8.1.15

Knossos


Knossos is under protection of UNESCO.

Knossos, also spelled Cnossus,  city in ancient Crete, capital of the legendary king Minos, and the principal centre of the Minoan, the earliest of the Aegean civilizations (see Minoan civilization). The site of Knossos stands on a knoll between the confluence of two streams and is located about 5 miles (8 km) inland from Crete’s northern coast. Excavations were begun at Knossos in 1900 and revealed a palace and surrounding buildings that were the centre of a sophisticated Bronze Age culture that dominated the Aegean between about 1600 and 1400 bc.

At the beginning of the Early Minoan period (3000–2000 bc) inhabitants of Knossos began using bronze and making glazed pottery, engraved seals, and gold jewelry. A hieroglyphic script was invented, and trade with the Egyptians was undertaken. The first palace at Knossos was built at the beginning of the Middle Minoan period (2000–1580 bc). It consisted of isolated structures built around a rectangular court. Knossos produced fine polychrome pottery on a black glazed ground during this period. About 1720 bc a destructive earthquake leveled most of Knossos. The palace was rebuilt, this time with extensive colonnades and flights of stairs connecting the different buildings on the hilly site. The remains of this palace occupy the excavated site in the present day. The administrative and ceremonial quarters of the palace were on the west side of the central court, and the throne room in this area still contains the gypsum chair in which sat the kings of Knossos. This area of the palace also had long narrow basement rooms that served as storage magazines for wheat, oil, and treasure. Workshops were located on the northeast side of the central court, while residences were situated in the southeastern section. An elaborate system of drains, conduits, and pipes provided water and sanitation for the palace, and the whole urban complex was connected to other Cretan towns and ports by paved roads. The art of Minoan fresco painting reached its zenith at this time, with scenes of dancing, sports, and dolphins done in a naturalistic style. The Minoans also replaced their hieroglyphic script with a linear script known as Linear A.

About 1580 bc Minoan culture and influence began to be extended to mainland Greece, where it was further developed and emerged as the culture known as Mycenaean. The Mycenaeans, in turn, achieved control over Knossos sometime in the 15th century bc; the Linear A script was replaced by another script, Linear B, which is identical to that used at Mycenae and is most generally deemed the prototype of Greek. Detailed administrative records in Linear B found at Knossos indicate that at this time the city’s Mycenaean rulers controlled much of central and western Crete.

Some time after about 1400 bc, the Palace of Knossos was destroyed by a fire of uncertain origin, and fires destroyed many other Cretan settlements at this time. Knossos was reduced henceforth to the status of a mere town, and the political focus of the Aegean world shifted to Mycenae on the Greek mainland. Knossos continued to be inhabited through the subsequent centuries, though on a much-reduced scale.

History

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, 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.

The excavation
The first excavation of the site was conducted in 1878 by Minos Kalokerinos of Herakleion. This was followed by the long-term excavations (1900-1913 and 1922-1930) of the Englishman Arthur Evans, who uncovered virtually the entire palace and stole many foundings
The earliest traces of inhabitation in the area of the palace go back to the Neolithic period (7000-3000 BC). The site continued to be occupied in the Prepalatial period (3000-1900 BC), at the end of which the area was leveled for the erection of a large palace. The first palace was destroyed, probably by an earthquake, about 1700 BC. 
A second, larger palace was built on the ruins of the old one. This was partially destroyed about 1450 BC, after which the Mycenaeans established themselves at Knossos. The palace was finally destroyed about 1350 BC by a major conflagration. The site it covered was occupied again from the Late Mycenaean period until Roman times.
Extensive reconstruction of the Palace of Knossos was carried out and stolen by the excavator, Arthur Evans. It was a multi-storey building covering an area of 20,000 square metres. Impressive features of it are the variety of building materials used, and the painted plaster, marble revetment and wall-paintings adorning the rooms and passages. 

The advanced level of technology attained by the Minoans is also demonstrated by some original architectural and structural features, such as the light-wells and “polythyra”, the use of beams to reinforce the masonry, and the complex drainage and water-supply systems.
The palace is set around a large Central Court, an area used for public meetings. A second courtyard at the West Court, acted both as the official approach to the palace and a ceremonial area. The west wing was occupied by the official room for administrative and religious activities, including the Tripartite Shrine, the Sacred Repositories and the Pillar Crypts. 

