Knossos

Knossos

Overview
Knossos also known as Labyrinth
Labyrinth
In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos...

, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 archaeological site
Archaeological site
An archaeological site is a place in which evidence of past activity is preserved , and which has been, or may be, investigated using the discipline of archaeology and represents a part of the archaeological record.Beyond this, the definition and geographical extent of a 'site' can vary widely,...

 on Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose 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...

 and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square. Detailed images of Cretan life in the late Bronze Age are provided by images on the walls of this palace. It is also a tourist destination today, as it is near the main city of Heraklion
Heraklion
Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

 and has been substantially restored by archaeologist Arthur Evans
Arthur Evans
Sir Arthur John Evans FRS was a British archaeologist most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete and for developing the concept of Minoan civilization from the structures and artifacts found there and elsewhere throughout eastern Mediterranean...

.

The city of Knossos remained important through the Classical and Roman periods, but its population shifted to the new town of Chandax (modern Heraklion
Heraklion
Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

) during the 9th century AD.
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Encyclopedia
Knossos also known as Labyrinth
Labyrinth
In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos...

, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 archaeological site
Archaeological site
An archaeological site is a place in which evidence of past activity is preserved , and which has been, or may be, investigated using the discipline of archaeology and represents a part of the archaeological record.Beyond this, the definition and geographical extent of a 'site' can vary widely,...

 on Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose 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...

 and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square. Detailed images of Cretan life in the late Bronze Age are provided by images on the walls of this palace. It is also a tourist destination today, as it is near the main city of Heraklion
Heraklion
Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

 and has been substantially restored by archaeologist Arthur Evans
Arthur Evans
Sir Arthur John Evans FRS was a British archaeologist most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete and for developing the concept of Minoan civilization from the structures and artifacts found there and elsewhere throughout eastern Mediterranean...

.

The city of Knossos remained important through the Classical and Roman periods, but its population shifted to the new town of Chandax (modern Heraklion
Heraklion
Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

) during the 9th century AD. By the 13th century, it was called Makryteikhos 'Long Wall'; the bishops of Gortyn
Gortyn
Gortyn, Gortys or Gortyna is a municipality and an archaeological site on the Mediterranean island of Crete, 45 km away from the modern capital Heraklion. The seat of the municipality is the village Agioi Deka...

 continued to call themselves Bishops of Knossos until the 19th century. Today, the name is used only for the archaeological site situated in the suburb
Suburb
The word suburb mostly refers to a residential area, either existing as part of a city or as a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city . Some suburbs have a degree of administrative autonomy, and most have lower population density than inner city neighborhoods...

s of Heraklion.

Discovery and excavation


The ruins at Knossos were discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos, a Cretan merchant and antiquarian
Antiquarian
An antiquarian or antiquary is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient objects of art or science, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts...

. He conducted the first excavations at Kephala
Kephala
Kephala is a hill landform in northern Crete, Greece. This locus was chosen by ancient settlers for the site of the Palace of Knossos; the footprint of the Neolithic settlement at Kephala Hill was actually larger than the Bronze Age Palace of Knossos....

 Hill, which brought to light part of the storage magazines in the west wing and a section of the west facade. After Kalokairinos, several people attempted to continue the work, and Heinrich Schliemann
Heinrich Schliemann
Heinrich Schliemann was a German businessman and amateur archaeologist, and an advocate of the historical reality of places mentioned in the works of Homer. Schliemann was an archaeological excavator of Troy, along with the Mycenaean sites Mycenae and Tiryns...

 had previously showed an interest but it was not until March 16, 1900 that archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 gentleman
Gentleman
The term gentleman , in its original and strict signification, denoted a well-educated man of good family and distinction, analogous to the Latin generosus...

 of independent means, was able to purchase the entire site and conduct massive excavations. The excavation and restoration of Knossos, and the discovery of the culture he labeled Minoan, is inseparable from the individual Evans. Assisted by Dr. Duncan Mackenzie, who had already distinguished himself by his excavations on the island of Melos, and Mr. Fyfe, the British School at Athens
British School at Athens
The British School at Athens is one of the 17 Foreign Archaeological Institutes in Athens, Greece.-General information:The School was founded in 1886 as the fourth such institution in Greece...

 architect, Evans employed a large staff of local labourers as excavators and within a few months had uncovered a substantial portion of what he named the Palace of Minos. The term 'palace
Palace
A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word itself is derived from the Latin name Palātium, for Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills in Rome. In many parts of Europe, the...

