Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Knossos Palace



Who were the Minoans? We know that they were a civilisation that inhabited Crete over 4000 years ago. Do we understand exactly who they were when so much of their history is entwined in Mythology?
The Minoans never developed an army since they had no enemies, maybe that is why mythology became such an important and integral part of their lives. Many questions regarding the Minoan civilisation remained unanswered until the dawning of the 20th century.


Enter Arthur Evans - born into a wealthy British family, a bright boy who attended Harrow School, then Oxford University, and who later became keeper of the prestigious Ashmolean collection.
He travelled to Crete, and whilst there became convinced that a typical olive tree covered hillside close to Irakleio was the site of the ancient Palace of Knossos. 
Crete's liberation from the Ottoman rule in 1898, four years after his visit, then made it possible for him to buy the land and he began work excavating it in 1900. He endeavoured to find sponsors and help, but no one had any interest in sponsoring or working on what was considered at the time to be simply "fairy tales". Evans decided to fund all of the work himself, paying colleagues and friends to assist him - his belief in his own conviction was deep and profoundly held. Unbelievably within the first few months of excavating he hit the jack pot by discovering the palace's 4000 year old 'throne room' much to everyone's surprise, that is, apart from Evans himself.
Knossos is such an exciting place to visit. Should you go, then I would recommend that you visit either during Spring or Autumn, and make sure that you arrive at the site first thing in the morning. You will then appreciate Knossos unhindered and experience both it's peacefulness and tranquillity. 
The two storeys in the eastern wing are connected to one another by means of a system of stairways know as the Grand Staircase. There are a total of four flights of stairs, two for each storey. 
There is some controversy connected with the restoration work carried out at Knossos which involved the re-creation of several Minoan frescoes by Piet de Jong and Emile Gilliéron. They worked with Evans to make sense of the wall painting fragments that were found - the original fragments and reconstruction of which can be seen today at the museum in Irakleio. I personally liked them, they gave me a sense of just how colourful and attractive the Palace must have been.
A bull fresco adorns the Northern Propylaea. Images of sacred bulls outlasted the Minoan civilisation which in turn helped to foster the legend of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur.
This Northern Propylaea was the main gateway to the palace complex. 

An entrance ramp is located just below the propylaea seen to the left. Large robust square columns lined the entrance, which along with the floors were all made out of polished white alabaster. It would have all looked absolutely incredible - pure white, translucent and highly polished.







The entrance then leads on down to The Royal Road which is the last vestige of a Minoan road. This connected the port and harbour to the palace complex, thus providing travellers with easy access to the palace. This area also acted as a reception courtyard - the Royal family would entertain guests here along with the members of court who would stand on the tiered platforms, parts of which can just be seen on the left.
The Throne Room was the first area that Evans discovered.  This chamber was built for ceremonial purposes, and the squat alabaster type dishes were actually found on the floor during excavation. They indicate that a ceremony to propitiate the deity was actually in progress at the time of the palaces destruction.


The Throne Room is considered to be the oldest Throne Room in Europe. On this photo a small alabaster throne can be seen which is certainly the oldest one in the Aegean region. Three Griffins are painted on the walls, two of which are both facing and flanking the throne.


There is much more to see than I have shown, but this print gives some indication of how the palace looked and also the large area that it covered. It is now known that it wasn't just a palace, but also a ceremonial and political centre for the Minoan civilisation and culture.
The indications are that the most likely cause of the devastating destruction of the palace was due to fire and a large earthquake in 1700BC. 

35 comments:

  1. What a civilized people! Having no army ranks pretty high in my book. Can you imagine what a world with armies, ergo without wars, would be like?

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    1. I was so captivated and enthralled by everything that I learnt and saw re the Minoan civilisation.

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  2. Wonderful post, Rosemary. Your photos are far better than any I saw in my history books :) It is astonishing to see the amazing architecture of the palace complex, and know that it was there over 4,000 years ago. I like the frescos too: the ladies look very attractive and stylish.

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    1. I know that you have studied the Minoan civilisation Patricia, and I am so pleased that you enjoyed seeing this wonderful palace complex.

