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.
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)|
|Middle Minoan (MM)|
|Late Minoan (LM)|
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.
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