' may be misleading: in modern English, it usually refers to an elegant building used to house a head of state or similar. Knossos was an intricate collection of over 1000 interlocking rooms, some of which served as artisans' workrooms and food processing centres (e.g. wine presses). It served as a central storage point, and a religious and administrative centre. The throne room that was discovered was repainted by a father-and-son team of artists, both named Émile Gilliéron, at Arthur Evans
Arthur Evans
Sir Arthur John Evans FRS was a British archaeologist most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete and for developing the concept of Minoan civilization from the structures and artifacts found there and elsewhere throughout eastern Mediterranean...

' command. Evans based the recreations on archaeological evidence, but drew criticism from some quarters, because some of the best-known frescoes from the throne room are believed to be inventions of the Gilliérons.

The site has had a very long history of human habitation, beginning with the founding of the first Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 settlement circa 7000 BC. Over time and during several different phases that had their own social dynamic, Knossos grew until, by the 19th to 16th centuries BC (during the 'Old Palace' and the succeeding 'Neo-palatial' periods), the settlement possessed not only a monumental administrative and religious center (i.e., the Palace
Palace
A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word itself is derived from the Latin name Palātium, for Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills in Rome. In many parts of Europe, the...

), but also a city with a population of up to 100,000.
The site was destroyed by fire but has been reconstructed.

Legend


The palace is about 130 meters on a side and since the Roman period has been suggested as the source of the myth of the Labyrinth
Labyrinth
In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos...

, an elaborate maze
Maze
A maze is a tour puzzle in the form of a complex branching passage through which the solver must find a route. In everyday speech, both maze and labyrinth denote a complex and confusing series of pathways, but technically the maze is distinguished from the labyrinth, as the labyrinth has a single...

like structure built for King Minos
Minos
In Greek mythology, Minos was a king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. Every year he made King Aegeus pick seven men and seven women to go to Daedalus' creation, the labyrinth, to be eaten by The Minotaur. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades. The Minoan civilization of Crete...

 of Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 and designed by the legendary artificer Daedalus
Daedalus
In Greek mythology, Daedalus was a skillful craftsman and artisan.-Family:...

 to hold the Minotaur
Minotaur
In Greek mythology, the Minotaur , as the Greeks imagined him, was a creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, "part man and part bull"...

, a creature that was half man and half bull
Bull (mythology)
The worship of the Sacred Bull throughout the ancient world is most familiar to the Western world in the biblical episode of the idol of the Golden Calf. The Golden Calf after being made by the Hebrew people in the wilderness of Sinai, were rejected and destroyed by Moses and his tribe after his...

 and was eventually killed by the Athenian hero
Hero
A hero , in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion...

 Theseus
Theseus
For other uses, see Theseus Theseus was the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra had slept with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus, or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were...

.

Labyrinth may have come from labrys
Labrys
Labrys is the term for a symmetrical doubleheaded axe originally from Crete in Greece, one of the oldest symbols of Greek civilization; to the Romans, it was known as a bipennis....

, a word referring to a double, or two-bladed, axe. Its representation had religious and probably magical significance. It was used throughout the Mycenaean
Mycenaean Greece
Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of Bronze Age Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in northeastern Argolis, in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites...

 world as an apotropaic symbol, that is, the presence of the symbol on an object would prevent it from being "killed". Axes were scratched on many of the stones of the palace. It appears in pottery decoration and is a motif of the Shrine of the Double Axes at the palace, as well as of many shrines throughout Crete and the Aegean
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

. The first written attestation of the word 'labyrinth' is believed by many linguists to feature on a Linear B tablet as da-pu2-ri-to-jo po-ti-ni-ja, 'lady of the Labyrinth', which makes the etymology connecting it to labrys less likely. Whatever the word's ultimate origin, it must have been borrowed into Greek, as the suffix labyr-inthos uses a suffix generally considered to be pre-Greek.

