Minoan chronology

Determining a chronology for the Minoans was somewhat problematic as the script they left behind—Linear A—was and still is indecipherable. There was archaeological evidence to suggest Crete was occupied as early as the 7th millennium BC and bones of Neolithic inhabitation has been found. In order to establish a framework as to the development of the Minoans, Sir Arthur Evans, archaeologist and excavator of Knossos, used hand-made pottery to create a timeline. He divided the pottery into three eras based on the stylistic changes.  This technique has enabled archaeologists and historians calculate the progress of all civilisations.

By Evans, Arthur, Sir (1851-1941) - Evans, Arthur, Sir. Scripta Minoa : the written documents of Minoan Crete, with special reference to the archives of Knossos (1909), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4494576
By Evans, Arthur, Sir (1851-1941) – Evans, Arthur, Sir. Scripta Minoa : the written documents of Minoan Crete, with special reference to the archives of Knossos (1909), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4494576

The pottery found on Crete were from the Bronze Age era and Evans categorised them into Early, Middle and Late Minoan. He further divided each period into three phases and some were further subdivided.

Early Minoan (EM)
I 2800-2500
II 2500-2200
III 2200-2000
Middle Minoan (MM)
I 2000-1900
II 1900-1700
III 1700-1550
Late Minoan (LM)
IA 1550-1500
IB 1500-1450
II 1450-1400
IIIA 1400-1300
IIIB 1300-1200
IIIC 1200-1050

This classification has provided much needed guidance in determining Bronze Age cultures in and around the Aegean, however it did not allow for the study of culture. To overcome this issue, Professor N. Platon devised a chronology based on the significant changes in social order that was connected with the destruction, reconstruction and eventual abandonment of the palaces.

Pre-palatial EM I – MM IA ca. 3100/3000-1925/1900
Protopalatial or Old Palace MM IB – MMIIB ca. 1925/1900-1750/1720
Neopalatial or New Palace MM IIIA – LM IB ca. 1750/1720-1490/1470
Post-palatial LM IIIA-C ca. 1490/1470-1075/1050

The above system was used for the categorisation of the Mycenaean period and references to Neopalatial and Post-palatial are a guide only, as the palace at Knossos continued to be used until the middle of the 13th century.

The periods of protopalatial and neopalatial highlighted the significant developments and changes of Minoan culture. During the protopalatial era, the Minoans founded colonies at Thera, Rhodes, Melos and Kithira. A centralised and political system was established with a king at the head. This was also when the first large palaces were built and central to the administration of Minoan society. It was a peaceful and prosperous time and the Minoans continued their strong trading relationships with Egypt and the Middle East. It was around 1700 BC when the palaces were destroyed and which may link to the eruption of Thera. (New evidence has been found that the eruption occurred earlier than the 14th century, as previously speculated.)

In the following period, neopalatial, the palaces were rebuilt and basically bigger and better. Small towns and small residences mushroomed around the palaces, highlighting wealth and a strong economy. It was also time where women had a significant role in society. Crete or rather the Minoans built paved roads to connect towns and major palaces. Their influence expanded into the Peloponnese and into the Mycenaean culture, which then was absorbed as the latter’s own.

Reconstruction of one of the rooms at the Knossos Palace Image courtesy of touristorama.com http://www.touristorama.com/en/the-architecture-of-minoan-civilization-02158

Around the destruction of Knossos in 14th century and a hundred years earlier, saw the Minoan culture dwindle. Historians believe it was an earthquake at the time that caused the Minoan civilisation to disappear as the Minoans weren’t able to recover and were later invaded by the People of the Sea. They had abandoned the palaces and moved to the mountains and built townships. The Mycenaeans then took control of the island and Linear B, tablets Sir Arthur Evans uncovered, became the dominant script.

Whatever caused the Minoan culture to disappear, they have left an amazing legacy in their incredible architecture, amazing engineering, skilled artisanship and script, not to mention their citizens were treated equally!

Thank you for visiting and reading. As always, your comments are valued and welcomed.

Bury, J.B. and Meiggs, Russell. A history of Greece, Palgrave, Hampshire, 1978.
The chronology and terminology of Aegean Prehistory http://www.dartmouth.edu/~prehistory/aegean/?page_id=67
History of Minoan Crete http://ancient-greece.org/history/minoan.html

Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, likes to meander from contemporary life to the realms of mythology and history. Subscribe to her free short story at http://eepurl.com/bhESs1


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  1. Rajagopal

    Together with earlier post on Minoan symbols, these details make for fascinating reading, Luc. The hieroglyphics of Linear A may continue to remain a mystery. But research seems to indicate its connection with Indo Iranian and / or Indo European languages. It is not surprising given the commonality of symbols and icons across polytheistic cultures around the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      One day, those scripts that so far have been difficult to decipher will be and when that happens, we’ll get to learn much more about these ancient cultures.


  2. Linnea Tanner

    Hi Luciana,

    Thank you for sharing your amazing knowledge on the Ancient Minoans. It is fascinating how the stylistic differences in the hieroglyphics has allowed a chronology of the Minoans to be established. The Minoan society continues to amaze me with their technology and influence in the area. I love the photograph of the reconstruction of one of the rooms at the Knossos Palace.

    As always, it is a pleasure to read your posts about ancient civilizations. Have a wonderful 1st day into Spring.

    Best regards,

    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Hi Linnea,

      We are fortunate that Linear B script can be deciphered giving us insight into the life of the Minoans. Once Linear A is deciphered we’ll know so much more.
      Thank you so much and for your shared love for ancient history.


      Liked by 1 person

  3. rosarymcquestion

    Always love reading your posts! The Minoan architecture was truly exceptional. How they created such monumental structures that were often multi-storied, with interior and exterior staircases and massive columns and courtyards is beyond amazing.

    Have a wonderful week!

    Rosary x


  4. Aquileana

    An excellent post concerning the criteria used to periodize main events involving the Minoan Civilization..
    I knew about Sir Arthur Evans´attempts and achievements…
    But had not heard of N. Platon´s chronology until now… I believe his contributions are important as they aim to accurately determine periods within periods, so to speak… It is interesting to learn, based on Platon´s findings that the periods of protopalatial and neopalatial highlight the significant developments and changes of Minoan culture.
    Thanks so much for sharing, cara Luciana… Sending all my best wishes.- Aquileana ⭐

    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Buongiorno Aquileana,
      It has been interesting to put together this series on the Minoans. Platon’s chronology is fascinating and drawing links between the Minoan and Mycenaean period, hence the time frames.
      Thank you for the wonderful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Linnea Tanner

    Reblogged this on Apollo's Raven and commented:
    This is a reblog from one of my favorite websites ETERNAL ATLANTIS by Author Luciana Cavallaro. The post entitled, “Minoan chronology,” is from an ongoing series on the highly advanced Ancient Minoans; posted on MARCH 18, 2016 / CAV12


    Liked by 2 people

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