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Minoans and Myceneans


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Title: Minoans and Myceneans

Minoans and Myceneans
  • Minoans Geography Culture
  • Myceneans Geography Culture

Minoans Island of Crete
  • The story of European civilization really begins
    on the island of Crete with a civilization that
    probably thought of itself as Asian (in fact,
    Crete is closer to Asia than it is to Europe).
  • Around 1700 BC, a highly sophisticated culture
    grew up around palace centers on Crete the
  • The Minoans produced a civilization oriented
    around trade and bureaucracy with little or no
    evidence of a military state.
  • They built perhaps the single most efficient
    bureaucracy in antiquity.
  • This unique culture, of course, lasted only a few
    centuries, and European civilization shifts to
    Europe itself with the foundation of the military
    city-states on the mainland of Greece.

  • On the island, the climate is comfortable and the
    soil fertile as an island, it was isolated from
    the mainland of Asia Minor, the Middle East, and
  • Being an island, resources were limited. As the
    population began to thrive, it also began to
    increase, and it is evident that the resources of
    the island became increasingly insufficient to
    handle the increased population. So the Cretans
  • Some migrated, populating other islands in the
    Aegean Sea.

Migration and Trade
  • In doing so, they took their growing civilization
    with them and spread Minoan culture, religion,
    and government all over the Aegean Sea. For this
    reason, the Minoan culture is also called the
    "Aegean Palace civilization."
  • But the Cretans who remained turned to other
    economic pursuits to support the growing
    population in particular, they turned to trade.
  • Crete became the central exporter of wine, oil,
    jewelry, and highly crafted works in turn, they
    became importers of raw materials and food. In
    the process they built the first major navy in
    the world its primary purpose, however, was

Minoan Time Line First Palace period 2200 -
1700 BC
  • Power began to be centered around kings. The
    first large palace centers came into being.
  • Excavation has revealed four large palaces at
    Knossos, Phaestos, Malia, and Zakros so far.
  •  The buildings are arranged around a central
    court and have fine facades of closely fitted
    stone blocks with monumental entrances. Inside,
    they are multi-storied and have workshops,
    storage magazines and sacred rooms.
  • The finest example was uncovered in the west
    palace section at Phaestos.  The palaces
    workshops are also producing fine wares already.

Pottery and Workshops
  • The gorgeous Kamaresware pottery dates to this
    period and the style is named after the cave of
    Kamares where it was first discovered.
    Kamaresware is pottery with polychrome motifs of
    rosettes, spirals and hatching vibrantly painted
    on a shiny black background, and was produced in
    a variety of vase shapes.
  • The workshops also produced fine vases and
    vessels of stone and faience seal stones of
    precious or semi-precious stones, with
    hieroglyphics and dynamic natural scenes elegant
    weapons and tools vessels of bronze or silver
    jewellery of marvellous technique ("the Bee
    Pendant" from Malia) and miniature sculpture.
  • The first palace centers and the settlements of
    Crete  were reduced to ruins possibly by
    earthquakes .

Kamaresware Pottery
Second Palace period 1700 - 1500 BC
  • Magnificent new palaces were built upon the ruins
    of the old ones. The cities around them expanded.
    Many lords in rural villas controlled areas in
    the same way as the feudal lords of the Middle
  • Their ships carried both the products of Minoan
    and other societies throughout the Aegean and
    Eastern Mediterranean to trade.
  • The new palaces were multi-storeyed and complex.
    They had great courtyards with grand porticoes,
    broad staircases, processional paths and
    monumental entrances. Many rooms could be opened
    for air circulation and sunlight to enter via
    pier and door partitions  making the rooms quite
    bright and pleasant in the summer. Benches and
    thrones were found in royal rooms.  

Second Palace cond
  • There were many interior light wells to allow
    light in through all levels of the palace via the
  • Bathrooms and water supply and drainage systems
    allowed for a easier style of life. Sections of
    the palaces were royal quarters, sacred areas
    (pillar crypts, tripartite shrines), audience and
    banquet halls.  
  • Large areas of these palaces were set aside as
    storage areas (magazines), and workshops also
    existed within the palaces.
  • Wonderful fresco painting decorating the walls
    with fresh, lively scenes in an array of colors.
  • Gypsum was a common building material used for
    wall siding and floors.
  • The marine style of pottery developed with
    flowing elements including stylized octopuses and