The location of the labyrinth of legend has long been a question for Minoan studies. It might have been the name of the palace or of some portion of the palace. Throughout most of the 20th century the intimations of human sacrifice
Human sacrifice
Human sacrifice is the act of killing one or more human beings as part of a religious ritual . Its typology closely parallels the various practices of ritual slaughter of animals and of religious sacrifice in general. Human sacrifice has been practised in various cultures throughout history...

 in the myth puzzled Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 scholars, because evidence for human sacrifice on Crete had never been discovered and so it was vigorously denied. The practice was finally confirmed archaeologically (see under Minoan civilization
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose 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...

). It is possible that the palace was a great sacrificial center and could have been named the Labyrinth. Its layout certainly is labyrinthine, in the sense of intricate and confusing.

Many other possibilities have been suggested. The modern meaning of labyrinth
Labyrinth
In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos...

as a twisting maze is based on the myth.

Several out-of-epoch advances in the construction of the palace are thought to have originated the myth of Atlantis
Atlantis
Atlantis is a legendary island first mentioned in Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written about 360 BC....

.

Description of Palace


The great palace was built gradually between 1700 and 1400 BC, with periodic rebuildings after destruction. Structures preceded it on Kephala hill. The features currently most visible date mainly to the last period of habitation, which Evans termed Late Minoan
Minoan chronology
Sir Arthur Evans developed a relative dating scheme of Minoan chronology based on the excavations initiated and managed by him at the site of the ancient city of Knossos. He called the civilization that he discovered there Minoan...

. The palace has an interesting layout - the original plan can no longer be seen because of the subsequent modifications. The 1,300 rooms are connected with corridors of varying sizes and direction, which is different than other palaces of the time period which connected the rooms via several main hallways. The 6 acres (24,281.2 m²) of the palace included a theatre, a main entrance on each of its four cardinal faces, and extensive storerooms (also called magazines). The storerooms contained pithoi (large clay vases) that held oil, grains, dried fish, beans, and olives. Many of the items were created at the palace itself, which had grain mills, oil presses, and wine presses. Beneath the pithoi were stone holes used to store more valuable objects, such as gold. The palace used advanced architectural techniques: for example, part of it was built up to five stories high.

Liquid management


The palace had at least three separate liquid management systems, one for supply, one for drainage of runoff, and one for drainage of waste water.

Aqueducts brought fresh water to Kephala hill from springs
Spring (hydrosphere)
A spring—also known as a rising or resurgence—is a component of the hydrosphere. Specifically, it is any natural situation where water flows to the surface of the earth from underground...

 at Archanes
Archanes
Archanes is a former municipality in the Heraklion peripheral unit, Crete, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Archanes-Asterousia, of which it is a municipal unit. Population 4,548 . It is also the archaeological site of an ancient Minoan settlement in...

, about 10 km away. Springs there are the source of the Kairatos
Amnisos
Amnisos, also Amnissos and Amnisus, is a Bronze Age settlement on the north shore of Crete used as a port to the palace city of Knossos. It appears in Greek literature and mythology from the earliest times, but its origin is far earlier, in prehistory. The historic settlement belonged to a...

 river, in the valley of which Kephala is located. The aqueduct branched to the palace and to the town. Water was distributed at the palace by gravity feed through terracotta pipes to fountains and spigots. The pipes were tapered at one end to make a pressure fit, with rope for sealing. The water supply system would have been manifestly easy to attack. No hidden springs have been discovered as at Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

.

Sanitation drainage was through a closed system leading to a sewer
Sanitary sewer
A sanitary sewer is a separate underground carriage system specifically for transporting sewage from houses and commercial buildings to treatment or disposal. Sanitary sewers serving industrial areas also carry industrial wastewater...

 apart from the hill. The Queen's Megaron contained an example of the first water flushing system toilet
Toilet
A toilet is a sanitation fixture used primarily for the disposal of human excrement, often found in a small room referred to as a toilet/bathroom/lavatory...

 adjoining the bathroom. This toilet was a seat over a drain flushed by pouring water from a jug. The bathtub located in the adjoining bathroom similarly had to be filled by someone heating, carrying, and pouring water, and must have been drained by overturning into a floor drain
Floor drain
A floor drain is a plumbing fixture that is installed in the floor of a structure, mainly designed to remove any standing water near it. They are usually round, but can also be square or rectangular. They usually range from 2 inches to 12 inches, most are 4 inches in diameter. They have gratings...

 or by bailing. This toilet and bathtub were exceptional structures within the 1,300-room complex.

