Minoan chronology

Minoan chronology

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Sir 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...

 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
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

. He called the civilization that he discovered there Minoan
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...

. The same scheme was later applied to the Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 mainland and the Cyclades
Cyclades
The Cyclades is a Greek island group in the Aegean Sea, south-east of the mainland of Greece; and a former administrative prefecture of Greece. They are one of the island groups which constitute the Aegean archipelago. The name refers to the islands around the sacred island of Delos...

 Islands to form a general plan for dating events of the prehistoric and early historic Aegean
Aegean civilization
Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age civilizations of Greece around the Aegean Sea. There are three distinct but communicating and interacting geographic regions covered by this term: Crete, the Cyclades and the Greek mainland. Crete is associated with the Minoan civilization...

. The relative chronology is based on the shapes and decorative styles of pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

 found at many sites 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 elsewhere.

Evans and Knossos


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...

 began excavating on a hill called tou tseleve he 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....

, "the headland of the chieftain", some three miles (5 km) from the north coast 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...

, on March 23, 1900. Two of the palace storerooms had been uncovered by Minos Kalokairinos in 1878, whose work ceased at the demand of the land owners. Simultaneously, coins and seal
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...

s inscribed with a mysterious script were also discovered. These came to Evans' attention as the curator of the Ashmolean Museum
Ashmolean Museum
The Ashmolean Museum on Beaumont Street, Oxford, England, is the world's first university museum...

 at Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

, a position he held from 1884 to 1908. The area was rumored to have been the site of the ancient city of Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

.

Evans examined the site on March 19, 1894. Nothing further could be done at that time, but in 1898 Crete became an independent republic. In 1899 Evans purchased the land with his own funds (his family had been factory owners in industrial Britain) and decided to set up an excavation. In the first two weeks he discovered the 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....

 tablets, a streak of luck exceeded only by Carl Blegen
Carl Blegen
Carl William Blegen was an American archaeologist famous for his work on the site of Pylos in modern day Greece and Troy in modern day Turkey...

's legendary first day's dig at Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

, when he uncovered the Pylos tablets, written in 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...

, a script also found at Kephala and named by Evans.



Attacking the site with crews of hundreds of diggers, Evans uncovered most of the site's 6 acres (24,281.2 m²) within 6 seasons. By 1905 he had named the civilization whose traces he found there Minoan, after the legendary 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...

, and had created a detailed chronology of the serial phases of the pottery styles in Minoan Crete, based on what he found at Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

. Subsequently he concerned himself mainly with restoration, an activity frowned upon by archaeologists of today. He continued to excavate there and elsewhere and to restore until 1935.

Evans was knighted in 1911 for his work. In 1921, the first edition of his monumental work, Palace of Minos, was released, which became a sine qua non
Sine qua non
Sine qua non or condicio sine qua non refers to an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient...

for any department of classical archaeology. On Evans' death in 1941, the British School of Archaeology assumed responsibility for the excavation, later turning the property over to the Greek government, while retaining excavation rights.

Evans' chronology


Evans' chronological framework had triple divisions each triply divided, a formula that has been retained, thus Early Minoan (EM) I, II and III, Middle Minoan (MM) I, II and III etc. Each subsection he divided into A and B, early and late. In 1918 Alan J. B. Wace
Alan Wace
Alan John Bayard Wace was an English archaeologist.Wace was educated at Shrewsbury School and Pembroke College, Cambridge...

 and Carl Blegen
Carl Blegen
Carl William Blegen was an American archaeologist famous for his work on the site of Pylos in modern day Greece and Troy in modern day Turkey...

 adapted Evans' chronology to the Greek mainland and the islands, where the culture was termed Helladic and Cycladic. In 1941 Arne Furumark applied the term Mycenaean to LH and LC. As it is clear that the Mycenaean Greeks
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...

 dominated at Knossos at some point in Late Minoan (LM), the latter is often included under "Mycenaean" or called "Minoan-Mycenaean".
The major study of Cretan pottery was Evans'. A very general trend of facture was from dark decoration on a light background in the Early Minoan to white and red decorations on a dark wash of slip in Middle Minoan, and finally a return to the earlier manner of dark on light in Late Minoan. New body shapes for vessels also emerged and various styles of decoration are evident within Evan's chronology.

Evans never intended to give exact calendrical dates to the pottery periods. He did correlate them roughly to better dated Egyptian periods using finds of Egyptian artifacts in association with Cretan ones and obvious similarities of some types of Cretan artifacts with Egyptian ones. Subsequent investigators checking Evans' work varied the dates of some of the periods a little, usually less than a few hundred years, but the chronological structure remains basically as Evans left it, a solid framework for placing events of Aegean prehistory.

