming like olives and grapes for the purpose of processing crops for “secondary products”.
Process of Fermenting Wine
The process of fermenting wine from grapes is likely to have been a concern of the “Palace” economies, whereby such prestige goods would have been both important trade commodities as well as culturally meaningful items of consumption. Equally, it was also likely that the consumption of exotic or expensive products played a role in the presentation and articulation of political and economic power.
A typical Cretan diet consisted of wild animals roaming the island. Cretans ate wild deer and boar along with the meats made available to them by their livestock. Wild game can no longer be found on Crete.
Thus, the Ancient Greece Minoans were people of the magnificent social organization, culture, art, and commerce. However, there is no evidence to lay down that they were a military people. Hence, this lack of military culture is believed to have been the principal of their final downfall.
5 Facts about the Minoan civilization
- The Minoans were the first civilization to have flourished in Greece in 2700 BC.
- It was not a Greek civilization as their language was written in a linear A script which has not been deciphered.
- Sometimes the mythical drowned city of Atlantis is said to be the city of collapsed Minoan civilization.
- They developed along the island of Crete.
- The religion of the Minoans was matriarchal as they worshipped mainly female deities.
Achievements of Minoans
- The Minoans were brilliant in architecture and their ability to build huge multi-storied palaces which were built with so many details and complex technology, was a huge achievement in the ancient world. The palace of Knossos is another of their brilliant architectural structures which survives even today.
The minions advanced greatly in terms of crafts and pottery. They built stone-carved tools for agriculture and for daily life. Their vases especially the famous Harvest Rython show their mastery.
They also built a high-quality fleet which enabled them to trade all across the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, Egypt and even the middle east.
- It had a great technique of water supply and drainage system which used to supply water to the houses and also drains along the roads which carried away sewage.
Decline of the Minoans
The Minoan civilization started to decline around 1600 BC with a series of earthquakes. This can be confirmed with the evidence of repair in many of its important palaces including the palace of Knossos. The immediate reason for its decline is attributed to the eruption of the volcano of Thera, which caused large-scale devastation and even a tsunami.
Minoans and Myceneans
The Minoan civilization was the first civilization to grow in Greece around 2700 BC and grew up around the island of Crete. The Mycenaeans were another bronze age civilization which rose around 1700 BC covering the whole of the Greek mainland.
The Mycenaean language which is the earliest has been suspected to have been influenced by the Minoan language which was written in Linear A script and has still not been deciphered.
Both civilizations were heavily trading societies and they are said to have been collaborating with each other in trade. The Minoans are said to have mediated between the goods coming from the Mediterranean and the Mycenaeans.
The art and crafts of both are quite similar with the Mycenaean being the more refined of them and are said to have been influenced by the brilliance of the Minoans.
The architectural structures of their palaces are almost the same with the only difference being the fortifications around the Mycenaean buildings like in Pylos while no fortifications have been found around any Minoan structure.