As the hill was periodically drenched by torrential rains, a runoff system was a necessity. It began with channels in the flat surfaces, which were zig-zag and contained catchment basins to control the water velocity. Probably the upper system was open. Manholes provided access to parts that were covered.

Some links to photographs of parts of the water collection management system follow.
  • Runoff system. Sloped channels lead from a catchment basin.
  • Runoff system. Note the zig-zags and the catchment basin.

Ventilation


Due to its placement on the hill, the palace received sea breezes during the summer. It had portico
Portico
A portico is a porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls...

es and air shafts.

Minoan Columns


The palace also includes the Minoan Column, a structure notably different from other Greek columns. Unlike the stone columns characteristic of other Greek architecture, the Minoan column was constructed from the trunk of a cypress
Cypress
Cypress is the name applied to many plants in the cypress family Cupressaceae, which is a conifer of northern temperate regions. Most cypress species are trees, while a few are shrubs...

 tree, common to the Mediterranean. While most Greek columns are smaller at the top and wider at the bottom to create the illusion of greater height (entasis
Entasis
In architecture, entasis is the application of a convex curve to a surface for aesthetic purposes. Its best-known use is in certain orders of Classical columns that curve slightly as their diameter is decreased from the bottom upwards. In the Hellenistic period some columns with entasis are...

), the Minoan columns are smaller at the bottom and wider at the top, a result of inverting the cypress trunk to prevent sprouting once in place. The columns at the Palace of Minos
Minos
In Greek mythology, Minos was a king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. Every year he made King Aegeus pick seven men and seven women to go to Daedalus' creation, the labyrinth, to be eaten by The Minotaur. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades. The Minoan civilization of Crete...

 were painted red and mounted on stone bases with round, pillow-like capitals
Capital (architecture)
In architecture the capital forms the topmost member of a column . It mediates between the column and the load thrusting down upon it, broadening the area of the column's supporting surface...

.

Frescoes


Fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

es decorated the walls. As the remains were only fragments, fresco reconstruction and placement by the artist Piet de Jong is not without controversy. These sophisticated, colorful paintings portray a society which, in comparison to the roughly contemporaneous art of Middle
Middle Kingdom of Egypt
The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt stretching from the establishment of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Fourteenth Dynasty, between 2055 BC and 1650 BC, although some writers include the Thirteenth and Fourteenth dynasties in the Second Intermediate...

 and New Kingdom
New Kingdom
The New Kingdom of Egypt, also referred to as the Egyptian Empire is the period in ancient Egyptian history between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC, covering the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Dynasties of Egypt....

 Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, was either conspicuously non-militaristic or did not choose to portray military themes anywhere in their art. (See Minoan civilisation) As with contemporaneous Egyptian art, male figures are often shown with darker or redder skin than female figures; though not certain, the differentiation might be related to cultural ideals which placed women in protected settings and men in outdoor contexts. Many of the extant images depict young or ageless adults, with few young children or elders depicted. In addition to scenes of men and women linked to activities such as fishing and flower gathering, the murals also portray athletic feats. The most notable of these is bull-leaping
Bull-leaping
Bull-leaping is a motif of Middle Bronze Age figurative art, notably of Minoan Crete, but also found in Hittite Anatolia, the Levant, Bactria and the Indus Valley. It is often interpreted as a depiction of a ritual performed in connection with bull worship...

, in which an athlete grasps the bull's horns and vaults over the animal's back. The question remains as to whether this activity was a religious ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

, possibly a sacrificial activity, or a sport
Sport
A Sport is all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical fitness and provide entertainment to participants. Sport may be competitive, where a winner or winners can be identified by objective means, and may require a degree...

