The Minoans

The Minoan civilisation of Bronze Age Crete, discovered and named by Arthur Evans, flourished between about 3000 and 1100 BC. Minoan culture was characterised by the dominance of the great palaces - large, complex buildings that probably acted as administrative, agricultural and religious centres. These centres appeared soon after 2000 BC, and may eventually have achieved island-wide control. Palaces have been excavated at Knossos, Phaistos, Mallia and Kato Zakro, and others may originally have existed.

While the palace-based economy linked Minoan Crete to civilisations of the Near East and Egypt, Minoan achievements particularly influenced the Aegean islands and the Greek mainland. Cretan artistic traditions included the production of fine pottery, fresco painting, the creation of small-scale sculptures in faience, bronze and ivory, and accomplished miniature work on seal-stones and in jewellery. Such craftsmanship was widely admired and exported, and laid the foundations for Mycenaean art.

The Minoans were not Greek, and their language remains unknown. Their dominant position in the eastern Mediterranean may partly have depended on power at sea. Ultimately, though, the Greek-speaking Mycenaeans were to prove stronger and came to control the society which was the source of so much of their cultural inheritance.

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