Second Palace period 1700 - 1500 BC(Continued)
  • The floral style also developed inventive plants
    and open flowers.  Frescos depicted landscapes
    with animals along with scenes from religious
    and social life.  Bull jumping and other
    festivities were shown on the frescos.  Faience
    work, decorative plaques, figurines such as the
    snake goddesses, royal gaming boards, detailed
    gold and silver jewellery and vessels were
    produced in the workshops of the day.  Some very
    fine bronze work was achieved during this period.
  • The still undeciphered Linear A is now in use.
     There are about 200 surviving texts on clay
    tablets apparently deal with accounting and
    inventory information.  The tablets come from the
    archives of palaces such as Knossos or villas and
    were preserved by firing in the fires that
    destroyed the palaces.  The Phaestos Disk, with
    its unique hieroglyphic text, belongs to the
    first phase of the second palace period.

Volcanic Eruption 1450 B.C.
  • All of the centers of the second palace period
    were destroyed around 1450.  
  • The terrible volcanic eruption of Santorini had
    large impacts on Crete depending on how the ash
    fell, but did not have enough effects to destroy
    the palaces or the Minoan way of life.
  • The eruption of Santorini may have destroyed some
    coastal towns and shipping, and would have
    depressed the economies of the eastern
    Mediterranean though.  Terrible palace
    destructions did happen though (probably through
    earthquake again).  
  • Life resumed only at the palace at Knossos, which
    was reconstructed and served as the residence of
    a new Mycanaean (Achaean) rulers from the
  • Their presence is inferred by the appearance of
    the very archaic written Greek language of Linear
    B and by the appearance of  Palace Style pottery.
    Changes were made in the arrangement of the
    palaces, and the Knossos Throne Room and many
    surviving frescoes (such as the Corridor of the
    Procession also at Knossos) date from this

Minoan Timeline Continued
  • Third Palace period 1500 - 1200 BC
  • After the final destruction of about 1380, none
    of the Minoan palaces were rebuilt. Even the
    palace at Knossos was not rebuilt, although the
    city around it stayed alive.  
  • Post-palace period 1200 1050
  • The last phase of this period was a time of
    decline and disorder caused by the movement of
    many peoples in the East Mediterranean. The
    forerunners of the Dorians may have begun to
    arrive in Crete.
  • Sub-Minoan Period 1100-1000 BC
  • Crete entered upon the purely Greek period of its
    history with the arrival of massive waves of
    Dorians at about 1100 BC. The Protogeometric
    period that followed (1100-900 BC) unfolded
    alongside the Sub-Minoan, as the earlier Minoan
    cultural traditions continued on especially in
    the mountain areas of central and eastern Crete.
     Many mountain top settlements existed due to
    their defensive locations. The use of iron, and
    cremation of the dead became general.

Chronology of Minoan Crete
  • Three types of picture writing have been
    discovered in ancient Crete. Unfortunately, the
    writings have told us very little about the
    Minoan way of life.
  • Linear A This type of writing has been found in
    many places in Crete. Most examples are
    scratched on clay tablets but there are some
    samples engraved on metal. In order to be able
    to translate Linear A we will probably have to
    find a bilingual text. This means a text with
    the same words written in Linear A and in a
    language we already know.
  • Linear B Linear B has been found at one site
    only in Crete. This was at the palace at
    Knossos. It has been found in many sites in
    Greece, however, including Mycenae. It is now
    known to be an early form of Greek.
  • Phaestos Disc Only one example of the third
    type of writing has ever been found. It is on a
    decorative disc found at the palace at Phaestos.
    It may not be Cretan. It may have come from

Linear A B
Linear A
Linear B
Phaestos Disc
Phaestos Disc
  • This is an early example of moveable type for
    printing. Europeans did not use this technique
    again until the A.D. 1400s. Previously it had
    been thought that the Chinese had invented
    moveable type.
  • The Phaestos Disc is remarkable because the
    figures are not scratched on but pressed in. A
    block was made for each pictograph. The same
    block was pressed into clay whenever that
    particular sign was needed.