, perhaps a form of bullfighting
Bullfighting
Bullfighting is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France and some Latin American countries , in which one or more bulls are baited in a bullring for sport and entertainment...

. Many people have questioned if this activity is even possible; the fresco might represent a mythological dance with the Great Bull
Bull (mythology)
The worship of the Sacred Bull throughout the ancient world is most familiar to the Western world in the biblical episode of the idol of the Golden Calf. The Golden Calf after being made by the Hebrew people in the wilderness of Sinai, were rejected and destroyed by Moses and his tribe after his...

. The most famous example is the Toreador Fresco, painted around 1550–1450 BC, in which a young man, flanked by two women, apparently leaps onto and over a charging bull's back. It is now located in the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion in Crete.

Throne Room



The centerpiece of the "Minoan" palace was the so-called Throne Room
Throne room
A throne room is the room, often rather a hall, in the official residence of the crown, either a palace or a fortified castle, where the throne of a senior figure is set up with elaborate pomp— usually raised, often with steps, and under a canopy, both of which are part of the original notion of...

 or Little Throne Room, dated to LM II
Minoan chronology
Sir Arthur Evans developed a relative dating scheme of Minoan chronology based on the excavations initiated and managed by him at the site of the ancient city of Knossos. He called the civilization that he discovered there Minoan...

. This chamber has an alabaster
Alabaster
Alabaster is a name applied to varieties of two distinct minerals, when used as a material: gypsum and calcite . The former is the alabaster of the present day; generally, the latter is the alabaster of the ancients...

 seat identified by Evans as a "throne
Throne
A throne is the official chair or seat upon which a monarch is seated on state or ceremonial occasions. "Throne" in an abstract sense can also refer to the monarchy or the Crown itself, an instance of metonymy, and is also used in many expressions such as "the power behind the...

" built into the north wall. On three sides of the room are gypsum
Gypsum
Gypsum is a very soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. It is found in alabaster, a decorative stone used in Ancient Egypt. It is the second softest mineral on the Mohs Hardness Scale...

 benches. A sort of tub area is opposite the throne, behind the benches, termed a lustral basin, meaning that Evans and his team saw it as a place for ceremonial purification.

The room was accessed from an anteroom through two double doors. The anteroom in turn connected to the central court, which was four broad steps up through four doors. The anteroom had gypsum benches also, with carbonized remains between two of them thought to be a possible wooden throne. Both rooms are located in the ceremonial complex on the west of the central court.

The throne is flanked by the Griffin Fresco, with two griffins couchant (laying down) facing the throne, one on either side. Griffins were important mythological creatures, also appearing on seal rings
Seal (device)
A seal can be a figure impressed in wax, clay, or some other medium, or embossed on paper, with the purpose of authenticating a document ; but the term can also mean the device for making such impressions, being essentially a mould with the mirror image of the design carved in sunken- relief or...

, which were used to stamp the identity of the bearer into pliable material, such as clay or wax.

The actual use of the room and the throne is unclear. The two main theories are:
  • The seat of a priest-king or his consort
    Queen consort
    A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant's political and military powers. Most queens in history were queens consort...

    , the queen. This is the older theory, originating with Evans. In that regard Matz speaks of the "heraldic
    Heraldry
    Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

     arrangement" of the griffins, meaning that they are more formal and monumental than previous Minoan decorative styles. In this theory, the Mycenaean
    Mycenaean Greece
    Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of Bronze Age Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in northeastern Argolis, in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites...

     Greeks would have held court in this room, as they came to power in Knossos at about 1450. The "lustral basin" and the location of the room in a sanctuary complex cannot be ignored; hence, "priest-king."
  • A room reserved for the epiphany of a goddess, who would have sat in the throne, either in effigy
    Effigy
    An effigy is a representation of a person, especially in the form of sculpture or some other three-dimensional form.The term is usually associated with full-length figures of a deceased person depicted in stone or wood on church monuments. These most often lie supine with hands together in prayer,...

