History on the Island of Crete- The Palace of Knossos

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The Palace of Knossos in Crete is historically one of the most important places on the whole of the island. Look beyond the restorative blunders of its excavator, British archaeologist Arthur Evans, and you’ll see fascinating glimpses of the Minoan civilization.

The term Minoan itself was introduced by Arthur Evans during his discovery & excavation of Knossos, naming it after the mythical King Minos who was the son of Zeus and Europa. The first person to actually discover the site was a Heraklion man called Minos Kalokairinos. 

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Apparently this palace was built on top of another palace that was previously destroyed. Archaeologist Arthur Evans has an personal attachment to this particular site, the story of how he was able to excavate the ruins is almost as interesting as the ruins themselves.

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In 1899, with money inherited from his parents and political powers swaying in his direction, Arthur Evans buys the property in the ancient city of Kefala and begins excavations at Knossos. Evans had long been interested in Crete, years earlier having studied and then published a paper about his attempt to decode two unknown languages from the island. He spent the next 35 years with a massive team unearthing, cataloging and then controversially restoring some of it. 

According to Greek mythology, the palace was designed by famed architect Dedalos in a way that no one placed in it could ever find its exit. The palace was the largest built at the time and there were a good number of areas designated for storage of jars and other pottery artifacts.

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My favorite part of the palace complex was the Megaron (great hall) belonging to the queen as it featured frescos of blue dolphins. Although it is a reconstruction the original must have looked beautiful.

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Another interesting thing about this palace is the fact that most of the important recoveries are housed in different museums around the island. The Heraklion Archaeological Musuem is one of the best in Greece and it houses all important Minoan civilization artifacts. We recommend going to this museum after you visit Knossos, where you’ll get a chance to see incredible items like Phaistos Disc. No one has ever figured out what the hieroglyphics say and its considered to be the world’s oldest example of typography.

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These tiny pieces belong to the house of the frescoes, where a three panel wall depicted such things as blue monkeys, birds, and plants. But this wasn’t the only island we’d see the painted blue monkeys..and there is no evidence of them ever being on any of the islands at all…….

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  • Andy says:

    Thanks for the article on Knossos. We were there about 30 years ago. Time to go back. So much to see in Crete. Amazing island.

    • Mica says:

      Seriously! I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it as much as I did. Renting a car and road tripping was so fun. There is so much to see!

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