Minoan Religion
  • The Goddesses
  • The main deity is still the Mother Goddess, who
    is portrayed in different forms such as the
    "goddess with the snakes." The Bull was also
    worshipped as a powerful symbol of fertility
    beside her.  Deities were worshipped in
    sanctuaries of the palaces, various dwellings,
    the peak sanctuaries, and in sacred caves. Many
    of the features of Minoan religion passed into
    the cycle of  the Greek mystery religions. Most
    of the tombs were cut into the soft rock and had
    a square burial chamber and a sloping dromos.
    Some were still vaulted tombs with a circular or
    rectangular chamber.
  • They gave thanks for their beautiful land by
    worshipping a small number of gods and goddesses.
    The main ones represented the male and female
    aspects of life.
  • They worshipped them on mountains, in temples on
    the ground and in caves. It was believed that
    gods and goddesses could live in tress and
    columns because these linked the earth and the
    heavens. The Minoans had many sacred objects.

Snake Goddess Vessels
The bull
  • The male aspect of life was represented by the
    bull. The bull figure is found in many pictures
    of Minoan life. The angry beast which lived in
    the labyrinth beneath the palace of Knossos, the
    Minotaur, had the body of a man and the head of a
  • Bull's horns are found as decorations in many
    parts of the palace ruins and on vases, seals and
    ornaments. Little model bulls were placed
    between the stalactites in caves as offerings to
    the gods. Many stayed there for over 3000 years
    before they were discovered.
  • Bulls may have been sacrificed in some religious
    ceremonies. Blood would have been collected in
    rhytons. In a libation ceremony the blood would
    have been poured over columns or into caves.
    This represented a releasing of the bull's

  • Knossos
  • Phaestos

Knossos Site
  • On Friday 23 March 1900 at 11 a.m. Arthur Evans
    began his excavation of Knossos. Although he was
    not the first to excavate at the site, that
    honour belongs to a Greek appropriately called
    Minos Kalokairinos in 1878, it was to be Evans
    who uncovered the Knossos Palace and brought to
    light a hitherto unknown civilisation -- possibly
    the oldest in Europe.
  • The basic excavation of the site took four years
    and for the rest of his life Evans continued
    working on the site, reconstructing and building,
    often in an attempt to preserve the remains from
    the weather to which they had been exposed for
    the first time in 3,500 years.
  • Occupation 1900-1700 B.C. (earthquake in 1700
    B.C., then repaired), reoccupied until around
    1400 B.C.

Knossos Layout
The Bull Chamber
Immediately south of the North Pillar Hall is the
Bull Chamber, which was on the same level as the
Central Court. It was here that the Bull Relief
Fresco was found. Opposite this chamber there
would originally have been another, also
decorated with a fresco.
The great staircase
Bull horns on palace wall.
The Dolphin Sanctuary
Near the Hall of the Double Axes is the Dolphin
Sanctuary, which Evans assigned as the Queen's
Apartment. The area takes its name from a Dolphin
Fresco which was found here in pieces, although
it probably fell from the floor above during the
destruction of the palace. A replica of the
fresco now adorns the north wall.
The Throne Room
On the West Side of the Palace is one of the most
famous of rooms unearthed by Evans, the Throne
Room. The throne room would have had an
oppressive quality about it. With its low ceiling
and lack of windows it was separated from the
Central Court by an anteroom. The throne is
placed along a side wall facing across the room.
On either side of the throne there are stone
benches and in front of the throne a stone basin.
Drainage System
  • Phaistos is Minoan palace site situated on a hill
    with a commanding view of the Mesara Plain to the
    south and west.
  • It is about 60 km south of Heraklion in the
    fertile Messara valley that is surrounded by
    mountain ranges and the plain extends south to
    the Libyan sea. Regular public transportation is
    available from Iraklion and Rethimnon.
  • During the Minoan times, Phaistos was a very
    important city-state, being the second largest
    city after Knossos. Where this great city once
    stood, there is now the village of Agios Ioannis,
    buillt next to Phaistos.

Phaestos in Mythology
  • According to mythology, Phaistos was the seat of
    king Radamanthis, brother of king Minos.
  • It was also the city that gave birth to the great
    wise man and soothsayer Epimenidis, one of the
    seven wise men of the ancient world.  
  • The city also participated in the Trojan war and
    was an important city-state in the Dorian period.
    Phaistos continued to flourish during Archaic,
    Classical and Hellenistic times, but was
    destroyed by the Gortynians during the 3rd
    century B.C.
  • Still, Phaistos existing even during the Roman
    period. Phaistos had two ports, Matala and

Mesara Plain
Old Palace(where Phaestos Disc recovered)
  • The Old Palace was built on the site at the
    beginning of the Second Millenium, known as the
    Protopalatial Period (c.1900-1700 BCE).
  • Twice it was severely damaged by earthquakes and
    rebuilt so three distinct phases are visible to
  • Levi, who excavated here from 1950 to 1971
    believed that the first two phases of the Old
    Palace of Phaistos constitute the oldest Palatial
    buildings in Crete.
  • Other finds at the site include thousands of seal
    impressions and some tablets containing the
    Linear A script from Middle Minoan II. Linear A
    has so far defied all attempts to decipher it.