Most criticism does not aim at the overthrow of Evans' system, but only complains that it does not capture all the data, such as local variations. Even with these faults the system has no competitors. In 1958 Nikolaos Platon
Nikolaos Platon
Nikolaos Platon was a renowned Greek archaeologist. He discovered the Minoan palace of Zakros on Crete.He put forward one of the two systems of relative chronology used by archaeologists for Minoan history...

 proposed a new chronology at the Prehistoric Conference in Hamburg. In it, the terms "Pre-palace", "Old Palace" and "New Palace" were to replace Evans' scheme. The academic community accepted the scheme but not the replacement, simply stating where in Evans' system the new terms fit.

The one serious question concerns the date of the Knossos tablets. Allegations were made that Evans falsified the stratum in which the tablets were found to place the tablets at 1400 BCE when they ought to have been the same date as the Pylos tablets, 1200 BCE. This dispute became known as the Palmer-Boardman Dispute when it first appeared. Despite the intense debate that developed on the subject no conclusive evidence has yet been found to settle the question. A key part of the case was that a certain kind of vase, a stirrup jar (named from the handles) found in tablet contexts, is dated only to 1200. Other archaeologists hastened to the journalistic scene with instances of similar jars going back to 1400. The search for closure goes on. By default, archaeologists tend to use Evans' dating.
Other Names Relative Chronology Conventional Dates, BCE Notes

Table of Minoan chronology

Prepalatial, Pre-Palace (Προανακτορική), Protominoan Age (Platon)
Copper Age (Matz, Hutchinson)
Early Bronze Age (Hood)
EM 3000–2200 (Evans, Hood)
2600–2000 (Matz)
Πρωτομινωική or ΠΜ in Greek.
First Early Minoan (Hutchinson)
Phase I (Platon)
EM I 3400–2800 (Evans)
2600–2300 (Matz)
2500–2400 (Hutchinson)
3200–2600 (Gimbutas)
3000–2600 (Willetts, Hood)
2800–2200 (Mackenzie)
The main problem has been setting the end of the Neolithic; its layers were destroyed by building at Knossos.
The period is attested by pottery from a well at Knossos, in Tholos
Beehive tomb
A beehive tomb, also known as a tholos tomb , is a burial structure characterized by its false dome created by the superposition of successively smaller rings of mudbricks or, more often, stones...

 Tomb 2 at Lebena and by an EM I layer at Debla.
Second Early Minoan (Hutchinson)
Phase II (Platon)
EM II 2800–2400 (Evans)
2300-2200 (Matz)
2300–2100 (Hutchinson)
2600–2300 (Gimbutas, Willetts, Hood)
Seals like those of Egyptian 1st Intermediate Period, Dynasties 6–11, 2345–1991.
Third Early Minoan (Hutchinson)
Phase III (Platon)
EM III 2400–2200 (Evans)
2200–2000 (Matz)
2100–2000 (Hutchinson)
2300–2160 (Gimbutas)
2300–2200 (Willetts, Hood)
Palace Period (Matz, Platon)
Minoan Age (Platon)
Full Bronze Age (Matz)
MM 2200–1500 (Evans)
2000–1570 (Matz)
2000–1580 (Ventris & Chadwick)
Μεσομινωική or MM in Greek
Phase III of Pre-Palace (Platon)
Early Palace (Matz)
First or Early Palaces (Hood)
MM IA 2000–? (Matz)
2000–1900 (Hutchinson)
2160–1930 (Gimbutas)
2200–2000 (Willetts, Hood)
2000–1925 (Ventris & Chadwick
2200–? (MacKenzie)
Kephala mound cleared of earlier structures, palace at Knossos begun (Hutchinson).
Protopalatial
Old Palace (Evans)
Early Palace (Matz)
Old Palace (Παλαιοανακτορική) Phase I (Platon)
First or Early Palaces (Hood)
MM IB ?–1800 (Matz)
1900–1850 (Hutchinson)
2000–1900 (Platon, Willetts, Hood)
1925–1850 (Ventris & Chadwick)
1930–1800 (Gimbutas)
?–2100 (MacKenzie)
"First Palaces" or "First temple-palaces" (Gimbutas)

Use of potter's wheel. It may have been introduced in IA.
Protopalatial
Old Palace (Evans)
Early Palace (Matz)
Old Palace Phase II (Platon)
First or Early Palaces, Middle Bronze Age (Hood)
MM IIA 1850–? (Hutchinson, Ventris & Chadwick)
1900–1800 (Platon, Willetts, Hood)
2100–? (MacKenzie)
Protopalatial
Old Palace (Evans)
Early Palace (Matz)
Old Palace Phase III (Platon)
First or Early Palaces, Middle Bronze Age (Hood)
MM IIB ?–1700 (Matz, Ventris & Chadwick)
?–1750 (Hutchinson)
1800–1700 (Platon, Willetts, Hood)
?–1900 (MacKenzie)
Palaces were so destroyed by an earthquake ca. 1700 that they had to be rebuilt. This is the dividing line between Old and New Palace and between II and III.
Neopalatial
Old Palace (Evans)
Late Palace I (Matz)
New Palace (Νεοανακτορική) Phase I (Platon)
Middle Bronze Age (Hood)
MM IIIA 1700–? (Matz)
1700–? (Platon)
1700/1750–1600 (Hutchinson)
1700–1660 (Ventris & Chadwick)
1700–? (Willetts)
1700–? (Hood)
1900–? (MacKenzie)
Frescoes begin.
First pot signs in 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....

