Knossos, the Minoan civilisation. Heraklion Museum

Knossos or Cnossos

The city of Crete is located on the plain of Kairatos, on the road that crosses the island in the middle from south to north, 5 km from the sea and Heraklion. Known by Homer as the capital of the mythical king Minos, who gave his name to the Minoan civilisation, it was one of the great cities of Crete during the classical and Roman periods. Chance finds attracted Schliemann's attention, but when the island became autonomous,

Arthur Evans, Knossos
Arthur Evans, Knossos

Sir Arthur Evans (1851-1941) obtained the concession for the excavation. Exceptional discoveries then revealed a new Bronze Age civilisation; Egyptian objects made it possible to establish the

The occupation of the site is very old, the Neolithic levels particularly thick and rich. In the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2100-1900 BC), the appearance of metal and, above all, the use of seals show the progress of technical and political organisation. The First Palace was built in the Middle Bronze Age, the remains of which are too limited to allow a precise reconstruction: the architecture of the time is better represented in Phaistos and especially in Malia. However, this level also yielded luxury objects (gold, ivory) and a particularly fine ceramic with very colourful decoration, the Camares ceramic.

Knossos Palace, reconstitution
Knossos Palace, reconstitution

Les premiers palais disparaissent, dans toute la Crète, vers 1 750 av. J.-C., pour des raisons qui restent inconnues. Après une période de stagnation, ils sont reconstruits selon un plan canonique : la cour centrale avait une fonction religieuse importante, servant d’arène aux fameux jeux tauromachiques connus par plusieurs fresques ; les magasins recevaient l’huile, les grains et les autres produits dus par les paysans ; des salles en sous-sol abritaient les serpents sacrés ; enfin des salles d’apparat, dont la salle du trône, et des appartements pour Minos et sa famille.

Knossos, "la parisienne"
La parisienne

L’ensemble se développe sur plusieurs hectares et parfois sur cinq étages.

The reconstructions in reinforced concrete have given rise to much controversy (architectural or historical details, in particular the exact role of Minos, the priest-king), and Evans has sometimes abused anachronistic models in his depiction of the Minoan monarchy. At least his work has preserved a very fragile architecture, mostly in mudbrick, gypsum and wood, with frescoes and stucco decoration, at the time of its heyday (1500 and 1450 BC), when the palace was occupied by an Achaean dynasty that used Mycenaean Greek (see our page " Top ten Crete")

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