  • When the Old Palace was finally destroyed, almost
    certainly by an earthquake, a new palace was
    built on the site.
  • Fortunately for us, the builders of the new
    palace did not destroy all traces of the old.
  • In fact much of the old palace was covered over
    at the time of the building of the new palace in
    order to level the ground.
  • Some of the old palace can still be seen,
    especially in the north-east corner, but much of
    the Old Palace remains are accessible only to the

Magazine-storage area
At Phaistos, the magazine consisted of ten rooms,
five on each side, opening onto an east-west
corridor, which at its east end opened out into a
two-columned hall with a portico facing the
Central Court. One storage room remains in tact
with a number of pithoi inside.
Kings Megaron
Queens Megaron
Theatre Area
  • From the Upper West Court a staircase leads to
    the theatre area, with its eight rows of seats,
    each one 22 meters long and the Lower West Court.
    On the north side of the theatre there is a
    retaining wall for the Upper Court and below
    this, the tiered seats overlooking the Lower West
    Court. The court is traversed diagonally by a
    raised causeway. On the east side of the causeway
    are six circular pits. These are thought to have
    been for grain storage similar to those in
    Knossos and Malia.

End of Minoan Civilization
  • At around 1400 B.C., Mycenean civilization began
    to gain control of Crete.
  • Increase in warfare and abandonment of palaces in
    favor of settlements higher in the mountains
  • i.e. Kavousi

Myceneans The Early Helladic Period, 2750-2000
  • Somewhere between 3000 BC and 2000 BC, the lands
    of Greece were settled by a metal-using
    agricultural people who spoke a language other
    than Indo-European.
  • Some of the names they gave their villages were
    preserved by the Greeks, names, for instance,
    ending in "-ssos." We know next to nothing of
    these people, their religion, their cultural
    memory, their language, or their everyday
  • The period when they dominated Greece, called the
    "Early Helladic" period, seemed to be one of
    comparative quiet and peace. All that ended
    around 2000 BC the early Helladic sites and
    villages were destroyed in fire or abandoned

The Middle Helladic Period, 2000 BC-1550 BC
  • This period of conquest and settlement by the
    Greeks makes up the Middle Helladic period.
  • These new invaders settled all the parts of
    Greece, in some instances settling peacefully
    with the previous inhabitants, and began to
    dominate Greek culture.
  • They spoke an Indo-European language in fact,
    they spoke Greek.
  • Their society was primarily based on warfare
    their leaders were essentially war-chiefs.

The Middle Helladic Period, 2000 BC-1550 BC Cond
  • They had settled a difficult land the Greek
    mainland is hot, dry and rocky. Agriculture is
    difficult, but some crops grow extremely well,
    such as grapes and olives.
  • The coastal settlers relied heavily on fishing
    for their diet. In spite of the ruggedness of
    their life and the harshness of their social
    organization, these early Greeks traded with a
    civilization to the south, the Minoans.
  • Their contact with the Minoans was instantly
    fruitful they began to urbanize somewhere in the
    Middle Helladic period and translated their
    culture into a civilization.

The Late Helladic Period, 1550 BC-1150 BC
  • Around 1600 BC, urban centers began to thrive and
    the Greek settlers entered their first major
    period of cultural creativity.
  • Their cities grew larger, their graves more
    opulent, their art more common, their agriculture
    more efficient, and the power of these new
    warlord cities began to be felt around the
  • This period of Greek development and prosperity
    is called the Late Helladic Period or simply the
    Mycenean period. The Greeks of this age are the
    Myceneans proper for four centuries their
    culture thrived.

  • What we can tell from their ruined cities, their
    art, and their records, is that the Myceneans
    derived much of their culture from the Minoans,
    but with some dramatic differences.
  • Mycenean society was monarchical. The monarch,
    called a wanax, ruled over a large administration
    as a kind of head bureaucrat.
  • Unlike the Minoans, though, the Mycenean kings
    accumulated vast wealth in concentrated form the
    rest of society did not share in the prosperity
    as did the Minoans.
  • The king was also primarily a warlord, and
    Mycenean society was constantly geared for battle
    and invasion.

