Minoan Palaces in Crete
The main palace sites in Minoan Crete include those in Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, Gournia, and Zakros. The palace at Knossos is the largest, with an area of approximately twenty two thousand square metres. It is located in the valley of the Kairatos River and said to be where King Minos of Ancient Greek mythology lived. It is estimated that the palace of Knossos was palace of Phaistos is the second largest and located on a low hill in the Messara plain. Just outside the town of Malia, which is thirty seven kilometres east of Heraklion, is the third largest Minoan palace.
There is also a palace in the town of Gournia which is located on a small hill near the Gulf of Mirabello. Finally, a Minoan palace is located in Zakros, on the east coast of Crete and south of Palaikastro. The palace of Knossos was the largest one of the Minoan empire. Although its actual functions are still not certain, it is thought that the palace was used for both ceremonial and administrative purposes. After it was first built, it is believed to have been destroyed by an earthquake in around 1700 B. C. E and then rebuilt in approximately 1450 B. C. E. Although it is difficult to be sure about the details of the palace, the evidence that does exist suggests that it was essential to the Minoan society. Floor Plan of Knossos Palace Sir Arthur Evans Sir Arthur Evans, a British archaeologist, was the first to excavate the palace site at Knossos. He was born in 1851 and graduated from both Oxford and Gottingen universities. His discoveries were published in “Palace of Minos” and he was knighted in 1911 for his archaeological work. Evans perished in 1941.
The excavation of the palace at Knossos and its surrounding area began in 1900 and continued to some degree for over three decades. Evans used a large sum of his own money on the project. Evans employed many local labourers to join his team and within a few months, had discovered a large amount of what he called “the Palace of Minos”. His main assistants were Theodore Fyfe and Duncan Mackenzie. Based on his findings at the site, Evans concluded that there must have been a people that existed before those previously found to have lived on Crete.
The palace that Evans was in the process of excavating seemed to him to resemble the labyrinth built by King Minos of Greek mythology, and so he named the people that once inhabited the palace and its surroundings ‘the Minoans’ – after King Minos. By 1903, a large amount of the palace had been excavated. During this process, Evans and his team had found many art works and tablets displaying examples of writing, which we now refer to as Linear A. These artefacts revealed a lot about Minoan society, and lead Evans to make many of the assumptions, or ‘educated guesses’, that he did about their civilisation.
The methods of restoration of artefacts found in the palace at Knossos by Evans have been questioned since his work at the site. The pioneer excavator used concrete to reconstruct areas and objects of the site, and people were employed to recreate the work on the frescoes found in and around the palace. These restorations are said to have more to do with the imagination of Evans and his team rather than the accurate works of the Minoans. Evans replaced missing fragments of frescoes and other parts of the constructions of the palace with paint and other materials that are considered by many to be inaccurate.
His methods have been widely criticised as it is considered detrimental to install materials that are foreign to genuine Minoan architecture, however, he is still recognised as an important figure who contributed a great deal to our knowledge about the Minoan society. The Palace of Knossos Today Today, although the original condition of the palace site at Knossos has been maintained relatively well, there are also modern influences on the area. Located around the site are a gift shop and parking lot as well as a bronze bust of Sir Arthur Evans.
Obviously, the condition of the palace itself has decreased since Minoan times due to weathering and other damage, but displays of Minoan culture are still available at the site in various forms. Visitors to the site today are able to make their way around its many rooms via its many corridors and passageways. They are also about to admire the Minoan frescoes that are still displayed at the site. Rooms and Areas of the Palace The palace has several main areas, including the east and west wings and the central court.
The palace was built with an estimated one thousand and three hundred rooms and is believed by many to be the actual labyrinth mentioned in the Greek myth, “the Legend of the Minotaur”. The palace is believed to serve multiple purposes with its many rooms. It was probably an area for storage, crafting, administration, archive keeping and ceremonies as well as sleeping quarters for any royal members of society as well as possible others. The palace has both a north and south entrance and includes several staircases.
In the east wing were the domestic quarters, which included apartments where any royalty would probably have lived. It also has shrines and art works as well as reception halls and luxurious bathrooms, and underneath it are storerooms that once housed many treasures and elaborate tombs. Bright murals decorate the areas that are thought to have been inhabited by Minoan royalty. There was also a room in the east wing of the palace in which a seemingly majestic chair stood, thus named the ‘throne room’ by Sir Arthur Evans.
In the west wing were the storerooms where the produce of the Minoan trade system was kept. The palace of Knossos was a central location for the Minoan people to store their goods. The central court of the palace was probably used for ceremonial purposes. Records of trade undertaken by Minoans from Knossos were also archived in the palace. The palace of Knossos was probably larger than Minoan palaces found in other areas because the town of Knossos was likely to be the capital of Crete at the time.
This means that the palace probably needed the space for all the storage and administration that a capital of an empire must have. The size of the palace is also a symbol of the grand nature of the city of Knossos. Knossos is also thought to have been the most densely populated town, with approximately one hundred thousand people living there. This population is extremely large compared to other ancient towns. Frescoes of the Palace The palace of Knossos is home to a huge spectrum of Minoan art, and a significant amount of works have been found there.
Archaeologists think that these frescoes depict Minoan people and the animals, plants and geographical features that they were familiar with, as well as scenes such as sporting events, religious festivals and ceremonies. People are shown going about activities such as fishing and gathering on the frescoes. These people are often youthful adults and rarely children or elders. Women in the frescoes were usually painted to have lighter skin, whereas male figures had skin of a ruddier colour. Military activity is generally not displayed on Minoan frescoes, which sets the Minoan artists apart from others who existed during their time and after it.
Perhaps the most famous fresco found in the Knossos palace is the Toreador Fresco, which depicts Minoan people riding a bull like creature in what appears to be some kind of sporting event. These frescoes were not in their original condition by the time archaeologists were able to excavate them due to centuries of weathering and other damage. Despite this, archaeologists and historians have a good idea of what the frescoes are supposed to depict because they are able to use the incomplete images on the works to determine what they may have looked like originally and to restore the art to this state.
The importance of the Palace of Knossos The palace of Knossos is important to historians because it provides them with a vast amount of information about Minoan society and what life was like for people living on Crete during the Bronze Age. Much of what is known about the Minoan people is due to the artefacts, architecture and other evidence found in the palace site of Knossos. Frescoes provide insight into the people of Crete during Minoan times and their appearance, clothes, habits, rituals and abilities.
Tablets found in the palace inform historians that Minoan people were literate and had a writing system, although its symbols cannot be deciphered today. The general layout and architecture of the palace provides knowledge regarding the Minoans’ ability to build structures, and what methods, techniques and materials they used to do so. The palace also provides evidence supporting the idea that there was Minoan royalty, although this theory is not confirmed. Overall, the palace at Knossos is of great importance to historians because without it, their knowledge of Minoan society would be significantly more limited than it is now.