.
Neopalatial
Late Palace I (Matz)
New Palace Period Phase I (Platon)
Middle Bronze Age (Hood)
MM IIIB 1600–1550 (Hutchinson)
?–1570 (Matz)
?–1600 (Platon)
1660–1580 (Ventris & Chadwick)
?–1600 (Willetts)
?–1550 (Hood)
1700–1600 (Palmer)
?–1700 (MacKenzie)
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....

.
Another earthquake requiring more rebuilding occurred ca. 1570, which for some was the middle of IIIB and for others the start.
First Linear A archives from Mallia
Malia (city)
Malia is a coastal town and a former municipality in the Heraklion peripheral unit, Crete, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Hersonissos, of which it is a municipal unit. It lies 34 km east of Heraklion, the Cretan capital city. The town was the...

.
LM 1500–1000 (Evans) Υστερομινωική or ΥΜ in Greek
Late Palace II (Matz)
New Palace Phase II (Platon)
LM IA 1550–1500 (Hutchinson)
1600–1500 (Palmer, Furumark)
1570–? (Matz)
1600–? (Platon)
1580–1510 (Ventris & Chadwick)
1700–? (MacKenzie)
The period of Thera eruption
Thera eruption
The Minoan eruption of Thera, also referred to as the Thera eruption or Santorini eruption, was a major catastrophic volcanic eruption with a Volcanic Explosivity Index of 6 or 7 and a Dense-rock equivalent of , which is estimated to have occurred in the mid second millennium BCE. The eruption...

 and tsunami.
Largest cache of Linear A tablets, Hagia Triada
Hagia triada
Hagia Triada is the archaeological site of an ancient Minoan settlement. Hagia Triada is situated on a prominent coastal ridge, with the Mesara Plain below. Hagia triada sits at the western end of the ridge, while Phaistos is at the eastern end...

, IA and/or IB.
Late Palace II (Matz)
New Palace Phase II (Platon)
LM IB 1500–1450 (Hutchinson)
?–1450 (Matz)
1510–1450 (Ventris & Chadwick)
1500–1450 (Palmer, Furumark)
?–1450 (Platon)
?–1500 (MacKenzie)
All the palaces except Knossos were burned ca. 1450, events interpreted by the majority view as the advent of the Greeks and installment at Knossos.
Late Palace II (Matz)
New Palace Phase III (Platon)
Palace Period (Evans, MacKenzie)
LM II 1450–1400 (Hutchinson, Palmer, Furumark, Matz, Platon)
1450–1405 (Ventris & Chadwick)
The period ends with a destruction by fire of all the palaces on Crete from unknown causes. They were, of course, reoccupied.
Post-Palace Phase I (Platon) LM IIIA 1400– (Matz)
1400–1320 (Platon)
1400–1300 (Hutchinson)
Linear B tablets ca. 1400 (Evans and his defender, Boardman)
Post-Palace Phases II, III (Platon) LM IIIB 1300–1200 (Hutchinson)
1320–1280 (II), 1260–1150 (III) (Platon)
Linear B tablets ca. 1200 (Palmer, doubter of Evans' chronology)
LM IIIC ?–1100 (Matz)
1260–1050 (Willetts)
A general Mycenaean Greek palace destruction by fire on the mainland and Crete happened in a window of time ca. 1200 at the end of IIIB. How wide a window is not known, nor are the causes for sure. Some possibilities are any or all of civil strife, the Sea Peoples
Sea Peoples
The Sea Peoples were a confederacy of seafaring raiders of the second millennium BC who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean, caused political unrest, and attempted to enter or control Egyptian territory during the late 19th dynasty and especially during year 8 of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty...

, the Dorians.
Subminoan Age (Platon, Matz, Willetts) 1100– (Matz)
1150–1000 (Platon)
1075–1025 (Furumark)
1050–900 (Willetts)
This period is considered a Mycenaean Greek holdout against the Dorian Greeks arriving at this time. Its end marks the completion of assimilation to them.

Other tables on the Internet


The search for a consistent chronology of Cretan civilization goes on. Other tabular chronologies have been published on the Internet by

External links