    , or in the person of a priestess, or in imagination only. In that case the griffins would have been purely a symbol of divinity
    Divinity
    Divinity and divine are broadly applied but loosely defined terms, used variously within different faiths and belief systems — and even by different individuals within a given faith — to refer to some transcendent or transcendental power or deity, or its attributes or manifestations in...

     rather than a heraldic motif.

It is also speculated that the throne was made specifically for a female individual, since the indent seems to be shaped for a woman's buttocks, as well as the extensive use of curved edges and the crescent moon carved at its base, both symbolic of femininity.

The lustral basin was originally thought to have had a ritual washing use, but the lack of drainage has more recently brought some scholars to doubt this theory. It is now speculated that the tank was used as an aquarium, or possibly a water reservoir.

Society


A long-standing debate between archaeologists concerns the main function of the palace, whether it acted primarily as an administrative center, a religious center—or both, in a theocratic
Theocracy
Theocracy is a form of organization in which the official policy is to be governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, or simply pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religious sect or religion....

 manner. Other important debates consider the role of Knossos in the administration of Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, and whether Knossos acted as the primary center, or was on equal footing with the several other contemporary palaces that have been discovered on Crete. Many of these palaces were destroyed and abandoned in the early part of the 15th century BC, possibly by the Mycenaeans, although Knossos remained in use until destroyed by fire about one hundred years later. Knossos showed no signs of being a military site; no fortifications or stores of weapons, for example.

Notable residents

  • Aenesidemus
    Aenesidemus
    Aenesidemus was a Greek sceptical philosopher, born in Knossos on the island of Crete. He lived in the 1st century BC, taught in Alexandria and flourished shortly after the life of Cicero...

     (1st century BC) sceptical philosopher
  • Chersiphron
    Chersiphron
    Chersiphron , an architect of Knossos in Crete, was the builder of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, on the Ionian coast. The temple had been begun about 600 BC, and was completed by other architects. Chersiphron and his son Metagenes were co-authors of its building...

     (6th century BC) architect
  • Epimenides
    Epimenides
    Epimenides of Knossos was a semi-mythical 6th century BC Greek seer and philosopher-poet. While tending his father's sheep, he is said to have fallen asleep for fifty-seven years in a Cretan cave sacred to Zeus, after which he reportedly awoke with the gift of prophecy...

     (6th century BC) seer and philosopher-poet
  • Ergoteles of Himera
    Ergoteles of Himera
    -Background:Civil disorder had compelled him to leave Crete. He came to Sicily and was naturalized as a citizen of Himera. He won the Olympic dolichos of 472 BC and 464 BC, as well as winning twice in both Pythian and Isthmian games.-Tributes:A four-line inscribed epigram of ca. 450 BC found in...

     (5th century BC) expatriate Olympic runner
  • Metagenes
    Metagenes
    Metagenes son of the Cretan architect Chersiphron, also was an architect. He was co-architect, along with his father, of the construction of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World....

     (6th century BC) architect
  • Minos
    Minos
    In Greek mythology, Minos was a king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. Every year he made King Aegeus pick seven men and seven women to go to Daedalus' creation, the labyrinth, to be eaten by The Minotaur. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades. The Minoan civilization of Crete...

     (mythical) Father of the Minotaur

See also

  • Linear A
    Linear A
    Linear A is one of two scripts used in ancient Crete before Mycenaean Greek Linear B; Cretan hieroglyphs is the second script. In Minoan times, before the Mycenaean Greek dominion, Linear A was the official script for the palaces and religious activities, and hieroglyphs were mainly used on seals....

  • Linear B
    Linear B
    Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

  • Magasa
    Magasa, Crete
    This article is about a Neolithic settlement in Crete; for the town in Italy, see Magasa, Italy.Magasa is a Neolithic settlement on the eastern part of the island of Crete in present day Greece. Magasa is notable as a Neolithic Cretan settlement for some use of large room sizes in its multi-roomed...

  • Minoan civilization
    Minoan civilization
    The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose 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...

  • Trapeza
    Trapeza, Crete
    Trapeza, Crete is a Neolithic and Bronze Age settlement on the island of Crete in Greece. Some of the Bronze Age pottery finds at Trapeza are similar to specimens recovered at Knossos and Vasiliki....


External links