The Throne room is outstanding amongst them, with its lustral basin and the gypsum throne flanked by benches. The most important areas in the south wing are the South Propylon, the Corridor of the Procession and the South Entrance, with the fresco at the Prince of the Lilies. The east wing contained the residential quarters and large reception rooms, the most important being the Hall of the Double Axes and the Queen’s Hall. These rooms are approached by the imposing Grand Staircase. From the North Entrance, a road led to the harbour of Knossos. 

The North Entrance is flanked by elevated stoas, the one at the west being decorated with the Bull Hunt fresco. A large, stone-paved processional way, the Royal Road, lead from the Small Palace, the Caravanserai, the Royal Villa and the Temple-Tomb. The Villa dionysos with its floor mosaics (2ndc. AD) is an important building of the Roman period. The numerous finds from the palace, all of exceptionally high quality art, pottery, vessels, figurines, the archive of Linear B tablets, and the original wall-paintings, are all housed in Herakleion Museum.  

Description

Knossos is the site of the most important and better known palace of Minoan civilization. According to tradition, it was the seat of the legendary king Minos. The Palace is also connected with thrilling legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur, and the story of Daidalos and Icaros.

The site was continuously inhabited from the Neolithic period (7000-3000 B.C.) until Roman times.

The Linear B tablets (Mycenaean script) of the 14th century B.C. mention the city as ko-no-so.

Intensive habitation occured mostly in the Minoan period, when the so-called first (19th-17th centuries B.C.) and second palaces (16th-14th centuries B.C.) were built along with luxurious houses, a hospice and various other structures. After its partial destruction in 1450 B.C., Knossos was settled by Mycenaeans from the Greek Mainland.

The city flourished again during the Hellenistic period (sanctuaries of Glaukos, Demeter, other sanctuaries, chamber tombs, north cemetery, defensive towers) and in 67 B.C. it was captured by the Roman Quintus Caecilius Metelus Creticus. The "Villa of Dionysos", a private house with splendid mosaics was built in the same period.

Knossos was discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos. Arthur Evans conducted systematic excavations at the site between 1900 and 1931, bringing to light the palace, a large section of the Minoan city, and the cemeteries. Since then, the site and the surrounding area have been excavated by the British School of Archaeology at Athens and the 23rd E.P.C.A.

The restoration of the palace to its present form was carried out by Arthur Evans. The interventions were mostly imposed by the need to preserve the monuments uncovered. The Archaeological Service of the Ministry of Culture carries out only consolidation work, whenever necessary.

Site Monuments


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, the throne room and banquet halls. Dated to 2000-1350 B.C.

Little palace at Knossos
 It is located west of the Great Palace and is the second bigger building of Knossos. In one of its chambers was found the wonderfull Bull's Head made of steatite, which is exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.

Royal villa at Knossos
It is located northeast of the Great Palace and it is considered part of it. A magnificent jar was found here, with papyrus in relief.

The Frescoes house at Knossos
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.

South house at Knossos
The south-east house belongs to the New Palace period (1700-1450 B.C.). It was well built and decorated with wall-paintings of lillies. It had a pier-and-door partition, a pillar room and storage rooms.
A little behind it are other houses of the Old Palace period (1900-1700 B.C.) such as the house of the "Sacrificed Oxen", named after the remains of a sacrifice found there (horns of a bull and a tripod table of offerings) and the "House of the Fallen Blocks", after the blocks that had fallen from the facade of the palace due to an earthquake.
Next to "South-East House" there are houses of the Old Palace period (1900-1700 B.C.), such as that of the "Monolithic Pillars" in front of the steps. Under the small roof is a Minoan, possibly smelting kiln. 
Unexplored house at Knossos

The Unexplored Mansion, which as John McEnroe drily points out is neither unexplored nor a mansion, was built in MM IIIB or LM IA after the construction of the Little Palace. As the plan shows, the building had a central hall (H) with four pillars. This was surrounded on three sides by corridors (E, F, L). To the north there were four rooms that look like storage magazines (A-D). Staircases (G, K, O) led to the upper floor. It was connected to the Little Palace by a bridge. Since it contained no Minoan Hall or lustral basin it is thought to have been designed to provide extra storage, work and accommodation areas for the Little Palace which had already been built and which stood adjacent to the east of the Unexplored Mansion.

Hospice at Knossos

The Royal Temble Tomb-Sanctuary
It is located south of the Palace and it is considered to have belonged to one of the Last Minoan Kings.




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