Majestic Minoan Knossos: Palace Or Funeral Parlor


Majestic Minoan Knossos: Palace Or Funeral Parlor

Before 1900, the general knowledge about an ancient civilization on Crete was limited to the Greek mythology of King Minos and the heroic Theseus, pri

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Before 1900, the general knowledge about an ancient civilization on Crete was limited to the Greek mythology of King Minos and the heroic Theseus, prince of Athens, who slayed the minotaur in the labyrinth and won the heart of the princess Ariadne , and of Daedalus, the architect of the labyrinth who designed wings for himself and his son Icarus to escape the island. That changed in 1900 when Sir Arthur Evans excavated what he called the ‘ Palace of Knossos’ , seat of the Bronze Age Minoan civilization. However, there are some anomalies in the theory of a palace. Was the magnificent construction perhaps inhabited by the deceased, and not the living Minoan elite?

Portrait of Sir Arthur Evans by William Richmond, 1907 (Ashmolean Museum)

Sir Arthur Evans Enthusiastic Archaeologist

Arthur Evans was born in 1851 in Hertfordshire, as the son of an affluent archaeologist.  He followed his father’s footsteps and was appointed as the curator of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and he was a professor in prehistoric archaeology at Oxford University.  As curator of the Ashmolean Museum he developed a marked interest in the career and excavations of Heinrich Schlemann in 1876 at Mycenae, the historic stronghold and palace of Agamemnon, mythical High King who led the Achaeans to Troy in Homer’s Iliad. Evans had a particular interest in the seals that Schlemann had found.  The seals were produced from stone and ivory and to Evans they hinted at an as-yet undiscovered lost civilization somewhere in the Mediterranean. Evans managed to buy similar seals in the markets in Athens and were informed of their Cretan origin.

Minoan seal of Bull leaping (c, 1700 BC) (Andree Stephan / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Minoan seal of Bull leaping (c, 1700 BC) ( Andree Stephan / CC BY-SA 3.0)

In 1894 Evans traveled to Crete for the first time, where he was taken to the hill of Kephala, just outside the capital of Heraklion.  He was informed that an amateur Greek archaeologist, Minos Kalokairinos had discovered a storeroom with ancient pithoi in 1878 on this hill, but he was prohibited by the Tourkokratia or Turkocracy, the current regime at that time, to proceed with excavations.  According to some authors it was the local population of Crete who prevented the excavations, as they feared that valuable artifacts would have been exported to Istanbul under the Turkish regime.  By this time Schlemann had already made an offer to purchase Kephala, as well as the Italian archaeologist Federico Halbherr and the French archaeologist Andre Joubin. 


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Dr Micki Pistorius has an Honours Degree in Biblical Archaeology

Top Image : Another viewpoint of the Knossos palace at Heraklion, Crete, which is part of the extensive Knossos Palace ruins that are full of details relating to the great Minoan civilization of the Aegean Sea. (  vladimircaribb / Adobe Stock)

By Micki Pistorius