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Minoan Life & Archaeological Sites

The name Minoan is given to the civilizations that flourished on the Mediterranean island of Crete during the Bronze Age. The term is also used to identify the earlier Neolithic inhabitants of Crete. Almost nothing was known about the Minoan civilization until the very end of the nineteenth century. Arthur Schliemann, who had recently excavated the sites of Troy and Mycenae, had done some preliminary excavation at Knossos near the north coast town of Heraklion. But it was not until 1897 that Arthur Evans was finally able to excavate the site. The main excavations took place between 1900 and 1905. But Evans' expeditions to Crete continued until 1932 with only a six year break because of the First World War. Evans had originally gone to Crete in search of samples of hieroglyphic writing on stones. In Crete he suspected that extensive ruins of some type were buried near Heraklion and when he finally dug there he was amazed to find nothing of Greek or Roman origin. He began to suspect that the civilization was pre-Mycenaean and it proved to be the "major site of Europe's earliest civilization."1 Evans named it the Minoan civilization after the legendary Cretan King Minos. But, aside from some very important writing tablets found at Knossos and a small number of references to ancient Crete in Greek Literature, almost all information about the Minoan life comes from the evidence of the art, architecture, and artifacts found at archaeological sites like Knossos.

As the excavation at Knossos proceeded, other finds were made at sites all over Crete, where the latest major find was in 1961, and on the nearby island of Thera (Santorini) where a relatively untouched site was found in 1967. Evans and his successors found evidence of a unique civilization that, even after one hundred years of study, is still little understood but very impressive. Evans divided Minoan history into three periods; Early (3000-2000 B.C.), Middle (2000-1...

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