Mycenae and Perseus
  • According to the tradition, the city of Mykenae,
    the main representative of this civilization, was
    founded by Perseus (1400 - 1350 BC), the son of
    Zeus and Danae, the daughter of king Akrisios of
  • Mykenae was build by the mythical Cyclops, the
    same ones who constructed the enormous walls of
    the nearby city of Tyrinths, which was governed
    by his brother Proetos.
  • Perseus was succeeded by his son Sthenelos, the
    father of Eurystheus, who captured Argos and
    according to the myth, he assigned Herakles to
    perform the twelve labors.
  • After the death of Eurystheus, the city was
    governed by Atreus of Elis (1250 BC), the brother
    of Eurystheus wife and son of Pelops and

Mycenean Art-Fresco
Mycenean Art-Metallurgy
Bronze Lion
Gold Cup
Mycenean Art-Ceramics
Octapus Jar
Horse Jar
Myceneans and Linear B
  • With such a non-descriptive name, Linear B proved
    to be the oldest surviving record of a Greek
    dialect, known as Mycenaean, named after the
    great site of Mycenae where the legendary
    Agamemnon ruled.
  • Its usage spanned the time period between 1500
    BCE and 1200 BCE approximately, and
    geographically covered the island of Crete as
    well as the southern part of the Greek Mainland.
  • Its decipherment is attributed to Michael
    Ventris, an architect who actually liked
    linguistics and epigraphy more than architecture!
    The script is mostly syllabic, with a bunch of
    logograms depicting common items such as man,
    woman, sheep, etc.
  • It seems that ancient accounts composed a
    majority of the clay tablets on which Linear B
    appears because a lot of them are list of
    materials and goods.

Linear B
Optional Signs used to clarify the spelling of a
  • The ancient city of Mycenae was once thought to
    exist only in ancient Greek legend and the epic
    poetry of Homer.
  • It wasn't until 1870 that an amateur
    archaeologist named Heinrich Schliemann found the
    fabled city.
  • Many people doubted that he would find such a
    city, but using only landmarks from the text of
    Homers Iliad, Schliemann uncovered the remains of
    a once thriving civilization.

Mycenae cond
  • The city of Mycenae was the center of a large and
    powerful Mycenaean Greek civilization, which
    existed from circa 1900 B.C.E. to circa 1125
  • It is located in the south central part of what
    is present day Greece.
  • The Mycenaean civilization was at its height
    between 1400 and 1200 B.C.E.
  • It is believed that the entire civilization
    consisted of a few loosely joined city-states.
  • Possible members of the city-states were Tiryns,
    Pylos, Thebes, Orchomenos, and of course Mycenae,
    which was the strongest.

Map of Ancient Greece
Map 2
The Acropolis
Lions Gate
  • The Lions Gate at Mycenae. It was the main
    entrance to the Acropolis and its opening was
    closed by a double door with sheets of bronze.
  • The relief consists of two confronting lions,
    their heads made from different material.
  • The structure is dated to 1250 BC.

Palace Reconstruction
The treasury of Atreus or Tomb of Agamemnon.It
was constructed in 1250 BC.
Site Layout
End of Mycenae
  • By 1200 BC the power of Mycenae was declining
    during the 12th century, Mycenaean dominance
  • Within a short time around 1250 BC, all the
    palaces of southern Greece were burned, including
    the one at Mycenae.
  • This is traditionally attributed to a Dorian
    invasion of Greeks from the north, although some
    historians now doubt that such an invasion took
  • However, no outsiders speaking Doric Greek
    entered Greece. Another theory postulates that
    some of the Mycenaean populace, who later came to
    speak the Doric dialect, turned on the weakened
    Mycenaean superstructure and razed it, settling
    in many regions formerly controlled by it.

Revival and end
  • During the early Classical period, Mycenae was
    once again inhabited, though it never regained
    its earlier importance.
  • Mycenaeans fought at Thermopylae and Plataea
    during the Persian Wars.
  • In 462 BC, however, troops from Argos captured
    Mycenae and expelled the inhabitants.
  • In Hellenistic and Roman times, the ruins at
    Mycenae were a tourist attraction (just as they
    are now).
  • A small town grew up to serve the tourist trade.
    By late Roman times, however, the site had been

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