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  3. A handy hint on Knossos: If you drive to it, ignore the men on the road signalling you to pull in at the first car park. There are a couple of others before the official car park and they are expensive traps for the tourists. We drove into the first one thinking it was official and there was a long and dusty walk before we reached the palace!

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  4. Your super photos really bring this remarkable site to life and make me want to learn more.

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    1. I am so pleased that this post has whet your appetite John - if you ever get the chance to visit, please do.

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  5. What an amazing post! I really enjoyed reading it and such beautiful photos! What an amazing holiday! Best, Jane x

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    1. I am really glad that you enjoyed reading the post Jane, and thank you for the comment re: the photos.

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  6. How wonderful that Arthur Evans had such unshakeable faith in his vision!

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    1. He knew all of the Greek Myths back to front - it must have been so exciting when he struck "gold".

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  7. These photos are so beautiful. What a fascinating history. I love the design painted on the wall behind the throne.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed seeing the photos and that you found the history fascinating Catherine.

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  8. Hello Rosemary, What a fascinating place to explore. I wonder what artifacts were found during the excavations. Given the general condition of the palace, I think the restored paintings are a bit too robust, but there is always the decision to make whether to show a place as it is now, or as it originally was--both looks are evocative of a very distant past!
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - Crete is right up my street of interest, and I don't know why it has taken me so long to pay the island a visit.
      There are several sites of great interest to visit, and all of the artefacts found during the excavations are held in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion - a wonderful place to visit.

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  9. Got classical studies at school and some of it included Knossos and Crete( our teachers favourite subject) and decorative panels of bulls which we replicated on large sheets with coloured pencils but I have to admit I've not thought of the Minoan culture much since then so nice to revisit it, updated. Took me right back to the duster or chalk flying towards my head if I looked out the window too long and lost attention.

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    1. Glad that this rekindled childhood memories for you Bob.

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  10. Dearest Rosemary,
    WOW, what an instinct by Arthur Evans for going there to excavate such a treasure!
    Incredible civilization for that time. Great job by Piet de Jong, son of a Dutch man who immigrated to Yorkshire.
    Coincidence that my post is about my visit to Yorkshire...
    Like you, I certainly like Piet de Jong's choice of bright and happy colors.
    Thanks for sharing and it must have been incredible for being there in person.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - Knossos Palace was the most wonderful and memorable place to visit, and somewhere that will remain with me forever. I loved it there.
      I must pop over to find your post on Yorkshire. I have just been away for a few days holiday in Devon.

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  11. Beautiful palace in the last photo and it's such a shame it may have been burnt.
    Lovely to read about Rosemary.

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    1. Yes, it is just incredible to realise that this building is 4000 years old. The fire would have been caused at the same time as the earthquake, but amazing that Evans was able to discover so many wonderful artefacts from the building.

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  12. I am amazed by it’s size. I wonder why he was convinced it was there?. Maybe by old literature, or the fact that maybe it was the highest point on the island? Great pictures and I appreciate your advise are when to visit.

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    1. Evans was able to make the connection because he was a very clever classics scholar from Oxford University. He was an expert on all of the Greek Myths, the Legends, and history of Crete. He was also keeper of the prestigious antiquities collection held at the Ashmolean in Oxford.
      The palace was on a hill just like any other hill in Crete, Evans was astute and worked it all out because of his knowledge and being very well read.

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  13. What a marvelous place to visit and to learn about ancient history. Your photos show much of the magnificence of Knossos. I did not realize how extensive the site was. Evans must have been so pleased to have his theory proved.

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    1. It is the kind of great place that I like to visit Lorrie - now I just don't know why it took me so long to go there.

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  14. So interesting Rosemary - enjoyed learning so much more about the Minoans - how amazing they were able to construct
    a huge palace such as that 4000 years ago. Yes, it certainly would be wonderful to live a charmed life without any enemies!

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    1. Dear Mary - glad you have enjoyed learning more about the Minoans. I loved this visit - eventually seeing the palace after knowing about it for so long was just wonderful.

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  15. I've been there . Knossos and the archeological museum in Heraklion with its excavation findings, left a lasting impression on me.
    The Spinalonga islet is another great attraction of Crete, not to be missed by visitors.

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    1. Thanks for your visit Duta - yes, I agree with you about Knossos Palace and also the museum. I will do a post on Spinalonga soon.

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